Jared Riley (Hero Interactive) – Interview

Categories: Interviews

StormWinds 1.5

StormWinds 1.5 is the latest action game created by Jared Riley and his team from Hero Interactive, the game studio behind Bubble Tanks and Starshine. StormWinds 1.5 is expected to be released in a few days at ArmorGames and Jared was kind enough to answer a few questions for FreeGamesNews readers (thanks Jared!)

FreeGamesNews: Hi Jared. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

Jared: Hey there! Certainly! My name is Jared Riley, I’m the founder of a little company called Hero Interactive, based in the US. I left my old job customizing accounting software in August ‘06 to start my own thing, and it’s been craziness since. I didn’t start developing non-client work for the web till about March, since then we’ve put out a lot of fun games I think, including Bubble Tanks, LightSprites, StarShine, and StormWinds.

FreeGamesNews: When did you start developing Flash games?

Jared: I actually started with Shockwave and Director while in school. I really wanted to develop some talent to get into the game design specialization the university was offering, so I bought a lot of books, got the software, and started jumping in. My first online game was Shark Bait in ShockWave back in 2003 I think, not too long ago. My first game in Flash was Alien Abduction as part of a class project.

FreeGamesNews: How many people are working with you? How did the team come together and how many games have you already released?

Jared: For the most part it’s just me, but for StormWinds 1.5 you’ll actually see 10 names in the credits. I kind of have people come on and off projects as required. Currently, I have myself and my intern Will.

I also have Eric working with me this winter break, he was my intern over the summer. He’s pretty much taking on a game right now called Bluep by himself, so I’m really proud of the progress he’s making as a flash developer, and I’m definitely hoping to bring him on full time once he wraps up school. He helped work on LightSprites, StarShine, Triangles, and even Bubble Tanks 2 a bit.

We also have a team member based in New York named Calvin Winbush. He’s joined with us many times, and created many of our custom tunes such as the music for LightSprites, Triangles, and StormWinds. He’s done an amazing job, I think the music for those games is awesome- especially for a Flash game.

StormWinds 1.5FreeGamesNews: Could you introduce your latest creation, StormWinds 1.5?

Jared: Sure! StormWinds 1.5 is a massive upgrade to the original StormWinds which was the latest game we released. The game is a combination of the tower defence sub-genre and a shooter: first you strategically buy and place your defences, and then you take control and use them to stay off a massive invasion set in this steampunkish world.

StormWinds 1.5FreeGamesNews: What are the major differences between the two versions of Storm Winds?

Jared: I think StormWinds 1.5 brings a lot more to the table. First and foremost, we made the game more fun. We’ve made a lot of engine changes, added a lot more sound effects, and really made the game more intense so the player feels a solid challenge. The game has many more bug fixes, rebalances, and effects (screen shaking, flashes, etc…) as well.

The game has some big new features. Firstly, the game now has 70 levels, twice that as the first game (although shorter levels), separated out into 7 different campaigns. Each campaign has its own unique fortress and presents the player with its own unique subset of defences and enemies.

Another huge addition is how we’ve given the player complete control over how they upgrade their turrets. Rather than having turrets auto-upgrade, players now get a lot more information on the state of their turrets, and can manually distribute upgrade points to boost them how they see fit.

Finally, there is a lot more content in general. This version brings in 11 more turrets, bringing the total number of unique turret defences up to a whopping 21. You’ll have a lot to choose from- everything from time guns, remote controlled missiles, and even decoy drones are available. There are also now challenge missions that will be added as well, creating yet another facet to the game.

StormWinds 1.5FreeGamesNews: StormWinds was released last October. Could you give us the main reasons to make a sequel so fast?

Jared: Although StormWinds did amazingly well by getting distributed widely, getting good ratings, and in general being received well, there was some criticism that some areas were lacking in the game and I was inclined to agree. In particular, that the game was long and in the beginning, a little boring.

Rather than blow off the players’ suggestions, I decided to take the game back to the drawing board and see if I could take the feedback from players and use it to make a better game that everyone, including myself, could be proud of.

That’s why I think of it less as a sequel and more of an upgrade modification- hence the name StormWinds 1.5 instead of StormWinds 2. This is what I wanted the game to be like in the first place, and I hope players find it all the much more enjoyable now.

StormWinds 1.5FreeGamesNews: How much time did you spend developing this sequel? How many people were involved in the project?

Jared: Well, I’ve been working on StormWinds 1.5 pretty much since the release of StormWinds 1. At least a good 2 months of 50 hour work weeks have been put into the expansion. All in all, the StormWinds game has taken since August to produce- 6 months total. It’s a large project, approximately 17,000 lines of ActionScript written mostly by myself. All in all though, there are 10 people listed in the credits. The other people named helped on various parts of the project- the intro interface, overall art style, concept art, background art, music, and just management assistance.

FreeGamesNews: StormWinds includes a $5 Deluxe version with extra content. Are you happy with the income you earn from this version?

Jared: Well, no, I’m not really. Thus far it hasn’t done terribly well, but I think a lot of that is because it’s a new system that hasn’t been done before, and there were a lot of things being tried out and tested.

