RipTen Interview – LambdaMu is Taking iOS by Storm
Recently, I downloaded a title for my new iPad called Dice Soccer. After about an hour with the game I was blown away (review coming soon) and decided to start looking into the company that created the game. Upon further research I found that not only is LambdaMu Games based “out of a secret underwater base just outside of Singapore”, but that they are rocking a pretty amazing stable of games.
With two new titles on the horizon, both looking incredible (the videos are embedded in the interview), I used my journalistic powers to hunt down and interview Abhishek Radhakrishnan, Chief Creative Officer of LambdaMu Games. While both upcoming games are very intriguing, and we have exclusive screen shots for After Earth, the most surprising element is the team’s previous experience. Read on to find out why this is a company you should be following and supporting. Two of the games we mention here, Dice Soccer and 4Towers should see reviews early next week. Both look like they are worth checking out!
You guys have taken the App store (and my iPad) by storm! How big is your team and what are their backgrounds?
Thank you for your kind words! We’re a nine-man team based out of Singapore. We have 2 founders (Ivan and myself) who handle game design and overall operations, and the rest of the team consists of artists and programmers working on our various development projects.
Have you guys worked on anything previously before LambdaMu?
Most of the devs here are fresh out of some sort of school or the other. Ivan and I used to work together at another company (before forming LambdaMu) where we used to develop physical/analog/board games for experiential learning in the classroom.
What was the inspiration behind creating Dice Soccer’s hybrid deck-building/dice mechanics? Was it a completely unique idea, or did you draw inspiration from other games?
Most of our games come from ideas that initially start out as gags that we go with until a point where we realize that, holy crap this is actually fun, we could make something out of. It was no different for Dice Soccer. We were stuck with a bunch of dice during one of our board game nights while waiting for people to arrive, and started creating characters and powerups with the dice to see who could roll the best combo most consistently (based on their character designs) and ended up playing this primitive version (of what would later be Dice Soccer) far longer into the night than planned. We were obviously very flattered once the game was launched when reviewers began comparing us to Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon and such.
I almost didn’t download the title because the art style disguises the deep strategy of the game. After playing it for hours on end, I can’t imaging a more perfect aesthetic for the game. What went into that choice? Were you afraid it would drive away your target audience?
As the art director for the game I knew from the get-go that I wanted this to be cute rather than serious in its aesthetic. The whole premise of the game was ridiculous to begin with and we wanted to make sure we were well aware of that in every aspect of the game’s design and presentation. There was never an option to give it a FIFA or PES kind of realistic treatment because the core of the game was always going to be strategy disguised as crazy dice rolling fun, as opposed to the skill and control required by soccer/sports simulators. As for target audience, we actually wanted the game to be accessible to the broader casual market as well, which was another reason to keep it cute, friendly, and colorful.
Should we expect more Dice Soccer updates or expansions in the future?
There’s going to be at least one more update for Dice Soccer which will see the addition of some more features, mostly pertaining to enhancement of the technical performance of the game as well as streamlining the user experience. There’s a lot of demand for a Season 5 right now so we’re still figuring out how and when we want to do that too. Most importantly though, we’ve already laid down the groundwork for an all-new sequel that we’re really excited about and want to get working on as quickly as possible once we’re done with a final round of stabilizing and updating the current title.
When you load up Dice Soccer, you make a big point of letting players know that, while there are in-app purchase opportunities, everything is accessible just by playing. It’s very well balanced, but I wonder how the game is profitable when you are telling people up front that they don’t need to spend a dime. Are you prepared to stand by your pledge for future freely downloadable releases?
The underlying philosophy for our game design (especially once we decided to go freemium) has always been towards creating as pleasant an experience for players as possible. Now this entails not being bogged down by a constant barrage of ads or worse yet, hitting the dreaded pay-wall that comes with a lot of free games. So it was very clear from the beginning of Dice Soccer’s design that we’d create the awesome and fun game experience first and then figure out the economics of it. I’ve always liked to believe that if you make a kickass game, people will be happy to pay for it in some form or another (even if not through an IAP or a premium purchase, then by playing it for free or jailbreaking it even and then spreading the word of their great experience to other potential spenders). So the game was eventually balanced to reflect this philosophy as well – if you play well and you play smart, you access to every single thing you’ll need, and all the playable content; but if you want to skip around and speed through, there’s that option too at a price.
