Randy Shepherd of Werd Interactive discusses how Corona brought on Armageddon

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Randy Shepherd of Werd Interactive was already a veteran in the mobile app development space when the Corona SDK was launched in late 2009. So, what made him stick with Corona after taking it for a test-drive to create the Astral Arcade game for iPad?

Below, Randy answers that question and talks about the development process of Werd’s latest Corona creation, the dueling strategy game Warlords Armageddon for iPad.

To start off, what’s your background as a developer?

I started creating shockwave games for NASA in later half of 1996 and founded Werd Interactive in the fall of 1998, which later became incorporated in 2000. We had just started developing for the Sega Dreamcast and SNK Neo Geo Pocket handheld when we had heard though the grapevine about Microsoft’s new gaming console, the Xbox. After that, we stopped the game that were developing for the Dreamcast and turned the game into a prototype for the Xbox that was showcased at GDC that year.

Then, how did Werd Interactive become an iPhone mobile game studio?

In December 2001, we received an offer from Digital Bridges (mobile game studio) to make mobile games. We started creating casual mobile games, and in early 2008 we were asked to be in the Apple iPhone SDK Beta. On April 27, 2008, we got the phone call from Apple that we were approved. The rest is history!

Over these many years, we have worked with everything from our own middleware to the middleware of other companies, but now we are happy to find ourselves using Corona.

Very nice! You first used Corona to create the Astral Arcade game for iPad. How did that experience make your team want to come back to Corona to create Warlords Armageddon?

Warlords Armageddon for iPad, created with Corona SDKAstral Arcade was an experiment and we did not know where it would take us. We had started with a little bit of code that we had been playing with in the Corona 1.0 simulator and decided to turn it into a game once we saw the chance to submit the week that the iPad was released.

At the time, we had an artist at our studio (with no background in programming) take on the task of coding it in the two-week timeframe, while our programmer worked on another title in cocos2d. The artist asked our programmer to help him implement physics in the game and the two of them quickly got it out on time and began working on several other projects with Corona — Warlords Armageddon emerged from those projects and captivated our entire studio’s attention. That’s when we knew we finally had a project that we could move forward with in complete confidence!

Both Astral Arcade and Warlords Armageddon are very graphics-heavy. How much time do you think you saved by using Corona to create the in-game graphics and animations than you would have with other SDK’s?

Warlords Armageddon and Astral Arcade were only capable of being so graphics heavy because we had the transitioning tools provided by Corona. Our artists only had so much time at their disposal and they were the ones coding in all of the graphical flourishes. We simply would not have had the time to implement so many of the features that really make these games shine without that extra time on their hands to generate art assets.

In the past, we had to drop projects made in cocos2D because we did not not have the time to code in all of the art assets in a timely manner and it was much more time consuming for a designer, a programmer, and an artist to convey their needs to one another. Corona is simple enough for an artist or designer to just sit down and code a feature in themselves.

Warlord Armageddon for iPad, created with Corona SDKDid Corona offer you anything else, function-wise, during the making of Warlords that simply could not be offered — or at least be implemented in a time-efficient manner — through other mobile SDK’s?

There wasn’t really one specific feature that I can say made the whole process possible. Warlords Armageddon was really just the product of the multitude of features provided by Corona. No other development software would have brought our creation to life the way that it did. Our company simply took advantage of all of the easily implementable features like transitions, movie clip classes, button classes, touch events, drag events, etc. that gave us the time to work on the intricacies of a complex code base.

Unfortunately, Warlords Armageddon was primarily coded before the release of Game Edition and our entire physics system is currently being handled without the aid of Box2D. That was a complicated process, but it really shows how much Corona allows us to do with Lua and we are now in the process of integrating it into our system and am very thankful that we will never need to worry about coding such a system again.

So, what’s coming next from Werd Interactive? Will you use Corona for that too?

Of course we will be using Corona! We are already partially through development on a puzzle game, a shoot ’em up, and a few other closely guarded surprises. We are going to keep on innovating using Corona.

And we’ll be awaiting your next release. Thanks for talking to us, Randy!

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