It's easy to get the gist of Chair Entertainment's Infinity Blade by watching a sizzle reel or by reading the various impressions pieces on the web. It's a medieval action RPG that pits you against various titanic foes in pitched battles that'll require you to approximate sword slashes and parries with swipes and gestures. But what you won't get from these mediums are specifics.

This is why I contacted Chair for an interview about IB. The game looks so great, looks so promising, that I just had to know more about it. The man I spoke with, Chair creative director and lead designer on IB Donald Mustard, filled me in.

It's More Of An Action Game
Think of the RPG aspects of Infinity Blade as a strategic compliment. The action part of the game, which has you reacting to attacks from large and small foes, and then dispensing your own punishment composes the core of the game.

When we sat down to look at the device and we had an opportunity to make a game for it we kinda had this idea kicking around in our heads for awhile about how could we make a really cool sword-fighting game that actually felt like you were sword fighting as opposed to mashing buttons. We thought that the touch screen on these devices would be the perfect place to do something like this.

Right down to its core, we thought it'd be really fun to have a game where I could have a big, nasty enemy on the screen that's coming at me with a sword -- a sword that could be coming from any angle at any time. And because I have a touch screen, I could swipe my finger exactly where that sword is coming at me and parry it away and knock that guy's blade back and then swipe at the guy.

As for those RPG elements, they come from how you customize your character with items like swords, shields, and armor found in the environment. Every sword and shield has EXP attached to it -- as you use the item, the EXP drains into you and into your overall EXP pool. You'll also master the item once it is drained. When you level up, you'll gain skill points that you can then apply to your character, so draining an item is something you want to do. Unless, of course, this happens:

You'll find yourself with a mastered sword that's pretty cool, but... let's say you have an ice sword that you've mastered and you're coming up to an enemy that's weak to ice. You've got a fire sword equipped currently that you're gaining EXP from. You're like, 'Well, do I really want to re-equip my ice sword that I'm not going to get EXP from in this fight? I really want to use it on this guy because he's guarding a treasure. I know can beat him easier that way.'

I should note that you can also use magic rings to cast spells. You'll have to draw the symbol of the spell on the screen. These can level up too and become stronger.

You're A Knight In His Version Of Gannondorf's Fortress
Interestingly, IB kicks off where most games end. You're an aging knight at his end goal ready to square off against the God-King and his last remaining Titans. It's an interesting twist that we'll learn more about as we play the game.

It's Not On Rails
There's a lot of speculation about IB being on-rails, as in the game will do the walking for you. That phrase has stigma attached to it, despite the fact that several games have managed to be great, guided experiences. IB is not an on-rails title, but it does plainly point out where you need to go via "nodes" in the world. To me, it sounds like Myst with some actual guidance.

In IB, you'll be able to move your character in the game world with a simple click on a destination, which is probably why it's commonly thought to be an on-rails game. The point of this streamlined method of control, though, had more to do with ease of play as opposed to a specific point of level design at first.

We really wanted to come up with a way to navigate the castle that was different than games I've played on my iOS device. We're not huge fans of games that try to emulate what a controller would do on the touch screen. We're way bigger fans of games that use the touch screen in a unique way that's more suited for that device. We tried with everything we did in Infinity Blade to make it a game that you can be play with one finger. That was our mantra.

When it came to navigation we settled on more… we call it cinematic click navigation. So, basically, I can use my finger to look around the environment by just holding down on the screen as I swipe back and forth to move the camera. And then I can click on certain points in the environment, kind of more like Myst or some adventure game, and then my character will cinematically move towards that location. While that's happening, I could be picking up gold or see other nodes to go in different ways.

The Multiplayer Won't Just Be Knight On Knight

Post release, Chair plans to release an update that will add competitive multiplayer to the game via Game Center. This component won't just be knight on knight action and furious swipe fests. Chair will try to put you in the shoes of some of the monstrosities in game to make things different.

