My Horse maker: Casual games are destined for 3D greatness [Interview]

My Horse
My Horse

What's the first game that comes to mind when you think "beautiful, realistic 3D graphics?" If it wasn't something along the lines of Halo, Grand Theft Auto or about any hardcore simulator out there, then please do tell what hot new kind of game you're jamming on. But that won't necessarily be the case for much longer--not as far as Torsten Reil is concerned.

His mobile game development firm, NaturalMotion Games, has made a name for itself crafting casual-focused mobile games packing visuals that rival the most attractive games on consoles. And if the graphics don't do the trick, Reil lets the numbers speak for his cause: The first six iOS games NaturalMotion has released reached the top 10 on App Store charts globally.

"If you look at animated movies--Snow White and The Lion King--in '95 there was a big transition with Toy Story and that changed everything. Ever since then, obviously, animated movies pretty much have been 3D," the CEO points out, "and that's because people want to be wowed--the casual audience just as much as a hardcore audience."

NaturalMotion Games CEO Torsten Reil
NaturalMotion Games CEO Torsten Reil

According to Reil, NaturalMotion's My Horse does a fine job of demonstrating that. "My Horse was the first example to show that, actually, if you go really high end on graphics with the reason being a believable character, it makes a huge difference, and it resonates really well with a very wide audience."

But when you put a traditional 3D game in front of a casual player, his hands fumble over the multitude of joysticks, triggers and buttons and he asks, "How do I move?" At that point, is it really the 3D graphics that have been scaring casual gamers away? No. It's the controls.

"So, as soon as you have a control system that is kind of dual stick that every hardcore user is used to, the casual user will switch off because it feels very gamey, it feels very indirect," Reil admits. "So, I think a touch screen makes a huge difference because you don't have to use a dual stick system anymore."

"That doesn't mean that you can't give them a 3D space to navigate, you just have to use a different way of navigation," Reil elaborates. "If you again look at My Horse for example, we don't necessarily let people use a dual stick controller to wander through the paddock, we let them stand at the fence and then call the horse over, for example. Then they interact with the horse in a 3D manner using a touch screen that they're already used to."

Eureka! Could intuitively-designed touchscreen controls be the key to bringing visually impressive games to the masses of casual game fans? If you ask Reil, he'd probably reply with an emphatic "yes". Just look at NaturalMotion's Jenga for iOS.

My Horse screens
My Horse screens

"[Jenga] was the first time that game was brought to mobile devices, in particular with touchscreens, with full 3D environments, pretty advanced shaders and with a full physics simulation. So, it was pretty much as complex as a game could get," Reil says. "Yet, it resonated most with the casual audience."

NaturalMotion's most recent game, CSR Racing for iOS, is a more casual approach to the racing genre on iOS aimed at roping in even more racing fans. With that, it's clear that NaturalMotion is aimed square at making its vision par for the course.

"The casual market will automatically gravitate towards high-end visuals and whether it's necessary to call it 3D or not, I'm not really sure. It's high-end visuals that create believable worlds, believable characters and this will not be a sub-genre, this will be the dominant way of creative content for the casual market. I'm pretty convinced of that."

Are you a fan of My Horse or Jenga on iOS or Android? Do you agree that 3D is the future of casual games? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.

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