Interview

Why Age of Empires designer Bruce Shelley thinks mobile strategy games are dissatisfying ... and what he's done about it

Why Age of Empires designer Bruce Shelley thinks mobile strategy games are dissatisfying ... and what he's done about it

Given Bruce Shelley has been designing strategy games since the 1980s, it's no surprise that even in a 'semi-retired' state, he's still actively thinking about how to develop the genre.

Best known for his work on the Age of Empires PC franchise, Shelley was also involved in classics such as Railroad Tycoon and Civilization.

More recently, he's advised the likes of Zynga (FrontierVille) and Ubisoft (The Settlers 7), but now is the chief designer at Texan studio BonusXP, which was set up by veterans from Ensemble Studios; the home of Age of Empires.

Thinking ahead

In that respect Shelley's gone full circle, and with new game The Incorruptibles, he's attempting to do something similar for mobile strategy gaming.

"Mobile strategy titles are making a lot of money but I think there's something dissatisfying about them. They're more like management games," he ponders.

"You build your base and army and then the AI takes over. But that's the fun bit."

It's a situation BonusXP new game The Incorruptibles turns on its head.

Mixing up strong RPG elements - characters development, crafting, direct action etc - it also contains base building, including strategic building and a more active tower defence mechanic in missions. 

There's even a neat real-time resource system for spawning new troops. 

"We want to have short, intense strategy missions, combined with longer events like crafting, which will bring players back to the game," Shelley explains.

In this way, BonusXP hopes to hybridise the best of classic RTS (and RPG) gameplay within the session cadence required by mobile gamers.

"I think a lot of people who played Age of Empires are being under-served by mobile strategy games," he ends.

"We hope The Incorruptibles will appeal to them."

Out now on iOS and published by MaxPlay, The Incorruptibles will also be released on Google Play early in 2016.


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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