80.lv | Disrupting mobile games industry with X-Mercs
Games Industry Evangelist at Game Insight Oleg Pridiuk (former Unity Technologies) was kind enough to share with 80.lv his thoughts on midcore games for mobile platforms and the way you should work with them.
There’s a game that is about to meet the global world of strategy players after two years of development. I belong to the team responsible for the game, and I showed the game to peers, industry media, game reviewers. The feedback was that the game differed from what’s common on the mobiles. Correct, it is very different. However, we feel there’s an opportunity with a hardcore turn-based strategy game on the mobiles, and here’s why.
5-minute toilet sessions
Mobile gaming evolves so fast, and it has so much ever changing variables: screen sizes and resolutions, availability and costs of high speed connection, terms and features of various app stores and more. This huge matrix of variables gets multiplied by a matrix of use cases where people actually are willing to play a game on a mobile. And the lowest common denominator for this giga-matrix would be a casual game with simple mechanic targeted at those 5 spare minutes (ok, maybe 10-15 minutes, had one had mexican food for lunch) in a toilet or on a daily commute.
The app store is full of these, and this is exactly why we feel there’s an opportunity with a core gamers. Folks who enjoy gaming on their PCs and consoles have very little choice on mobiles. And if we narrow it down to a turn-based strategy genre, we’ll get a niche that is super popular on desktops yet surprisingly sparse on the mobiles. We dare to claim this niche.
It takes around 20 minutes to finish a battle session in X-Mercs, plus you spend time with your squad, may be base or scientists, or you may want to manufacture something to prepare for the next battle. And then it is time to engage in a PvP session. All in all, you can easily engage with the game for 30-40 minutes without a chance for a break. However, if you’re on your daily commute and your stop approaches in the middle of the battle, you’re free to lock the iPad and later on continue the game from where you left it. The game also works offline making your airplane trip much more fun.
Online-only casual games
The industry has survive social games boom, mobile games trend then the convergence of both and have landed on the app store where top mobile games rely on social models, online multiplayer and may require a connection to the server just to pass the loading screen. Wanna have a quick-fix with a popular match-three or a puzzle? Sure, but not on a plane, no on a train and also not in a bad connection area.
I see where the industry is going, and why the online approach makes sense. Today games have to provide much more engagement for players to stay, but we feel the offline mode provides so much more value in our case. X-Mercs has a PvP mode with strong focus on community, so our players have plenty of reasons to stay with the game and play online. But there’s a 250 missions single player campaign we don’t demand internet connection for.
The X-Mercs game does rely on the server for everything, any action in the game, even for the single player campaign. But we’re fine synchronising everything back, as the player appears online. There’s a trick however, we save player actions rather than saved game states to prevent less honest players violating our terms and conditions. So it is fair to everyone, and our players can enjoy their favorite title offline.
Our server is an in-house development that makes the offline feature with late synchronisation possible. We’re aware of players who have only played on the planes and were happy about their single player campaign. We’d encourage them to try out online multiplayer, it is quite fun.
Stores are full of similar MOBA games now
The nature of handhelds is perfectly suitable for a kind of game play where a short 10 to 30 minutes session is enough to experience the game from start to end. And this is why there’s been so much very similar MOBAs on mobiles.
Yet X-Mercs is not a MOBA. It is a tactical strategy game with a story line, drama and deep player involvement. One has to develop the base, hunt for resources, perform research, train the troops, follow the single player campaign and have fun in multiplayer battles. The game is designed, however, in a way that 20-30 minute sessions make total sense and deliver a complete experience. The player would finish a battle, micromanage things on the base and leave the troopers heal till the next session. Full satisfaction of a time well-spent, an accomplished task plus a strong willing and a good reason to return soon.
Shut down the game once yields are low
Some of the legacy social games companies are famous for shutting down games with millions of players still enjoying the title. The industry could swallow multiple loops like launch a game –> evaluate yields –> close the game. Not any more, probably.
We have games 4 years old yet still alive and popular, available on multiple platforms on the mobiles and on the web. We believe it is crucial to build a trust and connection to our players. Once they enjoy one of our games, they’re sure the next one with the red G! logo is as good with similar quality, fun and support service levels.
And while X-Mercs is about to be available globally, we’re building a long-term cross platform experience with an iOS first approach. And we’re committed for it to be big, we’re sure it gonna make an impact and set the new quality bar for mobile titles.
Oleg Pridiuk, Game Insight