We got invited, by ngmoco:) in to their San Francisco offices to take a look at the nearly final versions of Eliminate and Touch Pets: Dogs. While we were there we got to talk to CEO Neil Young a little bit about the Plus+ Network progress, what it takes to host a multiplayer game, and a little bit about what ngmoco:) has in the pipes for the rest of 2009.

Plus+ Network, ngmoco:)’s entry into the now very crowded social gaming networks for the iPhone field has had a rather slow start. Except for signing one high profile third party company, Freeverse, and the ngmoco:) titles, there are only 3 third party games that are part of Plus+. Well, that’s about to change. Neil Young commented that there will be over 50 Plus+ enabled games by end of year. They’ve been getting a great response from developers wanting to integrate with the system or switch from other networks to Plus+.

It’s been a quiet summer for ngmoco:) releases. Except for the amazing release Rolando 2, we haven’t heard much from them. That too will change. They have a total of 6-7 games that will be out by the end of the year. This includes Eliminate and Touch Pets: Dogs and 4-5 others we don’t know about yet. I don’t expect sequels to be part of that though and am hoping for some new and exciting games.

eliminate_blog_splashUpcoming First Person Shooter – Eliminate

Eliminate is one games we’ve known about and been waiting on for a while from ngmoco:). It was first shown at the iPhone OS 3.0 announcement in March. They keep pointing out that they want to get everything just right. Well, they’ve had plenty of time. It’s just a theory of mine, but I think the in-app purchasing has been the majority of the delay. They wanted to make sure that they got it just right. You may remember they made quite a splash with gamers going crazy over their demo of in-app purchasing during the keynote. That was, of course, just an example. According to sources they had just 2 days notice to develop that, in secrecy, with developers sequestered at 1 Infinite Circle just before the keynote.

The game itself is quite well done and these many months of polish show. The controls for one. Using the dual stick anywhere controls we first saw in Dropship from ngmoco:), work pretty well if you turn up the speed all the way. Another great feature is auto-fire. This feature works by automatically firing your weapon when an enemy is in the cross-hairs. Good for noobs. Experienced users won’t want to use it because you can’t manage your reloads.

While you can play the game offline, mainly as a warm-up, the game really shines with the online play. The game supports multiplayer games with up to 4 players at a time. Those multiplayer games work with players all over the world. It’s not limited to players on your local network. And it works over Wifi or 3G! This is the really compelling thing about the game and it’s only missing one thing. Voice chat would take the game over the top and really kick in that social aspect. But no one has yet deployed that on the iPhone.

ELIMINATE_ui_mainWhen the game launches, ngmoco:) noted will have enough servers deployed to handle 70,000 concurrent games (up to 280,000 players) and can quickly deploy more if needed. The cost of this kind of infrastructure has been the main reason we haven’t seen too many global multiplayer games yet.

One of the major aspects of Eliminate is the accessories which include lots of different suites and weapons. Maybe too many. Power ups and weapons are purchased with credits. You earn credits by playing when you have energy. And you are only alloted so much energy to play every day. But more on that later when we discuss the in-app purchasing.

The equipment – you have multiple suits you can wear, each with different strengths. Each suit has multiple properties that can be leveled up — based on your experience and with a few credits. There are also multiple weapons that you can buy each also having multiple properties to be leveled up. Way too complex. If there isn’t already, it would be nice to have a feature to auto-level up the weapons and suits when possible. Otherwise it get too tedious to manage 7 different properties for each suit and weapon. If you stick with one suit and the max you can carry, 2 weapons, that’s 21 different properties to manage. I just want to play the game not manage dozens of properties!

One of the goals of the game is to gather credits. These credits are used to buy new equipment and to level up the equipment you already have. The way the game is structured you have a certain amount of energy to use each day. While playing online and you have energy, you gain credits. If you run out of energy and keep playing, you won’t gain any more credits. You can return to the game later and you will have more energy (there’s a timer in the game showing you when your energy will be topped off), or you can purchase more using in-app purchasing.

I’m not sure people will like this idea. Actually I’m sure people won’t like this and there will be lots of people will be very loud about it. While I think it’s an interesting system, I think there are a couple things wrong with it. And there’s likely to be a backlash from people who aren’t used to this kind of system. For one thing people that buy a game feel entitled to the whole game, no restrictions. This method is a restriction. We’ll see what the response is. While I think the game is good, this one thing could sink it.

There’s a lot to like about Eliminate. While I only got 30 minutes with it last night, I’m twitching to get back into the game now and look forward to it’s release.

Shephard_westie_frisbeeSocial Dog Training Game – Touch Pets: Dogs

I also got a chance to take a look at the nearly final Touch Pets: Dogs. This quiet little app is poised to be one of ngmoco:)’s biggest money maker. The key being if they can tap into users obsessive collection tendencies and get them to spend that in-app iTunes money to pamper their puppies. I think people will. If you look at it, this kind of app isn’t going to appeal to the hard core gamer, but it will appeal to their kids.

The game itself is very well done and appealing. The puppies are cute and fun, there are 8 different breeds, including a robot dog, and offers infinite customization and activities. There’s also a really strong social aspect. Touch Pets: Dogs is of course Plus+ connected. Any of your friends on the Plus+ network with Touch Pets: Dogs can join you for a puppy play date. Doing this earns both of you more points.

Shephard_clothesTouch Pets: Dogs uses a similar in-app purchasing model as Eliminate. You basically get a daily allowance of energy to play, in this case it’s based around food for your dog. Dog food = dog energy = play time. Makes some sense I guess. Your dog gets hungry and you have to feed it. When the puppy plays you get points and can use those points to buy accessories for your pet. If the dog runs out of energy, he’ll stop playing and take a nap or stop cooperating until he gets more food. You earn more dog food over time while you are away from the game.

The compelling part being that if you want to gain more points you have to feed your dog more food. And if you don’t have food, you must buy more. But I think that may be too complex for many people It’s just too many steps separated between points and purchasing accessories. You have to have earned or buy food, feed your pet, play with your pet to gain points. Perhaps do this many days in a row. Then once you have enough points you can buy accessories. This is rather different than other similar games in the past where it’s just a buy/earn points for accessories. The question is, will people get it? Will it be too complex to trigger those 10 year old girl obsessive collection tendencies?

Touch Pets: Dogs is coming soon, ngmoco:) hope to lock it down and make a release candidate this week.

Summary

Notice there’s a common method employed in these two games. Something we haven’t seen yet and don’t yet know how people will respond. The idea that you have to pay to play the game fully beyond a certain amount every day. It’s a new model and one that will be interesting to watch the response to.

One of ngmoco:)’s emerging strengths is tapping into gamers minds and triggering some part of their psyche. Being it the social aspects of online multiplayer gaming or obsessive collecting tendencies. Both of these games have a great opportunity to succeed. The key will be in the final tuning and their pricing.

We don’t yet know exactly when either of these games will launch or at what price. Most likely both will launch soon. And considering the dependencies on and heavy push of in-app purchasing, I’m expecting them to launch on the lower end of the pricing scale.

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