Firaxis is doubling down on the mobile scene this month with not one, but two brand new games for iOS. We heard yesterday about the announcement of Ace Patrol, and today sees the release of Haunted Hollow. Is the new mobile game worth your time? We had the chance to put some written questions to designers David McDonough and Will Miller to learn more about this whimsical new strategy title, and they responded together to reveal some insight into the project.

Who are you, and what is your role on the project?

We’re David McDonough and Will Miller, and we are both lead designers on Haunted Hollow. We both co-designed the game. We met way back when we were attending the Savannah College of Art and Design, and our dream was to do exactly this – be game designers at a major studio. We were honored to be given permission to lead a team doing something a little different from Firaxis’ previous work. 

What’s the story concept for Haunted Hollow?

You are the master of a haunted house, and you want to build it up, fill it full of awesome monsters, and wreak havoc on a tiny, unsuspecting town nearby. But a rival haunted house master is building his house on the other side of the valley, and wants to do the same thing. So you face off – sending your monsters against each other and the town to find out who can be the most terrifying. 

We started with this vignette of one house on one hill, one house on the other, and this tiny unsuspecting town in the middle. It was a whiteboard drawing at first, and we only just recently erased it. But Dave keeps a vignette concept based off that original drawing on his hard drive. 

At first glance, Haunted Hollow seems to share some traits with XCOM’s base building, followed by battles outside the base. In what ways are the two games the same, and where do they differ?

They’re both turn-based games that have a mixture of army building and tactical engagement – build up an army and then use it – and the house presentation shares the “ant farm” cutaway view like the XCOM Base. That view works particularly well to show lots of cool stuff at the same time. But after these similarities, the fighting and building are integrated in very different ways. In Haunted Hollow, building and fighting are integral parts of your turn, versus XCOM, where you’re responding discrete invasions on a strategy layer and have a turn-based combat game.

Both games contain spatial puzzles, and they’re a bit more like buildings in RTS where each room builds a different sort of monster. You’ll also spend more time, comparatively, building the rooms of the haunted house, because each turn you get a free room to build. In XCOM the decision to create a new room is a major part of the decision about resource use. 

Is the game chiefly designed to be played multiplayer? If playing single-player, is the game focused primarily on single one-off battles against an AI opponent, or is there any larger campaign?

Yes. The game is built around a Player-versus-Player dynamic, and that was the motivator to make it free to play. We want as many people playing MP against each other as possible. The single-player game is a fun alternative, but there’s no campaign. It’s a single game versus an AI player. We feel the joy is best seen in playing MP.

When playing multiplayer, do you see the game as something that you’d play simultaneously with another player, or is it more built around taking a turn and then stepping away from the game for a while to let your opponent take his/her turn?

We see it more as a game where you take your turn, then wait a bit while your opponent takes his turn. The game is readable enough so that you can have several games going on at the same time without getting lost for your strategy for each game. We do have a pass-and-play mode where you can play with the same device in a single session, and that’s great for when you’re playing on the couch during TV commercial breaks, or on a plane. 

Is the multiplayer mode meant to be played with two competing players, or does the game support more players?

Two competing players. One v. One.

[Next up: How to build your own haunted house]