Interview: Cat Rabbit & Heroes of Normandie iOS

By Joe Robinson 26 Jul 2016 6

A couple of week's ago we received word that Heroes of Normandie's iOS release was due on July 28th. In good old-fashioned Saving Private Ryan style, we travelled through war torn France Epsom to have a chat with developer Cat Rabbit and ask them about adapting this iconic boardgame from the medium screen to the slightly smaller screen.

Interviewees are Team Leader Simone Donnini (SD), and Lead Developer Roberto Allegra (RA).

Question: How easy was it to translate the Heroes of Normandie boardgame to digital with the PC version?

SD: Heroes of Normandie has a light-hearted spirit, but it’s still a war-game: it’s packed with different unit abilities, rules and game elements. This is surely an asset, but it also means that the porting is much more difficult than your average board game.

Also, we really wanted to keep the “I go you go” spirit of the board game, so we had to make slight changes whenever we felt that the rules fragmented the game flow too much. This is the case of some Action Cards that you can play during the opponent turn, for example: we changed them into 'reaction cards' that can be prepared beforehand and triggered. Devil Pig Games, have been really helpful in ensuring that our modifications didn’t change the main experience of the board game.

RA: Besides the implementation, we also had to take care of explaining the rules to the player: in a board game you are expected to read the manual before playing. In a videogame the player must learn the game little by little (via tutorials, in-game help system, etc…). This difference can’t be underestimated.

Screenshot HoN 01crop

Question: With the iOS release, has this been a case of porting the boardgame a second time to a new platform, or is this more the PC version translated onto a touch/mobile platform?

SD: Actually, we originally conceived the game for mobile, and that’s quite evident from the UI, so the transition was really easy and immediate. Our game has sometimes been praised for running very smoothly even on cheap PCs: this is actually a side effect of having planned the game engine for the iPad first.

RA: When porting the game to digital, we really wanted to evoke the tactile feeling of handling the pieces, like you do in the board game, and that’s why our game relies so heavily on drag & drop mechanics. We find that a touchscreen is the ideal device for this kind of immersion.

Question: How have you found adapting the game for a second time?

RA: Since the porting was very easy, we focused most of our efforts on fine tuning the game. The feedback provided by the PC players was invaluable. We expanded the tutorials and the in-game wiki to make the game more accessible to everyone.

SD: Some players were frustrated by the dice, to the point of thinking that the A.I. did something shady with the random generation. We tried to show to the players that it was absolutely false, but then we found that adding the possibility to play at easier difficulty levels took away the frustration that led the players to blame the dice.

Question: Do you think the digital version of Normandie is fundamentally better than the physical version in terms of game system, rules applications etc... ?

RA: We honestly believe that they both have their strong points. The board game has an outstanding physical impact and feeling: it’s what fascinated us to the point of developing a digital version. Also in a beer & pretzels game a direct physical interaction with your opponent can make things really fun.

On the other hand, the digital version makes a good use of the iPad’s best features (a large high-resolution screen, touch based interface). Then you have no set-up time or record-keeping, which means the game can be played much faster and in any environment. In the digital version you can also play in many different modes, besides multiplayer: skirmish, campaigns, rogue mode.

SD: Another advantage of the digital version is asynchronous play. One of the most common challenges of board gaming is finding a way to get people together for long time. Async play lets people run a game at their own pace.

It’s also very fun to use the board game as a sandbox, to create new scenarios. We feel this is such a fundamental part of the experience that we added an editor for the digital version too. You can create your missions and challenge the AI or a friend in multiplayer. There are not many games that feature such an editor on iOs, so we’re quite proud of that! :)

Last but not least, you can play solo! We invested a lot of time and energy on developing a competent Artificial Intelligence. If you play against the AI you will get a good challenge! No mercy! I would have developed the AI for this game just for being able to play anytime!

31103 screenshot steam hon 05

Question: We imagine you want to focus on iOS to make sure that platform works 100% ­ Are their plans for an Android release as well? What do you think the turn­around time could be in an ideal world?

SD: Exactly, one platform at the time! Many people are asking for an Android release. We’ll probably tackle this argument together with Slitherine just after the iOS release.

Question: What features or expansions would you like to bring to the mobile game after it has launched?

RA: Well, the Heroes of Normandie world is full of content, so there’s a lot to choose from. One DLC is almost ready at this moment: the “21st Panzer Grenadier” units will be available very soon!

Our plan is to release more DLCs in the next months. We’re already thinking about adding new maps and more elite units (like the US and German Paratroopers ). And maybe also a the big “Pegasus Bridge” or “St Maire Eglise” scenario packs.

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Thanks to Roberto and and Simone for taking the time to talk to us. We'll hopefully be bringing you our review of Heroes of Normandie on release day, and as an added bonus we'll be offering readers a chance to win a free copy of the game over the weekend. Watch this Space!

This article covers as game developer and/or published by a member of the Slitherine Group of companies. Please see our 'About Us' page for more information.

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