For decades, video games have inspired comic book spinoffs, from "Sonic" and "Zelda," to "Gears of War," "Halo" and more. Meanwhile, comics and the characters that populate them have inspired their own fair share of video games, from arcade classics like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "X-Men" to current platform hits like the "Batman: Arkham" series.
With "Compass: Point West," we're getting both at the same time. Inspired by the Wild West, "CP:W" is both a free-to-play mobile game for iPads, iPhones, iPods, and, later this year, Android devices. In addition to the game, the story of "CP:W" is explored in a free digital comic written by Tom Walz ("Silent Hill Downpour: Anne's Story"), drawn by Philip Murphy ("The Amazing World of Gumball"), and published by IDW Publishing.
In talking with Next Games Executive Producer Sami Nurimo, we learned that the game not only inspired the comic -- the comic inspired the game as well. We also discuss how the two work with each other to provide the complete "CP:W" experience, how the series will tie into future installments that explore North, South and East, and how this free-to-play game will offer everyone a satisfying gaming experience.
CBR News: Since "Compass Point: West" started as a game, let's begin there as well. What kind of game is it, and how do you play it?
Sami Nurmio: The game takes the player on a journey to the Wild West, where they join friends and saddle up for an epic adventure, exploring the open frontier while fighting the hostile takeover plans of notorious oil tycoon, Orville Driller. Along the way, the player will build their own outposts, collect cards to summon allies, and encounter a wide range of characters, each with their unique personalities in their mission to save the Wild West. So you build your own Wild West town and defend it against Orville's henchmen.
In terms of gameplay, we've combined some familiar elements from such so-called builder-battle games as "Clash of Clans" with our own, original card collecting mechanic, which hasn't been executed in this genre before.
When in the process of making "Compass Point: West" did you decide to make a comic book about it, whose idea was it and how did IDW Publishing become part of the team?
The idea to do a comic book came from us. The game mechanics were more or less decided upon by the time we started the comic, but we realized early on that the universe would lend itself to story telling outside of the game. We were also aiming to build a rich back-story and diverse character personalities into the game.
IDW Publishing was recommended to us by a mutual friend, and they've been central in helping define how we tell the game's story. They brought a lot of ideas to the table we hadn't thought of, especially with the Gunslinger character, who got a lot more personality after IDW's treatment.
How does the story in the comic relate to the one you're telling in the game?
It is the same story, but since we have two vehicles for telling the story, each brings its own angle to it. Tom is a wonderful writer, and our team bounced a lot of ideas and storylines back and forth with him.
When we got the story more or less outlined, we took an extensive look into what kind of art style would be a great fit, and ended up finding Philip Murphy.
We worked hard to make sure that the characters' personalities came through the same way in both the game and the comic, so we spent quite a bit of time on things like how TNT Sally would react when the city slicker Gunslinger works into the saloon for the first time, or what happens in Driller's mansion. Even though the comic has, as it should, a distinct art style that's not exactly 1-to-1 with the game, we really wanted to make sure the characters and the environments match, and that the same personality comes through in both.
"Compass Point: West" is the first in a series of four games. Does that mean you're making "Compass Point: East," "Compass Point: North," and "Compass Point: South?"
Yes. These games will be separate games and stories, but they will be banded together by the same principles of high quality graphics, original game mechanics, and a rich story. We will also carry over the light tone of voice and the humor, as well as the character personalities.
"Compass Point: West" doesn't take itself or the Wild West theme too seriously, and our intention is to stay on that path, no matter what the setting is in the next games.
Next Games are based in Helsinki, Finland. How did you come to make a game about the Wild West?
The founding team members all have a huge passion for Wild West movies. "There Will Be Blood" and Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns were a huge source of inspiration to us. It does sound a bit odd that a Wild West themed game would come from the cold Finland, but that just shows that the theme is universal.
"Compass Point: West" is a free-to-play game, and a lot of free-to-play games have irritated fans in recent years by being too aggressive when it comes to making players buy things. What have you done to make sure that your game engages its audience?
There's hours and hours of gameplay you are able to enjoy completely free of charge. We have created multiple levels of gameplay to cater to people who want to play the game in different ways. Some people may, for example, want to put some more effort into building their towns, whereas others may want to spend more time in the battles.
Finally, what is your favorite game based on a comic book, and why do you love it so much?
"Marvel Puzzle Quest" is one of my favorites because of the way the characters are executed in the game.
"Compass Point: West," both the game and comic, are available on iPads, iPhones, and iPods now, and will be available on Android devices later this year.