Flux Capacitor Ready For Download

The invention that made time travel possible in Back to the Future is now available as an app to disrupt your space-time continuum. Featuring striking visuals and sounds that reproduce time travel scenarios from each of the three Back to the Future films, the flux capacitor has fully functional time circuits that accurately depict your travels.

Feature: A Bit Lucky Goes To Space

Recent, we posted the first half of an interview with Frederic Descamps, CEO of A Bit Lucky. Here’s the second part of the interview, which also includes design comments from Jordan Maynard, Chief Creative Officer at A Bit Lucky, as well.

You had experience at Trion; what’s amazing to me is the fact that Trion managed to do so well with Rift. Subscription MMOs is such a difficult market to get into?

Frederic Descamps: How many game companies do you know that are successful with their first game Trion was successful and they’ll make more great games.

It seems that Rift has managed to successfully tap into a market that wanted a . . . shall we call it “less cartoony” style of graphics compared to World of Warcraft.

Frederic Descamps: Both games are successful art-wise. I’m not a huge fan of cartoonish graphics, but they nailed it and from the perspective of PC hardware; it’s also a style that looks better on low-end specs. Nailing the realistic looks is a great thing but can bite you – I was a big fan of EverQuest II but the graphical style aged very poorly. Trion spent so much time polishing the graphics we could hardly believe it. It’s like we say — polish is gameplay, and quality matters in social games as much as it does with MMORPGs.

There’s also the issue of long development times and comparisons to games that have been on the market for a long time.

Frederic Descamps: When you make something, you have to have a high level of evaluation; launching an MMO is not easy because you need to be aware of the competition. I remember when Warhammer Online launched, and they did some things right, but despite my love of the Warhammer franchise, I knew it would have a tough road ahead. The one thing Trion is really good at is to be very humble about their work. It’s important in this line of work to be critical and be students of your own art. Every time a game launches we dissect them; we talk about games, even at our poker nights. You have to have a healthy dose of knowledge about the industry to succeed.

Jordan Maynard: [The people at Trion] are AAA game developers and they knew World of Warcraft well enough to see what works, and while we were there, we saw with other companies what they did wrong with games like Warhammer Online and Age of Conan.

When you look at other MMORPGs, Trion was pretty rare in the sense that they launched and maintained their success. Free-to-play, obviously, is taking over a lot and League of Legends is my current addiction. I might not be playing certain subscription MMORPGs now *coughs* but I play League of Legends every day; it’s a free-to-play and knocking it out of the park.

It’s leading to a great deal of soul searching over what is a PC game these days.

Jordan Maynard: I think the PC gaming press is discovering what to cover. While initially there was a lot of rejection of the F2P space, games like League of Legends are making them rethink that. Facebook is on your PC so it is sort of PC gaming, but they didn’t want to believe it. One of our goals was with Lucky Space is to take the goal of building up a base like Command & Conquer with the power in Civilization of controlling an empire. Something like Crysis I have no interest in playing, but I think there’s some interesting things on PC, and I’m huge fan of classic PC games. I’ve worked on Spore so I’ve seen first hand some of the potential, and I know there’s some interesting stuff on the horizon.

Frederic Descamps: Jordan was just talking the other day about the difference between where social games have been and where they are going. When I was at Xfire, we had between 300,000 and 400,000 users at peak, and we had a pretty good idea of games played by hardcore gamers, and it was usually a variety of genres. But now we know the same thing is happening in social games; we think the two spaces are merging and close the gap between social and hardcore gaming, adding more depth and complexity to Facebook games

Jordan Maynard: Penny Arcade has done a number of League of Legends comics. And I remember one where they were talking about how much it costs and being like, ‘It’s free.’ ‘So how much have you spent on it ‘ ‘$8,000’ showing how the economics of it can work.

What games inspired Lucky Space? It seems evocative of the classic MULE.

