Giovanni Caturano And Daniele Azara Explain Cross-Platform Multiplayer in BANG Interview

As I continue to play with my new iPhone I continue to be impressed what developers have done with their games. You probably remember when I posted the trailer for upcoming handheld/PC game BANG a while back, which is a multi-player spaghetti western board game which allows users to play against one another whether they are on iPhone, iPad, ipod touch, Atom netbook or PC. To pick the minds of the people behind this game I teamed up with my friend Derek to present this wonderful interview with Giovanni Caturano the CEO of SpinVector, and Daniele Azara the Production Director of Palzoun.


Giovanni Caturano – CEO\SpinVector (G.C.)
Daniel Azara Production Director\Palzoun (D.A.)

Hey guys just wanted to say it’s a pleasure to get to speak with you first and foremost.

1 Please can you tell our readers about Palzoun the publisher, and a little bit about your presence in the gaming arena as there a very few Italian publishers.

D.A.: Palzoun Entertainment creates and produces multiplatform digital entertainment and videogames. Innovation, quality and creativity are the tools we use to develop products of value and entertainment, in our capacity as both Publishers and as Developers. Palzoun’s Creative work is carried out on both consolidated and emerging channels within the scope of the digital market.

As far as we know, Palzoun is actually the only videogame production company in Italy, based on movie industry model, and one of the few in Europe.

2: Could you also please tell us about SpinVector the developer and what they created before and how the collaboration between the two companies came about?

G.C.: SpinVector works on a lot of gaming products, not only on standard gaming devices, but also on large scale stuff like life-size games and 3D stereoscopic cinema games. The first SpinVector product was DroneZ (flagship title for nVidia and intel), and recently we released a platformer called Ciro (one of the first netbook-optimized 3D titles).

D.A.: Considering SpinVector the best possible partner to produce high quality videogames, Palzoun has contacted the company to co-produce a set of products, both casual and hardcore games. We are starting with Bang!, But very soon we will announce our brand-new sci-fi iPhone game, a top quality multiplayer online futuristic racer.

3: We are informed that Bang! has been a very successful board game so what makes you believe that it will be equally successful on PC and Itouch/Ipad etc and what facets of the game do you think will really appeal?

D.A.: Bang! received numerous international awards and has been listed as one of the Top 100 best family games of all times, increasing every year its success. The base mechanics are simple, but the game can become deep and challenging when played by experts. The videogame benefits from these strong core mechanics and simplifies the learning curve by letting the device do the computations: this means the player can fully enjoy the gameplay, without having to calculate every bonus or malus. The game is perfect also on portable touch-screen devices, augmenting the sensation of “feeling” the cards.

But the most important feature of this amazing game is the MultiCross-platform technology, which allows every player to join a match regardless the device she owns. No matter the device, in fact, she can challenge other Bang! Players worldwide.

4: One of the interesting features on offer will be the fact that you can have up to 5 players* playing together at once via multiplayer. What have been some of the technical problems/issues you have had to overcome to ensure no lag time between formats and no machine will be at an advantage especially with screen definition?

*D.A.: ERRATA CORRIDGE: Up to 5 or 8 players (depending on screen size).

G.C.: The main technical issue in having the game on so many platforms was, as you guess, the difference in how devices are built. We wanted every user to find the typical “feel” of her preferred platform, so we adapted images and controls to each platform. It’s been quite a lot of work: different card design for different resolutions, different layouts for different aspect ratios… and even a different color and audio calibration. But of course a big deal was to harmonize all versions so that they could all talk together through our server, and do this in a way that allows us to keep the online experience free. Unlike what one could think, even if it’s a card-based game, lag posed some issues, which we solved with a number of technical tweaks, depending on the situation.

Also remarkably this one of the first games to features multiplayer across formats/genres – so why do you believe this hasn’t this been done before and do
you believe we shall see many other games publishers mirror yours?

G.C.: First off, traditionally, all platforms (especially consoles) are “locked” to a single kind of server/protocol and then there is the issue of updates: you have to create a strong update policy to make sure that all versions are harmonized. Moreover, very often versions on different platforms are created in different moments and by different developers, which makes interoperability even harder. In general, working on multiple platforms at the same time requires a structure and budget that is much higher than the average mobile game. We wanted to treat the mobile platforms like portable consoles and that’s been the key to build up the structure.

Would you explain to our readers the basic concept/gameplay features for
Bang! and the overall gameplay objectives?

D.A.: Bang! Follows the most important rule to us: It’s easy to learn, but challenging to master. Starting to play Bang! The official videogame is quite easy. You must know only two things: play the Bang! Cards to attack; play the Missed cards to defend yourself. But Bang! Is much more! In fact, the game as also “Role elements”: every player has a unique character, with a special ability and a role: the Sheriff, the Deputy, the Outlaw and the Renegade. Everyone has a specific goal to win the game.

But only the Sheriff is known to others, so the primary objective of every player is to understand who is friendly and who isn’t. There are strategy and psychology in Bang!, both really important and fun elements of entertainment.

Moreover, there are lots of special cards, characters and expansions, which assure the game an outstanding replayability, both in single and multiplayer modes.

How does the game differ in terms of the static board game and the interactive video gaming experience?

D.A.: The most outstanding factor is the range computation: when you play the static boardgame Bang! you have to continuously compute distances and ranges for every card effect: the distance is based on the physical position of players around the table, but modified by cards like MUSTANG and SCOPE within game, and the range may depend on your weapon or on the

specific card you are playing. The videogame does all that for you, visualizing the characters you can reach with the current card with a simple, clear red target sign. All the explanations of cards and characters are readily available at all times, and you can’t play the wrong card by mistake. Moreover, the way we built of expansions gives the players much more freedom on which characters or card sets they want to choose. Finally, the game gives a lot of freedom of choice on how to tweak the rules and, of course, provides a single-player mode that would be impossible
with the paper version.

8: Can we look forward to other formats like Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 and are you looking at other boardgames to convert?

D.A.: The casual games line Palzoun and SpinVector are working on, foresees more success proven boardgames to come on MultiCross-platform technology, since we believe casual gamers really appreciate to have the opportunity to play their favourite games also on digital devices and with people from around the world.

Today we have taken this opportunity and we are proud of it. Bang! Is also coming on console and we’ll unveil some very interesting news early in 2011.

Do you feel that offering this game on multiformat will broaden the appeal of this game?

D.A.: Definitely. Overall quality of a boardgame is, besides it’s casual and appealing mechanics, the capacity to let people enjoy it every time they want, from every device the own and finding every time others who are playing the game.

G.C.: Sure: given that most players will have a nomadic approach to the game, having it on many platforms and (more important), having all those platforms be able to “talk” together, people will find available matches much more easily, and this is especially true for platforms with a lower number of owners.

Thank you very much for your time guys, best of luck with BANG and future titles.