Raleigh-based Imangi Studios has kept a close eye on the latest mobile technology. The husband-and-wife team of Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova have captivated the world with their hit franchise, Temple Run. That game franchise has been downloaded over 500 million times. Shepherd talks about the franchise and weighs in on the new NVIDIA Tegra K1 technology in this exclusive interview.
What are your thoughts on the power of new mobile chips that were shown at CES like the NVIDIA Tegra K1 and what that opens up to game developers?
It's awesome how much processing power mobile phones have these days and I only expect that trend to continue. It definitely opens up a lot of opportunities for games, especially in terms of visual quality and scale.
Where did the original idea for Temple Run come from?
The inspiration for Temple Run came out of our experimentation to find a better way to control a character in a 3D environment on a touch screen device. Our previous game, Max Adventure, was a commercial failure and during the post-mortem we identified a few key reasons we thought it failed. The main reason being that the virtual joystick control scheme was just a terrible fit for mobile touch screen devices -- especially games targeted at a casual audience. Since we hadn't seen something better out there in other apps we decided to experiment and see what we could come up with. Through much experimentation we came up with the idea of using swipe gestures to turn a character left or right as he was walking a straight line.
Once we settled on this control mechanic, we started to build a game around it. The right hand turns the character makes lent itself very well to a maze like environment and since the character was already always moving forward an endless runner type game seemed to fit very well. As we continued to work on the prototype it looked more and more like the character was running on a wall of some sort, perhaps a temple wall even. So we started heading down the path of giving everything the explorer/adventurer vibe it has today.
What excites you about the mobile gaming space today?
Innovation. Mobile gaming is still the space where most innovations in game play seem to be happening. I think this is mostly true because of how open and easy it is to work on the various mobile platforms. That openness has really attracted a lot of indie developers, who also tend to be the ones most likely to take risks and experiment on game design. It's really fun to be a part of the community and to be around so many creative people all the time.
Our goal as a company is not to lose that creative spirit as we continue to grow and be successful. We hope to continue to innovate within Temple Run, as well as to develop and innovate with new games.
What's next for Temple Run?
We've got a lot more in store for Temple Run. We're currently working on regular updates to Temple Run 2, we're bringing it to other platforms, and we're starting to work on some new things that I can't talk about yet.
How challenging is it to launch games that aren't free to play in mobile today?
It's a challenge to launch any game free or paid in mobile these days. The market is very competitive and there are hundreds if not thousands of new games launched every day.