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Social The CrowdStar Way

November 15, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

When you talk about social mechanics, I think that's one place that -- this is totally an observation, feel free to disagree -- that's a real area for growth.

PH: I agree.

In terms of the richness, and the actual integration.

PH: Yeah. I agree totally. Because in the past, you know, whatever game you're playing, you could invite someone in. And you invite, and it's a very viral mechanic, and you would have your friends in a part of the world...

If you look at what we've done, with Mighty Pirates, the people on that boat are your friends. And when you go off treasure hunting together, you share the loot. And that was one of the great things.

Pirates was the first real creative process I went to at CrowdStar, you know, because I haven't been here very long. So, if you think about Pirates, that was a pretty amazing starting point because it's fairly clear what pirates do, right? They all gather on a ship, and there's a sort of pretty awful group of guys and girls, and they go off on ships, they battle each other, and they go treasure hunting and find treasure. It's pretty straightforward.

So, when you take that as a straightforward basis for the game, then it's kind of obvious, I guess, but it's not been done before. You're right. That sort of involvement as real friends, right? So, if you're choosing a crew for your boat to operate your guns or operate the telescope or something, you want them... If they've specialized and if they're on a certain level, you're going to choose your friends for a specific reason.

So, then, when you've got your motley crew on the boat, [indicating] it's me, you, and [CrowdStar PR rep] Peter, and we're on the boat and we go treasure hunting. When we find treasure, you get some, you get some, and I get some. That sort of stuff. That's just the start. I think doing that more sort of becomes almost guild-like, not in an RPG sense, kind of in an RPG sense, but it's guild-like and it's real people with their really character, progressions and otherwise, it's a pretty powerful tool.

When you say "RPG-like," it is. I think what we're seeing is the adaptation of existing concepts into a new space, a lot of times. It obviously facilitates rapid iteration when you're working with established concepts.

PH: Yeah. A lot of what the themes do, I think, is remove the instant stigma. Because generally, you know... I used to have this joke at EA where if you leave like 60 developers alone, right, with no input, you're going to get space marines or goblins or some derivative.

But I think what's powerful is that Facebook is a platform for a whole bigger audience, and playing games with your friends is really cool. And I think the themes have helped sort of soften that stigma. So, you imagine the audience has gone through this sort of learning curve of how awesome that is. And as it gets more social and more sophisticated and more interesting, yeah, I think it's got somewhere to go that's even more amazing than where we are now.

I have a couple more big questions. The first one is, so, social game development cycles have typically been what, like two to four months...

PH: Yeah.

...then you launch, and then things move forward from there.

PH: Yeah.

Do you think that's going to stay stable? Or is it going to change depending on what the goal of the project is?

PH: Like you were saying earlier, there's different kind of games that appeal to different people. If you look at some of the games launched by our competitors recently, they're pretty sophisticated and kind of polished. I think that's definitely setting a new expectation for people.

Sophistication in levels of content, working with friends, progressing through more interesting social mechanics and game features -- it just takes time to build. You can see with teams increasing, even if it's still by comparison to console, it's like, "Yeah, okay." But they're growing. Games are growing. The time to get them polished is growing. But I still don't think it's going to get to the point where there's a hundred people building one social game.

I still think the amazing thing is... What I've found in my short time here is you've just got to be really brave. Your game's good enough, and people would love to engage with it for what it is right now, and I think the struggle that some guys in traditional console have come in the other way is that, you know, they've spent, I don't know, five, 10, or 15 years being trained that you can only launch at perfection. So, it's just a completely different way of thinking.

But the two to four month thing is very much dependent on the game you're trying to make. If you're trying to build Mighty Pirates, then two months it's probably not going to do it. Pop Boom, for us, was a really exciting, amazing project, a simple puzzle game that was very engaging and driven by high scores. That was kind of a month. It does really depend on which game you're making and why.

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