Jordan Maynard: I played the beta version of MULE back when I was eight and I regard Star Control II is one of the best space games of all time. In MULE you have energy, food, smithore and crystite and our resources are very similar. The management is very similar to Star Control, with the isometric look of Command & Conquer and Transport Tycoon. From the social game space, things like Ravenwood Fair and FarmVille influenced the interface and reward methods. For items, we have the white tier will fill the slot, and you have greens, then blues and purples. That’s something that’s been around MMOs for a while and we regard it as ‘If it’s not broken don’t fix it.’ The first time you get a purple in the game, there is definitely a rush of excitement.

Now, from what Frederic said before, I’m to understand that you’re a second generation game designer and that your father followed Trip Hawkins along to all of his major ventures.

Jordan Maynard: Trip tried to hire my dad to Apple originally. *laughs* But my dad and Trip go pretty well back with my dad, and he had me trying out MULE when I was 8 years old. My first internship at EA I did Madden football on Genesis and SNES as a tester then later I worked with the engineering interns. My little brother worked on Dead Space 1 and 2 at EA — it runs in the family. I worked on Rift for a few years and Spore for a few years . . . and that was too long from a creative point of view. It’s much nicer to have a smaller dev cycle.

Frederic Descamps: It’s great to have someone like Jordan who has a background as both a designer and in technical fields. He’s worked on sports and MMOs and brings a unique perspective to social games.

What sort of opportunity did you see in the resource management and exploration social genre?

Jordan Maynard: That’s a very good question. When you start the game, you cover nine squares; I wanted to capture the feeling from Civilization and pushing back the darkness,. That’s the big difference; pushing back the darkness and filling it in with light. There’s business integrated with the gameplay as well. Lucky Train was more about virtual items, but for now, Lucky Space is about selling resources. There’s exploration and PVE stuff designed to really fill out the environment.

You mentioned the different items . . . how necessary are the best items to succeed?

Jordan Maynard: To make a parallel, you can play World of Warcraft pretty damn casually and succeed. You don’t have to min max, in order to get from level 80 to 85. With Lucky Space you can level up through the game you can do it with all white items, but those special items really can make a big difference.

Talk to me about user retention for something like Lucky Space — what’s the best way to go about it?

Frederic Descamps: The good thing is, we can show you some of the stats from the game. The way we design games it’s not about monetization, it’s about engagement. The day two retention is around 40 percent, which is twice as much as most games on Facebook. Day 7 retention is around 30 percent which is really really high, but people seem to enjoy it.

Jordan Maynard: We’ll talk about how you buy the first ten minute of gameplay within the first minutes. So with the “onboarding” experience you try to keep them engaged in the initial experience — you may be about to lose them, and that shows in the first play session within 29 minutes, but then they reach the next level and they’re compelled to stay a little bit longer. We keep on giving stuff to keep them coming back. There’s a couple of key ways to keep users engaged; managing that user experience and having something to come back too are key ones.

Frederic Descamps: I would say the game has mystery. You have the 3×3 square closed in by darkness and you’re pushing it out. There’s also mystery in the storyline; we have lots of quests and protagonists and they give you quests and fill out the story and people enjoying whats going on behind the scenes in the game game.

One thing about many social games is that they just aren’t that social; you might send things to friends, but you’re rarely participating simultaneously in the same game.

Frederic Descamps: I think helping your friends in most social games is a misnomer. One thing we’re trying to give our players are real social options. We’re looking to make sure it’s meaningful.

Jordan Maynard: I mentioned about the different tiers of components – if you have more friends come back, you get better items.

Frederic Descamps: Speaking of which, some people were receptive to [playing multiplayer], but some people want to play on their own map.

Jordan Maynard: Anytime there was a gate or a block a for a player, you could use space bucks or have friends come in and help. So there’s something for all of those types of gamers to make progress.

Talk to me about the demographics that Lucky Space has appealed to.