We've got some cool ideas, how we could make it different than what you'd expect, to make it fun. One of the things that will be key to that is not just having it be 'my knight fights your knight.' But having it be more like, 'How can we have multiplayer that is a knight versus the boss?' We want to give people the opportunity to play as the big, 15-to-20-ft. tall titan. How do we make that work in multiplayer and have that be fun and engaging and balanced?

Epic Citadel Was The Show-Off App, IB Is The Game
Epic Citadel [free], which was the first App to use Epic's Unreal 3 Engine, was a commercial. IB will be the first Unreal 3-powered game. I want to make sure you're aware of that distinction because it's very clear that Chair is really behind IB and working as hard as it can to make a functional, iOS-specific and friendly title.

I think there's room for lots of different kinds of games on every console. Our personal taste is that we tend to gravitate more towards games on any console that are designed more specific to that console. So, if I'm making Shadow Complex on the Xbox 360, I'm going to do everything I can take advantage of what the Xbox 360 does well, whether that's the way it renders graphics or the way its controller is layed out. I'm going to utilize every tool on that device to make it cool.

The same with a touch screen device. There's a lot of things you can do with a touch screen that I can't do with a traditional joystick. And we tried to focus the game design to really take advantage of swipes and clicks and different things you can do that are cool as opposed to try to shoehorn in a traditional control scheme. I think ultimately that makes for a more seamless, more unique experience.

Infinity Blade is due out this holiday for the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch, and the iPad. Updates will, as Mustard said, follow soon after its release.

  • Anonymous

    let the Mustard jokes begin!

    • Mayonnaise

      Don't make fun of my husband's name, please.

    • Anonymous

      I'm gonna say, Colonel Mustard killed the monster in the citadel with a sword!

  • LBG

    So although Mr Mustard says it's not on-rails, I do consider it to be on-rails. But rails that fork off in different directions, like in Myst or any other point and click game. So at least there is some freedom, but the game is essentially on-rails. And this annoys me. Epic Citadel has perfect controls, you can move completely freely and explore the 3D environment. But if this game is going to be point and click based like Myst, then the environment may as well be composed of pre-rendered background.

    • tsharpfilm

      When you think about it, "rails that fork off" is essentially how most games play, unless they're open world like Elder Scrolls or Grand Theft Auto.

      I think Epic is playing it smart with Infinity Blade. The average iPhone/iPod touch owner would have a hard time trying to control a character with a virtual d-pad that covers a large part of the screen. They're not making this game just for veteran gamers. They're making it for everyone.

      Yeah, it's a little watered down, but so what. The combat looks fun, the multiplayer looks promising, the story and leveling system look interesting, and the graphics are pants filling.

      I'm buying this.

      • LBG

        Yeah, I suppose you're right. It just seems a waste when they have such a good tech demo with controls that work perfectly. I'm still looking forward to it though.

      • Anonymous

        And people get mad at me when I say I don't like Doom Ressurection because it's on rails....

    • Quou

      Doesn't Mustard mean point and click as in the the other control scheme in Epic Citadel where you tap anywhere on screen and you go there? If so, then it's free roam.

      • Dorje Sylas

        I really hope this is what he means when he says click to move. That wasn't super bad in Epic Citadel, but the fake sticks were equally well done and just about the best ones I've used in an iPod game. I'm sad to see them go. However it doesn't sound that way, having to click on "nodes" to move isn't the same as click to move, which he also could have said but didn't.

  • Donkey Show

    Only for 4th gen devices? SWEET!

  • Xeyad

    wait...what about iPhone 3GS? I already have an iPad, but it would be nice to see it on the 3GS since Epic Citadel was working flawlessly...

    • Ablar2

      same question here . that'd be a let down for me since i only have a 3gs.
      not so lucky i guess

    • Zoet

      This article is the first indication I've seen that 3rd gen devices won't be supported. Can anyone clarify this? My fingers are crossed that the writer just forgot to mention them...

