This morning Subatomic Studios unveiled that it has been doing something other than pounding out updates for Fieldrunners on iPhone and iPad. It's been working on a big budget sequel to that 2008 original. In fact, Subatomic has been building Fieldrunners 2 since Fieldrunner's initial release, carefully toying around with new concepts while also playing around with other prototypes. So, yeah, this one did take awhile.

It's true that this sequel ushers in the usual, not-so-exciting follow-up fare: new enemies, new towers, new modes, new progression systems, and new maps. But it's also doing something great and pure. It's introducing new mechanics that change up the core experience. These tweaks and changes are radical enough that they had Subatomic floating the idea of calling the game something else.

Jamie Gotch, the CEO of Subatomic Studios, chatted with us this afternoon about some of the game's biggest changes. He also gave us a brief history lesson on how Subatomic got its start, and how important Fieldrunners is to the studio.

"We formed back in 2008. When we first established, we were virtual. We were just some dudes who were working on this game part-time on the side," Gotch says. "We saw an opportunity on the iPhone and we went for it. We had this game idea, which was Fieldrunners, and we figured that -- this was before any games were released when the iPhone was in its beta phase and we thought tower defense game would be great to put on a mobile device. There wasn't much of that out at the time. I don't know if there were any games that were in that genre. We saw it as a great opportunity. We worked really hard and got the game out and it did really, really well."

Gotch paints an overall picture that has us thinking that Subatomic wouldn't exist in its current full-time staffed form without Fieldrunners. Subatomic almost ... owes that game, and it needs to produce a sequel that feels as honest and hip, but also just as new as Fieldrunners felt at the time.

"We were really fortunate," Gotch tell us when we ask about how many people were buying into the original. "As you know, there's so many iPhone games out there. It's very hard to release a game on a huge budget because it's a huge risk. Fieldrunners has done well and it allowed us the ability to build this team and the game we wanted to build."

One of the things the studio wanted to build for Fieldrunners 2 is better AI. It did, and it's a game-changer. It's smarter. It's now aware of itself and the world it inhabits. Enemies can bump into each other at choke points and push to find safer pathways. They can also scramble over and under each other. The original game was as mechanical as other tower defense games. Enemies just plowed straight ahead, totally oblivious to everything around them -- no behaviors, no awareness, no brains.

"In Fieldrunners 2 what we did, we actually have this very elaborate swarming behavior," Gotch says. "Units behave like they would on a real battlefield. If you were to throw hundreds of units on-screen they would all swarm in and take control of the battlefield. Like an army you would see in Braveheart ... They actually influence one another. You can build mazes and congest the [pipes you build]. And the guys behind [other enemies] are affected by the guys in the forefront.

Gotch excitedly tells us about other new stuff. Bridges and tunnels are being introduced in addition to environmental hazards and mini-bosses. A really neat sounding collectible card mini-game is in the works, too. As you earn achievements in the game's modes, you receive cards.

Several of you noted earlier today that the game looks great. It does, and that's thanks to Fieldrunner 2's re-written engine, which is what makes all of the game's new, much more unpredictable action possible. We've got a couple of new screens in the article, so give the game a look as you're reading.

The new engine and the new AI behaviors combine to make a pretty different game, which is what prompted the debate Subatomic had about the Fieldrunner 2's name. In the App Store world, putting a number instead of a subtitle in a sequel's name is often said to be sales suicide because people quit buying the original game. Subatomic doesn't care about this. It thinks it created a better game and if it loses sales, whatever. It wants this to stand proudly on its own.

Fieldrunners 2 is due out this June on iPhone and an iPad version will then follow. We talked with Gotch and the game's lead designer Sergei Gourski on this week's episode of our bonus podcast. We'll blast the audio to your earholes tomorrow.

  • http://twitter.com/Micahsa Micah Peterson

    Fieldrunners was THE game on my first iPhone and after reading this FR2 will be a day one purchase for me.  I'm really interested in the AI aspects, as that could really change everything.

    • Alec Shobin

      Wow, Micah, that's quite a compliment!  We hope you like Fieldrunners 2 as much as the original :)  We've done a lot to thoroughly evolve the AI and we're excited to hear what you think about it after you've had a chance to play.

  • America12345

    I am so excited. This game will be legit, I really hope they make multiplayer. Me and my friend play the co-op and multiplayer maps everyday. This feature would be sorely missed.

