Hero Interactive - Bubblicious Interview

This week we bring you a very exciting interview with ‘Hero Interactive’.

Hero Interactive Logo

1.      Hi, Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?

Yeah sure!  I’m Jared Riley, the founder and owner of the flash game studio Hero Interactive.  We’ve developed a number of popular games out there, many of which you’ve probably heard of such as Bubble Tanks and StormWinds.  Our studio is located in Southwest Michigan, USA and currently consists of 3 programmers, an artist, a project/community manager, and two composers.

2.      What sparked your interest in Flash gaming and, more specifically, how
did you get into Flash development?

I was always interested in game development and had initially planned on entering console game development.  For that reason I picked up degrees in Computer Science and Telecommunication from Michigan State University.  However, disillusioned with the lifestyle and work conditions a console developer could be looking forward to, I decided to try something different.  So in 2006, I started exploring with Flash and seeing what was out there.  Turns out it was a good fit for me.

3.      What are some things you like about Flash as opposed to trying to develop on other platforms?

Flash is an amazing platform to work with.  Firstly, it’s one of the (if not the most) ubiquitous programs out there.  It’s installed on billions of machines, more than Microsoft Windows by far.  Our games can run on almost any computer be it Windows or Mac.  Additionally, Flash games can be developed far more quickly than console games so we’re able to experiment with games and try something new.  In a month or two we’re usually on something new!

4.      How did you come up with “That Hero guy from your logo”? Who drew him?
Was he modeled after you?

Haha, actually I didn’t have much to do with the character though I get this question often.  I did choose the name of the company and when we approached the logo design company, we gave them a lot of input: we wanted a super hero, blue, orange, and white colors, etc…  After MANY revisions this is what we got!  I’m happy with him, and he’s served as a great mascot.

5.      What inspired you to make games about Bubbles in Combat?

I knew I wanted to make a game where you could go around shooting off components of enemies and then having those parts fuel your own growth.  Once I decided I wanted to be able to also have you float around from one arena to another, bubble just kind of came to mind and stuck.  I wanted a casual shooter as well, and it was a good fit.

6.      What aspects of your Bubble Tanks games do you think attributed to
their success?

I think there are two big factors that make Bubble Tanks as popular as it is.  The first is the game centers around growth.  Watching your tank constantly evolve and grow is really fun and gives us a sense of positive progress in the game.  Secondly, the ability to just float around and choose who we fight and when we fight them allows us to control the difficulty in the game far better than most and in a way that is subtle yet makes sense.  If you find the game too easy, all you have to do is keep swimming away from the center of the map.  If you find it too hard, you can simply stick around the center killing the smaller enemies.  If you’re in a situation that’s too stressful- just run!  This kind of difficulty control allows the game to be challenging and interesting yet never so hard you get frustrated and quit.  I’m definitely trying to find new ways to port this sort of system into other games’ designs.

7.      Which of your games are you most proud of?  What do you like most about it?

You know, despite it’s limited popularity, LightSprites is just one of my favorite projects.  I LOVE that game.  It was a very original and ridiculous game that I really enjoyed playing AND making.  Once I saw all the little people dancing and having fun and then bursting into flames or getting struck by lightning, I knew the game was awesome.

8.      What new games do you have planned for the future?  Any screenshots we can check out?

Being constantly busy producing, we currently we are working on THREE new games!  Some of them are actually getting near to completion.