    • E_Domina

      it will work on 3Gs. it says so in the article

      • Skilly_gilly17

        will it work on ipod touch 2g

  • Jeremy Tylanol

    And the hype begins... for what essentially is a watered down version of what we've seen many many times before!.. Dragons, Swords and ohhh Monsters.. FFS!

    Wake me up when someone actually does something entertaining!

    • tsharpfilm

      Something that we've seen before? I've never seen a game like this for the iDevice. And where did they say anything about dragons?

      • Jeremy Tylanol

        You're talkin about the quality of the graphics right....

        When the Mona Lisa was painted it blew people away, when some dude reproduced that on a postcard it did not! You get where I'm coming from?

      • Thaurin

        You're talking about the setting, right? I've never really seem a game with this kind of gameplay before. But if you're tired of the fantasy setting, you might as well stop playing games and watching movies. Every setting has been done before in some way.

        Would you say you're tired of the current time setting? Me, I can take a few more swords and dragons...

      • Jeremy Tylanol

        I get my variety from games on other devices no problem, the variety in films is exponentially more, your stop watching game and movies point couldn't be more invalid.

        Dragons and Swords to games is what Harry potter and Twilight are to movies... I'm just hoping you've heard of more movies than those two...

        From a business point of view I can see why you would rehash all this and give the kids what they want, I'm just hopeing that games can go in the direction of films and do something different for once, however thats probably far too much to expect from the big (dare I say greedy) companies, and it seems the indy scene on the iDevice are more interested in the quick buck!

      • Jeremy Tylanol

        Sorry i just notice you said time setting.. like Dragons existed! lol

  • Anonymous

    "Cinematic click navigation" is basically rails with look capability. Another awesome engine ruined with crappy led-by-the-nose gameplay. I'll admit this has slightly more potential for entertainment than Mutant Bash if only because of the fight mechanics, but this is basically a fighter with a few extras, not an RPG or adventure game, and apart from multiplayer, I can't see lasting replay value. For me this will likely be a wait-for-sale or not-at-all purchase.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1335603011 Greg Feingold

      No... I'm sorry, but you don't understand what he meant. Have you played EC? There are two navigation systems... Either you use the joystick or you just touch to advance. This means they just eliminated the joystick in IB. If I want to turn left, I CAN STILL TURN LEFT by panning left and then touching that direction. I CAN TURN RIGHT by doing the opposite. Not on rails at all... Instead of dragging a joystick to the castle on my left, I touch the castle on my left and my character goes there.

      • LBG

        It's not quite like that. It's not the same as the tap to move control method that Epic Citadel had. In Infinity Blade you can't tap anywhere you want, meaning you can't go anywhere you want. You can only chose from several pre-selected points. From what he described, it works in exactly the same way as Return to Mysterious Island - you can look around freely, but your movement is extremely limited, meaning little/no exploration.

  • Acidbottle

    sounds disappointing to me.

    pretty lame gameplay for such a cool game engine. in 2 years we may get a sweet looking RPG along the lines of oblivion .. until then ho hum.

    guess we cant blame the devs, people grumble a bit when they fork out 99c for a game that isnt as 'awesome' as angry fuppin birds.

    • tsharpfilm

      If this game doesn't do well, what reason would Chair or any other major developer have to invest in making a sweet looking RPG along the lines of Oblivion? They're probably testing the waters with this one to see if we're even worthy of bigger and better games. Lol. And if they can't sell something as cool and refined as Infinity Blade, we might as well kiss our dreams of an iOS Oblivion goodbye.

      • Fastrocket

        If there is a demand for something Oblivion-like on iOS (which I think there is), then some other Unreal engine licensee can develop it. Or indie using Unity or Shiva.

        It's not like there aren't 3D engine competitors or developers itching to make it, especially if IB fails to deliver. Epic Citadel has shown people what's possible and the future is bright for innovation.

      • tsharpfilm

        It is a bright future. Just a month from now we have some very awesome, open ended, RPGs coming out: Aralon and The Shadow Sun. My point was that commercial developers work a little differently than independent developers. They may (or may not) have more money at stake.

