[Sponsored Content] Q and A with the BattleKasters Team
Editor’s note: this content is sponsored by BattleKasters
For today’s article, I interviewed Brent Friedman, creator of the game “BattleKasters.” “BattleKasters” is a “spell-casting mobile game that turns live events into game boards.” I also got to speak with Alane Adams, who wrote the “Legends of Orkney” book series on which the game is based. The first book in that series, “The Red Sun,” is available now.
Q. Tell us a little bit about ““BattleKasters.” Who can play, and on what devices?
A. “BattleKasters” is a free mobile spell-casting game that people are playing at fancons all around the country this summer. The game, which can be downloaded to iOS and Android phones, turns live events – like PAX this weekend in Seattle – into dynamic game boards, allowing players to explore the convention center and collect beautifully illustrated digital cards that represent characters, creatures and magical objects from the Legends of Orkney series. With those cards, players can cast magic spells that will change the state of the game for everybody playing it. The game, which is totally free of ads or micro-transactions, is a fun and interactive way for people to experience the story from the Legends of Orkney book series.
Q. Alane, “BattleKasters” was born out of your passion for promoting literacy among younger readers. Tell us about how you believe the game can encourage kids and families to read more.
A. I recognize that an entire generation has grown up glued to their mobile devices, which has led to less engagement in reading books. Instead of fighting that trend, “BattleKasters” is proving that mobile devices can engage people in stories in a new way. My hope is that when kids play “BattleKasters” they become inspired to read my Legends of Orkney books cover-to-cover.
Q. I understand that proceeds from your books go to literacy charities. Which charity did you choose for Seattle during PAX?
A. Everything I do is about helping to increase literacy, so every place we go we come up with a new way to do that in local communities. In Seattle, we’re having a signing event for “The Red Sun”at Barnes & Noble on Pine Street at 2pm on Saturday, August 29. Proceeds from all the books we sell at that event will go to the Rise Up Foundation to fund literacy causes, such as filling book orders for underprivileged schools.
Q. Why create a location/event based game, as opposed to a more traditional app?
A. Today, most mobile games don’t acknowledge place. The next frontier in mobile gaming are games that can change based on where someone physical is. We call it Onsite Gaming, and it harkens back to the arcade era, before technology brought gaming into homes, where players ventured to the local bowling alley or pizza parlor to play Pac-Man or Space Invaders. They would play and compete with friends, or meet new people at the location, and they would take pride in posting a high score for others to try and beat. By adding place as a core element of “BattleKasters,” we’ve brought back the joy of real-world social gaming, creating an immersive experience that allows people to interact not only with the “Legends of Orkney” story verse more deeply, but also with other game players.
Q. Brent, were there any unique challenges inherent in creating an event-based game play experience?
A. There are several challenges that, when overcome, make the game play a lot more interesting. Namely, each event space is laid out completely differently, which requires a new game board for every event. As a result, players get a customized experience that we design for the specific audience at each fan con. For instance, at Denver ComiCon we had a large family audience so we dialed down the difficulty of the game — making it playable in about 15 minutes — and watched some kids play the game ten or more times. Conversely, at Gen Con, which was an older, more “hardcore” audience, we dialed up the difficulty and made the game playable in about 45 minutes.
Another challenge is how best to utilize the game’s power to move players to specific locations.
For example, due to how these events spaces are constructed, some exhibitors get fewer visitors than others. So we have actually helped event organizers solve some inherent problems by laying out the “BattleKasters” game board in a way that directs a desired traffic flow around the convention.
Q. What is the main goal of the game, and how does it tie in with the “Legend of Orkney” novels?
A. The main goal of “BattleKasters” is to close the stonefire portal to prevent dark magic from seeping between the realm of Orkney and Earth. Players are sent on a scavenger hunt around the fancon to collect the cards they need to gather enough magic to save Earth. Along the way they get to cast spells and affect other players. We tried to develop a parallel storyline that would allow players to get to know many of the characters from the book, without revealing the book’s storyline itself.
Q. This is an all-ages, family friendly game. How do you keep things fresh, but also fun for all ages?
A. We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see people of all ages from all backgrounds enjoy the game together. One of its main draws is the beautifully illustrated digital art that the game showcases by artist Jonathan Stroh. Another way we keep the game fresh is by maintaining a leader board at every event, which shows players’ top times for closing the stonefire. At one event, we saw an eight-year-old boy competing with a pregnant women for the top spot on the board, which was fun for them and motivational for others to beat their scores. You’ll often see people racing from one place on the board to another around event spaces so they can get on the leader board.
Q. I’m told you guys will have a booth at PAX where players can interact even more with you and the game–tell us about that.
A. We’re going to be playing “BattleKasters” at PAX all four days of the con – from Friday through Monday. We’ll have a booth in the North Lobby of Level 4 of the convention center, where we’ll have the leader board and prizes that people can win. The game designers behind “BattleKasters” will be there to answer questions, and I’ll be there signing and selling copies of “The Red Sun.”
Q. Alane, would you speak to our readers about what it’s like being a woman in the gaming industry? Have you encountered any challenges or positive experiences?
A. Ever since we tested “BattleKasters” at Emerald City Comicon this spring, I have been amazed by how receptive and supportive others in the industry have been. I’ve had countless conversations with other developers who have given me positive feedback and ideas on how to improve the game, most of which we’ve applied or plan to apply. I still see more men than women in this industry, but I see that changing, and I’m happy to be part of that.
Q. Are there any other special events you would like PAX attendees to know about?
A. Beyond all the fun we’ll be having playing “BattleKasters” inside the convention center, we’re doing several other things in and around PAX. Attendees should look for Brunin, a seven-foot-tall warrior bear from Orkney, making his way around the convention and Seattle. He’ll be riding the Monorail from Seattle Center to Westlake Center every morning of PAX. He’ll also be on hand at the book signing event for “The Red Sun” that we’re having at Barnes & Noble on Pine Street at 2pm Saturday, August 29. The proceeds from book sales at that event will go to literacy charities. And, I’m of course very excited that we’ll have a “BattleKasters” table at Friday night’s Give Me A Quest party at Raygun Lounge.
Thank you both very much for your time, and I hope everyone has a great time with “BattleKasters” at PAX!