Interviews: Firemint - Flight Control HD
Posted by Darren Calvert
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away...
Flight Control HD is coming to land on PSN in Europe and Australia tomorrow. This time of course it's got PlayStation Move support and has been translated to glorious HD.
To coincide with this imminent arrival we took the opportunity to fly some questions over to Firemint's Community Manager, Alexandra Peters to give you the inside scoop on this essential Move purchase:
Movemodo: To kick things off can you tell us a bit about the background of Firemint?
Alexandra Peters: Sure! We've been making games since 2001, although back then it was just our founder Rob Murray. The studio has grown quite a bit over the years, mainly through developing mobile phone games for large publishers. We've got about 40 people now, and early in 2009 we started the transition to self-publishing our original games, which is probably every studio's dream! Our two biggest hits to date are Flight Control and Real Racing on iPhone and iPad, but we’ve also been busy spreading our wings to other platforms. We’re now working on our own games exclusively.
Movemodo: You’ve had great success with Flight Control on iPhone, iPad and DSiWare. Was it a no-brainer for you guys to embrace the new Move peripheral and release a souped-up version for PlayStation Network?
Alex: Yeah, it really was a no-brainer! We’ve had fantastic support from Sony Europe and were fortunate to receive some Move motion controllers very early on. As soon as we started experimenting with them in the studio we realised that they were a perfect fit for Flight Control. The controls translate extraordinarily well from drawing lines on a touch screen, to drawing lines in the air with the Move controller and it’s a lot more precise than some people might have expected.
Movemodo: For the uninitiated, please give us a brief overview of the gameplay in Flight Control.
Alex: In Flight Control HD, you take on the role of an Air Traffic Controller at a busy airport. The screen looks down at the airport layout and various aircraft arrive from the edges. You have to select the aircraft and draw a flight path to the correct landing zone while avoiding collisions with other aircraft. It starts off quite calmly but it can quickly get chaotic as more and more planes and helicopters arrive, particularly as they travel at different speeds and have different destinations. The challenge is to land as many aircraft as possible before the inevitable collision, so it’s a high-score game.
Movemodo: We understand that Flight Control started out as something of a side project on the iPhone. What gave you the idea to develop such a game?
Alex: Flight Control started as a holiday project for our CEO. Rob's been busy guiding Firemint through its growth over the last few years but his background is in game development, and he was keen to get some hands-on time again. He came up with the line drawing game mechanic, and was thinking about some interesting professions that could be a good fit for that. Once he hit on the idea of air traffic control and tried that out, it felt like a match made in heaven so he developed it further. Rob brought the original rough game into the studio and we all got hooked on it! Our Art Director Jesse West decided to replace Rob's programmer art with the wonderful retro art style you see now, and I helped to tweak the interface, sourced the music and sounds, wrote the cheesy text and did some general hands-on production. The three of us worked on the first version of the game on weekends and evenings, and it wasn't until the first update that we brought Flight Control fully into the studio. Since then, I think most people in the studio have contributed in some way to at least one of the updates or adaptations!
Movemodo: Did you ever anticipate that Flight Control would break the 3 mllion downloads barrier on iTunes?
Alex: We weren’t really thinking about it in those terms - it was all a big unknown for us when we started, and there really wasn’t a lot of information around. That was one reason why we decided to share our first month’s sales numbers. We always thought that Flight Control was very special and incredibly fun. We couldn’t stop playing it in the studio and we got a lot of our friends and family hopelessly addicted to it as well, but the App Store is a very crowded marketplace so we really weren’t sure whether we’d be able to stand out in the crowd before getting swept away. We’re incredibly grateful for the way people all around the world have taken Flight Control into their hearts.
Movemodo: Can you describe how the PlayStation Move motion controller will be utilised in Flight Control HD?
Alex: Essentially the Move motion controller acts like an extension of your arm. You use it to point at the aircraft you want to direct, and hold either the Move button on top of the controller or the trigger button underneath it. While holding the button, you move the controller to trace a line on the map, and the aircraft will follow that line. We found that some people prefer to use the button on top and some prefer the trigger underneath; they work exactly the same way so it’s just a matter of personal preference. We’ve been really impressed by how precise the Move controller is.