      • http://twitter.com/ScottColbert Scott Colbert

        I think you're jumping the gun way too early in calling it cool and refined. Cool looking graphics, yes; cool gameplay? We'll see, I can swipe to slice and dice in fruit ninja, so it's not exactly groundbreaking territory.

        and I do hope the "we're even worthy of..." line was a joke.

      • tsharpfilm

        But in Fruit Ninja are you using that slicing and dicing to attack, dodge, and parry the attacks of a giant beast that wants to destroy you? No.

        Not every game needs to reinvent the wheel. Make it fun, and most people (including me) will be satisfied. I don't see anything not fun about the gameplay videos I've seen. I can't wait to get my hands on this.

  • Jonas

    Ok, I'm officially buying the hype. This sentence kind of won me over: "I could swipe my finger exactly where that sword is coming at me and parry it away and knock that guy's blade back and then swipe at the guy."

    It sounds like exactly the kind of melee combat I've been searching for, but so seldom found, on any platform (with Die by the Sword and Zeno Clash being some of the very few expections).

    Here's to the hope that these combat mechanics become integrated into an open world RPG sooner or later, not just in an almost-on-rails-fighter.

    (I must also admit that the multiplayer aspect founds terrific. Only the idea of these combat mechanics in multiplayer duels is enough to make me mouth water.)

    • tsharpfilm

      The finger swipe to attack and parry sounds like a ALOT of fun! And you take that and top it off with the best looking graphics ever done on a mobile device... What more could you ask for?

      I think some people here are wanting too much too soon.

      Epic/Chair aren't going come right out the gate and invest a crap load into making a super RPG that'll only appeal to veteran gamers. They're going to put this out first, and if it does well, they'll likely put out something bigger with more control options next time.

      We must have patience.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottColbert Scott Colbert

    Meh. The more details I hear about navigating and gameplay, the less interesting it's becoming. I'll still pick it up, but not expecting very much other than a very pretty, yet shallow game.

    • jason

      saw this already and now cinematic movement... sad

  • Anonymous

    My god I can't believe is running on a phone.

  • jason

    needs epic citadels controls.. cinematic walking = bad... why???

  • Aeroflux

    I'm still kind of disappointed it's just the castle. They did such a great job creating the environment.

    When I play the demo there are a few moments I dedicate to gazing into the distance atop the cliff by the castle. There, accompanied by the wind and the grandeur of the clouds, something about the landscape that calls to me, a wanderlust that pushes me to search the horizon for new landmarks.

    The environment is...tangible...I can almost feel it. Maybe it's the soothing music, or the glint of sunlight as I pan across the ocean...the tranquil play of seagulls and water of the brook on my ears.

    I imagine the fights will be fun and the castle worth exploring...but the wind will still be atop that cliff, whispering fantastic tales of myth and legend, treasure and adventure that lie just beyond that horizon.

  • Trent

    Man I can't believe some of you people, you keep expecting this to be an epic RPG but are disappointed that you think it's "on rails" but it is NOT an RPG, it is a really cool and epic sword fighting game; don't you all remember the Soul Caliber/Soul Blade series for the Playstation? THAT's what this is, a really amazing looking sword fighting game, but instead of the ridiculous button mashing that all of those sword fighting games had, you actually get to move your sword like you really would, but with your finger! That is incredible (especially with these graphics, on an iDevice no less!) And then oh, as a bonus, unlike all of those sword fighting games like Soul Caliber, you can also explore your environment and get new equipment based on your experience... seems like a pretty fun and epic game to me.

    Just don't know what is wrong with the internetz these days and everyone feeling so entitled... Buddha could reappear and offer everyone free food for life and half of you would be "meh, but I want free food AND a pile of gold and eternal life otherwise no deal!" You people are pathetic, seriously...

