Tag: Fireproof games »
Fantastic puzzle game, The Room Two, is currently on sale for $0.99 and, well, I don't really want to say any more than that. It's brilliant - what more do you need to know?
Richly deserving of our Editor's Choice award at the end of 2013, the game has you attempting to unlock multiple boxes in order to piece together the mystery that binds them all together. It's a deeply atmospheric puzzle game that feels remarkably tactile in nature.
It was a bargain at its regular price and it's all the sweeter at $0.99. Buy it now before the price goes back up.
Were you looking forward to Fireproof Games' The Room Two, only to be disappointed to find out it was only available for the iPad? Well turn that frown upside-down because The Room Two is officially coming to the App Store for the iPhone this Thursday (1/30). When Jen Allen reviewed the iPad version back in December, she said "It’s the kind of game that gets into the player’s brain, leaving them thinking about how to solve something even when not playing. That’s a sign of a classy game, which this most definitely is." Sounds intriguing, right?
So if you've been anxious to try out the sequel to one of the App Store's most popular box-puzzlers, but unable to procure an iPad, then keep an eye out on Thursday. You'll be banging your head against the wall (in a good way) before you know it.
Arguably the most anticipated puzzle game of the year thanks to the runaway success of its predecessor, The Room Two is set for release on December 12. In the buildup to this very exciting time, I had the chance to go hands-on with the game to see exactly what's to come next week.
Only having had the chance to play the early stages of the game and not wishing to spoil too much, The Room Two is immediately enticing. There's an easy-to-follow tutorial for those who haven't yet enjoyed the original (and if so, why not? There's still plenty of time to lose one's self to it!), and a gentle introduction to what to expect. As before, puzzles are set to be as tactile as they are logical with a layering of conundrums to keep players busy. The eerie music continues to add plenty of tension to what's going on. This time there's set to be a wider variety of rooms to tackle too, which should prove quite enthralling.
The Room Two is set to be the kind of experience where it's best to go in cold, but it's looking pretty positive so far. We'll be sure to bring you a full review next week. For now, we've shared a few words with Barry Meade, commercial director at Fireproof Studios, about how development has gone and just how the success of The Room helped pave the way.
148Apps: The first game was commercially and critically very successful. Have you found this adding to the pressure to get the second game right?
Barry Meade (BM): Not really, we're honestly just delighted to get the chance to work on our own games full stop. Having said that I think we'd all be disappointed if the second game doesn't do better than the first as we've put a lot more work into it this time around. But we do honestly feel that if The Room Two is good enough and deserves to do well, it will do well, and that if it fails its because we failed. And so, if the game's fate is in our hands alone then there's no point in worrying unduly about outside pressures or expectations. We'll do the best we can and see how that flies with our audience.
148Apps: How has that success helped with the development of the sequel?
BM: Hugely. Whereas The Room had only 1 programmer and 1 or 2 artists on it at one time, The Room Two has had up to 4 programmers and 8-10 artists on it during the course of development. We made The Room Two in the time frame that the design required rather than hurried because we needed to make money by X date or whatever, and we were only able to decide that because of The Room's success. But frankly we can't think of any better way to spend the money we earn than to reinvest it in our creative process. For us financial success means freedom - freedom to do what we think is necessary to make the best version of the game we want to make - not to have to work for or make decisions for somebody else's benefit.
For instance if we had to work with a publisher, The Room would never have been created at all - it's a rare publisher that wants to push things forward for gamers and they generally look down on games and developers who do that. No, we needed to listen to ourselves for The Room to happen and thankfully that's what we did, and put our own savings on the line to do it. Now that it has paid off for us, we're even less likely to listen to others. We're in an ideal creative place but we're very aware that this position depends on us genuinely making novel, new, interesting games that deserve audience attention. I hope we live up to it.
148Apps: How will The Room Two be different from its predecessor?
BM: We were all very happy with how The Room turned out as our first game, though the very limited money we had to spend on its development made the game smaller than it deserved to be. So this time around we wanted to give the concept what it deserved in terms of development time, resources, manpower etc. to see where we could take it. In almost every way The Room Two is a more fully-featured game than the first one - taking what worked and building on it, making it deeper, larger and even a bit more complicated. The environments are a lot more interesting, the objects more intricate and interactive.
