IRONFALL Invasion was a notable arrival in Europe on 13th February, heavily promoted as the eShop accompaniment for the region's #Nintendo3DSDay social media campaign. Though pitched as a game to show off the New Nintendo 3DS, it supports all versions of Nintendo's portable hardware and breaks the typical eShop template - there aren't many third-person shooters on the store.
Now that the European release has settled on the storefront and the game is gearing up for a North American arrival, we caught up with developer VD-Dev's co-founder Fernando Velez. To learn more about how it came to be, the reactions from players so far and how it felt to appear so prominently in the most recent Nintendo Direct broadcast.
Can you tell us a little about your studio's history and past projects?
Our studio was born 25 years ago when we were still at school; at that time, the name of the studio was 'Digital Concept'. We were originally two but a friend of ours, who was technical lead on Watch Dogs, joined us 2 years ago. We love doing games for Nintendo's handheld consoles and are trying to get the maximum potential from these devices. Some of our past projects were V-Rally 3 on the Gameboy advance and COP the recruit on the Nintendo DS.
What was the European reception like to IRONFALL, were you pleased with reviews from press and gamers alike?
In general, gamers gave better reception than the press. A lot of players gave a really enthusiastic reception to IRONFALL so far. We are checking Miiverse and Twitter frequently to gather feedback for future updates, and the number of positive reactions is amazing. It feels great to see the confirmation that so many people were looking for this kind of experience on 3DS. We hope IRONFALL: Invasion will contribute to expanding the type of games you see on the console because much more can be done with the 3DS.
One of our goals with the free version was that nobody would feel cheated by our game.
At the same time, we know the game is far from perfect and we received some really good advice and requests from players. What took us by surprise regarding media reviews is to be so often directly compared to AAA productions. In a way, we are honored by the comparisons and they challenge us to improve some aspects of IRONFALL, but our game was done by three friends for three years with our limited budget and sold at a small price so we did not expect to fight on equal terms with such big games!
What have you learnt from feedback so far, and are you looking forward to the US launch?
One of our goals with the free version was that nobody would feel cheated by our game. Players can try the single player and multi-player by themselves, they can check the different controls depending on which hardware they own, and they can decide what they like before they buy.
Based on the positive reception from players, we think this open approach is why we get so many positive reactions from European users and we hope that American users also give the game a chance.
We already received a lot of feedback from players. Some other changes requested can be brought to users pretty fast, and we are already preparing a patch. To give you an example, some players would like the possibility to make camera controls, especially with the stylus, much faster so we are going to expand the range of speed for movements and camera controls. We also noticed a few bugs that we can fix quickly. This should be ready in a few weeks.
Was it difficult to develop one of the first games to make use of the New 3DS-exclusive C-Stick, or was it a fairly straightforward process?
Nintendo's developer support helped us add a feature to detect that the game is running on a New Nintendo 3DS, so were able to have special settings for the C-Stick. So it was fairly straightforward. We also have special settings activated when an older model of 3DS is connected to a Circle Pad Pro, to make sure everyone finds the controls comfortable.
How influential was the Circle Pad Pro and C-Stick when it came to the game's design? Was the decision to incorporate it made early during development (with the Circle Pad Pro in mind initially) or did it only come about later?
Some developers would probably tell you a game like IRONFALL is impossible on 3DS, which was one of our main motivations to develop the game.
Development started more than three years ago so we were working on IRONFALL a long time before the C-Stick was announced, obviously. On the other hand, the Circle Pad Pro was already supported; we had received a lot of requests to include Circle Pad Pro controls (and a multiplayer mode) when we revealed the game for the first time, so it was important for us to please players who were waiting for this kind of experience on 3DS.
As a result, the move to the C-Stick was very natural. We think C-Stick is perfect for a cover shooter game, and the additional buttons of the New Nintendo 3DS are also helpful for shooting, aiming, running, or reloading.
There aren't a lot of third person shooters on handhelds - what were some of the challenges you faced making one, in terms of adapting to the hardware?
Well you have to do a lot of things with less power than home consoles. You have to do A.I. that is the standard for these kinds of games. You also have to draw a lot of enemies on screen and manage a lot of bullets, all that with the power of a handheld console and at 60 fps. You also have to come up with a lot of tricks to keep the online experience enjoyable. Coding the game in Assembly was very helpful to circumvent some hurdles. Some developers would probably tell you a game like IRONFALL is impossible on 3DS, which was one of our main motivations to develop the game. That was a great challenge.
