We sat down with Idle Games’ CEO and CCO Jeffrey Hyman who answered a few questions about the San Francisco company’s breakout hit Idle Worship. And from personal experience, I can tell you the game is addicting – after all, who wouldn’t want to be a god? The game incorporates cheeky, irreverent game play and real time interactions with fellow mere mortals, gods, and island-dwelling Mudlings as players try to build the biggest following on Facebook. One of my favorite aspects of this game is that you can play with strangers or friends, and the game design is not only entertaining, but often laugh out loud funny. Whether you choose to cast blessings or curses, check it out for yourself here.
How long has Idle Worship been in development?
How long did it take God to create the Heaven and the Earth? It took us longer We began development in November 2009 and just wrapped it up before our release on March 14th 2012.
What do you want people to know about how cool it is?
If they look directly at the game their eyes will melt and their brains will explode due to the sheer unfiltered awesomeness radiated by our pixels.
On a more serious note, Idle Worship has redefined what is technically and artistically possible in a Flash based game. First I want people to know it’s an original game and I think the users will respect that. Adobe’s audience knows how daunting it is to try to come up with and then execute a wholly original concept. Additionally our team implemented a completely novel art and animation tool chain combining hand drawn and painted 2D animations, with Flash…all set within a richly painted universe. As proud as we are of the artistic innovations, the team also created quite a few novel technological improvements for the social gaming industry. First, Idle Worship allows you to play synchronously, meaning together with friends & strangers, all in real time. Second, three of our five patents cover social mechanics designed to connect friends and strangers. We believe that creating new connections is the unrealized promise of social games. Idle worship creates connections by leveraging the social graph in unique and awesome ways, and I guess that’s a long winded answer that to say our art and technology are pretty sweet.
Idle Worship seems like a great idea, how did you come up with the game?
The genre of god games has been around since the 80’s and I always enjoyed playing them as a kid. But what always disappointed me about the genre was; it never felt like I was a god when all I could control were non playing characters. It occurred to me that a social network was the perfect place to create the world’s first “polytheistic god game.” In our game you try to create the biggest religion and become the most powerful god by gaining (through kindness or cruelty) the worship and adoration of friends and strangers, in addition to the non-playing characters. Clearly I have issues that will take years of psychotherapy to work through.
Why do you think people will be drawn to the game and how will they relate to the game, the characters, the concept?
I think that in the beginning people will be drawn to the game to check out the art and technology. After that, I hope they discover and become delighted by the story, copywriting, the characters and the complete entertainment experiment we try to provide. As far as people relating to the characters, we purposely made them lovable to both male and female players. Our main character is cute enough to be loved by women and edgy enough to be liked by (or tortured by) even the most jaded, skinny jean wearing, male hipster. In regards to the consumer’s ability to relate to a god game, I believe god games tap into the fundamental human desire to be liked and adored. Additionally, they cater to today’s fascination with things like “the number of Facebook friends you have” or “how many Twitter followers you have amassed.”
How did you build the game? What tools did you use and what went into the design?
We built Idle Worship using Adobe Flash Builder 4/4.5, Flash CS5.5. Almost all our other tools and libraries were developed from scratch to maximize performance and address the unique requirements of our game. For example, we built an isometric rendering engine designed to handle large maps constructed from thousands of tiles, hundreds of animated game objects and positional sound effects. Our game maps are randomly generated using a tile placement algorithm that provides each player with a unique, visually pleasing environment.
Our development methodology is more akin to the approach of a console company than the typical casual game developer.
Some highlights of our approach include:
- Compilation and continuous integration of Flash code via an automated build and deployment system (using Jenkins).
- An open-ended architecture that supports any number of scripted characters, abilities, virtual goods and user interface components.
- Scripting hooks built into the Flash client for automated testing and tutorials.
- Application persistence and content (with localization support) managed via a Django CMS tier.
- A modular approach that allows application subsystems to be developed independently, and re-used in future games.
- The Flash client communicates with our proprietary simulation server via Google Protocol Buffers, delivering a synchronous gameplay experience to all concurrently connected clients.
Why did you choose to use Adobe technologies?
The mission of Idle Games is to create products that combine the best in art and technology, creating an experience that is greater than the individual parts. The workflow provided by Flash and other Adobe tools makes it easy to integrate our art and animation into the game; our engineers work closely with artists and designers to make sure their vision comes to fruition. Furthermore, Flash has the install base that allows us to reach a wide audience, and Adobe provides the art and development tools that let us quickly produce a console-quality social game.
Has Idle Games build with Flash/AIR in the past?
This is our first title … but we are working on two more as we speak, so stay tuned.
Were there any challenges facing the company that Flash/AIR helped to alleviate?
Flash supports rapid prototyping and development of online games. It allowed us to iterate on our ambitious feature set, and quickly validate and test the novel social mechanics integrated into the game.
What platforms are you targeting for your games?
We are currently developing Idle Worship and other games for desktop and mobile.
Are you currently monetizing the game? How are you doing this?
Idle Games is in the business of selling entertainment and art. Within Idle Worship, there are a number of ways a user can upgrade their virtual life. First, the user can customize the appearance of their world through virtual goods. We believe that if you are going to sell people “things that don’t exist,” the very least you can do is take the time to make them look as good as possible. We spent the time to create thousands of unique, hand painted elements that users can buy to customize the appearance of their avatars and/or their world. Also, Idle Worship users can elect to spend money to accelerate game play and/or gain power. How we are monetizing the game is not novel and is based on the proven freemium business model. However, what is unique is our approach to monetization. As Forbes magazine said, “Most social games hope to make money by badgering and frustrating the player to the point that they pay a tiny amount of money. Idle Worship hopes to engage and entertain the player to the point where they happily pay ….”
Have you had a chance to evaluate Stage 3D? What do you think?
Not yet, but only because we’ve been busy building our first game in 2D. From what we are seeing we are excited about being able to create a 3D game that doesn’t look like it was created in the 90s.
I know you just launched, but how do you see the game growing over time?
We see Idle Games as an entertainment company. The properties we create are not shallow experiences meant to be quickly consumed and even more quickly discarded.
Before we began building Idle Games, we wrote a 149 page “script” (if you will), that documented the world of Idle Worship and all the features, functionalities and stories we hoped to integrate into the game. I would say at launch, we managed to get about 25% of what we wanted into the game. So we hope to be able to continue richly developing and evolving the world of Idle Worship for quite some time.
What do you see as the next big thing in gaming? What is trending right now?
Ever since 2009, we felt that enabling synchronous game play and fostering play between like-minded strangers was the technological future of social gaming. On the artistic side we felt that people just had to begin raising the bar on the production quality of art, animation and story. I’m glad to see developers and artists actively working (and being allowed) to work on those things.
Do you have anything else up your sleeve?
Of course we do. While we have a large team working on Idle Worship, we’ve also been working on two other games, one of which will launch this summer. Both games incorporate Idle Games’ focus on large scale synchronous game mechanics combined with lush, richly painted and illustrated artwork and animation.
Again, where can people go to play the game?
Just go to http://apps.facebook.com/idleworship/ and start building your religion and acting godly.
For more information about Adobe & Gaming, as well as an amazing showcase of games, check out http://gaming.adobe.com.