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In this postmortem, we'll take a look at the ups and downs of developing Pangalore's first major title, Knightly Adventure. Developing a first big project with a new team is a time of excitement, and we had a fun ride along the way. Sometimes it was the thrill of seeing a plan come together, and at other times it was the panic of seeing a mistake that we'd overlooked -- but the good times outweighed the bad.
At Pangalore, we specialize in multiplatform mobile games using both HTML5 and Unity. Our philosophy is that you should be able to take your game with you wherever you go and play on whatever device you have in hand. Previously, we had put this into practice with simpler HTML5 games such as Pop the Candy so we could work on social mechanics and the intricacies of getting games to run well on multiple devices and platforms.
We had also worked on getting our development and publishing pipeline working well across two continents -- our dev team is based in Korea with our publishing team located in San Jose, CA. I split time between both locations, working on our U.S. publishing operations while making frequent trips to interface with the development team and communicate the needs of our international audience. (I have a lot of frequent flier miles if anyone needs points!)
As we sat down to kick off Knightly Adventure, a social/action RPG hybrid designed to offer "build and battle" gameplay, we were pretty sure we had something that was unique in the marketplace. The stakes were higher but this would be a big step forward for our company if we could pull it off.
Our value proposition was that players could enjoy the game on multiple devices throughout the day, with all progress saved, and the same 3D graphics available on every device. Unlike some titles where you pay for your game separately on each new platform, our free-to-play adventure would be the same game in every instance, and a purchase made on any platform would carry over to all the others.
Our target platforms included iOS and Android as native apps as well as PC/Mac via Facebook. Knightly Adventure is set in a medieval fantasy world where players can build kingdoms, cultivate crops, craft items, and fulfill RPG battle quests with friends. The design was set up so you could play it on your phone during your train ride to work or school, on Facebook on a work PC at lunch, and on a tablet in the evening to relax.
While the game can be played in short bursts, it can also be played in longer sessions that bounce back and forth between simulation and action sequences. For instance, you can plant some crops or start an item build in your town and then venture outside with a party to battle colorful monsters, returning to town to harvest your goodies.
With a multiplatform game with a new team working on two continents, we didn't do everything perfectly along the way. But while we had some bumps along the road with our first flagship title, we put together a very successful launch that saw KA rise to the #1 RPG on iOS in 23 countries in terms of downloads. Despite this considerable success, we could have done even better. Our goal in this postmortem is to share both what worked for us and some mistakes that we'll certainly try to avoid in future titles as we improve our development process.
1. It's Two, Two Things in One
The blend of two distinct genres in KA created a fresh style of game. Having social and RPG elements extended both genres without excluding fans of either style of game. On their own, KA's social and RPG features may not have stood out, but as a blend they allowed us to get more attention from press and players alike. (For instance, 148apps.com said, "Knightly Adventure is a game that is really the sum of its parts that all come together to make something better than it would be individually -- and its excellent cloud-based saves support helps too.")
Our mantra for the game was "continual engagement" -- a player need never wait for a build to finish. They can set builds, go on an RPG battle quest, and return to harvest crops and materials. Players can select short builds for the time they're online (during which they bounce back and forth with quests) and then longer (and more valuable) builds to fill in the time while they're away from the game.
The RPG quests are designed to be easy to play to lower the barrier for social players while still incorporating strategy. Most quests are designed for a party of three characters and players can include the avatars of their friends to make up the right mix for a given quest. You choose your party with the characters of up to two friends or NPCs (it's asynchronous so you're choosing their avatars and they don't have to be online). Picking the best mix of melee/ranged/magic characters is important for various missions and you also want companions of the right level -- higher-level characters cost more in game currency so players usually want to balance their team for the best cost/performance.
KA's "build and battle" hybrid gameplay