  • Janelle Brown

    Really excited for this one.  Fieldrunners was my introduction to tower defense games and it still ranks in my top 5 iOS games

    • Alec Shobin

      Thanks for the kind words, Janelle!  It's an honor to have Fieldrunners included in your top 5 iOS games :)  Can't wait to see where Fieldrunners 2 ranks!  There are tons of cool TD games out there, but we're hoping people will enjoy the new twists we're introducing to the genre with Fieldrunners 2 :D

  • nao

    I remember fieldrunners was the first td game ever to launch on the AppStore. When it launched there was no sound and I still played it for hours on my iPhone. Can't wait for this!

    • Alec Shobin

      Awesome! We hope you enjoy Fieldrunners 2 just as much as the original!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000018577803 Scrab Frag

    Loved the first FR, but no excuse for not being universal for FR2... and card collecting?  all that's missing is the ever so popular IAP...  Still, I'll try to reserve judgement for when it's released.  You have some loyalty credit to spend after so much of my time playing FR.

    • http://twitter.com/Micahsa Micah Peterson

      Yeah, I seriously hope they rethink the non-universal support.  I'll pay an extra buck or two for a universal icloud version, probably even more.

      • Alec Shobin

        Universal is something we've discussed a lot internally, but we haven't officially announced anything about it.  These are just my own personal views:  As a gamer, I totally agree with your sentiments.  The trouble is, supporting the retina display on the new iPad means our game's file size will be massive (tons of hi-res artwork) - much larger than the 50mb carrier limit.  Our iPhone version is currently just under the 50mb mark.  As you might know, selling an iPhone or universal version that's over 50mb means people can't buy the game (let alone download it) while they aren't on Wifi.  The solution is to just have separate iPhone and iPad versions, with no universal support.  It may not be a perfect solution, but it also allows us to build a truly custom tailored version of Fieldrunners 2 specifically for the iPad, which results in an amazing looking game.  I hope that at least helps explain our reasoning behind this move.  We'll continue discussing things and talk about this more as we get closer to the iPad launch.  Please keep in mind that what I just said are my own personal views and not necessarily representative of Subatomic's thoughts on the matter.

      • stormchild

        That's a pretty weak excuse for what is essentially just greed. It would have been relatively trivial to have the iPad version download the higher res Retina maps on first launch of the app.

        Paying twice not just for the app but for every add-on map makes this decision hard to swallow. Most likely I just won't be playing your game.

      • Alec Shobin

        I completely understand your point and that's exactly why this is something we're still discussing internally.  Please keep in mind that what I'm saying here is just my personal thoughts on the subject - not the views of Subatomic Studios as a whole.  At the end of the day, we wouldn't be here to make Fieldrunners 2 if it wasn't for all the support our fans have given us over the years.  With that in mind, we'll figure out a way to make things work :)

    • Alec Shobin

      Glad to hear you liked the original Fieldrunners! I posted a comment about universal below, so you might want to check that out.  Regarding the card collecting, we thought that was a fun supplemental feature that allowed players to get more insight into the enemies their facing.  Bummed to hear that it's seen as cliche these days.  Either way, if you liked the original, you'll definitely love Fieldrunners 2 :) Hope to hear what you think about it after you've had a chance to check out the game.

  • Tom Wang

    Excited like crazy for this.  I just hope the iPad version has multiplayer like the original.  Played it with the wife, who is NOT a gamer, for hours and hours.  Instant buy if it has Multiplayer!

  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

    Annnnnd there goes my eyesight

    • Alec Shobin

      Retina display strikes again! :)

  • http://www.deviousmedia.com/ Dave Andrews

    Love the game and have played it since day one. Congrats on a great Tower Defense game. 

    Big request for FR2. 

    In app map purchases. Hire someone to just build out maps. Make the money off the sales of the maps to pay for the level designer. 

    I would pay $.99 for a new map and or $1.99 for a 3 map pack.

    Good luck!

    • Alec Shobin

      Thanks for the kind words about the original Fieldrunners!  Coincidentally, we did include in app map purchases in that game and people seemed to like it.  We still haven't decided whether we're going to do this again or not (Fieldrunners 2 is a complete game with a full campaign mode, which the original Fieldrunners did not have), but we'll keep people posted on our plans for DLC after we launch.

  • LilaCupcake

    Great... I am really looking forward to the release. I am still playing FR1 a lot aaaaaaaaaand I can proudly say I am better than my boyfriend by now on finding new strategies to survive longer on the endless mode, which I really like. We don't cheat by looking on posted strategies on the Web, because it takes all the fun away. Level 240 is the highest I have reached in Grasslands :) really Love playing this Game on my iPad.

