Detonator will release first social game in the autumn

MMOG veterans to hit the ground running with small, frequent, experimental experiences

Detonator will release first social game in the autumn
| Detonator Games news

Having previously worked at game companies such as Microsoft and Sony Online Entertainment, we're certainly looking forward to the first releases from newly founded Seattle developer Detonator Games.

Most recently its three founders were working on SOE's Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) shooter The Agency.

They left to explore the potential of mobile and social gaming.

We caught up with creative director Matt Wilson and art director Corey Dangel to find out more about their plans.

Pocket Gamer: Why did you think it's a good time to start a new studio?

Matt Wilson: Our goal for Detonator Games is to connect people through play. We want to deliver games that are overflowing with the attitude and emotion that focus on bringing friends together through a common goal of fun. With our experience coming from the MMO space on both the PC and console, we felt we wanted to take that into the emerging and connected markets of social and mobile games. These spaces are finally ready to deliver the quality we've seen in other markets and we are ready to take that on.

Corey Dangel: Nearly 300 million people are active on social networks, and mobile phones are owned by just about everybody in modern civilisation. We've worked on massively multiplayer games on consoles and PCs for more than a decade because we believe that games are fundamentally more fun when played with friends. The accessibility of games on social networks, and the awesome potential of integrating with a mobile presence is just too sexy to pass up.

How will your experience making MMOGs shape the games you make at Detonator?

MW: MMOGs are social, living games, filled with awesome community experiences. This is exactly what we want to deliver, but at a different scale. We will be taking advantage of all the same elements that make MMOGs great: persistence, player growth, customisation, user generated content, exploration, and fun, connected game mechanics.

Our goal is to deliver these in smaller bite size games that we can get out quickly.

CD: One of the great features of social games is that they are constantly evolving creations. We're used to keeping a live product interesting and a community active so we don't have to adjust to this type of thinking at all. It's ingrained.

We're also used to thinking about scalability, how to manage complex economies over time, how to architect and design for continual asset additions, etc.

Our experience gives us the flexibility to pursue any number of directions depending on feedback from our players and opportunities in the marketplace. We're going to start small, but we'll be pushing for rich interactions between players that might even take into account physical proximity. All in the name of connecting people through play.

How quickly do you expect to get your first titles released?

CD: Very quickly. We want to get our first game out this fall. We want our initial game to be small. That way we'll focus more on a solid technological foundation and establish some simple systems for interacting with friends, tracking awards and achievements, and following leaderboards without falling into the trap of trying to design an epic game right out of the gate.

MW: This is one of the most compelling aspects of this space. We want to build and deploy games very frequently. This will allow us to learn from each game we deliver and build on the next one. The beauty is that each little game will add components for our next game. We have some big ideas for this space, but we want to take it one step at a time.

There's obviously a lot of competition in these markets, so how do you think you can stand out?

MW: Our advantage is our experience in online games and community. Combine that with our experience in creating new IPs and I think we are going to be able to deliver something special. It's always hard to stand out and compete, but the reality is that good games do well, and bad games don't. Our goal is to deliver a quality game no matter how big or small.

CD: I've never been afraid of competition. As long as you have a unique voice, a unique point of view, and you bring that to market with authenticity and passion and a real sense of play that transmits to the players. They can sense it and they want to share that experience with their friends.

We're aiming to really involve the community in the creative process. Our fans on Facebook have already given input on everything from our business cards to specific game assets. We really believe that by engaging in a dialog with our players they will be more invested in what we have to offer. And that will help differentiate us from the competition.

In the iPhone market, there's a debate about a number of competing social networking platforms. Have you had a chance to evaluate any of these yet?

MW: Each platform will deliver something a bit different, and it will be our job to sort out which one works the best with our type of game. Part of that decision is what features it offers, the other part is how big and active is the community. For the most part, I expect them to sort themselves out, and one or two will rise to the top.

CD: Yeah, it is getting crowded there, isn't it? For what it's worth, we were just at the Casual Connect Conference in Seattle and I heard people talking quite a bit about OpenFeint. But our first step is to get the PC side established and then we'll branch out.

Another discussion concerns how small developers can make sustainable revenues. Does this concern you?

CD: No, I'm not too concerned. While there are all kinds of things I would be advocating if I were at a large company - I can think of a thousand ways to leverage their brands in the social space - I know firsthand that it's difficult for large companies to be nimble.

There needs to be expertise and social-games savvy at multiple levels within the corporate hierarchy. The big guys are always going to run the risk of over complicating their offering or taking too long to learn how to make something viral or sticky.

In a world where six months is enough time to go from one farm game to half-a-dozen, there's no room for cumbersome bureaucracy.

MW: There will always be space for the larger companies and the smaller indie game studios. Both the mobile and social spaces' life blood has been the independents so far. Being able to have an idea and know you can do it without the large scale investment of millions of dollars, will always keep this space filled with smaller game companies, and that's very exciting. It will always be filled with lots of quirky, fun, and community changing games.

Thanks to Matt and Corey for their time.

You can interact with them via detonatorgames.com, Facebook or Twitter.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.