Mobile isn't typically a platform associated with hardcore games or players, but that's exactly what Champs: Battlegrounds aims to be, Quark Games vice president and game lead Shawn Foust told Polygon.
The developer is currently working on the cross-platform title, which they've dubbed a multiplayer online squad strategy game. The idea is to appeal to players looking for more investment and immersions than a typical mobile title — two aspects Foust believes make up a hardcore experience.
"If I look at a hardcore experience, I'm saying that I'm willing to dedicate tens of hours to playing this game in that while I'm playing this game, this is going to be my primary commitment," Foust said. "To me, hardcore games aren't just a distraction from your life. They're an intentional focus for your life."
On paper, the game sounds simple. Players build their own army by choosing from different units, which Quark intends to expand to number in the hundreds. The goal is to knock out your enemy's army and achieve a set number of kills. Unlike other tactical-based games, which often focus on Player vs. Environment or AI skirmishes, Battleground focuses heavily on a multiplayer experience.
"To me, hardcore games aren't just a distraction from your life."
"We really like the idea of taking a competitive experience and a top online experience and bringing it to the mobile phone, bringing it to the tablet," Foust said. "We felt like that's really not been accomplished yet.
According to Foust, Quark has always had a passion for the tactical side of the gaming equation. The trick was finding a way to carve out their own niche — something they accomplished by first examining problems within the tactical genre.
"One of the big things to us is tactics have generally been turn-based," Foust said. "That's generally not been a problem when you're playing in player vs. the environment. It doesn't really matter that it's turn-based since you're the one that's controlling how fast your games go. But if you're playing a mobile phone and the other person decides to take a phone call for 30 minutes, it really slows down the pace and immersion of the game."
To remedy this, Quark aimed to make an experience that was active for both participants. In Battlegrounds, both sides are simultaneously occupied with the game's regeneration system, Foust said. Each unit has a max of five energy points, which they expend on moves, attacks, support skills and so forth. It typically takes about eight to ten seconds to regain those points.
"It's really about who can figure out who to use all of that energy of all their units more effectively than the other guy," Foust said.
"...people are willing to give a little bit of flexibility in order to have more immersion."
Battles can last anywhere from five to eight minutes, and players always have something to do.
"During that time period you have pretty intense squad-based battling that has a very strong tactical feel to it, but it's not confined by an engaged system, which can save a lot of dropped games," Foust said.
Battlegrounds has a disconnect system built in that solves the problem of absent players. If one player leaves to take a quick phone call, for example, the game will pause for both players for a short period of time. This is to allow a player to take care of their short-term business, Foust said. Eventually, if a player is gone too long, they'll disconnect.
"We felt that that was the right compromise," Foust said. "Generally it's safe to say when it comes to hardcore gamers, and this is really a hardcore game, people are willing to give a little bit of flexibility in order to have more immersion."
Champs: Battlegrounds will launch this summer for smartphones and tablets. Check out the trailer above to see it in action.