"I've kind of been the driving force behind this." Chris Ewington describes what board games mean to him in passionate bursts. "It's who I am. It's what I do. It's what I was meant to do." Chris is the head honcho at Codito Development, an outfit that specializes in securing licensing and then reproducing tabletop games on iPad under the banner of Sage Games. Chris' experience with porting the tabletop experience stretches long before iPad came into our lives. He used to make "homegrown" computer versions of his favorites to share with friends and family.
In a lot of ways, he's the perfect guy to be doing this. His studio has the talent, and he has an astounding amount of reverence for the art form and what it does differently in today's modern gaming landscape, which is dominated by stupid games like Angry Birds.
"There's a lot to be said I think in terms of entertainment value for things like Angry Birds and those huge hits out there where you can go play for 10 seconds and get some fun out of that, but with board games there's a little more thought involved," he tells us on this week's bonus episode of the TouchArcade Show.
"They offer a lot of the other great things that some of those hit titles have, and particularly these euro board games have really great theming. You can kind of get into the world of the game if you will. They also have the replayability and fun factor -- there isn't just one way to win this game," he says, picturing a title. "If I play it again, even with the same people, it's going to be a completely different experience."
Before iPad was even announced, Chris was thinking about iPad. He and his pals had been talking about playing board games on something just a little bit bigger than an iPhone or iPod Touch. He describes the announcement of iPad as an "Apple Saves The Day" kind of moment, as it gave him a legitimate outlet to take his passion and put it into a series of digital products. The list of official ports since is long: Chris has had a hand in Puerto Rico, Tikal, Ra, Medici, and most recently, Tigris & Euphrates.
In a weird twist, the growth of the App Store has given Chris a calling. The majority of App Store consumers are casual-leaning, so they aren't familiar with titles like Puerto Rico [$7.99] or Tigris & Euphrates [$4.99]. Chris says its his studio's mission to get people to play these kinds of games, to show them that games can offer so much more than cheap thrills.
"...it's part of our mission to open some eyes and introduce people to the joys of it. You can sit down and play a game like Puerto Rico or Tigris and you don't know what's going to happen. You have a rough idea how to play the game, but you don't know what the interactions are going to be." Chris says that the fact that most board games don't have a single win condition is one of the most interesting things about them. The high-level strategy, complex theming, and even proximity are several of his other favorite aspects on his personal list.
His goal is lofty, but Chris is still grounded. He realizes that the world of gaming has moved on from tabletop. Much more visceral games like Pong, Mario, and Call of Duty have been re-defining what games are. It's a new landscape, new audience, new world. But the things he most celebrates about board games are what he thinks will keep people around.
It's also why he'll continue doing what he's doing.
"Board games are a natural fit for my interests and personality. I think more in 2D than 3D. And so, it's not just ... experiencing this big 3D world and trying to blast people. It's more cerebral than that. It lets you focus more on the interactions between the players and the strategies of the game," he tells us.
Chris is putting his 2D brain to good use with the studio's next project, Le Havre. This title will mark the first time Codito Development will ever use a board game's original art in a port. Chris believes this will add to its appeal for older fans, as it'll be a much more authentic-looking experience than normal. That said, Codito will do the same thing it always does with its borderline masterful board game ports: honor the design and only streamline the mechanical parts of the experience.
Chris explains what Le Havre is all about. "It's largely a card-based game where, rather than having little squares or pieces, it's based on cards you collect. Those cards represent different buildings you can use in the game. Again, the theming, is really what makes these games stand out above other board games and other games in some cases," he tells us.
"It's got this really cool feel of being in the harbor and you're trying to develop your interests and amass the most amount of wealth at the end of the game. And to crush all of your opponents."
Le Havre is a fairly recent creation. Publisher Lookout Games released the title in German and Australian English in October 2008. Board Game Geek has a scary breakdown of how it works, but we advise that you not look. The upcoming iPad version, as with all of Codito's awesome ports, will focus on cleaning up the experience and putting the rules in the background.
"Our challenge is to take care of as much of the mechanics as we can and support the game experience without taking away from it. Let's get all the other crap out of the way so you guys can just have fun playing the game and have fun with the theme and figuring out how to kick your friends ass without having to remember all the rules and picking up all the pieces and sort them out," Chris says.
Chris has a lot more to say on this week's show, so give it a listen. We do podcasts with interesting folks in the iOS space at least twice a month. We'll be back later this week with another regular episode of the TouchArcade Show.
Oh, and as a special-special bonus to our podcast listeners, Codito is offering up three of its games for $1.99. Here's some links: