Games, They Find a Way – nWay Interview with Steve Kuroki (Part One)

Jul 11, 2018
Action

After years of impressive work with Chronoblade and Power Rangers: Legacy Wars, we finally sit down with up and coming mobile action gaming titan nWay’s about their rise to prominence.

Appolicious: Take us back to your company’s earliest days – how did nWay come to be?

Steve Kuroki: Back in early 2012, social gaming on Facebook was radically widening the gamer base because of its accessibility and ability to play with real-life friends. We felt this was good for the industry, but that the games themselves were going backwards in terms of quality. We wanted to bring console quality, real-time multiplayer games to emerging platforms of the time — internet browsers, mobile devices, smart TVs — and started nWay with veterans from console and PC games with that goal in mind

App: When founding nWay, there were many genres and platforms to aim for. What drew you to mobile, and subsequently, free to play multiplayer titles?

SE: The first game we developed at nWay was ChronoBlade,. a 3D, console-quality, brawler action RPG built for Facebook. We developed our backend to support PC browsers, mobile and smart TVs per our original vision. We created a demo that showcased real-time cross-platform gameplay and showed it to some of the press. Hardcore mobile games were set to explode in Asia, and we got a lot of interest from Asia in 2013 from that demo to bring ChronoBlade to mobile. We thus decided to focus on mobile to meet this demand. Once we saw the possibilities of developing for mobile platforms, we charged forward down that path and never looked back.

App: One of your core promises is “Real games in real time”, which is a striking stance when most mobile games defer to turn-based or management based gameplay. Was this a challenge your team aimed for from the start?

SE: nWay’s founders always had deep console and PC experience. The passion has been, from the start, to create games with a higher quality graphical presentation, action and polish. We also believe that playing with real people, not AI or stats, inherently makes the experience more social, more unpredictable, and new every time. The kicker is in making this all work in real-time on mobile. We like real-time because it really puts skills back in the game – it makes your victory that much more satisfying.

App: Furthermore, how does the team at nWay ensure their games run so smoothly? There’s been attempts at mobile action titles, but they often either sacrifice fidelity or frame rate stability.

SE: You are right. Doing real-time multiplayer on mobile is really hard. Making a game close to latency free while accounting for thousands of different devices and network providers can seem impossible at times. It’s a real engineering challenge. For example, there are low-end devices, like an iPhone 5, on which we want our games to work so we have to account for those users.

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Then there’s the latency issues. Packets can get lost over WiFi or LTE. There’s also de-syncing challenges. Different devices have different floating point computation, which can cause de-sync issues when two people are playing a match using different devices. If not solved, you can have a case where both players see themselves winning in the same match!

It took us four years to develop a patented proprietary tech to solve this. Not to get too technical, but what we’ve done is to create a simulation engine that serves as a middle layer to process game logic. This allows the games to stay in-sync. The middle layer also acts as a fixed-point integer-based computing layer, that enables multiplayer on mobile operating systems and sets us up to make the same multiplayer game work on different platforms beyond mobile, including PC, console and web.

App: Nailing console-style controls on mobile is always a struggle on touchscreens. How did your team compensate for that with ChronoBlade‘s brawling?

SE: Years of developing games with a controller in hand is what really made all the difference. Character navigation and button-feel go beyond nailing the layout and functionality. To make combat feel good, you need to incorporate tricks like hit-pause and camera-shake to emphasize the impact of those bigger hits as well button cancels and branch window tuning to give the player more control mid combo and take it to the next level.

 

Chronoblade – Announcement Trailer

Watch the new Double Dragon: Neon Trailer here: http://bit.ly/NPwR6G nWay games announces a new free-to-play action RPG that plays straight in your browser. Subscribe to IGN’s channel for reviews, news, and all things gaming: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=ignentertainment

 

App: What drew your team to explore Norse mythology by way of trans-dimensional sci-fi in ChronoBlade?

SE: Our writers wanted to create a unique twist on something old with the ability for us to expand the multiverse into literally anything we came up with. Ragnarok is only the beginning!

App: nWay’s put a lot of work into selling the world ChronoBlade, including a full-CGI story intro where most mobile games would just use some text or a tutorial level. Why do you feel that narrative is now becoming a strong component in multiplayer experiences?

For multiplayer games, players spend hundreds of hours playing with characters they may not know from the start but overtime they grow an attachment toward their favorite characters. In Legacy Wars, we had the amazing opportunity to bring the rich history of the Power Rangers to gamers who may have only heard of the name. On the flip side, we had the millions of Power Ranger fans who may have never played a fighting game. The Power Ranger fans are extremely passionate about their Ranger’s with everyone asking for a favorite character or season. The way they speak fondly of the characters is something we want to achieve for all of our game products.

App: What is key when it comes to balancing PvP combat in a free to play game, especially one where players can be different levels in-game?

SE: Stat balancing for PvP combat games has been somewhat solved with games in the RTS genre but with an action combat game we need to evaluate how much of the game’s stats and player skills contribute to combat. In ChronoBlade, players not only get new stat-increasing equipment, they can also change up their character’s skills to do different things like freeze enemies or cause damage over time. Combine that with the player’s ability to move freely around the arena and block at will really makes things complicated. Once you get all that info in one place, the designers need to balance around those metrics and inform the matchmaking formula to try and match players up with other players who would create a fair match.

App: What updates should players be looking forward to for ChronoBlade in the near future?

SE: Now that the game is live, we want to make it even more fun and engaging. We’re getting good input from live players on what they like and where we can improve. We’re putting our attention on things like the equipment system to give players more choices, builds and customization. We’re looking to give players more options for equipment load outs by allowing for more variability in stats. We’re looking to improve loot drops – like making the drops and upgrade paths more intuitive. We’ll also look to continue to improve PvP, such as better bonuses and rewards. And of course, we’ll always look to make UI/UX and balance improvements with each update.

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To hear more about nWay’s journey to becoming top-tier action game developers, be sure to keep an eye out next week for Part 2 – Go Go, Power Gamers! of our interview with Steve!

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Elijah Beahm

Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.

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