Most famous for its work on fairly violent fare such as console game, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and, more recently, iOS title The Bowling Dead, Slant Six Games has experienced quite a change of pace lately. That change of pace has manifested itself in the form of Max's Pirate Planet, an immediately adorable looking board game adventure for kids. With such a drastic change of focus, I thought I'd take the time to find out more about Slant Six's thinking, courtesy of the game's producer, Kelly Richard Fennig.148apps: Max's Pirate Planet is quite a change of pace from other titles, what was the inspiration behind making a children's app?
Kelly Richard Fennig (KRF): You are absolutely right there! We are creating lots of new “firsts” in our studio right now, and Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure is our first children’s game and our first self published title. The inspiration for the game, came from a studio game design jam. Last year, a small 6 person team pitched this board-game set on a globe, about pirates, to be played on a tablet. The concept was definitely different from what we historically developed, there wasn’t a zombie or US Navy Seal in sight!
Creating such an entirely different game genre for a new audience was a welcome challenge for the team, and we wanted to see if we could successfully create an app kids would love...honestly it was way too fun of an idea to not make it. We enjoyed being able to step back in time and reminisce on our experiences playing classic board games with our families and the simple treasured moments they provide. As luck would have it, one of our artists has a brother who is a child psychologist, and his insights helped tremendously. We also did many play tests to see firsthand what the response was...So when the timing was right, we assembled a very small team to make the game...and 15 weeks later, Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure was born!
“If you’re going to try something so left-field of the norm, might as keep going left as possible and eventually it feels right.” (Some advice Slant Six's Producer’s father told him as he was growing up)
148apps: It's only just been released, but will there be any additional content for Max's Pirate Planet in the future?
KRF: We do have some content planned, but we are keeping this in our back pockets as further bonus material once the game has had a chance to gain popularity. As a product targeted at young children and also a board game, we wanted to avoid adding content via in-app purchases. This was a comfortable decision for us, as we know it will appeal to parents with young children. Our goal was to keep it very much like the experience families have when they buy a physical board game so all the pieces are complete. However, Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure has been designed to easily add more content if our customers are demanding it. We have already thought of additional characters, mini-games, and possibly even a new globe. In short, the more popular the game becomes, the more content we’ll keep adding to keep it exciting for players! 148apps: As the first self-published title for Slant Six, how have things been different compared to working for a separate publisher?
KRF: Simply put, we are masters of our own destiny! It was a very empowering process for the team to make design decisions, influenced by having our game play tested by our target audience (children 6-10 years, and their parents). Our goal now is to get as much awareness for the app as we can.
As an independent studio, we don’t have the financial backing of a large publisher driving the publicity and user acquisition for this game. Our biggest challenge, which is the same for any independent developer, is getting our app discovered without a pre-existing user base. We had extensive play-test sessions prior to launch and the response was overwhelmingly popular. Our team couldn’t quite believe it until we saw the reactions of the kids, including a group of cub scouts going absolutely nuts over the game! Simply put: If children play this game, THEY WILL LOVE THIS GAME (this may sound like a bold claim, but this is our truthful experience). Another “first” for our studio is that this isn’t a free-to-play app, therein lies the challenge. It is a matter of informing people and getting it in as many influential hands as possible to see for themselves.
148apps: What's next for the team? Will we continue to see this new, light-hearted Slant Six or will there be a return to more serious fare?
KRF: To answer your question: we do have some large core multiplayer tablet games in the works that will appeal to our traditional gaming audience and we are looking at some potential next-gen console opportunities. That being said, we had so much fun making Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure, it’s been a breath of fresh air for the team to try something new, and if our customers tell us they want to see more light hearted family friendly product, we will gladly oblige. In fact we’ve got a few ideas up our sleeve already!
Thanks to Slant Six and Kelly Richard Fennig for taking the time to answer our questions.
Max's Pirate Planet is available now as an Universal app, priced at $2.99.