Movemodo: Is the game just as playable with the Dualshock 3? How does that control system work exactly?
Alex: Flight Control HD is really designed with the Move motion controller in mind, but you can also play it with the DUALSHOCK3. Most people find that it’s not ideal but it still works surprisingly well, particularly in multiplayer situations where you might not have four Move controllers available. You use the left stick to move your cursor around the screen, and hold X to select an aircraft. Then you trace a line with the left stick to the correct landing zone and release the X button to lock it in. You can also use the D-pad to cycle through the aircraft currently on the screen, which is probably the fastest way to select them.
Movemodo: Are there any drop-in/drop-out multiplayer modes on offer?
Alex: The PS3 gave us the opportunity to include a drop-in/drop-out multiplayer mode which is insanely fun. It’s made Flight Control HD into a truly social experience because you need to negotiate with each other about who will land which colour planes... or who will look after which edges of the screen for new arrivals... and we’ve also found that when there is a collision, it always turns out that it was nobody’s fault. It’s very easy to play a multiplayer game, as they are started exactly the same as a single player game. If a second person turns on a controller, it just appears on the screen and you can start playing immediately (Move controllers usually need to be calibrated first, which is fast and painless). It’s co-operative, so the aim is to land as many planes as possible, and you can have up to four people playing at the same time, using any combination of controller types.
Movemodo: Aside from the multiplayer mode, what can the solo player expect?
Alex: There are sixteen different aircraft and nine different airfields, including four super-sized airfields. We love our toys so we just had to include a stereoscopic 3D mode, where you see the planes floating above the landscape. They get smaller and closer to their shadows as they come in to land so you really feel like they are descending, which is pretty cool. We were excited about the beautiful high quality graphics supported by the PS3, so while we haven’t changed the feel of Flight Control HD’s trademark retro art style, we have redone all the art assets at 1080p and added some special effects, such as cherry blossom particle effects on the Japanese-themed “Metropolis” map. It’s definitely the best looking adaptation of Flight Control yet, and we think it’s just as addictive as ever so solo players should expect some sleepless nights, and seeing little planes flying around when they do eventually close their eyes.
Movemodo: Can we expect to see any new maps which have not been included in previous versions of the game?
Alex: One of the super-sized maps is a PlayStation exclusive, it’s a Japanese-inspired map we’ve called “Metropolis”. It features a day/night cycle, so it gets darker at night and then lighter during the day. At night, the running lights on the planes as well as lights on the ground turn on, it looks very cool and has been a huge crowd-pleaser during our previews!
Movemodo: Are there any online scoreboards, or multiplayer options on offer?
Alex: Yes, we have online scoreboards for each map but unfortunately multiplayer is local only, not online. We also have a range of trophies to collect.
Movemodo: Why are you currently not planning to release Flight Control HD in North America at the moment?
Alex: We’re very disappointed that Flight Control HD won’t be released in North America. If it was just up to us, we would definitely want it to be available everywhere! Unfortunately I can’t go into the details, we tried very hard to make it happen but sadly the stars just didn’t align.
Movemodo: How much do you expect Flight Control HD to retail for in Europe and Australia?
Alex: Flight Control HD will be EUR 4.99, GBP 3.99 or AUD 8.45.
Movemodo: What’s next on the horizon for Firemint? Do you have any more Move-related ideas?
Alex: We’re always working on several projects at the same time, unfortunately nothing that’s ready to announce just yet but please keep an eye on firemint.com or follow @firemint on Twitter to stay up to date with all the latest news.
Movemodo: Is there anything you'd like to tell Movemodo’s readers in closing?
Alex: We really hope that everyone loves Flight Control HD for PlayStation Move, we think it’s an absolute gem of a little game and perfect if you want to jump in and immediately start having fun with the Move motion controller!