John Earner谈工作室及《Samurai Siege》发展经历
Space Ape的《Samurai Siege》发布不到两周，就迅速登上世界各地的iOS和Google Play排行榜，日收益已达6.5万美元，下载量超过95万。
Space Ape工作室的创始人兼CEO John Earner补充道：“我们还发现留存率也非常高，安装游戏的玩家中有25%的人在约两周后仍然在玩这款游戏。总的说来，头两周是比较令人兴奋的，可能是我从事这行业以来最兴奋的时候了。”
游戏批评家们对这款游戏的评价也不低，认为它是“《Clash of Clans》第二”。
Earner表示：“毫无疑问，《Clash of Clans》是即时多人策略手机游戏界的老大，它的开发工作室很了不起，在报纸上读到他们的成功故事真是令人振奋……这极大地鼓舞了我们这个行业。在消除Zynga的IPO对游戏造成恶劣影响方面，我认为它前进了一大步。
“所以《Clash of Clans》是领头羊，但相对而言，它还是新类型的游戏。回到十年前，Blizzard使RTS游戏成为PC上最热门的游戏类型。当然还有很大的细分空间，是的，我们受到《Clash of Clans》和《Backyard Monsters》游戏的启发。我们羡慕《Clash of Clans》的产值，我们认为是《Backyard Monsters》使这个类型得到普及。这个类型有个问题：山寨《Clash of Clans》的游戏太多了。我想我们只是借了一点势头，但事实上我们的游戏脱颖而出了，因为我们的游戏确实跟那些山寨作品有本质上的不同。我们认为我们的游戏品质高，游戏的独特之处是根据我们的研究和大量玩家反馈提炼出来的。显然，《Clash of Clans》是这个类型的赢家，但我们是强有力的第二名。我们在美国收益排行榜上已经进入前50名了，而在14个国家或地区成为策略游戏中的第一名，在50个国家和地区排到前5名。所以我们的玩家肯定在这款游戏中找到了他们认为有价值的东西。”
Inside Mobile Apps（以下简称IMA）：面对这么多同类型游戏的竞争，是什么使《Samurai Siege》脱颖而出？
IMA：当玩家认为你们的游戏只是《Clash of Clans》的翻版时，你们如何证明自己的不同？
能把我们的游戏与其他同类型游戏区别开来的特征是，联盟；相当于《Clash of Clans》中的部落或《魔兽世界》的公会，但这个游戏内社区的想法——玩家组队起来对抗其他玩家队伍，是非常庞大的；为了做好，我们确实是尽心尽力。我们借鉴了《魔兽世界》的一点想法，让联盟有等级，随着联盟的等级提升，成员能获得新特权。第二，我们在测试游戏时发现了一个非常受欢迎的东西——联盟大战。联盟中的任何一个首领都可以向其他联盟宣战，大战持续12个小时，像《指环王》一样，联盟大战需要四个联盟互相对抗，每次需要四支军队同时参战。战斗的目标是争取最多的荣誉，战争结束后，获胜方的成员将得到大量游戏币。我们发现在其他游戏中，非参战方玩家可以提供帮助和派遣军队，但在我们的游戏中，助战玩家必须是联盟的成员。
JE：我们的工作室成立了14个月了。我是Playfish的第15号员工，美国人。我负责Playfish在旧金山的工作室。我是那里的第一任产品经理，不久后，我调到伦敦总部。我在那里做了四年。工作室被EA收购后我学到了很多东西，包括如何做好游戏，但最终，我发现自己想做手机游戏，想在更小的团队中工作。所以我离开EA，遇到了现在的两个同伴，Simon Hade是Playfish的资深产品经理，Toby Moore是Mind Candy的首席技术官。我们三人走到一起，凑了260万美元作为工作室成立的资金。我们的投资者之一是Accel，它也是Rovio和Supercell的投资商。后来我们又从Initial Capital那获得了一些资金，它也向Supercell和Playfish投过钱。接着我们雇用了12名非常优秀的美工和程序员。为什么身为旧金山人的我要留在伦敦？因为我是在伦敦认识那些开发者的。Playfish让我认识了这个行业中的一些最优秀的人才，而我自己在免费游戏方面经验颇丰富。所以我们雇用了最优秀的人才，以成为世界上最优秀的手机平板游戏公司之一为目标。这就是我们的使命吧。我们只是觉得如果我们能集合最优秀的人才、凑到足够的钱、做一些游戏且承担得起几次失败，那么我们就有信心做好游戏。
JE：我们还是专心于《Samurai Siege》吧。我们打算下周发布新内容，我们还要把它本土化为6、7种语言，要发欧洲、南美发布，之后还要开拓亚洲市场。我们完全把心思放在做好这款游戏上，我们已经计划好一些很不错的特征和内容。我们打算好好打磨游戏的联盟设定，继续放出好玩的东西，包括游戏的寒假版。我们要忙活的另一件事是工作室建设。我们明年要搬到新办公室去了，我们已经积累了组建公司必须的所有经验。我们希望保留团队文化，所以当我们开工作室时我们有意雇用了两倍的人，即使我们并不需要那么多人。我们打算雇用两倍于现在的人手，也就是到2月份，我们的员工将增至40。以我们现在所拥有的客户端程序员，一人将继续负责《Samurai Siege》，一人将着手下一款游戏，之后将各自新增一人，美工和产品经理也是这样。到2月份，我们在继续更新《Samurai Siege》的同时，会有一支具有相同的文化和知识的新团队开始做新项目；估计到明年中旬可以推出这款新游戏。我们觉得这就是理想的成长方式。作为一家游戏公司，我们面临的最艰难的挑战就是第二款产品如何复制第一款产品的成功，我们认为我们现在的成长道路就是复制成功的准则。（本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译，拒绝任何不保留版权的转载，如需转载请联系：游戏邦）
Insider Q&A: Space Ape’s John Earner
Rocketing up the iOS and Google Play charts worldwide, Space Ape’s Samurai Siege launched less than two weeks ago and is already raking in $65K per day on 950,000+ installs.