    • LBG

      I don't see what's so pathetic about having a different opinion and preference. You're wrongly interoperating our disappointment and discussion as complaining. Not everyone has the same opinion as you, so deal with it.

      • Trent

        But your opinion is wrong when you don't even get what the game is, even after the "Chair" explains that it is a fighting game (with some added RPG elements as a bonus) where you can freely swipe your finger to parry and then attack, and all you people focus on is "it's an on-rails RPG, FAIL!" THAT is pathetic, imho.

        But maybe I am being a little too harsh on you all; I got up on the wrong side of the bed today and it's just been a day of this kind of entitlement crap on the internet (with the possibility of the iTunes/Beatles announcement and everybody throwing a fit over that, like they are owed something more by an announcement.)

    • http://twitter.com/ScottColbert Scott Colbert

      Actually what's pathetic are posts written by people like you, who feel the need to defend a really pretty fruit ninja game.

      • Trent

        Seriously? You are comparing this to Fruit Ninja? Douchebag...

      • Josh

        you've got no idea.

      • Luis

        Infinity blade and epic citadel are 100x better than fruit ninja

      • Anonymous

        I play Fruit Ninja a lot, especially since they added the arcade mode. If this was as good as Fruit Ninja it is a must buy for me.

  • Mwhite67

    It would be pretty cool though if you landed a big combo or something and fruit would fall down that you could slice for extra gold. I should write Donald Mustard a letter.

  • Afterlife

    Aw, I'm really sorry for these people who expect too much for an iOS game with this kind of awesome graphics.. As a game developer myself, I'm pretty sure creating game design spends so much time and money especially with this kind of graphics.. why can't you just support these devs? If you're all like that, i'm afraid epic games won't be developing another game(with more depth) for iOS..

  • That Guy

    looks cool, just a wondering about the price. my comments are simple lol

  • thebleeptruth

    I really don't want to talk trash, but a lot of people here are unbelievable. This is a freakin' iOS game!!! Props to the developers for really focusing on what's unique for iOS devices and utilizing these advantages to an epic iOS game. And I also don't know why people keep forcing that it's an on-rails game. It's almost the same as exploration except they took out the need to explore to unnecessary locations. As they said, during the cinematic movement from point A to your selected point B, various other points will show up which you could tap. You don't simply watch your character move. Nevertheless, the point of this game is really to have a very complex and innovative battle system. For people who are really forcing this to be a hardcore RPG game, think of this as Chaos Rings minus the walking around (let's face it, walking around in Chaos Rings was unnecessary anyway given the lack of side quests, world map, etc.), but with an intricate and superior battle system, and a very vast library of weapons, armors, and items. I just hope that Chair really executes the battle system perfectly especially the parrying. Anyway for the people who are very disappointed with this game, why not just stick to a PSP. You guys have absurd expectations. This is iOS gaming. There's a reason why about 90% of the games in the App Store are casual games.

    • tsharpfilm

      You make some very good points.

      If Chaos Rings was point to move, I don't think it would have made much of a difference. For me, the fun parts in that game came from the story, environments, music, and turn based combat. If Infinity Blade is as good as it looks, I'll probably be too busy enjoying the story, graphics, and epic sword fights to care about the missing dual sticks.

      • That Guy

        Im just curious about the price. Im probably going to get the game anyway (unless i see too many bad reviews on the app), but if they charge more than your average iOS title then thats means that they are pushing for premium games for iOS. If the title is cheap then that means they are just doing the same thing that id Software is doing with mutant bash t.v. witch is just tryen to make a good game. idk i guess im just going to have to wait and see

      • thebleeptruth

        True. That's why I believe the key in Infinity Blade is to have a great story, lots and lots of battles, some weapon combinations/customizations, secret items, and a perfectly executed battle system. I'm not sure if parrying would just be enough. I don't know yet how the entire thing will end up. But for now I'm thinking about more moves like "Guard Impact" similar to Soul Caliber. Nevertheless, really looking forward to this game.

