There's no handheld gaming system quite like the iPhone, and there's no iPhone game quite like Infinity Blade — since the day that its jaw-dropping tech demo became an gorgeous sword-swinging dungeon crawler, the game has raked in $20 million for publisher Epic and developer Chair Entertainment. We're hard-pressed to think of any game that looks as good on a phone. Now that Infinity Blade 2 is set to show off the power of Apple's A5 chip on December 1st, we spoke to to Chair's co-founder Donald Mustard about what Infinity Blade 2 has in store for techies like us, and whether it might be time for the budding franchise to leap to other platforms.
If you played Infinity Blade when it first came out last December, you might well have put it down by now, but Chair Entertainment's been working solid to build the platform out. "We took a few days off for Christmas," Mustard told us, but then it was on to the game's first free update, The Deathless Kings, and work on Infinity Blade 2 hasn't ceased since the end of May.
When it arrives this December, one year later, Chair promises it's going to look better than ever on Apple A5 devices. "It's just unbelievable to us how much more powerful these devices are getting. We can have dynamic shadows on the enemies now, which do so much to ground the world and make the environment heavier and more weighty. You'll see particle effects, petals and leaves blowing in the wind, dynamic light shafts and god rays through the sky." The team's still running into lots of limitations, Mustard admitted, but interestingly enough both the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S will run the game equally well despite the iPad's higher-resolution screen. "Both are super super solid at 30fps, pushing everything we're throwing at it," he told us. Even the iPhone 4 with its less capable A4 chip should see graphical improvements, and Mustard says some of the high-res textures that Infinity Blade 2 uses exceed the resolution of home console titles. Why don't other mobile games look as good as this one? "A lot of the time, I think it's just time," Mustard said. "We were one of the first out of the gate using Unreal Engine 3 technology, we've used it a lot in the past, and we like to set the bar."
Unfortunately, you won't be able to tell Siri to stab anyone for you, or hide their body — "The second I can get my hands on an API for Siri, I think everyone will be all over that" — but Mustard did say that Apple's iCloud will have an important role. iCloud will power ClashMobs, a possibly post-launch feature where the entire world (literally, there won't be shards) of Infinity Blade 2 gamers will team up asynchronously to defeat a single foe — like the Iron Wretch, "a huge 25 foot monster with a jaw that could tear you in half in one bite" — with millions of hit points. Mustard suggests that you'd get perhaps 30 seconds to whale on the demon as much as you can, and then it's up to the rest of the world to make up the difference in a 24 hour period (for a shared reward) before the beast disappears. It's not an unprecedented idea for a game, but it definitely sounds like fun. Mustard also promises that iCloud will seamlessly store and transfer your saves and profiles for a continuous client, too, such that you can equip a blade on your iPad 2, set it down and pick up your iPhone, and the weapon will be waiting for you.
Of course, what we'd really like to do is set down our iPhone and pull up Infinity Blade 2 on a bigger screen, like our PC monitor or HDTV, and there are plenty of precedents here. It's a little-known fact that Infinity Blade was intended to be a Kinect title, and don't forget that the game's headed to arcades soon on a 46-inch touchscreen. Oh, and it just so happens that Adobe Flash 11 now supports Unreal Engine 3. Could we play Infinity Blade in our browser?
Chair's creative director wouldn't confirm or deny a future for the game anywhere outside Apple's gated mobile community, but he also didn't suggest we give up hope. "Honestly, I'm a little bit out of the loop... when [UE3 in Flash] was being announced at Adobe, I was at Apple announcing Infinity Blade 2," he said, sounding very little like a man out of the loop. "The policy at Chair and Epic is for our games to be on every viable platform; we want everyone to enjoy our products. If there were a viable justification and delivery platform our game would be there," he added. So, what does that 46-inch touchscreen say about the opportunities for Infinity Blade on console? "It told us that our initial thinking that the game would work on Kinect was right on."
"We're focused on the launch of Infinity Blade 2... but we will definitely evaluate that when the game's done."
Ross Miller tag-teamed this interview.