Goin’ mobile

It takes some moxie to jump into the business start-up pool anytime, let alone in a precarious economic era like this one. But that didn’t stop Firewater Games.

It takes some moxie to jump into the business start-up pool anytime, let alone in a precarious economic era like this one. But that didn’t stop Vance Souders of Philadelphia-based Firewater Games. His strategy is to find a niche and work it–in this case, mobile games developed for Microsoft’s multifunctional Smartphone. Souders recently talked about his year-old company.

How did Firewater get started?

In the summer of 2002 I had sketched out a preliminary design for a post-apocalyptic action/role-playing game called “Derelict.” I was pretty sure at the time that I didn’t have the necessary resources to bring the concept to life as a full PC or console title, so I looked toward the emerging mobile game market.

I recruited a small team of people, and by the 2003 Electronic Entertainment Expo we had completed a prototype and toolset for the game, and Firewater was born.

Describe what you do and who your customers are.

Firewater creates mobile game titles primarily targeting the Microsoft Smartphone platform. What personally about you and your background got you into this kind of work? I’ve always been a huge video game fan; I started playing games on the Commodore 64, then moved on to an Amiga 500 and haven’t stopped since.

What are some of the challenges that Firewater faces at the moment, and what challenges do you foresee in the future?

Mostly, just getting it done. The mobile market has proven to be a bit of a moving target. There are a number of competing platforms, including J2ME, BREW, Symbian and Microsoft’s Smartphone. We initially targeted J2ME devices, but found that there were things we wanted to do in “Derelict” that were difficult or impossible to do in J2ME, so we made the decision to retool and move over to the Microsoft Smartphone.

I think a big challenge for the industry as a whole will be quality control. There are a lot of titles available for download that certainly aren’t worth the $5 download fee. I think there’s a danger that flooding the market with questionable titles can eventually drive the perception of mobile games as second-rate entertainment.

How is Firewater unique among its competitors?

Firewater isn’t in a rush to get just anything out the door and onto mobile devices. We’re creating totally new experiences, not just mobile versions of games that everyone has already played on a thousand other platforms.

What kind of hardware and software do you use in your work?

For our Microsoft Smartphone development we use Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003, Adobe Photoshop, Discreet’s 3D Studio Max, some custom in-house tools and a Smartphone developer handset. We do all our work on Windows XP Professional-based PCs.

What products and other projects do you have in store for the future?

“Derelict” will be our first release for the MS Smartphone. The official release date is “When it’s done,” but you can expect to see it available by fall 2004. We’re kicking around some ideas for our next title but we haven’t come to any final decisions yet.

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