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Halo co-creator's mobile FPS now called 'Midnight Star'


Midnight Star is the new name of Industrial Toys' ambitious mobile FPS, changed from Morning Star after studio founders Tim Harris and Alex Seropian discovered an existing trademark of the same name. They're creative guys – Harris founded the studio Seven Lights and Seropian helped create Halo – so they were able to insert the new name into the game's lore. They're also lucky – the logo for the game is an M with a star under it, and rarely do its assets say the full "Morning Star." Welcome, Midnight Star.

Industrial Toys has been pitching Midnight Star as an innovative shooter for mobile platforms; AAA on iOS. Harris tells me over Skype what this means for the game's controls: Tap one finger to shoot, two to bring up a shield and other common gestures for specific weapons, such as pinch to zoom in a sniper rifle.

The game is technically on rails, but it offers players the ability to control the camera. Two hexagons on either side of the screen light up with the number of enemies surrounding the battlefield, and the indicators change colors as foes prepare to attack. Players can tap the hexagons to swing the camera that way and take care of business.

The aiming reticle is positioned above the player's finger so it's always obvious where it's pointing, and the enemy AI system is dynamic, "not unlike Halo," Harris says. Enemies respond to a player's actions, ducking for cover when a sniper zooms in on them, staying back in one playthrough and charging forward for a melee attack in another.

Gallery: Midnight Star | 3 Photos

"Coupling that AI with those threat indicators makes it so that when you're in the middle of a firefight, especially when it gets intense, you're having to manage multiple fields of view, and it gets crazy," Harris says. "The big guys, the Dust, versus the Renfields, our little grunty guys – they are responding to what's going on in the battlefield."

Harris shies away from calling Midnight Star's mechanics a "hybrid" of on-rails and full-control gaming. It's "new," he says, and it definitely doesn't involve any virtual joysticks.

"It's not pop-up, it's not a carnival ride," Harris says. "That's what we took great pains to separate ourselves from."

Industrial Toys is taking a chance on digital comics as well as mobile-game mechanics, and the interactive pre-release graphic novel has been retitled from Morning Star Alpha to Midnight Rises. The digital comic will still launch before the game, which should see a limited, regional release on iOS in about a month. Then, after a few months of testing, Midnight Star should hit iOS devices worldwide for free, sometime in early 2014.

Midnight Star involves a lot of AI, 3D graphics, customization, upgrade options and social features, and the file size will reflect this bulk. It'll be "hefty," Harris says:

"There's a ton of interesting mechanics that go on around the game, too – we built all of the community aspects of the game into the app, as opposed to exporting them to the web. You have an active message feed that lets you know how you're doing in your multiplayer challenges, how you're doing in terms of trophies, it shows you how your friends are doing .... We've got typical things like chat and person-to-person messaging. The live services are pretty robust for this thing and all that, besides the pretty graphics and assets, is adding to the size of the game. There's a lot of game here."

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