Q: What about powerups? How do they work?
At first we thought the game without powerups, but it was obvious that we needed the “random factor” to spice up things. The powerups are really what tells good players from bad ones, because using them at the right time is very difficult.
To get a powerup you must move onto it, and it will go into the powerups bar at the bottom of the screen. To use it (in your turn) you must click on it and then perform an action that depends on the powerup chosen. Some are instantaneous (like the Extra moves and Extra Time), some needs the player to click on a room (like the Block room), some to click on an area button (like the Double rotate).
Most powerup cost moves, so it’s really difficult to understand if it’s good to use them or spare them for worst situations.
Q: Being a multiplayer game, UFHO provides also extra features, such as friends, user search, ranking etc... How do they work?
We have some tools for community making: UFHO has a chat when you enter the Lobby, and has a chat also when you are in the middle of a match.
Moreover, users can request friendship to others so when they are online they can find each other more easily thanks to the Friends list.
We also have an extensive ranking system that stores all sort of things, like matches won, lost, left, gems taken, powerups used, turns wasted, and so on.
User search is simple as never: you put the name and you hit search! Of course you can also run an advanced search based on the country, rank, or city of the user.
Q: The website says that the game is in "beta". When do you think the final version will be ready and what additions are expected?
This first phase is all about testing. We’re going out of the “beta” version in a matter of days, as soon as we launch the game outside Italy. You can tell from the header on the pages if we’re in “beta” or not.
We expect to add some nice new features, like in-game tutorials, a better chat system, and then tournaments with prizes.
Q: Was UFHO developed in Actionscript 2 or 3? What is you current preference, and why?
UFHO was developed in AS 2.0 because when we started development Flash Player 9 was not very common on the users’ PCs, so we thought that by aiming for the Flash Player 8 the game would reach a wider audience.
I currently don’t have a preference, I think AS 3.0 delivers better performances but since UFHO is not a fast action game Player 8 is still our best choiche because of its diffusion.
Q: What were the most challenging phases during the development?
The testing… we were not really that experienced about developing real time application and I was amazed at discovering how many bugs it had because of the slow internet connections of the users. Coping with them was the hardest part in the development process.
Q: Talking about the multiplayer side of the game, how did you develop the game logic? Is it all on the server side?
No, only the matchmaking that happens when you press on the Play button inside the game is server-side. You press the button, a server-side extension puts you in a queue, then when another player presses it you’re joined in a game.
From then on the server only transmits the events from player to player, since the game is based on turns I thought that it was better to have every player send the moves to the other during his turn. This way every player would always see his turn perfectly and make his moves, and the workload for the server is not that much (a message to dispatch every second?)
Q: Flash games are constantly getting more complex as the flash player evolves. Do you use any additional softwares for managing the project? (editors, versioning, debugging tools etc...)
We used only the Flash editor to create the game, and then of course we used SmartfoxServer for creating the infrastructure of the community and to handle real time gaming and chat.
The multiplayer interaction part of the development was helped by SmartFox because of the trace function of the server-side extensions, which helped a lot in handling all the bugs related to the interaction over the net.
Q: If you were to give a couple of suggestion to younger developers willing to create their games, what would you recommend?
I can think only of one thing: you have to be passionate about games. You have to love them. If you think of making games only to make money, then it’s best to leave this market to the others because it’s a very hard place with a lot of competition.
Also creativity helps: I think that nowadays most people count on the experiences made by others to do quick cash-ins. But in the end they wouldn’t pay, so I recommend to develop new intellectual properties and concepts to enter the market with a fresh game. The players will appreciate that.
Q: Can you tell us about your future game related projects?
Now we’re focusing on the international launch of UFHO. We’re also exploring the possibility to bring it to consoles or touch-screen devices.
UFHO has a long way to go, and we will still focus on it for a while.