As an independent studio, releasing your debut game even on Facebook is risky business. Even with powerful friends, it takes a great deal of faith in the product to muster up the courage to lay yourself bare before the players. Luckily for CrayonPixel GM and game design director Jaxon Fang, he has all of that and quite an interesting game idea in Atlas Raider.
In the works since CrayonPixel was founded back in late 2009, Atlas Raider is the result of a year's worth of brainstorming and over a year of development between two studios collaborating across the Pacific Ocean. Fang says that the creative direction comes from CrayonPixel in Pasadena, Calif., while the straight-up development is thanks to the developer's Seoul, South Korea studio.
Atlas Raider is what Fang calls a "social board game" that's heavy on creating a sense of adventure wove throughout a plot-driven story. The tale told in Atlas Raider follows the lead character on a mission to find his or her lost father who went missing during a treasure expedition. The cast of characters quickly comes to learn that only a secret organization known as "The Foundation" knows where dad went off to. Now working for The Foundation, your answer lies within finding 13 forgotten crystal skulls scattered across the world with an enchanted atlas that only you can control.
Fang and his team take the story in Atlas Raider rather seriously, regardless of the game's cute, cel-shaded art style. Major moments in the plot are told through an interactive comic book. Not to mention that Crayon Pixel is so dedicated to its characters that you won't even be playing as one of them directly. (However, you will recruit more unique characters as the story progresses.)
"You're not really playing as yourself," Fang points out. "When you start the game, you get to choose between a character known as Scout or a character known as Rockett, female and male. And, depending on which character you choose, it tells a different story."
It's an interesting combination: an Indiana Jones-like story told through comic books with gameplay akin to The Game Life if it took place in tropical jungles and ancient ruins. To move the story of Atlas Raider along, players move their character as a piece in a board game--there are 13 boards in all (one for each crystal skull) complete with traps to avoid and enemies to face. "[I] like to think of [Atlas Raider] like Johnny Quest meets Monopoly," Fang quips early on in his description of Atlas Raider.
Each turn, players roll a die and move the spaces, like every traditional board game ever. Of course, the twists come in which tiles players land on, which will contain numerous random events and tasks, like fighting back wild beasts through a simple battle system, constructing buildings and even planting and harvesting crops. (Because it wouldn't be a social game without that, right?)
Speaking of which, Fang says that, while he "can't reveal too much," CrayonPixel has incorporated social into Atlas Raider in a way that sees players communicate with and help one another. And as for keeping the game fresh, the ultimate challenge of releasing a social game, Fang says that will be left up to the growing community through the Atlas Raider Facebook page.
As interesting as Atlas Raider sounds, it's tough not to ask the question: "Why the social web?" Well, according to Fang, the mobile space is even more difficult to break into and make money through than Facebook--so much so that mobile game makers are slowly returning to Facebook and other social networks. The fact that Atlas Raider is published by Zynga through its partners program also helps. But ultimately, Fang and friends have something to show social game fans.
"If you play [Atlas Raider], you're going to find that it really ties cartoons, board games and a love of comic books all in one. When I was younger, it was all about episodic cartoons on the television, board games in the living room and reading comic books at the local convenience stores.," Fang says. "We really wanted to mix the old school and new and bring that to this generation of social gamers."
Atlas Raider is due out on Facebook and Zynga.com soon.
Click here to learn more on Atlas Raider's Facebook Page >
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