So it was a harder project to make this time, it had more moving parts, testing it was a bit more fraught etc. but we knew all that going into it - we just wanted to make it bigger and better across the board. Fireproof may never be a flashy AAA developer but as long as we are working on something we are going to make the best damn version of it that we possibly can. It was that attitude which helped us make The Room in the first place and this time is no different. We think its better in every way than the first, let's hope the audience agrees.
148Apps: After the success of the original, was there the temptation to simplify the game to appeal to a more casual market?
BM: Nah. We're amazingly happy with the audience we have, we have no interest in trying to squeeze squillion$ of dollars from The Room. It would be great to pick up more users with The Room Two as we've worked hard to make it as good to play and value-for-money as possible. But for us its very important to make our work with our own sensibilities at the forefront and not to worry too much about what others expect or think. Our audience bought into the love we put in the first game and if we want to please anyone else then it's those who enjoyed the first game. They will be our toughest critics and rightly so.
As gamers we've always believed that if we pleased our own sensibilities and standards first, others will pick up on the care and attention we put into it, whereas if we obviously attempt to chase what other people want or expect, the audience will see through it, smell the desperation and move onto something more honest and interesting. As in a lot of things in life, chasing something indirectly is often the way to catch it, so concentrating on our own wishes for the game and by extension our current audience seems the most reliable and sensible way to attract brand new users into the game.
148Apps: Many players wished they had more time with The Room, will its sequel be longer?
BM: Yes, quite a bit longer. A lot of people who played The Room thought it was a bit short but well worth the money they paid, in fact the user ratings are amazingly high for it so we're hoping that adding a bit of length and depth will keep them just as pleased and perhaps tickle them even more. The curious thing about puzzle games is how mistaken everybody can be about other players experiences. Some player who is a freak for puzzle games generally will play the game and complete it in 1.5 hours and will be convinced the game is actually short. But for every one of those Ninja players we know there's 5-10 other players who took 3-5 hours to play it, and they have a very different view on the length - any longer and they would feel overwhelmed.
Puzzle games are very different to other games in that sense - the experience they give players depends very much on the personality and brain of those who are playing it. It's this engagement of the brain that makes them so beloved I think - people's own imagination takes a very active part in the playing. It might explain all the love the game gets - we're not the biggest selling game by any stretch but people who have played it really really love the game. We are super thankful for that, I can tell you it makes us sleep well at night knowing it.
Many thanks to Barry for taking the time to answer our questions.
Set for release December 12, we'll have a full review of The Room 2 that day. In the meantime, why not get reacquainted with The Room?
Over the past five years, many thousands of developers have tried their luck in creating the next big hit for iOS gamers. While some were there right from the beginning, others have found success in only the last couple of years. I took the time to chat to four relatively recently successful developers to find out exactly why they were so interested in pursuing the App Store route, and how they've found the experience so far.
"First and foremost it was the ease of development and getting things...running quickly, with no development kits and long processes of approval," explained Simon Flesser of Simogo (most famous for the rather exceptionally spooky Year Walk). "That coupled with us being interested in the iPhone as a gaming platform and the different features it provides, touchscreen interaction, motion controls, constant internet connection..."
Barry Meade of Fireproof Studios (makers of BAFTA award winning The Room) had similar views: "As a small team with little resources to draw on, the fact you could self-publish on the App Store was a huge enabler for us...The Room might never have been made if we'd had to rely on a publisher as it was a bit too unusual...they would not have believed in the game like we did." As he pointed out, "the App Store allowed a team from nowhere to make a small game and see big success."
The Room's Fireproof Games is one such team made up of ex-AAA developers, with the studio formed by six ex-lead artists from Criterion Games' Burnout franchise. Similarly, Warhammer Quest's Rodeo Games came from such a background. Formed from executives previously working for the likes of EA, Lionhead, Criterion and Codemasters, Rodeo Games were provided the opportunity to pursue something new, thanks to the App Store.
"Well, we'd been in the AAA games industry for many years and had been talking about how to take steps in setting up our own company. The App Store was just flourishing at the time. It was this awesome, new, bold place for smaller dev teams to put their games in-front of a huge audience. So we crafted a plan with the mindset of making the very best turn based strategy games on iOS, and Rodeo Games was the result," Ben Murch, co-founder, explained.
