Firaxis 'cannot live by Civ alone,' as dev moves to mobile

By John Keefer, Mar 28, 2013 8:30am PDT

Pretty much every game Firaxis Games has ever developed is prefixed with either "Sid Meier" or "Civilization." But, that changed last year with the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Later this year, the studio dips into yet another original experiment: Haunted Hollow, a free-to-play mobile game.

"Firaxis, like many other game companies, sees mobile as the land of opportunity for expanding and we want to diversify," lead designer David McDonough told Shacknews. "We are traditionally a PC shop, but one cannot live by Civ alone. Firaxis wants to grow as a company creatively, so mobile seems like a great place to try out."

Charged with creating a mobile game that wouldn't be a rehash of an existing IP, McDonough and co-lead designer Will Miller found inspiration while eating lunch. As they dreamed of a hotel full of monsters, they drew on a whiteboard two ghostly mansions facing off for control of a town.

"That's exactly how we pitched the idea to the directors," McDonough said. "The gameplay came together pretty early in the prototype so we could see how it played and it took off."

When the two designers started taking it around to the rest of the studio, everyone seemed to like it, and luckily 2K Games bought into the concept. "It was a funny and compelling idea that everyone fell in love with," he said.

Of course, it can't be a Firaxis game without the feeling of "just one more turn." McDonough and Miller agreed that that premise was important. "Firaxis is known for strategy and the concept of 'make life epic' and give the player a chance to be great. We are Firaxis designers and we want to be worthy of the Firaxis name," McDonough said. "But we wanted to make a game that was light, easy, cute and accessible, but have depth and cliffhanger moments. We want players to want to think about it and want to come back."

If the game ends up being successful, it is possible the game could end up on PC. "The game is made with the Unity engine, so it is very flexible, and the controls are very simple. So it would easily lend itself to a PC version if the player enthusiasm and demand is there."

Miller said that he believes it is a strong possibility that Firaxis' will continue to be a player in the mobile space. "I think there is going to be an expectation of mobile in products from here on out. That's what we believe. We need to figure out what those games are. What does the next game look like when it has to have a mobile component. I can start playing it on my couch, take it on the train, then finish it in front of my computer. So I think you will see more mobile products from us, but it will also be us trying to figure out what video game 2.0 looks like."

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