This week we wrapped up V 1.0 of a new game and soon, Lord willing, Code-Monkeys will launch Magic & Magnums. (Dec 5 update: we locked up beta late last night and submitted to iOS. Now we’ll get various other builds wrapped up and submitted in the following days…just in time for Christmas..yippee!) It’s a goofy, spoofy, arcade game that is also an evolution of our game Santa’s Giftship (on iOS and Kindle) from 2011. And, as a sad matter of fact, this is the first real game release we’ve had since Suitor Shooter (iOS) in 2012…yikes!
But we have a good excuse…we really do…and it’s all connected.
Shortly after Suitor Shooter was in the store we got a call from a friend who was working on a project that sounded pretty fantastic. He had inked a deal to make a few games based on the Stargate SG1 TV show and he needed a quick and simple game that could be set in the Stargate world and be ready for ComicCon…in 3 weeks. It was meant to be a wham-bam quick project for marketing purposes, not a thoughtful, deep exploration of game design principles. Given the parameters we thought an SG1 version of Suitor Shooter could be put together quickly and off we went on a 3-week sprint without any expectation of it going any farther. ComicCon went off as planned but our friend wasn’t able to put the rest of the details together in that short time and wound up staying out of it – and so did our game. That was the first of a long chain of ‘almost launch’ events for what was then being called Stargate Gunship…a game that would, in the end, never come to be.
Over the following two years…two… years…Stargate Gunship evolved as we’d periodically pick it up, add a feature or change the monetization model. We grew it, we reskinned it at least three times, and we entered it into a couple of contests, even winning the Best UX/UI award at one point. And while it’s the longest running app we’ve ever had, ironically it never really seemed like an “active” project because we always saw it as that dinky marketing gag for ComicCon. Our hearts were only ever partly in it – and yet it grew. That’s not to say we did;t enjoy it it just wasn’t “ours” in any real way. But in the mean time our friend did build and launch three Stargate apps: two installments of an episodic game called Stargate Unleashed (Ep. 1 and Ep. 2 ) plus a sidebar app called Stargate Command and we continued to get interest and feedback on Stargate Gunship. It appeared, as far as I could tell, that folks liked the game but nobody quite knew where it would fit in. In fact, it seemed like we were always “just a couple of weeks” from getting permission to submit the game to the app stores but something always bumped it back again, and again, and again. You see our license was a sub-license to our friend’s, which meant we had almost no direct contact with the licensor (MGM) and had exactly zero control over our own fate. (Memo to self: don’t ever do that again) Eventually, it appeared that the Stargate video game had a leash after all and when that got shut down we were left with a game we couldn’t use – that was just before IDF this year.
Now that might all sound like a bitter cautionary tale but the truth is we have nothing to complain about. Overall, our admittedly tenuous connection with such a great IP was part of what opened the door to Redwall and had a material impact on our business strategy. We used the opportunity to explore some innovative UI mechanics that we would never had worked on otherwise, and as odd as it sounds the overall ROI on the game is already one of the best in our whole portfolio when we take award money and custom dev contracts into consideration. So while the game designer in me is sad that Stargate Gunship will never see the light of day, the business owner in me sees it as a net profit all around.
Which brings us to the present. Once we saw that the Stargate game wasn’t going to work out we still had a fully developed game that was just sitting there. It wasn’t super deep, it was still more or less a casual game at heart and in scope…but it was done. Thinking back to Santa’s Giftship we had created something that was goofy and irreverent and was a mash-up of things that made no sense together like Christmas and the Occupy movement. Nobody thought too deeply about Santa’s Giftship, including us, and it was just fun. Suitor Shooter took that idea (and that engine) and expanded it with new enemies and a barely-there connection to Valentine’s Day. So thinking back to the game’s roots we thought it would be fun to move full away from the realism + sci-fi (O_o) vibe of Stargate to something fully ridiculous.
Magic & Magnums Is Born
I don’t know why I have this alliteration thing but there it is. We owe a great deal of thanks to the HUGE variety of art assets that could be downloaded for a song from the Unity asset store ad while all that off-the-shelf art means the game lacks a degree of artistic integration…it also kinda works given the story.
Not taking Ourselves Too Seriously
At the same time we’ve been wrapping up Magic & Magnums we’ve been working on much deeper and serious projects like G Prime and Redwall where our heats ARE deeply involved and I have to say that in a good way M&M is a kind of comic relief for the whole team. There’s no pressure for it t perform, no deep emotional investment and if it gets 1 star reviews all day…I won’t cry.
(…all things considered, that probably suggests it’ll be a hit and we won;t have any idea why…)
When we wrapped up this evening and everybody went home…wait for it…ON TIME, it was with a certain sense of tying something off that had already drug on long enough. Good night Stargate, hello Magic & Magnums, and may you be found worthy of the twisted path it took to bring you to life.