There's a slight shift in terms of the character art. Also, the game is now isometric. That's a relatively big shift.
SF: Yeah. Definitely the isometric shift is a big one. But in shifting from anime to a Western style of art had been another quite large shift for the franchise.
One of the reasons for that was now that we're down and we're in the dungeon and we really want to give the players a sense that they're in this damp, dark place, that there's danger around every corner and it's very tense.
The clean anime look wasn't really going to fly with that. To get that in there, we really needed a grittier look to the dungeon.
It's not horrifically gritty, or really disturbingly gritty, or anything like that, but it is a much more earthy appearance. And the Western art style lends itself nicely to that, so we shifted.
Talking of casual mechanics and things like that, have you considered bringing some of these ideas to the Facebook platform?
SF: Yeah, I think everybody's interested in Facebook right now. It's certainly crossed our path. It's something we're just evaluating. But we just want to get Puzzle Quest 2 polished up and done and out the door right now.
What about the older style RTS stuff that you guys used to do? I'm sure you get this question a lot, but is that something that you would return to at some point?
SF: We are constantly looking do something like that again. We love the old RTS games and we love turn-based strategy. We love those grand strategy type of games. We've got the Warlords universe there to play in still. And we're very certain we'll get back there and revisit that one day.
At the moment, we're having fun with the puzzle game. So we'll keep pitching those in the background and I'm sure that eventually one day the nostalgia will kick in at the appropriate level and we'll get that going.
It seems like that nowadays, that kind of thing has to be more of a labor of love if you want to get it out. Because it's not exactly the kind of thing that people are chomping at the bit to fund nowadays.
SF: Doing a PC RTS game is -- I think the days of that have passed for us. Particularly because the Battlecry RTS games are pretty big. But getting an RTS on console platforms or onto handheld platforms, there's a lot of interest there for us to do that because [only] a few games have done it.
Halo Wars is a pretty damn fine attempt; I've enjoyed that a lot. Battle for Middle Earth is another one that worked pretty well. And the Kingdom Under Fire series played pretty well. But I still think there's something there that could be done to make it even more accessible. I'd love to go exploring that one day.
I actually just heard a fellow, he's from Backflip Studios -- they do iPhone games -- talking about how he thinks 2010 is the big year for turn-based. I don't actually know where he got that idea from, but it's an interesting sentiment.
SF: The interesting thing I think, here, is that every year since about 1985, has been the big year for turn-based. I think turn-based games never die out. They come in many guises, from a Civilization-type game to a Bejeweled-type game to Puzzle Quest, which is really turn-based.
Turn-based is always going to be around. I think it's a very good way of playing a game. Some games you cannot play -- take 10-pin bowling for instance, you can't play that real-time, it has to be turn-based.
Have you had to scale up your team at all? Puzzle Quest looked like a small game that made it big. Puzzle Quest 2 looks more like there was some serious visual and UI design polish put into it. Did you have to grow at all for that?
SF: From the time we did Puzzle Quest 1, I think we were about 10 or 12 people, and we're a company upwards of 40 to 50 now. Not all those are on Puzzle Quest. But I can say as of today every single of those people is working on Puzzle Quest at this moment.
So, yeah, obviously the company has grown. It's grown and we've been able to throw a lot of that experience we've picked up into Puzzle Quest 2. It's just been awesome to work with a bigger team and being able to polish stuff so much more, and adding so much art.
Did you expect Puzzle Quest to be such a bolstering thing for the company?
SF: We didn't expect that when we decided to do the first prototype. When the first prototype was up and running and we played it, we knew we had something really, really good. It only took us one month to put that together and we were like, "This is really going to be great."
That's a really good feeling when you do a game like that, and you look at the prototype and know it's going to be awesome. And it's just a matter of polish, polish, polish to get there.
Yeah, it was good because the very first day that we decided, I was the only person that believed it was going to be the game, and fortunately I'm the boss of the company so I get to make the final call. As it turns out it was a lucky one. If not, I'd have a lot of people chasing me down with pitchforks and torches for making a bad call. But I guess I just got lucky. [laughs]