Once in a while we also created the opportunity for grateful ‘free’ players to thanks us by buying the limited jerseys. Now advertising this aspect of our design principles was never part of the plan. It’s just that we got so much flak from the IAP and freemium haters on the iTunes reviews that it was starting to get detrimental to our efforts, and this was far more painful knowing that this judgment was a tad unfair given that the game actually does give you all the money you could possibly need eventually. Hence we felt we needed to communicate better with our users and put a disclaimer up front about our systems and, if anything, it actually affected the revenues positively, along with the reviews.
As for future titles, they won’t deviate from our core design philosophies. The IAP based freemium model has been handled very well in our opinion by a number of titles such as Tiny Tower, Triple Town, Fairway Solitaire and more recently even Draw Something, and we hope our games can emulate their successes as well, both in terms of profitability as well as design.
Speaking of other games, two titles are coming up and, after watching their trailers (we’ll embed them in the story) I am pretty excited to get my fingers on them. Dark Rising: Madness & Glory and After Earth both seem to be strategy based, thinking man games. Can you tell me a little more about these games? How deep will the strategy be?
I think you can expect the same level of strategy as experienced in Dice Soccer. It’s what we like in games and what we feel like we know how to do well so that’s what we’re gonna keep on doing as long as there are people out there with similar inclinations; games that are easy and fun to pick up and play but if you put in the extra time and effort it’ll turn into something that you can have a really deep, immersive and rewarding relationship with.
After Earth is a bit of a mishmash of genres (like Dice Soccer come to think of it) that gel together quite well. There’s a meta-layer of sandbox city building happening in the background, while the main focus lies on discovering all the possible gene combinations required to repopulate your idyllic utopian recreation of planet earth. I’m going to send you a fact sheet and never-seen-before screenshots (beta) along with this email that might give you a little more insight.
Dark Rising is considerably larger than anything we’ve done so far. This is our first foray into all-out action gameplay but it will still come along with the same layer of strategic decision making that players of 4Towers and Dice Soccer will be familiar with. As the description in the trailer says, this game allows you to play an action RPG on the side of evil for a change, slaughtering the forces of good with your badass minions and fearsome spells.
The song in the trailer for After Earth is so simple and beautiful. I know you have used some well known songs, like in the Broken Clock trailer. Is this new one your own creation? (If it is, can we get more like it?)
Broken Clock was a very old project during our fledgling days as a studio (another gag idea!) and hence used ‘known’ music. Since then though we’ve been using all original music for our games and trailers in order to create the right atmosphere. After Earth is supposed to be a simple and happy game and hence the tone. We have a great composer that we work with for our audio assets!
Do you have target release dates for AE or Dark Rising?
As soon as we can! We don’t usually commit to dates until we’re convinced that the product is ‘done’ and worthy of release. So you’ll know as soon as we know :)
Do you plan on expanding past the iOS?
We’re definitely open to the idea and constantly exploring the possibilities, however for now the Apple infrastructure and ecosystem still remains most conducive towards our goals and capacities, hence the focus to date on this platform
Your art is very distinctive, who is responsible for that work and are you trying to build a consistent aesthetic across titles?
We have a wonderful team of artists here at LambdaMu who never cease to amaze. I don’t think we have strong predispositions toward any particular art styles – normally the game’s mood dictates the possible aesthetics – however we definitely strive to keep the visuals interesting as far as possible and of course polished and high quality. I do like the juxtaposition of cute and colorful graphics with deep strategy for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it has the potential to draw casual players into a (surprisingly) rewarding and immersive experience
You have handled tower defense with 4Towers Onslaught and Whack-a-mole with Crazy Critters, but puzzlers seem to be the largest part of your library. Now, with the two upcoming strategy titles, is that where you guys are heading?
We aren’t focused on puzzlers per se. If there is any unifying theme to the type of games we make, it’s something we like to term as Casual Strategy, for the lack of a better phrase. Not so much the twitch based quick reflex demanding games that require constant engagement or attention, but rather the kind that you can play with one hand at your pace, on your own time, standing in a line, sitting on a bus, or sideways in bed, yet give you the same level of satisfaction as playing something with two sticks on a console. As far as I can tell, this is the direction we will be heading in with our next bunch of titles.
Thank you so much for your time and the time you have already stolen with Dice Soccer. I’m sure many more hours of my life will be dedicated to your work. Good luck on the two upcoming titles!
Thank you very much. I appreciate your time too in coming up with these questions that I sincerely enjoyed answering.