Xbox Live Community Game Classicard has just had version 1.4 released on to the XboX Marketplace, so what better time for XboxHornet to put some questions to Rene Vinding about Classicard.
Classicard has a user score( at the time of writing) of 9/10 at XNA Ratings.
First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, Arcane Labs and how you came to make a game for Xbox Live Community Games (XBLCG)?
My name is Rene and I have been programming demos, apps & games using various languages and for multiple platforms the last twenty three years. When I am not busy programming I enjoying playing a bid of beach volley or some badminton. Together with a very good friend I recently formed the company Arcane Labs with the goal of creating some really good and well supported casual games for the Xbox. The reason that we ended up making games for XBLCG is due to a unlikely chain of unrelated incidents. It all started when I got Guitar Hero 3 for the PC and it had quite a few annoying bugs in it the worst being some random slowdowns while playing the songs that made it nearly impossible to play well. So I got fed up with the PC version and went out and bought a Xbox360 so I could play the game without hiccups and then proceeded to get most of my friends hooked on the game which caused them to invest in xbox’es of their own . Then a few months later I saw a announcement for the DBP2008 competition and as I already had a xbox I thought it might be fun to do something for that and a couple of days later I mentioned my idea to a old friend at work. He thought it could be a fun spare time project too and as both of us were used to working on low end platforms often without GPU’s the thought of having three CPU cores running at 3.2 GHz, a fast shader capable GPU and lots of memory was something that would allow us to go crazy and really have some fun. So about a month before the deadline we got the idea to create a game where you had to transport a puddle of fluid through a level as fast as possible, given that none of us had worked with fluid simulation, blender or XNA before that was quite a mouthful for a one month of spare time project. But in the end we had a playable prototype of the game Puddle. After a few weeks of well deserved rest we realized that it had been quite a while since we had that much fun on a project and therefore decided to start the work on our next game which we hoped that we could finish for the XBLCG launch. So we looked for a game type that could be done in relative short time span and which would serve as a good project to get some more experience with the XNA networking API’s. Since both of us quite enjoyed playing card games online with our friends and because the existing titles on the xbox were simple and required you to buy multiple games depending on what rules you would like to play with it became a easy choice and Classicard was born. The rest is history as they say
Do you play games yourself? What was the last game you played?
Yes I have played quite a lot of games over the years and some of them probably a bit too much The ones I spend the most time on must have been a half life mod called Firearms where I played on the Danish national team in the nations cup and I was also quite into raiding in World of Warcraft at one point, which was damn fun but a huge time sink. Lately I have been playing Rock band 2 quite a lot, it’s a excellent party game when friends come by. The last game I played was Resident Evil 5 which has a nicely executed co-op mode.
Classicard is now into its fourth incarnation and has changed massively since it was first released. This means that most of the reviews are now out of date. Can you talk us through the changes and what XboxHornet readers can expect to find in Classicard today?
I would love to as version one was released to coincide with the XBLCG launch which we got a bit caught up in and it therefore had a bit less features than we desired. It contained the rulesets for hearts, spades and knockout whist with very few graphical effects. Since then we have been quite busy improving the experience and we have added a award system with 99 awards for the player to unlock. We added oh hell, Romanian whist and the fan favourite Euchre rule sets to the game. Each rule set was made customizable so you can tweak them to fit with your house rules and we improved the look and feel of the game quite a lot by adding new graphics and various particle system effects. Based on fan feedback we also added ‘a response time limit’ in multiplayer games, flexible zooming on the cards, in match player kicking and improved the indication of which player called the trump.
To celebrate the V1.4 release and to grow the online community we also decided to do a 50% rebate on the game for the next three months, so if anyone has been considering getting it now is the time
Classicard is scoring very we at XBLA Ratings and has one of the highest user review scores. It’s also one of the most recommended games at XBLCG.info. How does that feel?
It’s very nice to see and it really motivates us to continue working on the game to make it even better. In general we appreciate any feedback we get even if it’s bad because that is the only way for us to make the game even better. So if you have something that you feel is missing please let us know and it might appear in a update down the road
We get a lot of feedback at XboxHornet that Microsoft are not doing enough to support XBLCG, what more do you think they could be doing to create awareness for the service?
This is a very hard question to answer and it must be very hard for Microsoft as well to find a balance that doesn’t annoy the arcade developers. But in general I would like to see community games featured more prominently on the dashboard and it wouldn’t hurt if “all games” actually listed all games (though I don’t think that’s going to happen). But a small thing like having the community games show up on the players gamer cards would do a lot to make more people aware of them. Once people become aware of them it then becomes important to have some kind of rating system on the console to give the users a chance to find the quality titles since very few will be bothered to shift through 230 titles of very varying quality.
XBLCG sales have been slower to take off than many people had expected. With sites like XBLCG.info and XBLA Ratings now having user ratings and many XBLCG websites popping up on the net, what are your hopes for the future of the service?
Technology wise we hope that we will get access to leaderboards, achivements, and the live vision cam in the future. Beside that we really hope that more people will find and use the service and that the top titles will begin to see sales that approach at least the mid range of Arcade titles. Because currently the top is barely competing with the worst Arcade titles which is a real shame.
What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any other projects at the moment.
We have quite a few projects in the works at the moment. There is the 1.5 Classicard update that ought to bring avatars and a global ranking system to the game. Then there is a children/casual board game that is nearing completion and a puzzle game, so we are quite busy.
Thanks for taking the time to talk XboxHornet Rene.
Edit: We just have to point out that at 200 MS points Classicard is one of the most comprehensive titles available on XBLCG so go and download the free demo now and see what you think