When Catapult King crashed into the App Store earlier this month, it was an instant hit, rocketing to number one around the world. There’s just something about colorful destruction that resonates, especially when it controls as well as Catapult King. Daniel Visser, Managing Director of Wicked Witch Software, spoke with Chillingo about the creation of this global smash, the fun of being at E3, and what fans can expect in the near future. (Spoiler alert: many more nasty knights will taste your wrath.)
Chillingo: Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind Catapult King? Why did you pick the fantastical fantasy setting?
Daniel Visser, Wicked Witch: Yes, I certainly can! The initial inspiration for Catapult King came as we were discussing concepts for an original game with our good friends Terry and Tony who are also passionate about making games. We discussed a wide range of games we loved, and games we would like to make, including on what platforms, for what audience and what budget.
The end result was a simple idea to make a casual game inspired by various popular iPhone games, that would showcase the capabilities of the device. From the start we wanted to innovate in 3D where possible, and have as good production values as the budget would allow. I knew that our Wicked Witch engine was up to the task, so we decided to try and do something simple but refreshing for the iPhone that we knew would compare favorably to many of the games that are out there.
We were interested in a theme that would be accessible for as many people around the world as possible, while also being something we enjoyed. So with myself and many of the team being fans of fantasy, we decided on a stylized fantasy world which was great fun to design and build!
Chillingo: Have a personal experience with a catapult? You know, for “research?”
Visser: Not recently! Perhaps after making this game we can start building one in the backyard!?
Chillingo: My favorite ammo is the slicer ball that divides into three blades – it’s just so fun to watch it cut through a tower. What’s your favorite ball or power-up?
Visser: We had a great time designing all kinds of extra shots, enemies and other gameplay elements, and it was hard to decide on what shots would be in the initial release of the game, and what would be saved for updates!
For me personally, there is something cool about the lunar storm – I am not sure if it is the sound when you pull the shot back, the pretty blue graphics and particles, or seeing the devastation rain from the sky, but I think it is my favorite.
Chillingo: Any cool tips or tricks for fans that might be getting stuck or unable to nab a gold crown?
Visser: Definitely! Using magic is the best way to get past a level - and remember, all of the soldiers need to be knocked down!
Regarding getting the gold crowns, this can take some figuring out! It is best to play a few times and knock various parts of the structure, even seeing where you can do a deflection shot to cause more damage.
Finally, once you have figured out the best strategy, it’s a good tactic to use the magic aim arrow on the last shot to ensure you get it this time! Once a level has the gold crown, all gems and magic badges, the level will become gold plated to show it has truly been completed.
Gold-plating every level is no easy feat, and it is the ultimate challenge for the very best catapulters around the world!
Chillingo: Congrats on hitting the top of the charts in so many countries. What’s it like to see a game you’ve worked so hard on resonate with gamers around the world?
Visser: Well, thank you! It is really great to see so many people still responding positively to the game. One of the great things about digital stores is that you are able to see the charts change almost instantaneously; it was certainly exciting to see how each country responded to the game.
Creating a game from start to finish is not an easy task. It is hard to describe just how many thousand details we need to discuss, experiments we need to test, considerations to make, decisions we have to come to, and the work involved in implementing it!
As always our experienced team really came together on this project, so it is certainly encouraging for all of us to see that people like our style and what we do. Being a small game where we were able to have almost complete creative and technical control, makes the response we have seen especially rewarding.
Chillingo: Can you talk to us about the development process of Catapult King? How was your experience working with Chillingo?
Visser: We pretty well followed our usual development process of vision, concepts, pre-production, scoping, full production, re-iteration, alpha, beta, submission, and release!
We developed the game using our own Wicked Witch graphics and game engines, which are always being maintained and updated to support more platforms. This made it easy for us to develop the game with a relatively small team.
From our first meeting when we were still early in development, Chillingo immediately understood and liked what we were doing, which gave us a lot of confidence. They are by far one of the best publishers to deal with and we soon decided to go with them on this game. The good relationship was strengthened throughout the project with our producer, and are happy to be working with the Chillingo team.
Chillingo: What was some of the best feedback you received during the development of Catapult King?
Visser: There was so much feedback we received during development, as we always have testers and focus groups checking out or games from when it is all playable. Therefore it is hard to identify what the best feedback was! Usually, common themes emerge from the feedback. For example, the game was too hard for a long time!
The development team on this game was very creative and also highly analytical and critical at the same time! This mix always works well for us internally and we end up with the best result because it is okay if we rip it apart ourselves first.
Very young children were great, too. It was cool to make the game considering young children who cannot yet read, or are not familiar with icons such as play, or pause! So we made special changes for them that made the game easier to play, and it seemed to work, or at least help a lot.
Non-game players were also very helpful. We tested on lots of people that don’t usually play games, until we were getting positive feedback in general.
Family, friends, and regulars around Wicked Witch are always happy to help and give us their honest feedback and make sure they do not regard our feelings – which we certainly appreciate!
Chillingo: Catapult King was featured prominently at Chillingo’s media suite at E3. How was your show? Did you have a good time?
Visser: The media suite at E3 was great, I am definitely glad we were there to see our game displayed on the big screens and to demo it to the multitudes of press that were coming through over the two days. We got a great reaction from everyone that looked at it and had a go - many didn’t want to stop playing!
It was also good to be around so many other great games and talented developers in the media suite. Chillingo are working with a lot of cool titles so it was great to be a part of that.
Chillingo: What can fans of Catapult King look for in the near future for this smash game?
Visser: We are planning on bringing out updates one page of levels at a time, for as long as the game is popular!
Years have passed in the world of Catapult King, and there are whispers of a new threat in faraway lands. I can’t say too much, but there is talk that the dragon has survived, and his forces are scheming and rebuilding again!
We have also heard distant stories of amazing new magical sources, more powerful artillery and the existence of other magical beings that are slowly but surely turning their eye to the kingdom of the princess. It seems once again, all hope lies with the Catapult King!
We hope everyone will enjoy the updates this year, and we’re grateful to all our fans for showing their support and telling their friends about Catapult King!