Former Battlefield developer brings 'core shooter' to mobile in The Drowning

When DeNA's The Drowning releases on iOS devices, it will hopefully offer core gamers something they want to play, according to veteran game developer Ben Cousins.

Cousins is best known for his work on Battlefield 1943, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Battlefield Heroes. He is currently leading a team of developers who have worked on franchises like Far Cry, Halo and Crysis to create "core gaming experiences" on mobile devices.

"The reason we're making core games on mobile is because we feel like the casual game market is pretty well-served," he told Polygon. "If you want a casual game on these devices, there's a lot of options.

"The other thing is we're core gamers and we've got these devices, and our research shows us the vast majority of core gamers have a smartphone or a tablet."

"The reason we're making core games on mobile is because we feel like the casual game market is pretty well-served."

Cousins said the studio's research found that many core gamers are frustrated that most games on tablet devices aren't targeted at them. Cue The Drowning: a first-person shooter that Cousins describes as a console experience that "respects the interface of a mobile device" and the play patterns users have when they play games on mobile.

The Drowning is set in a post-apocalyptic world where an environmental disaster has led to a toxic oil swallowing anything it touches and turning humans into zombie-like creatures that try to drag players into the oil. Players move around by tapping the screen like they would in a game like Diablo. Shooting requires a two-finger tap, with the bullet going through the center point of the two fingers.

"The reason we have a two-finger tap is you can see where you're shooting, you can see the impact point, which is one fo the most fun things about a shooter," Cousins said. "It also adds an element of skill. If I could just tap a zombie's head with one finger, I'd get a kill every time. But if I have to work out where that center point is, there's a skill element there, which I think is more appealing to core gamers."

"If I could just tap a zombie's head with one finger, I'd get a kill every time. But if I have to work out where that center point is, there's a skill element there."

Matches are played out in arenas, with each game round lasting two minutes. The more kills a player achieves, the more points they receive. These points translate into scavenging rounds. At the end of each match, a player will be able to scavenge the arena for parts that can be used to upgrade weapons and build vehicles. A player might find arrows or bolts and springs, all of which can be taken to Charlotte, a gunsmith and mechanic, who then performs a weapon upgrade.

The game is free-to-play, but Cousins says the monetization strategy doesn't give players an unfair advantage. Players will be able to spend real-world cash on items like Flares, which keep zombies at bay after each match so they can have one more scavenging turn, but there is no guarantee that the turn will yield the item they are looking for. Players can also spend money to rummage through Charlotte's garage of broken weapons. Once a random broken weapon is acquired, players will still have to clear arenas full of zombies to scavenge the location to look for parts to fix the weapon.

Cousins believes the effort the development team has put into the game's controls will appeal to core gamers. "We've just gone all out and said we're going to treat this world with the passion, sincerity, taste and detail that we would a console game," he said.

The Drowning is coming soon to iOS devices.

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