StormWinds 1.5 is bringing a lot more to the table, and I’m hoping will do a lot better. Players will now get 2 extra campaigns with unique enemies, fortresses, and bosses. They also get 6 new weapons, including the supped up Meteor Cannon, as well as gaining access to cheat codes. In addition, new challenge missions will be added weekly to the games hosted on armorgames.com and herointeractive.com which will really keep the game going. Finally, in an effort to reward players who support us, we’ll be inviting everyone who purchased the extra content to beta test Bubble Tanks 2 for us when the beta is ready- weeks before the actual release.

I think this deluxe content system and other similar systems being developed are vital to the future growth of Flash Games. I know I’m really digressing here, but take this example into consideration:

Imagine a developer makes a really awesome game in say, 2 months. It’s a sweet game, it gets picked up by a sponsor, everyone loves it, it gets front paged by all the game portals. It’s a massive international success- the game brings in X amount of dollars. Well, all stoked about his success, the developer gets a group together, and makes the greatest Flash game ever made… ever. It took him 3 years of his life to make. This game is so good, everyone loves it, it gets picked up by a sponsor in seconds. It gets front pages by all the game portals. He gets X amount of dollars again, primarily because there are the same number of front pages out there, the same number of players (lets ignore the fact that the flash industry is growing at a massive pace for simplicity).

The question then is, what motivates a developer to spend 3 years of his life to get front page on all the sites when he could make a great game in 2 months (or say, 2 weeks) and get front page on all the sites? Community recognition, sure, but he also has to feed himself while working on this game for 3 years…

That’s why I think this system is so important; it can break that cost barrier that prevents huge, unprecedented games from being made. We’ve seen amazing games developed on very limited budgets, what kind of games could we be seeing if developers could earn a return on the massive investment costs? I think, but am not certain, that’s also the thinking between some other sites, namely Kongregate with the mini transaction system they’re developing.

StormWinds 1.5FreeGamesNews: Do you plan to include such a Deluxe version in future games?

Jared: Certainly, but not all games will include it. StormWinds 1.5 will have extra content that can be purchased, as well as Bubble Tanks 2. Other smaller games, such as Bluep and Microbe Kombat won’t be using the system.

FreeGamesNews: All your games so far were sponsored by Armorgames. Why Armorgames and how did you start this collaboration?

Jared: Back when I decided to start pulling away from client work and put more of a focus on my own IP, I started searching around for a potential sponsor. ArmorGames seemed to be a great fit with our needs, and I’ve been really happy with how things have worked out since then. Dan at ArmorGames has given Hero Interactive a lot of great support and has really worked hard to get our games some exposure.

FreeGamesNews: let’s talk about your future projects. What can you tell us about Bubble Tanks 2?

Jared: I can tell you a lot! First and foremost, Bubble Tanks 2 will be the much anticipated sequel to the first Bubble Tanks game.

Secondly, that the game is next in the main pipeline after StormWinds 1.5, and that I’m fighting hard for a February release! This is still contingent on how well extra content sales and the success of StormWinds 1.5 goes, but I really am aiming to get it done soon.

Bubble Tanks 2 will really expand on the first game, bringing together over 125 total enemies, and 51 different tank states spread over a massive upgrade tree. Players can choose how different upgrade paths, and focus on many different strategies.

It’ll also bring in new interface elements, weapons, effects, and other powerful features including 2 new game modes. The first is a challenge mode which will be similar to what is going into StormWinds 1.5. The second is an Arena mode, where you can choose what enemies you want to fight, what state your tank will be in, and then fight those enemies on your own terms.

FreeGamesNews: Is there any other new games in the pipeline?

Jared: Yes! We also have a smaller game called Bluep which will be coming out soon. It’s similar to Bubble Tanks in that you move around shooting enemies, except this time you’re stuck in an arena and you also have to dodge… lasers! It’ll be a very fun game.

Second up is Microbe Kombat. In Microbe Kombat, you control a single cell in combat against an enemy cell. To make things interesting though, you are constantly dividing and creating computer controlled ally cells, with the enemy doing the same. All the cells are moving around and trying to eat one another. To turn the tide in your favour, there are a host of abilities and powerups that will be available- perhaps you give all your allies super speed or can pop an ally to make him explode and damage adjacent cells.

With so many Flash games to play nowadays, what advice would you give to someone who wants to create a successful money-making game?

Jared: Well, as more and more money is being poured into this industry, I think it’s going to come down to the most professional developers who have the talent, skills, and resources, but also have made that leap and have devoted themselves full time to the making of awesome Flash games. It’s not possible for everyone, but I think a lot of great developers are emerging and finding success.

Is there anything you would like to add in closing?

Jared: Absolutely- Thanks for talking with me! I think 2008 will be an amazing year for Flash games!

Eric (FreeGamesNews Editor): Thank you for your time Jared. We wish you all the best and we are looking forward to playing StormWinds 1.5!


One Comment to Jared Riley (Hero Interactive) – Interview

  1. helena says:

    first!!!!!!!take that! you people.