Well, cost effectiveness doesn't really come into the equation, because we aren't paid beyond what we sell, and we take Halfbrick Fridays games as far as we want within reason. Of course it's easier in general to work on casual games than big budget retail games because of the assets and scope required. However, we still set ourselves goals and limits for Halfbrick Fridays development, and some games don't end up making the cut.
Halfbrick Blast Off is the first XNA game to release under your Halfbrick Fridays brand, correct? It's already available for download on Xbox Live. How has the reception been? Can you divulge any sales info?
Almost all the responses and reviews we have received for Halfbrick Blast Off has been very positive. The fact that it's a gravity physics-based engine makes it pretty popular with older gamers. Even though it's a challenging game as a whole, most customers have quickly stated that it's the "good kind" of challenging. The kind where you want to get better, not where the game is punishing you for failing so miserably!
Downloads have been good so far, but given the news about Community Game statistics in general, we weren't expecting an immediate million-seller or anything like that! We think Halfbrick Blast Off is a great game, but with the Community Games platform building recognition is a tougher job. For example, if someone makes an awesome YouTube video or something, it's linked to millions of people within hours, and becomes an instant must-see. With Community Game statistics so low in general you can't really expect this kind of quick viral success. Hopefully recognition of the Halfbrick brand as we release more Community Games, along with Microsoft support, can start to push more gamers to the service.
What can you tell us about the other Halfbrick Fridays games due for release?
We have Halfbrick Echoes coming out hopefully by the start of next week -- around April 21. It's an "action-puzzle, arcade" game. Basically you play as a schoolgirl who has a seizure in art class, and slips into a surreal world where she is followed by "Echoes" -- previous versions of herself. So, as you collect crystals to finish each level, Echoes will appear and begin walking the path you previously traveled. Some crystals have the ability to destroy Echoes, create explosions -- even stop time. There's several gameplay modes beyond the standard Arcade adventure, and local multiplayer. It's a pretty trippy game, but addictive to the max.
After that, we have Halfbrick Thrusts, a new take on the top-down racing genre with an innovative control scheme, and Halfbrick Zombies Are Coming! which is a dual-stick shooter. Our Fridays games aren't in any way related to each other, and for this reason we can explore a whole bunch of cool genres and ideas.
In case you are wondering, we are naming all our XNA games "Halfbrick" at the beginning to ensure gamers know who we are and where to look for our content in the database. If our games start selling by the millions, we want people to know who we are!
You guys aren't just doing XNA development, though. Tell us a bit about your more traditional XBLA game, Raskulls, that was recently revealed. What's that all about?
Raskulls is our flagship game and a completely original Xbox Live Arcade title. It's a puzzle-platformer with racing elements, which sounds completely bizarre, but in action it really works. We created the Raskulls, a cast of cute mischievous dudes with tongue-in-cheek humor and awesome costumes. We want them to be just as memorable as Bomberman and Castle Crashers characters, and so far the response has been extremely positive based on the character profiles.
So anyway, the game! In the single-player story mode, you'll be travelling through three worlds filled with individual levels on a map screen. Each level is based around navigating a bunch of different shaped blocks on foot, by destroying them with a smashing wand and making your way through the level under various constraints. There could be a time limit, a wand "ammo" limit, or even bomb-diffusing levels, where players have to tread carefully amongst minefields of explosive blocks.
Multiplayer is a "racing" game in theory, but it's a footrace through levels filled with blocks. To win, you'll need to choose which blocks to smash to clear your way the quickest, which direction to take as there are multiple paths, and which items to use to gain an advantage. You'll be picking up combat items and more powerful smashing tools, along with "Boosties," which allow the Raskull to sprint extremely fast for a short period of time. Multiplayer is very addictive, and races play out differently every time.
When is it scheduled for release? Do you have a price point set?
We'll be making the final announcement soon, but expect it to hit XBLA in Q3 of 2009. We're in Q2 now, so not too much longer. We have promo artwork and some character profiles out now for everyone to get an initial vibe, and we're working on some hilarious trailers and some gameplay footage. It's going to be huge! Price point? To be announced ...
Why focus solely on Xbox 360 with that though? You mentioned iPhone, but what about PSN or Wii? Do you feel that your game has a place on those platforms?
In actual fact, Raskulls was originally a DS game. It eventually became bigger and better, and with the multiplayer modes and online leaderboards we thought Xbox Live would be a great home.
We are exploring all platforms as we develop our original games. XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, even iPhone -- they are all completely viable options. Will you be seeing Raskulls on other platforms? Maybe. We're really hoping the IP takes off in a huge way, and based on the success on XBLA, we'd love to release more Raskulls games on a whole variety of consoles.