“We’re a hardcore game.” But what does that mean when you’re making something meant for tablets and smartphones?

“Not a casual game,” says Shawn Foust, vice president of game design at Quark Games. “Not mid-core. Not adjacent-core. We’re a hardcore game. We just happen to be on a mobile platform.”


Foust told me that two weeks ago while we were talking about Quark’s upcoming game Champs: Battlegrounds a turn-based real-time strategy game set in a cartoony fantasy world. Working on the iOS release has made Foust try to define what hardcore can mean for an experience that’s meant to be portable.

“Hardcore means complexity, “ he told me while showing me the game. “So, one of the things is that our game isn’t solvable inside of 20 minutes. The learning curve isn’t simple.” He’s not lying. When I played Champs, I got trounced in the early levels—not something that usually happens in most mobile game—while I was figuring out how to juggle attacks and where to place units. But, eventually, I saw how the flow of the game could turn rhythmic once you got good enough at using elevated areas, launching special attacks at the right time and cycling through unit types.

The plan for Champs is to have 12-14 unit classes, with new ones showing up every week for use in single-player or PvP matches. Every unit will have multiple upgrade paths so there’s a deeper level of strategy as to how you’ll evolve your forces. If you asked me if Champs: Battlegrounds felt like a mix of Final Fantasy Tactics and League of Legends, I’d say “Yeah, kinda. I need some lemonade.” You can see for yourself when the free-to-play game comes out at the end of this month.

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