The first game and closest to release is a game called Paint the Fence.  The game cleverly has you painting fences as fast as you possibly can while trying to avoid obstacles, enemies, and other challenges.  Sound easy?  Try painting a chain link fence with a paintball gun with an explosive cat running around.  Paint the cat and it explodes and you DIE.  Yeah, it’s pretty intense.  There will also be a meta game on top of the standard one: beating levels unlocks stickers (such as broccoli) that are then hidden throughout the game.  Collecting all the stickers hidden in a world will unlock bonus levels.

http://www.herointeractive.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/blogpost1.jpg

The second game on the way is Bubble Tanks Tower Defense.  Like most TD games, you’ll be able to place towers to destroy the oncoming waves of bubble tank “creeps”.  These enemies will be able to move anywhere and won’t be following a pre-defined path.  Although you’ll only be able to place a basic tower on the map, these towers are able to evolve into many other different types.  Additionally, you’ll be able to merge towers together to form super towers four times the size of a normal tower.  Even these super towers can be merged to form even larger mega towers.

http://www.herointeractive.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/bttd_screenshot_11.jpg

Finally, we’re working on the much anticipated Bubble Tanks Arenas.  BTA breaks away from the standard Bubble Tanks tradition by giving players something a little more intense.  Rather than just wandering around a massive world, you’ll be able to choose arenas, a series of bubblefields with pre-set enemies and challenges, to take on and score points with.  The coolest feature?  You’ll be able to design and share your very own tanks!  In addition, users of ArmorGames will be able to create Enemy tanks and Arenas to challenge their friends with as well.  Completing Arenas will earn you new items and weapons as well as increase the possible size of your tank.  This is definitely a game we’re really excited about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS95fZCUW44&feature=player_embedded

All in all, I’m really excited about all of these games and really looking forward to getting them to all of the players!  More information on the games can be found on our blog.

9.      Is developing Flash games something you do full-time?

It is!  We actually have a number of people working at our office full time on flash game development!  Aside from myself there is Eric and Jimmy on the programming and design front.  We also just picked up KC, our full time artist, so hopefully our games will get a much needed boost on the graphics front.  My wife Steph handles our community stuff such as updating the blog, sending out the newsletter, and responding to your comments on ArmorGames as well as doing some Project Management work.  We also have two composers named Brian Hall and Calvin Winbush who create completely original music for our games.  All of these people make Hero Interactive work, without them it wouldn’t be near the success it is today.

10.     What would you say to those just getting into Flash development? What are some things you learned early on?

Well, there isn’t any single lesson I could hand off.  The secret is just to be prepared to spend a LOT of time on it.  I didn’t just start developing Flash games overnight.  I went to a 4 year university, picked up bachelor’s degrees focused on game design and development, and have been hammering away at the pixel factory for the past 3 years.   I’m still learning a ton every day.

Be prepared for a lot of competition out there, but if you are serious about flash games and put in the hard work to make great games, you’ll do great!

11.      Are there any Flash developers whose work you admire?

There’s just so much talent out there. I think one of my favorites for a long time has been John (jmtb02) here at Armor Games. Seriously, the guy has put out almost 50 games now and he still is one of the most creative developers out there. He takes something simple but extremely fun and makes a game with that almost every time. I know few developers that can put out original and creative games that are hits like his, not just once, but over and over again.There are so many new people coming in to Flash games and getting a random hit here and there that I think the community has forgotten some of the real superstars in the community. Developers who have consistently been putting out amazing games since way back. I’m thinking not only of jmtb02 but NinjaKiwi, Casual Collective, etc…  Joey Betz, Krin, and Con Artists have also been putting out some really amazing work that is always inspiring us here at Hero Interactive.

12.   We heard HI has their very own office and full time staff. Can you send us a link showing off your office set up and computers?

I sure can!  But you’re going to have to wait a few day till I can get my camera, take some pics, and then send them to you!

13.) When you aren’t making or playing flash games, what’s your favorite platform to play games on?

I actually am most partial to PC games as strategy and simulation are my two favorite genres.  I seriously can’t wait for Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3, both by Blizzard.  Oh, and then there’s God of War 3 coming out for the PS3 soon.  I am a diehard GoW fan and have beaten all 3 (including the PSP game) about 209309232 times.

I keep inviting the ArmorGames office to play Hero Interactive in Warcraft 3 but they haven’t yet risen up to the challenge…. ;)

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Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Jared! Be sure to visit their website for more information on their upcoming games.