Frederic Descamps: By design, it’s been made with the hardcore male audience in mind. We can look at who is playing the game thanks to Facebook’s metrics, and it is 80 percent male. That was kind of the intention [from the beginning]. With Lucky Train, we didn’t really know who it would appeal to; we thought it might be a a broader demographic. Well 85 percent of the transactions were male, and it’s more skewed towards males for Lucky Space. You’ve also had professional gamers who have written reviews of it, which is fantastic.

Talk more to me about how the “disaster events” and gifting helped encouraged players to be social while playing.

Jordan Maynard: There’s a couple things there; in a way it’s a media bonus- you get more resources back if you shoot the asteroid down. We’re coming up on our first content update before Thanksgiving for people who are at the high end of the experience. There are going to be challenges where there will be a specific goal and challenge to make it hard, like mine a hundred ore within three days, but it’s harder because it’s on a desert planet. There will be time-limited instance planets where you can see how players are doing.

How have monetization plans gone for Lucky Space?

Jordan Maynard: There’s a couple things for monetization, especially with purple items – the best way to get them is buy them; they aren’t necessary but if you get one there’s a noticeable difference from blue. When you’re building a building, you can buy the rest of it as a discounted rate. The last thing is the energy buildings. You can buy the energy, but you can buy energy buildings. Ravenwood Fair has something that has +1 max energy, and we have something that has +16 research, energy and components. When you do play the game, the buildings with the capacitor are greatly enhanced.

The game is very attractive and colorful . . .

Jordan Maynard: Another thing that was an inspiration was the color and lighting pallets of Torchlight; it has this glowy look and we wanted that feel.

The humor I’ve heard about in the game, is that an attempt to reach as wide a demographic as possible?

Jordan Maynard: Think about Futurama – they love to make fun of the tropes of science fiction; on some of the the buildings in Lucky Space is a billboard for wormhole foods- there’s lots of little references like that in the game.

When I think about it, things have become so deathly serious in science fiction — looking very “metal on metal,” but I wanted to not take it quite that seriously. A game should feel like a love-letter to, science fiction. We don’t want to take ourselves super serious — I mean, there’s a pig in a space suit that’s the space piggy food bank.

Now, when you said you worked on Spore earlier . . . how much interaction did you get with Will Wright? Is he as smart as he comes across in all his interviews?

Jordan Maynard: Will is super, super, smart — no bones about it, he really just is that smart. Really he does a lot of research in what he’s interested in and has a great style of presenting it too. Nothing but good things to say about him.

So do you foresee a multi-platform future for Lucky Space?

Jordan Maynard: The nerd Star Trek analogy is you imagine the laptop as the Enterprise and the smartphone as a shuttle craft; if I wanted to manage my colony I’d do that on the laptop. but if I want to restock a building, I should be able to do it from my phone. Ubiquitous gaming is coming!

Jordan, Frederic thanks.

_ _

Played Lucky Space Looking forward to the hardcore social game future Join the discussion on Facebook.

Gree Announces Social Network Plans

Gree International has announced plans to launch a social gaming service. It will have a variety of features, encompass several services for both developers and consumers and release in mid-2012.

“The new platform will leverage OpenFeint and Gree assets and will bring together Western and Asian mobile social markets with a goal of reaching over one billion users,” said Gree CEO Naoki Aoyagi.  “This new platform allows our partners to focus on increasing engagement and revenue, while continuing to offer the most comprehensive free-to-play gaming experience.”

DC Universe Online Free At Last

Sony Online Entertainment has announced that DC Universe Online has launched as a free-to-play product. Users on both PC and PS3 can download the game and access it in three levels: Free, Premium and Legendary.

“We are confident that going free-to-play will expand the action combat experience of DC Universe Online by making the game more accessible to every type of player so they can choose to play the game their way,” said John Smedley, President of Sony Online Entertainment. “With a portfolio that includes three successful free-to-play games — EverQuest II: Extended, Free Realms and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures — we have extensive knowledge and experience to apply to DCUO and are thrilled to be taking the game free-to-play today.”