    What we really loved on FR1 for IPad was the Multiplayer mode :) I really hope FR2 will come up with more Multiplayer Maps... We enjoyed playing them together for days..., gotta say... For months :)

    Wow, i am really excited :)

    • Alec Shobin

      It's great hearing how you and other folks are so excited about our game! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by all the new strategies you'll be able to create in all the new maps included in Fieldrunners 2.

  • W4TSON

    I haven't made the plunge as far as buying the first game. Could anyone tell me whether i should go ahead & buy it or should I wait for the 2nd one?

    • Alec Shobin

      If you're on Steam, I can give you a free Steam key for the original Fieldrunners :)

  • stormchild

    Looks great, but I'm not interested in paying twice to run the same game on my iPhone and iPad. I understand your reasoning, but I'm no longer buying any games that aren't universal, unless they exist only for one device or the other. If there's a launch day sale that negates some of the extra cost, I'll consider it, but I'm tired of being fleeced to run the same app on two different devices.

    The worst part is, IAPs must also be bought twice, which is just plain ridiculous.

    • Alec Shobin

      Hey stormchild, as I said above nothing is set in stone.  This is definitely something that we're still mulling over and we're going to work hard to figure out a solution that makes everyone happy :)

  • noah21c

    Would you guys consider going back and adding Retina Display to the first game or have you moved on?

    • AlecShobin

      Great question! This is something we discuss very frequently because we always want our artwork to look as sharp as possible.  As of right now, nothing has been officially decided yet.  If it does happen, it probably won't be until our artists have some extra time after Fieldrunners 2 launches.

      • injuwarrior

        Not sure if you are still responding here, but why not make the larger iPad version universal (HD), and leave a smaller iPhone version as well. This is quite common now (World of Goo, Sword and Sorcery, etc), and there is no downside except potentially lowering iPhone only version sales. 

      • AlecShobin

        Hey there! Interesting suggestion... If we do end up going back in and adding retina support to the original game, we will definitely explore this option.  Thanks for pointing this out!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4FGNS6FR6T2NXKGF62JIXI2N6Q yahoo-4FGNS6FR6T2NXKGF62JIXI2N6Q

    Love FR and played and still trying to stay in top 30 in endless mode. 
    one comment on the retina display with all speculation of Iphone 5 or whatever they call it, might have different resolution which again would change the dl size if you optimize for the new iphone.  I would totally buy this game regardless however it would be greatly appreciated as other say, make it universal.  While i know it may affect some who don't normally have WiFi, but the voice of the fans appear to be clear that we would pay and prefer a universal version.

    • AlecShobin

      Glad you liked the original.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts! We're always thankful for our fans, so all this feedback will definitely be a factor in whichever route we take.

  • http://twitter.com/fl0winho Flowinho

    I SO loved this game. Played it for months, even competed with friends in a who-used-fewer-towers way. fieldrunners is one of the games deeply established in the appstore user base. i will buy fr2 as soon as its released in its ipad version.

    but please remember two things:
    - release a version with ipad retina support
    - remember ur fan base. dont disappoint them buy not uploading updates and or with too much inApp Purchases. many games killed their own fanbase cause they followed the "freemium concept" with their sequels.

    do a "i-pay-only-once" game and charge more. your customers will be more statisfied,
    and your fans will love your for that.

    • AlecShobin

      Wow, interesting way to compete! Haven't heard that one before.  We're definitely focussing on fan feedback, and we're pretty much on the same page with all your suggestions :)

  • JBDragon

    I'm a huge fan of Field Runners!  I've played for HOURS on end right there n the Sofa even though I have my Xbox 360 right there in front of me to use and a large HDTV in surround sound.   That's how addicting it is!   Was one of the first games I got when I first got my iPhone 4.  It's also one of the first games I got for my new iPad, which is even better.   I'm glad there's a FR2 coming out shortly.  I know I'll be getting it for both of my iOS devices!!!

    • AlecShobin

      Wow, thanks for your support! Always excited to hear from fans of the original :)  Can't wait to hear what you think of Fieldrunners 2!  If you want to check out the original Fieldrunners on that big screen TV of yours, plug your computer in and use this Steam key to get the game for free :D VMJ25-3FF2R-E5N4C Cheers!