Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Via Gamasutra, this news:
Angry Birds-maker Rovio hired Oskar Burman, a game industry vet with solid hardcore console street cred, to head up a new studio in Stockholm. They’re going to build a new team out.
Speculation is that Burman’s group will be working on either midcore or hardcore games. This could be a really interesting move for Rovio. They’ve obviously done very well in the casual space, racking up a multibillion dollar valuation from the various Angry Birds games and merchandising, and continuing to do well by buying and retooling Casey’s Contraptions into Amazing Alex.
With a huge capitalization, cash on hand, and tons of mobile experience, if Rovio can get a chunk of its existing players to try some deeper games, the sky is literally the limit on how much money they can make (midcore and hardcore games both tend to monetize at much higher rates and at much higher lifetime value and ARPDAU than casual games).
Betable’s Tyler York has a post about Facebook allowing the first real-money gaming social game in England here:
I applaud Betable for trying something new. They’re the only company I know that has a betting/gambling API you can drop into your existing game. And in theory, they are licensed, so you can skip the regulatory hassle, integrating gambling and betting into your game much more easily than if you went through the trouble of getting licensed yourself.
However, it’s no wonder Facebook is moving slowly here. There are major issues with gambling, it’s heavily regulated, and Facebook wants to be super-cautious as it tries out this approach. Of course they’re going to go with someone who already operates in the space where it’s legal; and they want to pilot it out.
It’s also not counter to how they’ve been doing things for the last few years. While Facebook initially opened up its platform for game development, they’ve been rolling out new features slowly and testing and piloting with select companies. This has happened for every new feature I can think of on Facebook — Web App/HTML5 integration, Credits, Offers, pricing in local currency, Open Graph, even the just rolled-out subscriptions. Companies like Zynga usually get first crack, because they have a high volume of players and a good relationship with Facebook.
Betable has a vested interest in having gambling in social games be open to everyone. After all, the more people who want to make gambling games, the more potential Betable customers. But it’s not just a matter of dropping gambling mechanics into your existing game; there are a host of other factors that go into making online gambling operations successful, as I’ve addressed previously (http://blog.gamzee.com/2012/07/trends-at-casual-connect-2012-new-game-game-nights-and-more/). And as discussed, larger offline poker, sportsbook, and casino companies and online gambling and sportsbook companies have an edge in this space. And those companies will get licensed themselves so that they can keep a bigger piece of the pie.
Making games in HTML5 is tough. You’re facing the fact that it’s a new standard, that you’re competing with other technology that’s much more mature (sometimes by 10-15+ years) and has loads of toolsets and workflows, and that most people would rather do what’s easiest rather than figuring out how to make new tech work well.
These guys are making HTML5 games. But they’re doing the hardest thing possible with HTML5 — synchronous multiplayer. God bless ‘em, and best of luck. Side note, they seem pretty sharp — all three are ex-Googlers, they’re all engineers, and one’s the first Facebook Platform Partner Engineer. Not too shabby.
It’s through the efforts of folks like Artillery (and the guys behind the new versions of Safari Mobile and the Android Browser, and Chrome, and a bunch of platform-makers and toolbuilders) that the tech gets driven forward.
The future isn’t Flash.
I will first make a disclaimer: this is my opinion, not that of Gamzee.
A little over a month ago, Wooga announced it was abandoning its HTML5 efforts and open-sourcing their code for Magic Land Island:
According to Wooga, the tech’s just not there yet:
Philipp Moeser, co-founder and CTO at Wooga said, “We’re very proud of the work we’ve done with HTML5 over the past year. With some of the most talented software engineers in the industry working on the project here at Wooga, we’re confident that the community will find lots to learn within Pocket Island and use our experience to progress the technology even further. HTML5 certainly has the potential to be a complete game changer, but the technology isn’t there yet”.
From its release in October until development ended on 5th May, 1.3 million people played the HTML5 game whilst in comparison Diamond Dash on iOS has been downloaded over 18 million times. Looking at 1-day retention figures for the HTML5 game, 5% of users came back to play the HTML5 game the next day compared to almost 50% returning to Diamond Dash mobile. This was the most difficult performance gap between HTML5 and natively developed apps.
This is an awful comparison. Here, Wooga is comparing a better-performing native title to an HTML5 title. And in two different genres (Magic Land Island is a city-building game, Diamond Dash is a casual arcade game). A better comparison would be to track performance among similar titles, one native, one HTML5.
Picking out a key quote:
Looking at 1-day retention figures for the HTML5 game, 5% of users came back to play the HTML5 game the next day compared to almost 50% returning to Diamond Dash mobile.
This shows the ridiculousness of the comparison. I’ll eat an Ed Hardy trucker hat if Wooga’s getting 50% 1-day retention on the desktop/Flash version of Magic Island. A better comparison (although still flawed as I’ll show below) would be to track 1D retention on Magic Land and Magic Land Island. At least the games are substantially similar.
So the larger question — is HTML5 not “there yet?” I think it’s a little premature for Wooga to make that pronouncement. Magic Land Island is a decent game, and a good proof of concept for what Wooga was able to do with the technology. But is it something users are dying to play? Not really.
