Creating Games and Starting Companies

What an awesome month! I really enjoy creating games and starting companies.

March was an amazing month for powder. I attempted to spend most of my mornings skiing. I love living and working in Kelowna. This is a beautiful place.

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Epic Snails continues to slowly move along. The team at SkyVu have been busy updating the server. We are currently exploring the new SpatialOS engine by Improbable. I have a couple ideas to make the world bigger with more MMO features. I also have a rough outline for the Epic Snails story. An evil slug pretending to be a snail has become leader of the dreaded SALT organization and has decided to exterminate all the epic snails! The snails will need to rally together and defeat the evil (unnamed) slug.

Hyper Hippo Games continues to update and develop AdVenture Capitalist and AdVenture Communist. The team is now considering a third game and I am excited to see what they create!

Happy Bacon Games continues to explore new opportunities with Facebook Instant Games. We will be launching a number of new games this week.

Screenzilla continues to grow. This is my attempt to create a new kind of publisher. One that works with the audience to create games. More news in the next couple months as we begin to publish a number of new games.

I finally did it. After many attempts, I started a small board game company called OOMM Games. OOMM stands for “Out of my mind”. This was the tag line from a humourous newsletter I helped write in college. Our first game No Escape is now available on Kickstarter and we are looking for 400 backers.

I am totally rethinking Box Critters. I have decided not to go with 3D and develop the entire world in 2D HTML5. My goal is to create something more like Club Penguin. This project has been on the back burner as I am still exploring a couple ideas.

Digital Toy Maker

I think of myself as a “digital toy maker”

Start with the Character!

I start with an idea, usually the character first. I will sketch a couple ideas then hire a professional character designer and begin creating the character. All my characters needs to be simple and iconic. The character represents the player and anchors the entire world.

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 Epic Snails is a simple idea. What if snails were tanks?

Epic Snails is a simple idea. What if snails were tanks?

Explore the World

Next is to explore a world for the characters. I hire an environmental artist to capture mood and tone for the world. All my worlds tend to have a similar style: bright colours, whimsical, curious details and silly jokes. I have never been a fan of polished artwork. I believe we need to leave something for the player’s imagination. The world should never be complete.

 First environmental concept for Epic Snails

First environmental concept for Epic Snails

Focus on a handful of features (Keep it simple)

When creating Epic Snails, I considered the popularity of Club Penguin’s Dojo. This was a social space with a multiplayer game. A large number of players would login each day, visit the dojo, play Card-Jitsu, and meet new friends. Club Penguin’s Card-Jitsu had amazing retention.

Epic Snails would have a social space and a multiplayer tank game. These two spaces would anchor the game and all my design decisions. Each space needs to feel unique and reward the player, yet create a tension between the two spaces, moving the player back and forth. Creating a rewarding play pattern and building a community of fans.

 The Dojo from Club Penguin

The Dojo from Club Penguin

Open Development

I believe in open development and I am excited to bring fans along every step of the way. My goal is to launch games early and listen to feedback. None of my games are ever finished and will continue to evolve over time. Most games will fail, but this is an opportunity to learn and create better games. I encourage fans to ask questions, share ideas or simply hang out with the team.

Test your Ideas

I launched my first snail experiment in March 2012 called “Box of Snails”. This was my first attempt at creating a multiplayer world for mobile and my first attempt at creating a world with Unity. The experiment was simple. Allow players to become a snail, meet friends and explore a simple cardboard box. The experiment was a success and I was amazed to watch players working together to climb objects within the world. I decided to hold off on my snails and focus on Mech Mice and building Hyper Hippo.

 Experiment 1: Box of Snails for Mobile (March 2012)

Experiment 1: Box of Snails for Mobile (March 2012)

My Second experiment called “Experimental Coffee” launched 4 years later in June 2016. My goal was to see if I could create a simple multiplayer world for both web and mobile. I really enjoyed this experiment and I learned a number of things about the current state of WebGL, Unity and mobile devices. I have always loved web games and I look forward to creating more web games in the future.

 Experiment 2: Experimental Coffee for Web and Mobile (June 2016)

Experiment 2: Experimental Coffee for Web and Mobile (June 2016)

Random thoughts

UI/UX is really important to me. I will spend hours thinking about a single button. In my past life, I was a professional web designer. The UI is the connection between the player and the world. It has taken me years to learn to let go. I have learned over the years that the UI will go through hundreds of iterations and should be driven by player patterns. Stop wasting time and do your UI last, but the UX should always be first!

to be continued...

Epic Snails BETA

The last time I launched a Virtual World (MMO) BETA was 12 years, 3 months and 13 days ago. For those curious Club Penguin's BETA launched August 22, 2005. This has been a long journey for me. I have forgotten how much I love creating safe spaces for your imagination. Each world I create is a digital toy box, full of interesting characters and exciting games. This world is yours, enjoy! Thanks for playing

Epic Snails

 Busy working on the logo. My goal is to create an iconic logo that represents each of the snail tank classes in the world. (Not final design)

Busy working on the logo. My goal is to create an iconic logo that represents each of the snail tank classes in the world. (Not final design)

For the past couple months I have been working a number of new virtual worlds or MMO games. Each world will include a character to customize, items to collect, events to attend, a world to explore and games to play. One of the worlds is Epic Snails. I have been teasing the idea of snail tanks for years and finally decided to make it happen.

Epic Snails is pretty simple. Your a snail, and you can climb and move anywhere. The world is divided into two parts. The secret base (or headquarters) and the battle field. In the base you will explore, buy items and meet new friends. In the battle field you will join a team to earn coins and experience points.

