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Apple TV gets new game from former Medal of Honor producer

The Apple TV as a gaming device isn't a revelation for everyone in attendance at today's Apple press conference: A number of developers have been quietly working on games to run on the device for weeks.

Among them is Greg Goodrich, formerly the executive producer and studio head for Electronic Arts' Medal of Honor games and now the head of a new mobile-focused studio. Their first game, Fantastic Plastic Squad, will be an Apple TV launch title played with the device's new touch-sensitive remote control.

Studio Pound Sand was formed in June 2013 following a coincidental meeting after a talk Goodrich was giving.

"I was giving a talk, and afterwards this man walked up to me and said I represent a family who wants to get into games," Goodrich said.

When he asked the man what this family was interested in creating the answer sounded a lot like something Rockstar would make.

"They wanted to make a massively open world game set in Mexico that played like GTA 5," Goodrich said. "I said, ‘I'm playing that game right now and it's called Red Dead Redemption, and it's really good."

But the man wasn't put off, and soon Goodrich discovered that the people he represented were filmmakers and brothers Billy and Fernando Rovzar. They are also the nephews of Televisa's CEO Emilio Azcarraga Jean, one of the richest businessmen in Latin America. Both of the men are also, Goodrich said, passionate about games.

After walking the two through the process of making games and the struggles all developers run into with their first titles, Goodrich told them he wanted to start small with his new studio, with a tight group of people, and to grow slowly, organically.

The brothers liked the idea and became angel investors for the studio.

After starting out with a group of four or five, the studio slowly climbed to 15 people, all working on their first game as a group: a mobile game.

The idea for Fantastic Plastic Squad came to Goodrich watching his children play.

"My son has all of these action figures that he plays with and mixes and matches the parts for," he said. "If we're cleaning the house we're not in his world, we're just an obstacle in his play space. But as adults, we all have action figures and the only time we ever touch them is when they fall over on our desk. When was the last time you really played with an action figure?

"That was the impetus of where it took off, and then we settled in this 1980s golden era of cartoons and action figures."

The result is a highly-stylized third-person shooter of sorts which stars your own customizable and upgradeable action figure. The game plays like a standard third-person shooter on an iPhone with one notable exception: The digital twin thumbstick controls are surprisingly good.

That, Goodrich tells me, comes from the years of experience his team has putting together shooters.

And if you're not a fan of the controls, or if you get interrupted in the middle of the campaign or an online match, you can tap a virtual button and the game goes into an AI-driven auto-pilot mode that plays itself.

In the free-to-play game's fiction, players control 5-inch tall action figures that have come to life and are fighting for control of a house. Each figure can be customized with weapons and accessories. The game includes a robust 125-mission-long single-player campaign as well as support for player-versus-player online gaming with features like clan support, tournaments, leaderboards and replays.

The game also allows you to "borrow" a friend's figures for online battle, giving you that character to play and your friend a portion of the credits earned.

Goodrich says he sees this becoming a big element of the game, with players working to create neat customizations for "mercenary" soldiers among their figures.

The game will likely hit iPhone and iPad before it comes to Apple TV, with a version built from the ground up for the device.

The Apple TV version will use the touch-controls of the remote and will also support third-party controllers. Players using the remote will drag their thumb on the touchpad to aim, move forward by holding the Play button and move backwards by tapping Play and then holding it. Tapping the touchpad makes the character jump and clicking and holding the touchpad makes the figure throw a grenade.

Players can turn game assist on by holding the remote vertically, and off by holding it horizontally.

"It sounds funky," Goodrich said. "But it works really well."

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