IRONFALL was given a prominent role at the end of a Nintendo Direct, a spot typically reserved for Nintendo's own big reveals. How did this come about?
We were also surprised to see IRONFALL at the end the Nintendo Direct, that was amazing. We received tons of emails about the game after the Nintendo Direct so that was very cool. It's probably because IRONFALL makes good use of the C-Stick and that Nintendo Direct was all about the New Nintendo 3DS.
Offering a free download and splitting the rest of the game up between single player and multiplayer was a bold decision, and is somewhat reminiscent of Nintendo's Steel Diver: Sub Wars. How did this idea come to fruition?
We thought that this new distribution model could be the best approach for IRONFALL and we have received very positive feedback about that offer so far.
As many users requested a multiplayer mode, we had to expand the development time and therefore development costs. At the same time, we did not feel right forcing consumers to buy the entire game if they were only interested in one of the modes. We wanted that people try and buy what they want.
As we are a small studio with a new IP, we also felt necessary to provide a demo of some sort to get noticed. Based on those different issues, we thought that this new distribution model could be the best approach for IRONFALL and we have received very positive feedback about that offer so far.
Aside from those purchasing both, which mode is proving most popular, the Campaign or Online Multiplayer?
The most popular purchase at the moment is actually to buy both modes at the same time to unlock the extra contents such as the new multiplayer weapon and the jukebox. Among people who only purchased one mode in the first week, the ratio was about 2:1 in favor of the campaign, but the online mode is popular as well. At the moment, in a few seconds, you can start playing against other players around the world.
Online multiplayer has a somewhat choppy history on Nintendo's portable - how did you tackle the Nintendo Network on 3DS to ensure stable online performance? Was it difficult to achieve?
The most important aspect of the multiplayer is not what can be done, but what should be done. We could actually have made much bigger maps, and we probably could have included 8 players or more. But we wanted the experience to remain focused and nervous.
Regarding performance, I am worried we would be very boring and speak too technical if we explained in details, but we worked a lot on the multiplayer and we spent a lot of time on the online library to improve the connection between all players and to keep the 60 fps of the game intact. The multiplayer alone took us almost an entire year.
We worked a lot on the multiplayer and we spent a lot of time on the online library to improve the connection between all players and to keep the 60 fps of the game intact.
Are there any additional plans to support the game in the future? General fixes, balance changes for multiplayer, DLC, etc.?
As I explained above, we are working on a patch containing several fixes and improvements. Some of them will be accessible for everyone, others will be reserved only for players who bought the game. We hope to release that patch in March.
This summer, if the game has found its audience, we are hoping to create a more ambitious update. But the contents of this update will depend a lot on what the players request, for instance on Miiverse. Maybe users request more contents for the campaign, or for multi-player? Maybe they want new missions or new weapons as DLC? We'll learn more in the coming weeks. We also expect to have a better view of eventual balance issues this spring, once some players have truly mastered the multiplayer. If we rush to fix everything too quickly, we might be caught up in useless changes.
What's next for VD-Dev?
We are taking some holidays after 3 years of very hard development. We'll see after that what we would like to do to continue to have fun with Nintendo's Handheld.
We'd like to thank Fernando Velez for his time. If you want to know what we thought of this release, check out our IRONFALL Invasion review.
It's really impressive only 3 people made such a game. I also know I am old because I remember the first game these guys made, "Jim Powers". I would really love to have more games like these on Wii U as well. All the best for future projects!
I was really impressed with the technical side of this game, they have managed to develop a fantastic engine and I would love to see how they plan to use it in other games in the future. As far as the game itself, it has a lot of similarities to other games like Shadowgun and more obviously the Gears of War series, but that isn't such a bad thing as the eShop isn't exactly swamped with games of that genre. Im looking forward to the end of the month to pick up a top up and I think I will purchase both packs. Also if they want a suggestion on what to use the game engine on next, I would love for them to bring a Red Dead / Weird Western game to the 3DS.
Some people may like this type of game, but I always wonder what's so fun running around killing anything that moves? You practically do that in the entire game. They should use their technical expertise to make more interesting games.