“We’re also seeing massive retention numbers, with 25-percent of players who installed the game still playing the game almost two weeks later,” says John Earner, Founder and CEO of Space Ape Games. “Overall, it’s been a really exciting first two weeks, and probably the most exciting career ride that I’ve ever had.”
Not bad for a game critics initially wrote off as just another Clash of Clans rip-off.
“Without a doubt, Clash of Clans is the leader in mobile multiplayer real-time strategy games,” says Earner. “They’re a wonderful company and it’s really cool to see their success story in the news this week … it’s hugely validating for our industry. I think it goes a long way to remove the stigma that Zynga’s IPO cast upon gaming.
“So they’re the leader, but relatively speaking, it’s a new genre. Historically, RTS games go back a decade and were extremely popular on PC with Blizzard. There’s a lot of room for differentiation, but yes, we were inspired by games like Clash of Clans and Backyard Monsters. What we admired about Clash were the production values, and what we admired about Backyard was that they really figured this genre out and made it accessible. There’s a problem with the genre, and the problem is that there are too many knock-off Clash of Clan games. I think we’re going to get some of that heat, but the reality is our game is standing out, and the reason our game is doing well and the hundred knock-offs are not is that our game really is different. We think our game is high quality, and the differences are based on a lot of research and a lot of talking to players. Clearly, Clash is the winner of the genre, but we’re a strong number two. We’re already Top 50 grossing in the United States, we’re the number one strategy game in 14 territories, and we’re in the Top 5 strategy games in 50 territories. So there’s something players have found in this game that they believe deserves their attention.”
Inside Mobile Apps: What is it about Samurai Siege that’s been able to standout when there are so many games already crowding the build and battle genre?
John Earner: First of all, we spent a lot of time in beta, and that was hugely important. We developed the game for six months, and two months of that, every week we pushed out a new build that was more and more polished. You hear a lot of people in mobile gaming talk about how it’s no longer good enough to launch a minimum buyable product, and they’re right, you really have to have a good game, so we spent a lot of time getting this one right. We brought in maybe two or three players per week over the last six months, had them come to our office to play increasingly better versions of the game, and we have a massive online community of folks who are giving us feedback every day. It’s really just an attention to detail and making a game players want to play, that’s the first thing. The second is a lot of preparation. We were featured simultaneously by Google and by Apple. We launched on both platforms the same day, and they both pushed us, and that was months of behind-the scenes talks of us convincing them the game was good and people liked it. I think that’s driving our success a lot as well.
IMA: How do you hope to differentiate yourself in a market where instantly gamers think you’re just another Clash of Clans clone?
JE: There are three things that we think we are doing differently and are really paying off. First and foremost, we have a lot of focus on the single-player game experience. When we looked at the market, there weren’t any games like this that had a meaningful single-player experience. If you pickup Starcraft II, a good chunk of that game is going through the single-player missions, there’s a story that unfolds, and you learn how to master the game. At that point, you feel comfortable in PvP. So we really looked at the Blizzard games to learn what we needed to do. We have this huge eastern world with samurais and ninjas and you travel from west to east in that world, discovering all types of new content as you go through deserts and mountains. There are puzzles to solve, there are missions to complete in order to get premium currency, and it’s a really well thought out single-player experience. So unlike all of the other games in our genre, a player can’t walk into Samurai Siege, spend $1,000 and jump to the top of the leaderboards. No matter who you are, whether you spend money or not, you have to go through the single-player campaign if you really want to be a good player, and that really levels the playing field.
