Stuff Asks: Jeff Skalski talks games, reboots and app development
It’s a dream job, right - developing games for iOS and Android? Seems legit for Jeff Skalski, senior producer of EA Mobile's remake of the classic Dungeon Keeper.
Here, in the first of our tech-talk Google Hangouts, Stuff quizzes him about app development, rebooting classic titles, his gaming life and his response to fans who are unhappy about the remade strategy game from 1997.
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So Jeff, which platform gets first dibs - iOS or ANDROID?
We worked on both at the same time in parallel. We have different experts within EA to help us get things going. It is important that we release the game on the same day for iOS and Android.
[Dungeon Keeper] was a pretty fast production schedule, from concept to getting it out the door and to the world. We’ve been developing it for about 12 months.
Which retro game you would love to reboot
A lot of PC classic games kind of inspired me into this industry in the first place. If I think back to those days, if I have the opportunity to remake those games inside the EA war chest, I really love Syndicate - that’s one of my all-time favourite games, definitely in my top 10. I’m really happy to see Satellite Reign on Kickstarter, I backed those guys since day one and am excited for what they’re bringing... I love to see that kind of spiritual successor game come out. Other than that, I would fall back maybe to what I started with Mythic, which is Dark Age of Camelot.
How much do you spend on games?
Outside of mobile, from PS4 to 3DS, I spend about US$150 a month. I play a lot of games. My work is my hobby and my hobby is my work so I love playing games. If I’m not playing on my phone, I’m playing on my 3DS or PS4. I’m still playing my PS3, I have a Wii U, Vita. I play constantly especially with the amount of traveling.
Really? Playing non-stop?
I don’t sleep that much, maybe four hours a day. On the 3DS, I’m finally wrapping up Pokemon X. PS4, I’m playing through Killzone. PS3, I still need to wrap up The Last of Us - it’s an amazing game. On Wii U, I’m playing Disney Infinity a lot, I feel like I’m a five-year-old kid all over again. Vita, still need to finish Persona. One big PC game that I’m playing is Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Your most and least favourite character in the new Dungeon Keeper?
Which is your most and least favourite character in Dungeon Keeper?
Hard to say least favourite, I love all them all... they’re quirky and funny in their own right. My favourite two characters are probably Horny himself. It was really important that we got a lot of recording lines from the original actor, and we have over 500 lines in the game... we plan to increase that over time. Second character would be the bile demon eating chickens.
DK characters - shoot, shag or marry?
The shag one would be easy: that would be the mistress (laugh). Without a doubt, I’ll have to go there. Shoot, you know, I love playing around with the chickens, not that I have anything against chickens. Marry, who would be dependable? Horny? I don’t know, I think he would take advantage of me. I would go to the warlocks, because they’re dependable and predictable.
Urghh, dungeons are not synced across Android and iOS?!
We got a couple of requests for that coming through. You can’t carry a dungeon from an Android device to an iOS device, although Android users and iOS users play in one space, so you’re playing with everybody around the world regardless of platform.
We didn’t really want to have a Facebook wall kind of game. We wanted to stay with the native login for each of the devices, using Google+ ID for Android devices and Game Centre accounts for iOS devices.
What’s the deal with the offline play mode?
Dungeon Keeper can grow into a competitive game where you fight against others so we want to make sure that no one is cheating. By having them online and connected, we can make sure people are playing fairly and you can monitor when somebody cheats or hacks the game.
Oh come on, freemium? Really?
The freemium question, I do hear that a lot. I definitely understand somebody who is a PC classic Dungeon Keeper fan but that’s not what we built... We were looking at doing a strategy game and what a mobile gamer expects in a strategy game. We looked at all the amazing strategy games out there. We went freemium because that’s what’s winning in the mobile space, so if I was to build Dungeon Keeper 3 for the PC, it most likely would not be a freemium game at all.
Gem pricing is kinda high, no?
We look at what the other strategy builders are doing and kind of figured out the right range coming into this. Right now, we’re not planning on doing any dramatic price changes, I do know of other games that have a higher premium cost to them.
I think the one thing for people coming into the game and trying to acquire gems, digging can slowly but surely get the gems and of course the dynamic event raids that we run.... And there’s some other features that the team is kind of in the middle of for players to get gems outside of those two avenues.
What's in store for DK updates?
We’re just getting started, which is why I love building games that are live and kind of organic and see what people want. In our next major update, we’ll be releasing guild tournaments to show who’s the top guild. We’ll have these tournaments on a weekly basis. You're the first guys to know this.
There’s potentially more immortals that we can release and hopefully over time there’s plenty of rooms for minions we haven’t tapped into yet.
Where’s the love for Windows Phone 8? We’ve seen other EA Mobile games on that platform
We’re not actively making or bringing it [Dungeon Keeper] to Windows Phone. We just want to make sure there’s enough volume of players. If that’s what players want, please send feedback to us, start a petition or something. We haven’t had a lot of requests for it, but the more we hear about them, the more likely we are to do something about it.
Thanks for joining us on Google Hangout! Wait, is that a freaking TARDIS in your office?!