Nice read. Cool devs. I'll give this game a try. I hate using R Stick on shooters for aiming though from someone who is used with keyboard and mouse. Is there a gyro-aiming? Stylus aiming would also be nice like that of Codename STEAM.
obviously when compared to it's sister games it's kinda plain but they was made by hundreds of people and aren't an hundred times better than ironfall. I hope this "Impossible for a 3DS" game inspires more developers to give the system a shot at something grander
@outburst There is stylus aiming in Ironfall, if you choose to use that then the controls are very similar to Kid Icarus Uprising's default controls.
It's addictingly fun especially with/against friends with balance of skills between teams (you win some, you lose some). It can be very frustrating though when you are still learning the game and if there's an imbalance on weapons/skills of players. Plus multiplayer shooters can be played in short sessions at anytime without worrying about the story.
Aha thanks! I (quick)misread the article then on the stylus part. I thought they're gonna add later. I'll download it when I get home!
It would be interesting if they would license their engine to other developers.
Reviews have destroyed this one but I will still get the campaign when it hits the States.
Very surprised by the negative reviews. Great little game, keep it up, VD-Dev!
I really hope these guys keep at it, could give the 3DS top quality shooty action down the line.
WE NEED MO DAKKA!
Technically a very impressive game, and props to the devs for making it their mission to do what others said couldn't be done! Great to see that sort of attitude. I also really like the way they split the single and multi player modes as separate purchases.
My only criticism is that it's quite characterless, the good guys are pretty generic and the bad guys are nothing super special. With some work on the story and depth of characters it could have been something really special. But in spite of this it's still well worth a play of the demo to see if you like it.
If three people can made this masterpiece...
What are you waiting for Nintendo? Made good looking games and STABLE 60 FPS.
Also patch Pokemon and other which lag when turning on 3d mode.
(not to mention games which lag even without 3d mode on)
It's impressive, for sure, but it looks VERY generic, and I don't want to play FPS on my 3DS. Maybe I'll bite if they give it a bit more character and re-release it for Wii U.
@Nintendian Or they could make the type of game they decide to make...
@Ralizah This isn't an FPS.
Eagerly awaiting the US release. It will probably be the reason I get the Circle Pad Pro.
Man I'm so freakin excited about this game. Great interview. Now give NA that game!
I would like to have co-op multiplayer through a campain in IronFall please.
Yes, I know, TPS. I typed the wrong letter. Thank you for staying on top of that.
I was really impressed with the engine, and I want to support this release, but I know that I'll probably never get around to completing the game. The environments are detailed and pretty, but damn it, it's just so generic. The gameplay reminded me a lot of Watch_Dogs, and it got me thinking that if they can pull off a game like this on the 3DS, then just about any console blockbuster could be redesigned for the 3DS in the right hands. Also interesting to note is that this is the only game of its kind (that I know of) that carries a PG rating in Australia.
I would LOVE to see an open-world GTA style game be made with this engine. Another VD-Dev game, C.O.P.: The Recruit, while also technically impressive for the DS, was also really bland and repetitive. So much so that it's one of very few games that I'd traded in. After the first few missions, I knew the game wasn't going to offer anything that I hadn't already seen by that point.
I've had fun with whatever little I've played of Ironfall, but I can't help but yearn for the possibilities of a full-featured open world game on 3DS. Heck, I'd be happy with ports of the GTA III trilogy. If an $8 or so App Store release is profitable for Rockstar, I'm sure that there would be enough 3DS owners that would make GTA 3/VC/SA ports more than profitable with a $40-$60 price tag.
True,GTA can be great on 3ds.
I really enjoyed Chinatown wars on NDS but after finishing main story there is no point to looking for all drug dealers or made all kill frenizes (rampages is what it named if i remember right).
Side quests are better in GTA 3 , Vice City Or San Andreas (not to mention 4 or 5 but not played in 5 and really small piece of time in 4)
but i bet old 3ds is capable to do job pretty well.
Congrats to the developer for creating this impressive engine, looking forward to what they can come up with next.
The lack of gyro aiming keeps me from buying it.
They're already patching the stylus controls?! VD-Dev has become one of my favorite indie developers, ever.
And they just nailed the release method, it wouldn't be just the best for this game, it would be the best for any game, split the game and make a demo available for both sides. I mean this is the best release of any game ever on a nintendo console. That's a fact.
@Nintendian On hard mode, it's definitely not that simple, it was a blast, a really nice challenge.