Another thing that separates us is our alliance feature. A driving factor in this genre are clans in Clash of Clans or guilds in World of Warcraft, but the idea of an in-game community where a collaboration of a group of players who then goes against another group of players is huge, and we’ve really focused on making that better. We took a nod from World of Warcraft where our alliances have levels, and as your alliance levels up, every member of that alliance receives new perks. Secondly, we discovered something during our beta period in New Zealand that turned out to be the single most popular thing, and that’s Alliance Wars. The premise is any member in a leadership role can declare a war against another alliances. Wars last 12 hours, so they’re quick, and wars pit four alliances against each other almost like Lord of the Rings, where you have four armies fighting simultaneously. And they’re fighting to get the most honor, and at the end of the war, the winning alliance members all get a lot of premium currency. What we found is that in other games, you can help each other and send troops, but in our game, the wars have really united people.
The third thing is a little invisible to users right now, but they’ll see it in the coming months, and that’s our technology. We use Unity for our game engine, and we have a single code base, so that means we can have one team making one game and we can launch simultaneously on Android and Apple. Furthermore, because we do that, it means that our developers and artists can get stuff done. A player of this genre really expects a lot of new features and a lot of new content, and out technology means that we can deliver to them that content and those features at a really rapid pace. We made our game in eight months, we’re rolling out new builds every two weeks, and we’re really just fast because of our technology, and it’s one of the things that will really make us stand out.
IMA: What led you down the path of samurais and ninjas for your game?
JE: The answer is samurais and ninjas are cool. [laughs] It’s a little more complicated, but that’s basically what it comes down to. When we kicked this game off, we have a small team, and we made a short list of themes we were excited about. On that list included sci-fi, samurais, and fantasy. Then there were themes as a team that we were less passionate about, modern warfare being one of them. But that’s what we were interested in, so we went out to find out what users wanted to play. We did a lot of testing, and a couple things popped, with samurais and ninjas topping the list. This was something that the people wanted and we wanted to make, so as we stared at that list, we thought we could really make a game about samurais and ninjas stand out, so we went with it. People love the east, and I think we’ll see some dividends when we launch the game in Japan and Asia as well.
IMA: What’s the background of Space Ape?
JE: We got started about 14 months ago. I was employee 15 at Playfish. I’m American, and I opened the San Francisco studio at Playfish. I was the first product manager there, and shortly after I joined, I moved out to London where the main studio and all the action was. I’ve been here for the last four years. I learned a lot from the EA acquisition and how to make good games, but ultimately, I decided I wanted to do mobile and I wanted to work with smaller teams. So I left EA and I met up with some folks, one being Simon Hade, who was a senior product manager for our infrastructure at Playfish, and then another guy, Toby Moore, who was the CTO of Mind Candy, and the three of us got together and raised about $2.6 million in funding. One of our investors was Accel, the guys who backed Rovio and Supercell, and then we also raised money from Initial Capital, who again, they back Supercell and Playfish. We then hired about 12 of the very best artists and developers in the world. The reason why I stayed in London, even though I’m a San Franciscan, is London is where I knew these developers. Playfish gave me years of exposure to some of the best people in the business, and I had a ton of experience in free to play. So we hired the best people with the mission to be one of the best mobile tablet gaming companies. We didn’t think it through more than that. We just felt that if we put an amazing team together and we raised enough money to put out a few games and afford a few failures, we were confident that something great would come of it.
IMA: Did you guys start work on a new game yet, or is your focus just updating Samurai Siege?
JE: We are focused on Samurai Siege. We are going to launch in the rest of the world next week, and we will have it localized in six or seven languages. Turn it on in Europe, turn it on in South America, and then we’ll take care of Asia later. We’re entirely focused on making this game better, and we have some amazing updates and features planned. We’re really going to blow out that alliance aspect of our game, and we’re going to continue to put out great content, including a great holiday edition for the winter. The other thing we’re doing is we’re building out Space Ape. We have a new office that we’re moving into next year, and we’ve learned throughout all our experiences about the right way to grow a company. We want the culture to stay across all of our teams, so when we got started we intentionally hired two of everything, even if we didn’t need two of everything. So we’re essentially hiring in double what we have right now, so by January, there will be 40 of us. That way, with our existing client developers, one will stay on Samurai Siege, and one will go to the next title, and then they will each be augmented by a new hire, and so forth for artists and product managers and everyone else. That way, by January, we’ll be able to really focus on Samurai Siege, while at the same time, we’ll have a new team with the same culture and same knowledge ready to tackle the next title, and we’ll have that title ready by mid next year. We feel that this is the ideal way to grow. One of the hardest things to figure out as a gaming company is why you were successful with your first hit and making a second hit, and we think this is the formula to do it.(source:insidemobileapps)