Republique: a one-touch stealth game designed by its worst enemies

Ryan Payton's earnest story of Republique's formative days – roughly 600 of them – has a surprising villain. "When you have a vision, sometimes things just don't work out," said Payton, a co-founder of developer Camouflaj. For its first 500 nights of life, Republique, the one-touch stealth game for tablets and phones, just wasn't coming together.

Speaking to attendees at the Game Developers Conference, Payton described a frustrating time in which his team of 25 game makers struggled to reach their publicized (and Kickstarted) vision of Republique. It was to be a tense but accessible game, hinged on players guiding a woman out of a cell and away from an intrusive, spying regime. Its forced simplicity led to complications, however, putting its mechanics in conflict with everything from level design to lazy touchscreen swipes. But conflict also helped Republique find its footing.

"We decided that we were just going to become the game's worst enemy," Payton said. "We started to bash the game really hardcore." The team got serious about playtesting, and carefully monitored how people were naturally inclined to interact with the game, rather than how Camouflaj decreed in its one-touch vision. "We watched how players were playing the game, and we met them halfway," Payton said. And lazy, misread screen swipes? Camouflaj created its own version of aim assist, but for fingers.

When Republique started clicking, it was due to its creators reevaluating and criticizing their own vision. Payton's game wasn't supposed to have many on-screen icons and buttons, but incorporating them in a smartly measured way helped solve readability problems, and introduced new player options like running, crouching behind cover and pickpocketing guards. "The vision's not entirely 100 percent clean anymore," as Payton put it.

A well-received Republique made it out and onto the App Store's front page on December 19. Camouflaj is now incorporating player feedback for its current work on Episode 2, and likely continues to seek villains of value.

[Images: Camouflaj, AOL]