While it is a technical achievement for the handheld system, I really wish they would have taken inspiration off Goldeneye or jet force gemini, instead of making a boring stale uninspired gears clone.
The Game looks very nice and I hope for good sales, but I need Mouse for such games, the aim is very frustrating on consoles for me.... :/
Wow. I like how these developers handle their games. They really want to understand what their customers want. I can't wait 'til Ironfall Invasion releases in NA.
@Varoennauraa Well, maybe they'd consider adding it if people who bought the game asked for it! Don't expect something to happen if you don't speak up, after all.
@Hyawatta Tweet at them about it. I've sent them about 5 tweets, and they always respond.
@Ralizah tips hat 'Tis my duty!
@WinterWarm That I shall. Thank you.
@Varoennauraa yeah that's a deal breaker.
I'm sorry here if it was mentioned and I just missed it, but when does this come out in North America?
If only this game came out back when the 3DS was - before the WiiU - the subject of Nintendo-related doom 'n' gloom. Heck, if only games of the "big guns" variety (metaphorically speaking; pun not intended) come out before, consoles wouldn't struggle as much as they do. If Super Mario 3D World and New Super Mario Bros U swapped release dates, Rayman Legends would still be the console exclusive we were promised. But instead, the 3DS started off with - ugh - Steel Diver, and the WiiU had NintendoLand as a launch title. The DS, however? An enhanced remake of Super Mario 64, which didn't even need enhancements to begin with. And boy, did it show.
However, back on topic! This game looks amazing, which only helps as this is pretty much the FPS for Nintendo handhelds for the time being (Metroid Prime Hunters and Moon were released earlier, and this seems way more determined to provide the very same FPS experience seen on other consoles anyway.)
Sounds great, and I'm sure it looks great. I'm sure its completely unfair to compare a 3 person team to AAA games, but when people are competing for time, it matters, basically is this a fun game to play? is it worth my time? We'll soon see when it hits NA, looking forward to experiencing it.
Not my type of game but these guys seem cool so I'll at least download the free version.
These guys are always a good show. Thank you for sharing this talk with them.
Looking forward to getting my new3DS and giving this game a spin.
Not all games need to run at 60 FPS, you know. The human eye can barely tell the difference, anyway. I'd rather have a guarentee of quality graphics, good AI, minimal lag through a stable online connection, and a consistent 30 FPS framerate (with 3D on or off) over any insistence of achieving 60 FPS.
I'm disappointed that the game only runs at 30fps in 3D, even on the New 3DS (I haven't played it on the old 3DS so I do not know whether or not the older systems are capable of running the game at 60fps in 2D). The game looks stunning in 60fps and I hate having to choose between 3D and 60fps.
Finally got to play the campaign demo today. My thought are relatively positive, I'm not Ironfall's target audience (or maybe I am, Ill get back to that in a second) being the shooter genre that it is, but I was able to get into the game quite quickly, learning the control basics, and the way to play this game so that I don't end up dead. The visuals are awesome, great in 3D, but 60fps in 2D so i left it mostly in2D, music was alright, but somewhat repetitive. Voice acting wasn't too terrible, character models were decent, although the female character wasn't well designed and she looks odd, (too much plastic surgery, and for some reason the developers felt that she didn't need to wear much body protection?!).
I will say that I think the game will benefit from the N3DS nub greatly, as I played it with the touch screen, and while it worked fine enough, if it ever gets more frantic then it just won't hold up. Multiplayer online isn't my thing, so if I do end up getting it, would be for campaign only. I highly recommend you give it a chance, even if shooters aren't your thing, because I think they've done a great job bringing this game to the 3DS.
On a technical level this game is truly amazing. Especially since it was only made by three guys.
On a story and gameplay level this game is really boring. The story is even worse than in Gears of War and Gears of War is one of the worst games made in past +10 years.
Franchement ce jeu est génial en tout point, je l'ai complet et je suis devenue une grande fan!! Si on devait faire un DLC, moi je serais très heureuse d'une suite à la campagne car ça se termine par un "à suivre" et j'ai hâte de découvrir cette suite! J'aimerai honorer ses trois développpeurs en leur annonçant que j'ai pour projet de fabriquer un cosplay du fameux Dyxide DX-38, le Dyxshield!! :3 Vous êtes supers les gars!! ^^
Sorry the traductor is very bad... ;_;
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