Talking Co-Op with American McGee for Akaneiro: Demon Hunters
Gaming industry veteran turns to kickstarter for his next big project
Co-Optimus: Is Akaneiro a service based product? That is, will you need to be connected online to some server infrastructure to make things work? Or can it be played offline?
American McGee: As is the case with the majority of games developed in Asia, Akaneiro is online-only. One reason for going this route is that we've leveraged our technology across platforms and devices, giving players a choice of ways in which to play – be it in a web browser, via downloadable stand-alone client or on mobile tablets (iOS and Android). With our back-end tech, you can take your profile with you across platform and devices – and once we've added co-op multiplayer, you'll be able to play with your friends online in real-time regardless of where or how they're connecting.
Co-Optimus: You hint at a consistent stream of content for the game. With an agressive update cycle, quality can suffer. What kind of content can we expect as the game grows? How can we ensure it'll be more than just a few weapons and a new map?
American McGee: If there's one thing this studio has proven over the past 6 years of development it's that we can crank out exceptionally high-quality art consistently and quickly. That's owing to the fact that we have some of the best (and fastest!) artists in the region – and that this same team has been working together since the company was first started (look at what we did with the Grimm or Alice: Madness Returns projects). Beyond that, it's a simple matter of early planning around the idea of high value content updates – the pipeline was put in place, from the start, to ensure we could out-deliver other games in this respect.
You should expect to see new areas (maps) released every 45 days or so. Those will often include updates to monsters, weapons and other in-game items. From time to time we'll also do larger update packages containing entire new "islands," so that you're able to leave Yomi Island (where the game begins) and travel to new lands filled with ever more horrific beasties. The depth and frequency of content updates are linked directly to customer demand – the more people play the game and support it, the faster and richer the content you'll see flowing into it.
Co-Optimus: You made the decision to leave co-op out initially from Akaneiro. What sort of variables led to this decision?
American McGee: It's a simple matter of technical resource availability and managing our overall launch schedule. If we'd continued to work towards a final release which contained co-op, then we'd be looking at a mid-2013 launch. By launching a single-player only version first, we're able to use early feedback to improve the game overall while freeing our tech guys to focus solely on development of the best possible co-op experience. For us, being small can often be an advantage – driving us to employ innovative methods a larger team might overlook because they can simply throw more money/resources at a problem. It also means we sometimes have to stagger our development or releases as we're doing with the co-op aspect of Akaneiro.
Co-Optimus: If co-op wasn't initially included in the design, how can it be incorporated in and still feel meaningful?
American McGee: It's been in the design from the start, and a functional "stub" for it can be found in the game at launch this week. Check out the "Summon Ally" feature – using it, you'll engage with an A.I. controlled co-op player can be brought into battle. What remains now is connecting control and other bits to allow that Ally to be another live-player. It's not a giant leap – but it is one we planned from the start, both in terms of initial design and the manner in which we're developing it post-launch.
As with any core feature in the game, it's also important to keep in mind that these things can and do evolve over time in response to feedback we get from players. That's one of the great things about developing online games – that we can constantly update and improve them in all aspects. Co-op will be no different.