Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Spry Fox's David Edery discusses the real impact of social gaming with his Facebook and mobile title Triple Town, which launched on Steam this month.
Triple Town is an original puzzle game about building a city. It's basically a re-invention of the match-three genre; instead of matching three-plus objects to clear a space, you match three-plus objects to create higher-level objects. Trees becomes huts, mansions become castles, etc. Meanwhile, giant bears move around the board blocking your progress. It seems simple at first, but this is a game that requires extraordinary practice and planning skills. Many people played for months before building their first castle (and there are two tiers beyond that!). We've heard Triple Town described as "the Civilization of match-three games" and we really like that. Triple Town won a bunch of awards in 2011 and we've been updating and improving it ever since!
Are you trying to break Triple Town out of the "social game" box with the Steam launch?
Not really; it's been doing fine as a single player game on mobile for over a year now. The goal of the Steam launch was to bring a flavor of Triple Town to people who might not otherwise have heard about it, to offer a full-screen and offline mode, and to satisfy fans who wanted an all-you-can-eat version of the game with absolutely no IAP in it.
How do you respond to those who don't qualify Facebook or mobile games as "real" games?
If you mean something that can entertain you for hundreds or even thousands of hours, with beautiful (if not hyper-realistic) art and interesting gameplay mechanics, then there are tons of great examples of "real games" on mobile.
It's hard to respond to that because it implies a definition of "real game" that just makes no sense to me. If by "real game" you mean "not Halo 4" then yes, I guess Facebook and mobile games are not real games yet. But if you mean something that can entertain you for hundreds or even thousands of hours, with beautiful (if not hyper-realistic) art and interesting gameplay mechanics, then there are tons of great examples of "real games" on mobile. (This is less true of Facebook but I have faith that platform will catch up eventually.) What's nice about mobile is that you can find anything you want there – really hardcore action games, deep strategy games, fluffy casual stuff, and silly throwaway games if that's your thing. It's all there if you just open your eyes and look for it.
Do you think Triple Town is more suited for mobile or PC? What are the major differences between those markets?
I don't personally feel a strong preference for either platform. Mobile is nice because Triple Town is, for the most part, a game that you can pick up and put down whenever you want, without disrupting your flow too much, which makes it a really great game on the go. PC/web is nice because you can easily compare your scores with your friends' scores, and in the PC build you can go full-screen. And we've tried to distinguish the different platforms a bit; Triple Town's two-minute mode is available only on mobile, while the Capital City metagame is only available on the PC/web.
What's the coolest aspect of Triple Town?
To me, the coolest aspect is the fact that a 6-year-old can play the game and enjoy it, but even an adult who loves strategy and planning games will still need to play for a long time before they can call themselves a master of the game. Triple Town has an incredibly long but gentle learning curve.
Mainly the desire to take a crusty old game genre and do something completely new with it. Also, we needed an excuse to put a giant bear in a ninja outfit.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
Because if you want to make truly original games, and you want to release them more often than once every three or four years, there are only a handful of "established companies" you can work for. We care about two things: bringing happiness to the world and having the freedom to experiment and try new things. Spry Fox enables us to do that.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Definitely. Part of the reason we can do what we do is because other indies who came before us have generously offered to share their ideas, tips, and horror stories with the rest of us. We've learned so much from other indies and we're trying our best to give back now that we feel like we have good tales of our own to tell. We post detailed insights into the performance of our games (and our thoughts on game development in general) on our personal blogs at Lost Garden and Edery.
We hated having to do the lawsuit in the first place, but we were really happy with the settlement. Unfortunately, you know how these things are; we had to sign a very strict non-disclosure agreement in order to reach the settlement, so I can't talk about it much. But as I've previously announced, one of the consequences of the settlement was that we walked away with ownership of the Yeti Town IP. We still haven't decided what we're going to do with that yet... happy to hear your readers' ideas!
For the past two years we've been quietly plugging away at a bunch of original games. We thought that several of them would be out by now, but it took us longer than we expected to work the kinks out of 'em. As coincidence will have it, we just unveiled the first of those! It's a strategy and deck-building game called Highgrounds.
In a few more weeks (couple months, tops) we'll kick off the open betas of a cooperative transportation simulation that we call Leap Day and also the open beta of Steambirds 2, which is the multiplayer (PVP and co-op) version of our original Steambirds game that was played by well over 20 million people on the web alone, plus a bunch more on mobile devices. There's a sneak peek at both of those games here.
It's going to be a busy winter.
Triple Town is available now on Facebook, mobile devices and Steam. Sounds like a match-three to us.
If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.