Industrial Toys wants to get us hooked on playing shooter games on mobile. That’s why the indie game studio is unveiling Midnight Star: Renegade, the second in a series of shooter games for mobile devices.
Shooters are a multibillion-dollar genre on consoles and PCs, but they haven’t translated well to mobile because of the touch-screen controls. But Industrial Toys — headed by Bungie cofounder Alex Seropian and Tim Harris — has figured out a way to do simplified shooter controls on smartphones and tablets. If they succeed with their second free-to-play title, they could establish a new haven for hardcore gamers in the $30 billion mobile-game industry.
Pasadena, Calif.-based Industrial Toys launched its first game, Midnight Star, in February 2015. That game did well, but it didn’t reach the ambitious goals of breaking into the top rankings on mobile or creating a lasting game that people came back to over and over. In an interview with GamesBeat, Seropian and Harris said they took what they learned from the first game and applied that knowledge to making Renegade. It took them about 10 months to create the new game.
“There have been many attempts with interesting approaches to creating a shooting experience on mobile,” Seropian said. “None of them have kept users engaged for months or years. To get that right, it’s not just the mechanics, but things like the story and how long the sessions are. Our goal is to take what we learned and apply it so that we can come up with a lifestyle game that works on mobile.”
Players wanted to do free movement in the game, so the company added that. Players also wanted an Android version early on. The team shortened the time it takes to load a level, and it also shortened the length of missions.
The last game addressed the touch-screen control challenge by automating the motion in a scene. That left the player free to aim and shoot the enemies on the screen with simple taps. The player could change the viewpoint for the scene by pressing a couple of buttons at the top of the screen. In our review of the Midnight Star title, GamesBeat writer Giancarlo Valdes said he could enjoy the game “without worrying about how much the controls are getting in my way.”
Renegade is a sci-fi story set 120 years after the events of the first game. It puts players at the center of a mystery left behind by a space-faring civilization that went missing 22,000 years ago.
“We are starting to explore the infrastructure that was left behind for the earlier alien civilization,” said Seropian. “It ends up as a conflict between us and another race of aliens. It expands our universe and takes us to a lot of different places in the galaxy that we didn’t get to know in the first game.”
Renegade uses the Unreal Engine and introduces new features, such as free movement (previously mentioned), jump boots, and guided rockets. The biggest change is how it fits into the mobile gamer’s lifestyle. Levels are short and plentiful. There are 150 levels in the first installment of the campaign, and most are under one minute in length. A multiplayer mode offers quick head-to-head battles for rank. And doing feats such as an airborne circle strafe are much easier, Industrial Toys said.
Players can craft their own characters, weapons, and armor. They can fire at long range with sniper rifles or jump into the fray with dual-wielded rocket pistols. The free-to-play game isn’t pay to win, but you can buy equipment drops that help you make progress, and you can do the customization through purchased equipment drops.
“There cool creative things you can do in the construction of your weapons and armor,” Seropian said. “I wanted to have jump boots that let me fly around a level. I built two rocket pistols and flew around the level shooting.”
Renegade will be soft-launched in some territories later this month, and then it will debut on iOS and Android this summer.
Industrial Toys had one announced funding round in March 2014, when it raised $5 million. Seropian said the company raised a new round at the end of 2015, but it hasn’t revealed the amount. Industrial Toys has 25 employees.
Seropian said the company has been talking to potential partners in Asia, but it hasn’t cut any particular deals yet.
“We believe in the indie route and the direct relationship with the customer,” Seropian said. “But if we went into Asia, we would probably do that with a partner.”