Mob Rules Games Looks For Support In Kickstarter

Mob Rules Games has announced a Kickstarter fund drive to lay the groundwork for its first game. The player community will get to choose between three different games that Mob Rules will prototype first: Guerrilla Gorilla, Haunts and The Last Second.

“Our company values are rooted in transparency, what we describe as being open, honest, inventive and fun. That’s the inspiration behind launching by instantly building our community and giving them a voice,” said Rick Dakan, co-founder and designer at Mob Rules. “We have visions for each of these games. Part of our vision is to get some wisdom from our crowd of voters.”

“Generous support from the Open Game Labs got us started,” said Austin McKinley, co-founder and artist at Mob Rules. “We believe that since the players are ultimately the ones who determine a game company’s fate, we should work with them as closely as possible while still retaining our vision for cool, fun and affordable games.”

Resident Evil: Revelations Price Tag: $50

Resident Evil: Revelations will ship for $50, which will be a new high for a 3DS game. While rumors were that was because it will be packaged with the extra circle pad attachment, as it turns out it’s just a long game with an expensive cartridge.

Resident Evil Revelations is an all new Resident Evil title with over 20 hours of gameplay, and cut-scenes beautifully rendered in fear-inducing 3D,” a Capcom spokesperson told me in an e-mailed statement. “A true console experience on a handheld device, Resident Evil Revelations is an epic title that offers both a single-player campaign for that classic survival horror gaming experience, and an additional RAID mode that can be played cooperatively or single player. To handle all of that data Resident Evil Revelations requires a 4GB cartridge, resulting in a higher price point.”

Battlefield 3 Multiplayer DLC From Dr. Pepper

EA and Dr. Pepper have announced a new deal for some exclusive DLC for Battlefield 3 this week. On specially marked bottles of Dr. Pepper, there will be a code for items like multiplayer skins and a PlayStation Home avatar, to various special edition dog tags

Those who want the content without participating can download a free code for one platform from Dr. Pepper’s website. The promotion ends on December 31, 2011.

HTML5 Disparaged as Game Format by Zipline

HTML5 is often talked about in Internet spheres as something that will be beneficial to games. However, Zipline Games CEO Todd Hooper says the technology was created outside of the gaming industry, making him question its relevance for mobile games.

“A lot of people are talking about HTML5. There’s a lot of hype around that, and my feel at this point is that’s exactly what it is: hype,” he said. “I mean, the HTML5 guys have a lot of conferences, but let’s see some games. A lot of the HTML5 stuff comes out of a San Francisco, Web 2.0, internet company mind-set, and that hasn’t got a lot to do with games. I don’t see a lot of people who I would recognize as authorities in the space of games talking about HTML5; I see a lot of people that know a lot about apps.”

“Obviously different companies have pushed it because it suits their agendas. The reality is that most folks who are developing games are not HTML5 programmers. In fact, most game programmers don’t want to use JavaScript,” he said. “When I saw the new Facebook app on iPad and saw the HTML games, they would have been state-of-the-art three or four years ago, but they aren’t state-of-the-art now. I’m sorry, but if you look at any of the games that are charting right now or have been charting for the last twelve months, I just don’t see those games being delivered in HTML5. I keep hearing that they’re coming, but everything I see behind the scenes and actually talking to real game developers one-on-one, including people that have used some of these technologies, the jury is still out.”

Zelda Box Set Celebrates 25 Years For Franchise

To celebrate 25 years of the Legend of Zelda, Viz has announced that they are releasing a special manga box set. It will comprise 10 volumes of the series along with a color poster.

The manga included will deal with the stories interpreting games Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, Four Swords, The Minish Cap, A Link to the Past, and Phantom Hourglass. The Legend of Zelda manga box set is out now and is available for $69.99.

Source: Viz.com