The skinny on JetSet Secrets, EA's first hidden-object social game [Exclusive]

JetSet Secrets details
JetSet Secrets details

If you couldn't already tell, with two of its most popular brands on Facebook (The Sims Social and SimCity Social), EA is more than bullish on social games. But the publisher has rested on the immense shoulders of its top properties on its ride to social sucess ... until now. Enter JetSet Secrets, a super stylish hidden-object game set to launch on Facebook this fall.

Not only is JetSet Secrets the company's first hidden-object game on Facebook, but also its first original property on the platform since PopCap came out with Solitaire Blitz and Outernauts by Insomniac Games. EA's Group GM for Mobile & Social California studios Aaron Loeb recently gave us all the details:

Hit us with the elevator pitch for JetSet Secrets on Facebook.

JetSet Secrets is our new hidden-object game with a light RPG element, but set in a glamorous and playful world, where you're the world's greatest detective traveling the globe, solving high-end crimes and thwarting the plans of various evil nemeses. It's a fun, fast-paced, light hearted tone. A big part of our effort is in making the artwork really pop, and to make sure that everything you do is gorgeous and everywhere you go is aspirational and exciting.

JetSet Secrets screens
JetSet Secrets screens

Can you tell us more about this light RPG element to JetSet Secrets?

Because you're a detective, you're building out the estate of your big swanky mansion. You're an incredibly famous, rich detective. The estate builder portion is somewhat similar to what you've seen in some other HOG [hidden-object games], but in this case, what you've built out affects your gameplay. For instance, you have a whole bunch of staff members in your mansion, so your chef is also a nuclear physicist, your bodyguard is also a medical doctor, your gardener is secretly a world famous art forger, who you once caught in a crime and turned over to the USI.

Each of these folks in your staff have buildings associated with them. So, when you build them, they can unlock different abilities for HOG. The way the economy works in the game is that you can't build absolutely everything, so the player actually needs to make choices, as to which things they want to focus on as a player. For instance, if you build the buildings for your chef, it's all sort of scientific stuff that's giving you better clues, and certain hints during the HOG play. If you're building stuff for your chauffeur, who is also a retired astronaut, you get more energy. If you build stuff for your gardener, you get better drops when playing the HOG, so it's all different choices that you make that actually affect your gameplay.

JetSet Secrets screen shots
JetSet Secrets screen shots

Part of the initial pitch was calling JetSet Secrets "sexy". We've never heard that descriptor for a hidden-object game, so could you speak to that at all?

It's, yeah, it's sort of more like capers going on than it is sort of grim. There's actually nothing ever grim in this game. It's always fast paced, light tone, the characters are always playful with each other there's a lot of witty banter. It's that kind of thing rather than dark and somebody's dead and you have to figure out where the body is. It's never going to be that kind of crime.

The artwork in hidden-object games is usually one of their biggest selling points. What's the art style of this game? How is it going to look?

Yeah, so the themes are pretty much always in some extremely glamorous locations around the globe where, you know, we on the team want to go, where we think our player will want to go too. So, one of our earliest themes was in Cinque Terre. There was somebody on the team had actually been there recently and was like, "It was the most beautiful place I've ever been, we have to have a scene there." Right? That's the kind of thing that will result us putting a scene in the game.

We don't ever want to have a scene that's like in a dark corner in the woodshed where you got to find a nail file. It's always going to be in some place absolutely gorgeous. So, there are scenes set on the sides of mountains overlooking ancient temples, scenes in front of the Hagia Sophia in Turkey. That kind of stuff. Places where you'd want to go if you had an endless amount of money and could travel anywhere. The very first scene is set in a high-end glamor casino inside a cruise ship.

JetSet Secrets images
JetSet Secrets images

Is there anything particularly social about JetSet Secrets?

Yeah, you'll be going and helping more friends solve their cold cases. So each of your friends has an old case file of crimes they've been unable to solve and you go and help them solve those. You then get social points for helping them, similar to those that you in SimCity Social, and you can use those to construct special buildings in the RPG that unlock levels that you couldn't get otherwise. Also, post-release, there are going to be some other exciting social stuff that we're working on right now, starting mostly with helping your friends solve crimes that they can't solve.


You've been through pen-and-paper games, editorial and most recently video game design. Can you speak to how those experiences have influenced your leadership on JetSet secrets?

I think, having worked in traditional console games, about five years ago--maybe six years ago--we made the switch over to casual games at. I started in, you know, games with a lot of head-shots. We all had kids, so we said we want to have games that we can talk about on the playground and I found it very fulfilling to make games that absolutely anyone could play and had a lot of experience from all sorts of games.

At Smarty Pants, we made of watching people of all age groups playing a game together and learning just how difficult it is to make something simple, particularly coming from core games. So, that experience has been very influential. But the other key part is from before, prior to making games in the editorial side, our senior producer of the game, Jim Preston, actually worked with me in editorial at The Daily Radar. He actually went on to PC Gamer. So, Jim and I were making and writing video game websites--like you do--over a decade ago and got great experience in direct feedback from our users, especially when it came to console games.

Your client releases the game, then you would go to the forums to see what some small percentage of people thought about it, and it's always that they hate you. And it was, of course, James. But in editorial, you get emails everyday from your users. You're actually seeing what they're reading, you learn things from the reader, kind of what they find most interesting, from what they're telling you, also by watching the patterns. And that has obviously direct applications on games that live on the web, right? You can actually learn from the user what they find most interesting, which I find to be incredibly rewarding.

JetSet Secrets interview
JetSet Secrets interview

Are there any plans for cross-platform and mobile with JetSet Secrets?

I think, you know, everybody who makes these sorts of games are thinking about that sort of thing right now. I can't talk about any specific plans, but we are, in the 15 years that I've been in video games, in the most exciting period I've seen, where the user kind of is able to pick up any device and play anywhere and is, has huge amount of access to content. So much is free now and so cheap. It certainly is incredibly exciting to figure out the way to treat our users. I have some teams that work with me at EA who are mobile teams as well, we're certainly, we're constantly looking at that sort of thing.

Just a quick thing to share: I know that in our previous talk, I said that the game was primarily developed in San Francisco. It was also developed by our teams in Salt Lake City, so they've been working as part of our team. It's been across locations, and the Salt Lake City folks are awesome and deserve their shout-outs.

JetSet Secrets launches on Facebook soon. Click here to learn more.

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