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Wrangellites part of major gaming release


Greg Knight

Ryan Kirschenmann, left, and Rusty Hayes, work on the audio backdrop for an iPhone video game app the duo are working on with Rusty’s brother, Ray Hayes. The game, War Command, is set for a worldwide release in May.

A pair of brothers from Wrangell are about to hit it big in the worlds of mobile video game play – and another Southeast musician is intimately involved in the process – one which may see the trio of Alaskans make their way to fame, fortune and maybe millions of dollars.

The brothers, Ray and Rusty Hayes, along with local musician Ryan Kirschenmann, have been deeply involved for the past 18 months in the code and audio production of “War Command,” an Apple iPhone based role-playing card game similar to major internationally known games like Archon, Magic and Pokemon.

Rusty, the design and story consultant for the game said his position in the partnership has been as a guide – and wall to bounce ideas off of.

“I really affected the design of the game in a lot of ways, but mostly by editing everything that came across my brother’s desk,” he said. “I edit everything. That has been my main task.”

According to Rusty, the brothers have been working with a group of phone app programmers in Salt Lake City, Utah over the past year to develop the game for iPhone and Android platforms.

“Ray began working in app development when the iPhone was really young and was making games that included simple slide-show apps,” Hayes said.

Last year, Ray came to Rusty with an idea – build a new TCG, or trading card game – and do their best to take over the gaming world.

“One time he came and said he wanted to work on a game that was like Archon but with a trading card game aspect that would allow you to build your own strategies,” he said. “I told him it was a great idea and, after an investment of four months and a lot of money, he came to me with something. It became clear he had the drive to make it happen, so I got really interested in helping with it.”

The strategy aspect is one Hayes said is lacking in some other popular games currently on the market and that it is also more realistic in terms of how its play-by-play outcome mimics in real life situations.

“The game is one that plays on a chessboard environment, but it also plays with a random element of dice. The combination of those two things means you’ll have more open strategy than a traditional Pokemon or Magic combat game, which is more head-on,” he said. “Everything in those games is mathematically decided or is based on your card draw. In those games, there is always a correct move. That is something we wanted to stay away from. Our game incorporates the idea that you can move forward and attack and you can still fail.”

The game was previewed with physical game sets at the SaltCON “gamers” convention in Salt Lake City over the Feb. 15-17 weekend. According to Hayes, it was an unqualified success and required convention center personnel to add extra playing tables after interest in the game grew beyond what was expected.

“We got a lot of really good feedback from people as a physical beta test game,” Hayes said. “My brother and my sister Talea attended to the booth and we also pulled in some other Salt Lake City nerds he knew. We did better than we expected at it in some ways. Our booth was late coming and we were in the very back of the convention center, but by the second and third days we had enough interest going we had to set aside five game boards because we got that busy during most of the day.”

While the game will be developed primarily for the electronic market, to include iPhones, iPads and Androids, a physical card game, with a board and dice may be produced in the future.

While Hayes may handle a myriad of functions related to the game, Kirschenmann’s focus is much more narrow, but all too important to the game – creating its musical soundtrack and tones used during game play.

“I’m the guy doing the keyboard licks, special effects and occasional drumbeats for the music in the game,” he said. “And when Rusty first pitched it to me, I had no concept of setting programming to music. So, as we started working together on this and exchanging ideas I realized I had no background in video game music. I was more into electronica and dance music, so this was a completely different idea I had to work with.”

Kirschenmann said he drew on other video game music on the market to formulate his musical compositions and went looking for a “big” sound for War Command, along the lines of soundtracks from Mortal Kombat, Wizards of Warcraft and others.

Utilizing banks of Korg synthesizers, samplers, an iMac laptop computer for recording, and a pair of iPads, the pair has created a dreamy, lush bed of sound that can move from pulsating drums and violins to an ambient, quiet place in the course of mere minutes.

“It is very soft and melodic and droning, though industrial sounding. It also includes a lot of mathematically syncopated drumbeats,” Kirschenmann said. “A lot of it is just under the surface because we didn’t want the music to drive the game or create a track that was going to distract the player from the game. So, we wanted textures, emotions and feelings that provided ambiance. There’s some hooks that we threw in, that will bring the player in.”

According to both, there are two songs left to complete before the game goes to market.

As the programming and music continues on, Hayes said the game would go to market first for iOS on Apple platforms before being migrated to the exploding Android market.

“We anticipate a release in mid-May and we are going to be distributing straight through the iOS store, the Apple app store. If you search for the game at the site you should find us,” Hayes added. “The Android release will come soon thereafter.”

Hayes said he hopes for a bright future for the game after its release.

“I hope it blows up and I think it will because if someone had independently come to me and pitched the game to me, I would be excited for it,” he said. “I think there is a large audience for it because it’s a card game that respects its audience and doesn’t disrespect their intelligence.”

For more information on War Command, log on to http://www.warcommand.com. For information on the Hayes brother’s video game company, go to http://www.fringegames.net.

Ray, who lives in Salt Lake City during the winter, was unavailable for an interview for this story by deadline.


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