Neil Rennison of Fighting Fantasy developer, Tin Man Games, enjoyed a similar revelatory moment, after a move to Australia, gave him the chance of starting his own indie development studio, just as the iPhone and the App Store came to fruition: "I was originally running a small games art outsource company in the UK and then...I...moved to Australia with the dreams of starting my own indie and making my own titles instead of working on other people's games."
How different do they all think things would be if the App Store didn't exist, though? "Very! Certain types of business models and certain types of games would probably not exist without the App Store," Simon reckoned. Ben offered similar views, although noted the loss of the "middle tier" of gaming: "The gaming world would be a very different place right now. Just think about how many small companies and jobs have been created just from iOS gaming alone. Before the App Store, there was this surge towards "middle tier" gaming, i.e. titles coming out in the £10 - £20 bracket. I guess that market would have grown more and become an eco-system in itself. However, thanks to the App Store, creators who were interested in that model shifted into the mobile market, effectively crippling the whole "middle tier" gaming sector."
Mention was also made, by Neil, of the fragmentation of the mobile phone operator universe, something that was a significant problem before the advent of the App Store. "Apple's stock would be worth a lot less", noted Barry. All quite rightly pointed out that none of them would be in the position they're in today, if it wasn't for the ease of the App Store.
For the most part, all four of our interviewees were very positive about the App Store's impact. Each citing how it's "paved the way for many small developers", as Simon eloquently put it, and enabled them to try riskier material. As Ben pointed out, "Without the App Store, it would be nigh on impossible to get your strange little game idea in front of....well, thousands of people would be a struggle. Suddenly, anyone can release something that has exposure to HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of potential buyers. Just thinking about that blows my mind."
Financial barriers are also lowered, as Barry explained: "The relative cheapness of mobile games development allows niche ideas to thrive." Neil reinforced that point, citing how the games industry "was slowly becoming a bloated AAA only console game market and traditional game developers were beginning to struggle as the mid-point of the market was getting squeezed. The app revolution helped give developers options and in a way created its own new market in which everyone had the same opportunities from the big publishers to the lone bedroom coder...[it] was a perfect springboard for budding entrepreneurial devs like us."
Simon was slightly more cautious, enjoying the risks that were possible to take, but also citing how it's "paved the way for some very questionable money-grabbing schemes… the market place has been somewhat flooded with low-quality software. It might have lowered the quality bar for what is considered to be a release-able piece software."
That's clearly a thought that runs through each of the developers' minds, given that each recommends changes that make it easier to find good apps and games. Ben would appreciate a better quality Related Apps section and a twist on the Genius section, "Some form of "We recommend these Apps for you based on what you've downloaded already" type thing." Discoverability is a big thing for Barry too, "There should be a lot more ways to format the lists of games when browsing the store. A chart by user rating is very needed for those smaller companies who make great games but get buried by the marketing clout of richer but arguably less skilful publishers."
Higher "quality control" is an important wish for Simon, while Neil would appreciate a way to reply to App Store reviewers.
For the most part, though, all four developers were, understandably, happy with how the App Store is performing, both in terms of business and personal use.
"I think Apple does a marvellous job at finding and promoting good games. It's so nice that they can give small developers, such as us, a big spotlight if they find something that is good...it's almost...unbelievable that something as strange as Year Walk can get the same type of exposure as a mainstream game from a big publisher," beamed Simon.
The "open territory" of the Store was appreciated by Barry, also, "You can upload a game to the store and be published in 150 countries within 24 hours - this is really quite incredible when you compare it with how difficult it was to get a game onto other platforms only a few years ago. It's pretty much a revolution in terms of enabling creativity," with Neil offering similar views.
As a consumer, it's also proved quite the hit with Ben pointing out, "it's that feeling of being able to browse a huge catalogue of games from your sofa, eventually finding something that's right up your street. They have great landing pages in the App Store making it easy to find great games that you may not have heard of previously." Neil appreciated the vast wealth of games, too, "it's enabled me to play games that I haven't played in over 20 years and also experience new innovative game designs from some truly talented people that wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to shine."
While it's clear that the App Store isn't perfect, mostly in terms of offering great visibility to the titles that deserve it, these four developers have clearly found it an overwhelmingly useful experience. Each of them, from different backgrounds, have found great and deserved success, highlighting the best of what can come out of the App Store in terms of original efforts.
We're certainly fascinated to see what will come next from these relatively new developers, part of the next generation of exciting game makers.