A good games take time. Epic Snails started as a number of doodles, then became Box of Snails. Box of Snails allowed me to develop a 3D character and experiment with the "look" or style of the world. Last year, I created another experiment called Experimental Coffee. My goal was to test the multiuser server and backend services. Then I waited for a team.

I decided to partner with the team that created Battle Bears the award winning mobile shooter game. I have really enjoyed getting to know the SkyVu team and I am excited to show you their work. We still have a lot to do, but we are confident that we can launch the BETA this NOVEMBER 2017.

Next week we are officially announcing the game. Thanks for following and continue to provide feedback on any of my games.

Items, Catalogues and Shops!

Here is a little secret, between hiking, biking, skiing and being the CEO of Hyper Hippo Games, I do find time to create Virtual Worlds. Usually I spend a couple hours in the morning, drinking coffee and rewriting all my code.

Today my focus is on items, catalogues and shops. I believe collecting is a core feature of virtual worlds. Overall I am planning a simple system. As a designer it is my job to reduce the users friction whenever possible. Virtual shops can be painful and many users will abandon games because of poor shop and catalog design.

Busy Week

Wow, another amazing week! I have been busy working on a number of things. Here is a quick update.

MMMO Server

The majority of my work has been developing a single server platform for all my Virtual Worlds and MMO games. I am slowly working through the core features and how they will work together. My goal is to create a single server for HTML5, Steam and Mobile. For those interested I am using: Node.js and PlayFab. Brackets is my preferred editor.

 More concepts for rooms to explore in Box Critters

More concepts for rooms to explore in Box Critters

Box Critters

Started working with a group of talented 3D Artists and Animators this week. My goal is to bring the critters to life. I expect to share more in a couple weeks. 3,500 people have pre-registered their nicknames in the first 30 days. If you would like to pre-register your name please visit: http://boxcritters.com

 Exploring the art style and theme

Exploring the art style and theme

Unnamed Snail Tank MMO

I have partnered with the team that created Battle Bears to create my Snail Tank MMO. The idea is pretty simple. Your a snail with a tank cannon. Players will collect items, equip their snail and battle.

Time to get back to work!

A couple years ago I started Hyper Hippo a game studio in Kelowna, British Columbia Canada. Through a series of endless twists and turns the studio created more than 80 games in the last 5 years. Many of the games failed, but we learned a lot! We learned how to test, we learned how to validate, we learned about the mobile market and we learned how to listen to our the fans.

I am disappointed with the recent announcement from Disney about the closing of Club Penguin. I do not see a need to close Club Penguin. I understand that Flash is being retired, but the Web is not dead. With a couple clicks the current Flash World could become a stand-alone Desktop Application. Look to Minecraft. I am a designer, designers solve problems.

Two worlds collide!

For years I have been struggling to create a new Virtual World that would live up to the success of Club Penguin. I have watched a generation of players move from the web browser to the mobile device. I have learned that mobile is very different then the desktop. Yet both are key to the success of a modern Virtual World.

Time to be honest. When I heard the pitch for Hyper Hippo's AdVenture Capitalist, I thought it was a joke. How could a game about squeezing lemons and progress bars be fun? I was wrong. Very wrong. AdVenture Capitalist has more than 20 million downloads and continues to generate a couple million dollars a year. A quick glance at the Apple Charts and AdVenture Capitalist is one of the top 25 games downloaded. AdVenture Capitalist continues to surprise me and Hyper Hippo has become a leader in Idle Clicker games.

The secret to Idle Clickers is that they are popular with the "core" game audience. This is the same audience that plays MMOs like World of Warcraft and Virtual Worlds like Club Penguin. When you distill an Idle Clicker you will see an deep gameplay that drives Completion (collect stars, complete all missions), Power (leveling up, getting powerful gear) and a strong pull to see what you missed.

I am a leader in Virtual Worlds and Hyper Hippo is a leader in Idle Clicker games. It is time to create an Idle Virtual World.

But how will it work?

I don't know.

Back in January I decided to get back to work. My goal is to create a number of Virtual Worlds, MMOs and Idle Games that explore this idea. Each will focus on a unique set of features and social communities. Yet, they will all share a common server and development pipeline.

Here is a list of the worlds that I am working on:

Box Critters - This is a Virtual World similar to Club Penguin. You will create a character, explore the world, collect items and meet new friends. The economy will be different. You will collect coins and items with an idle generator. Help create this world and reserve your nickname. Visit: http://boxcritters.com

Unnamed MMORPG-Lite - Many years ago I ran a BBS Door game called Legend of the Red Dragon. I have always wanted to create a simple MMORPG where you create a hero, go on adventures, collect loot and save the village. This game has been fun to develop, and I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Unnamed Snail Tank MMO - For years I have had an idea of Snail Tanks. Hey I'm RocketSnail! This is a little word where you create a snail and battle with your friends. I have partnered with another studio to develop this game and expect to begin testing on Steam in a couple months.

2017 looks like an exciting year, and I look forward to sharing my new worlds with you. Got questions, tweet me on Twitter @rocketsnail

What are you building?

Many of you have been following me on Twitter and Facebook and I have been posting a series messages about my secret project call "coffee". The idea behind coffee is to start small and create a single multiuser space for desktop and mobile. My goal is to develop the following core features:

  • Server - I am using a Photon server to connect all the players.
  • Triggers - Triggers are locations in the scene that trigger an event. I currently have triggers that will move the player, start animations, open doors, activate monsters and change the player.
  • Accounts - I am currently working with PlayFab to develop accounts. Accounts allows each player to save their player profiles, characters, items and stats.
  • Chat - I am currently working on a couple ideas for chat. My goal is to create a messaging stream that will allow players to communicate when they are on and offline.

My big vision is to create a Virtual World with MMO features and activities.