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Wicked Witch's Daniel Visser talks on mobile MMOs and the Kelly gang


So what was it like working on the first mobile MMO?

Visser: Working on our mobile MMO was interesting in many ways. Firstly, it started out as a multiplayer demo for mobile - much like a Warcraft 3 Hero Arena or Gladiator map. Basically a death match kind of thing. Some people had told us it was ambitious or impossible, so we felt compelled to prove otherwise. Initially, the results were good, and it all seemed to work. Then we started testing different phones on different networks and that's where the first of the headaches started. We were lucky enough to have contact with some carriers, but unfortunately, no one knew anything about GPRS data and mobile data communication at that time! We had to manually configure phones to networks to get it to work. But it did work. So slowly over time, we expanded the game to be more and more like Ultima Online. Then something happened - World of Warcraft came out! After that we thought it would be cool if we expanded it again into out own mini-World of Warcraft on mobile.

Still on that topic, were you pleased with the results and what do you think you'd do differently next time?

Visser: Yes, we are quite pleased with the results of the game given the challenge to fit a full persistent online world MMORPG client in under 96kb. The thing we may do differently next time, is hype it up and shout it to the world - we tend to be too busy working in the studio to give our innovative products the attention they perhaps deserve. However, the game is being released in more and more countries and we are still working on new versions of it, so who knows - it may yet be the next big thing! ;)

What's it like to work on so many licensed titles?

Visser: Working on license titles is both good and bad - and it depends on the license. It is good because you have style guides that take the thinking out of look and feel and you can always ask the licensor what they prefer when questions or issues come up. On the other hand - you do not have complete control over design and features and it can become frustrating when you are held up waiting for approvals or have a fussy licensor that continually changes their mind or wants to add things. Each situation and each license is different.

Are you concerned that some areas of the gaming public - including the press - don't take licensed titles and mobile games seriously? And, if so, what should be done by the mobile gaming industry to change this attitude?

Visser: I am not really concerned if people don't take mobile games seriously at the moment. It is understandable when compared to the gaming experience on PC and console. However the market will be driven by demand and mobile entertainment applications are certainly very real things. Attitudes will change when phones are standard with all the 3D graphics and sound hardware that make playing games on your phone more like and PSP or Nintendo DS. That and the versions of leading software titles for mobile. It is almost there already.

Why did you decide to do a Ned Kelly game?

Ahh, the Ned Kelly thing is a long story. Firstly, we were contracted a few years back to make an interactive virtual Glenrowan and train robbery scenario for an exhibition in Melbourne a few years ago. So working with the exhibition, we became more familiar with the topic and the history, and had a heap of nice looking colonial 3D assets and Ned Kelly models lying around! ;)

We then went into production of an educational CD-ROM and then began a slow horrible process of licensing various elements, images and information from various people and organisations - the whole thing became very difficult with cross information all over the place. So when that project eventually halted due to license issues and long-winded communication - it kind of halted our grand vision also. This vision was inspired by how average all the Ned Kelly movies have been, and how we felt we could make a better movie than all of those put together! However, we don't really make movies, we tend to make video games, so we did a design and concepts for a very stylistic and cinematic video game, based on our crazy vision of a tough Ned Kelly movie that we will never make! ;) We would still very much like to complete our vision, however we have tried several avenues of funding for the project but have so far been unsuccessful. Poor Ned.