A bold experiment in location-based gaming.
BTWXT Games is an indie mobile games publisher based in Vancouver. They approached us to create a location-based mobile game for iOS devices. WhereWars™ Realtime Strategy Game lets players battle against each other on maps generated from real-world locations.
BTWXT Games had a vision for a persistent, always-on game that would let players battle for territory in their real-world locations. It sounded great on paper, but after several rounds of prototyping, we soon realized that the challenges where pretty big:
- The latency (communication delay) between multiple players was magnified when one server had to process and communicate the game state dozens of times per second.
- Faster “game state” updates created unacceptable bandwidth issues for players, but anything slower made the gameplay too choppy to be enjoyable.
- Any location in the world could be a “game level”. How could this be done while still maintaining a consistent level of challenge and playability?
- GPS devices embedded in most mobile devices are fairly inaccurate, so knowing the absolute position of the player isn’t always possible.
- If the whole world is the battle field, then how do we ensure that people can always play, regardless of whether or not there are other players in their geographic vicinity?
We initially developed the game in two streams: one stream focused on the server technology required to power the system, while the other worked on prototypes that concepts that were in a constant state of user testing and validation. Our iterative, “Agile” development process worked on delivering functional prototypes rapidly. We tested everything: gameplay rules and concepts, game features, server load, then threw away what didn’t work and kept moving.
Our prototypes consisted of elaborate paper prototypes, quick and dirty Flash tests, and even native iOS apps developed rapidly for rigorous review and evaluation. Testing concepts directly with our target audience was key to our development process, from alpha to beta to launch.
WhereWars™ Realtime Strategy Game delivers “classic” RTS gaming for the mobile generation. We’re proud of many of the innovative features the game brings to the conversation around what location-based and mobile-based games could be:
- Real-world stores and locations are used to dynamically-generate the battle maps.
- Real-world locations give players unique game resources to build with, ensuring a new kind of game in each location.
- 100% cloud-based gaming allows players to play on multiple devices simultaneously because each device is just a “window” to the virtual game world.
- Scalable server architecture allows the cloud server node to expand in real-time to meet player resource demands.
WhereWars™ is a universal iOS app (for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch).