Pocketwatch's Armada

Update: Following the publication of the original story below, Pocketwatch Games’ Andy Schatz responded to XBLA Fans’ requests for comment about working with Microsoft again. As he originally stated, Schatz hasn’t made any final platform decisions for Armada just yet.

“The deciding factor will be based on ho[w] closely we can interact with our fans and whether the platforms enable iterative development,” Schatz wrote in an email to XBLA Fans.

“We’ve been able to much better serve fans and interact with our community with the extremely easy process of rolling out updates through Steam,” he elucidated. “That’s not something I’ll be willing to give up for a game that may require constant balance changes and content additions!”

Gamers may remember that Microsoft was repeatedly lambasted by many in the independent game development community over the past few years due to its bug fix and game update policies. Those developers who complained were upset with issues surrounding costs, update sizes and certification processes and lead times. Some developers, like Uber Entertainment, went as far as to release subsequent games on platforms other than XBLA after feeling burned by Microsoft their first time releasing a digital game on Xbox 360.

Original Story: The next project from Pocketwatch Games, the two-man team behind 2013’s co-op heist title Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, is a real-time strategy game codenamed Armada. Pocketwatch’s Andy Schatz stated in a blog post that the success of Monaco, which sold more than 750,000 copies total despite only selling about 36,000 on XBLA as of last month, has put the studio in a position to create whatever it wants. What it wants is an RTS optimized for gamepad controls.

“With apologies to those devs who have tried, no one has ever made an RTS that played well on a dual analog gamepad. We’re gonna be the first to do it right,” Schatz promised. That does not, however, mean the game will be restricted to only a gamepad. Schatz goes on to write that playing Armada should be as enjoyable with dual analog as it is with a keyboard and mouse.

And there’s more to the game designer’s desire to create an RTS than just showing predecessors how it’s done with a controller. There’s his passion. Schatz has a love/hate relationship with the RTS genre and wants to put his own spin on it, which means designing a game in which “strategy is creative and complex and the micro is accessible and fun.”

Though Pocketwatch’s goal is to have the game feel like a traditional strategy game such as Blizzard’s Starcraft II, players will take control of a MOBA-styled champion. The champion will erect structures, do scouting work, fight enemies and lead other forces into battle.

Unlike in Blizzard’s popular RTS, though, those “other forces” won’t be directly controlled by the player. Instead, they will be AI units that will behave strictly according to rules sets for their individual classes. Most troops will charge into battle alongside the champion, but they will do so of their own accord, not because the player commands it.

Armada Notes

Speaking with Polygon, Schatz explained that the existence of the champion and removal of unit controls are paramount to making Armada work with a gamepad. Selecting units, giving out orders and scrolling around the map are actions that don’t work right with a controller because, the designer pointed out, analog sticks are designed with vector controls in mind. Pocketwatch thinks it has the solution to those woes: excise them from the blueprint and replace them with something gamepads excel at doing.

“We’re rebuilding the RTS formula to avoid the problem areas and emphasize the things the analog controller does well,” Schatz told Polygon. “Adding a MOBA-like champion to the world, but allowing the player to craft their defenses, build armies of mixed types, and allowing for a more open-world map like SC2 gives Armada the best of both worlds.”

Pocketwatch doesn’t know if its new game will take six weeks, six months or three years to create. It also doesn’t know whether or not it will release on Xbox — or any console, for that matter.

Speaking with Edge, Schatz said that although Armada would obviously perform well on a console, the studio wants to build the game for PC players first and “hopefully” bring it to consoles afterwards. He’s spoken to Sony about a possible PlayStation version, but he has not been in talks with Microsoft about bringing the game to the Xbox platform.

Schatz told Edge that the process of bringing Monaco to Xbox Live Arcade was “tricky.” Although, likely referring to the ID@Xbox program, he also stated that he believes “it’s certainly much easier this time around.”

While that’s hardly a rousing endorsement of the platform, it’s certainly a more bullish outlook for Xbox than the Pocketwatch Games head honcho had as of July of last year when, in a Reddit post, he called Monaco‘s XBLA sales “really disappointing.” Schatz said at the time that while he never intended XBLA to be the game’s lead platform, he felt his team’s effort in bringing it to the platform was “largely wasted.”

Source: Pocketwatch Games