It’s a port/re-imagining of their existing Flash game, Magic Land. There’s zero integration with the Flash/desktop Magic Land game — meaning users can’t play their existing cities on their phone, which would be the main draw of suddenly having a mobile version of an existing Flash game. MLI wasn’t redesigned from the ground up for mobile — the UX and gameplay are still the desktop version, just tweaked a bit to display properly.
So what are you left with? A port of their existing game that doesn’t integrate with that game and something that has controls and gameplay that weren’t designed for or optimized for mobile devices. Oh, and most importantly, it’s a game that seems to have been designed to hit lowest-common denominator display, meaning instead of showing high quality animations on mobile devices that can handle it (like the iPad 2), those settings were turned off or dialed way down on all devices. That makes no sense. HTML5 performance depends on your hardware. On desktop, it’s as good as or better than Flash. On iPad 2, it’s almost as good. It then goes down from iPhone 4S to iPhone 4 to some Android phones to an iPod Touch or iPhone 3GS to some of the Samsung Android devices.
HTML5 is very promising tech. You can build awesome mobile and cross-platform games on it (for example, our own Skyscraper City – apps.facebook.com/skyscrapercity). But it requires a lot of work, from designing in fallbacks and failovers for different device capabilities to rethinking the type of gameplay and UX that works on mobile.
It would have been nice if Wooga gave HTML5 a fair shot — by creating a game designed for mobile platforms — rather than making a crummier version of an existing game. I would posit that the failure of Magic Land Island has more to do with the game selection and tech implementation than any shortcomings in HTML5 at the present.
Again, we’ve been woefully remiss in updating the blog (too much work, but in a good way).
At any rate, we did Game Night, as usual, last night, and were joined by our friends Holden and Duffy from PageWoo. Howard Marks (Gamzee CEO and co-founder) co-founded an incubator/startup accelerator called StartEngine, that we happen to share office space with. StartEngine’s a 90-day program that gives startups a seed investment, office space, expertise, and mentoring; and besides Howard and Paul Kessler from Bristol (one of Gamzee’s investors) has a really great group of mentors onboard from different entrepreneurial backgrounds.
The takeaway is that there are 10 other startups in our space, including PageWoo, who are doing quick, single-page websites for brands. It provides a really nice energy and a lot of cool people to run things by. And apparently new folks for Game Night.
Last night, we eased them into Game Night (they were new to it) with the single longest game of Munchkin (Munchkin Booty, to be precise) I’ve ever played. It took about 2 hours (it’s normally a 30-45 minute game), and Abe finally won it. That was followed up by a couple of rounds of BANG! Duffy was a little slow to pick it up and died almost immediately as the Sheriff. The second round, I would’ve won as outlaw, taking out the renegade (Duffy again) and the Sheriff (Max, playing the worst game of BANG! known to man, which started with him killing his Deputy, Sean), except Sean decided to simultaneously “help” (read “play”) Duffy and Max’s hands. So Max won.
In more work-related news, we’re in open beta testing of our newest game, DownWords. DownWords is a casual action word game that combines Tetris and Scrabble. Letter tiles fall from the top of the screen, and you have to click them and form words. The tiles gradually drop faster and faster, and eventually they’ll scroll off the screen, ending the game.
So far, feedback has been very positive (which is nice, we’re really fond of the game). It’s currently playable on desktop Web and on iOS devices. Android coming soon. And we’ll be launching it in earnest shortly.
This time, from the folks at Gamzebo. They seemed to key in on the two things we’re proudest of: the ability to stack blocks and build whatever you’d like and the cross-platform nature of the game that HTML5 gives us.
Whomever’s in charge of updating this blog should be fired
Michael and I are up at the New Game Conference in San Francisco. It’s very encouraging to see an entire conference worth of folks working on HTML5 gaming. When we started the company back in April, there were very few people in the space, and now there are enough that they can fill a venue.
There have been some great talks about the state of the technology, adapting your games and business model to HTML5/”Open Web” gaming, and some post-mortems about some well-known games.
Today looks to be another great day. We’ve already had an awesome talk by Paul Bakaus, creator of the Aves engine and now Zynga’s HTML5 dude.
Regarding Gamzee, we’re cranking along, doing some testing on the first title. We’ll be launching soon!
We are extremely happy to welcome our new CTO, Michael Scholz. Michael has a ton of game industry experience and is an HTML5 expert (he most recently created an HTML5 game engine for GameSalad).
Welcome aboard, Michael!
The short answer is no.
We had a celebratory Bowling Night for Gamzee on Tuesday at Hollywood’s Lucky Strike Lanes (which is pretty nice).
It was a good time, with everybody drinking beer and chowing down on some good sliders and burgers and fries and steak skewers.
Our bowling scores would have been great if we were 10. But sadly, we’re much older than that. High score of the night went to Sean with a whopping 120. Nobody else bowled over 100. The only person who should be proud is Howard, who skipped bowling due to recovering from a shoulder injury.
I wish I’d done the same.
The early scores from frame one. Sadly, that was as good as it got the whole night.
President, CEO, and non-bowler, Howard Marks.
Engineer Caleb throwing stones.
On a non-bowling-related note, it looks like hardware acceleration for Canvas is turned on, at least in the dev build of iOS 5.