    • http://twitter.com/ScottColbert Scott Colbert

      Almost is not the same as free roaming as free roaming as you could do in citadel. To not be able to do that now, and instead click on nodes to go to different areas is a waste of this engine. "Oooh look! I can look around, from one spot!" This isn't 1993.

      There's nothing very complex about swiping a screen, sorry if you think so.

      I do find it very amusing that people who have posted before about how revolutionary this game was going to be, are now defending how watered down its seeming.

      Kool-aid, anyone?

      • spiffyone

        I find it amusing that you feel the need to play the troll here.

      • thebleeptruth

        Swiping on the screen is nothing complex.. thank you for bringing that up captain obvious! This is really what you get due to the internet age: once in while you encounter immature and lonely people, such as this guy, pretending to know it all and acting tough in the virtual world. Oh well...

  • That Guy

    anybody know about the price? Im probably gonna get the game anyway, but since epic is working up a lot of hype for this game... i wander what they will charge for it. If its a high price, then that means epic is pushing for premium titles for iOS. I hope so that way we will see more developers seeing the iOS devises as as good gaming platforms more seriously. Thoughts?

    • tsharpfilm

      No one knows about the price...

      • That Guy

        ok

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=879410704 Benjamin Goy

    I'm honestly interested in this. Seems unique and appeals to me.
    Problem is the cost though, gahh

    • That Guy

      do have any idea on price? thats what ive been tryen to find out

  • That Guy

    cant wait to see a hands on gameplay vid. already seen the trailer

  • E_Domina

    plzzzzzzz!!!! y can't it be changed just a little bit to work on 2G devices. Reeaaalyy!

  • Bali12341

    i dont care what it costs. i will get it anyway

  • spiffyone

    The thrust of the game seems to be the combat, so I don't really understand the whining about the more limited exploratory movement. It's not an RPG, it's not an adventure game, it's a beat 'em up/fighter with lite adventure and RPG elements. Why would one need "full" controls for a game like that?

    And kudos to the devs for at least trying to fit the controls to the devices. Way too many devs rely on virtual controls, and, quite frankly, so do way too many of you. The latter makes me shake my head in disbelief because it even goes as far as wanting virtual controls and whining about touch/swipe/press controls even when extremely well implemented and BETTER than the obtrusive and ugly virtual controls which are often NOT well implemented. But then again, far to many seem to lift their thumbs off screen even with virtual controls (why?).

    • That Guy

      Gameloft used a control scheme that used virtual controls, and the games did pretty well. I guess its because people are used to seeing titles on the appstore with that control scheme that worked well and saw this as something different so their reaction to it was bad. Thats just my guess. idk for sure, but the control scheme used in this game dosent seem to bother me, in fact im all for it, but i kinda understand where some people are coming from. Epic Citadel used the Same control scheme, so i guess thats what most where expecting, but i dont think controlls will be an issue here, because at the keynote where they first announced the game (Project Sword) they said that there were two different control schemes. One for hardcore gamers and one for causal gamers. They were different from each other, so i think most people will be happy in the end once they realize that they have options.

  • Luis

    i couldn't play epic citadel because i didnt had openGL2 but would i be able to play infinity blade

    • That Guy

      no, because it uses the same graphic engine, which is unreal engine 3. Only 3rd and 4th gen devices have support for openGL 2.0. sorry buddy

  • Anonymous

    I love that they are focusing on what works well on an iOS device instead of creating a game where people just spend the whole time wishing they had buttons.

    • That Guy

      its probably gonna be good regardless. because lets face it, its coming from the same company that is responsible for Gears of War

  • Alexstrand
  • Xmilkman7

    ok poeple. ignor my spellng. but as you would notice, this game is created by a 2nd party as epic citadel with the same unreal engine 3. this isnt at all going to be an on rails game, its a free roam RPG as it already stated. to me, this seems like its going to be a mix from final fantasy( i hope #7 ) and oblivion/morrowind. we dont know what to expect, but i for one am excited!