A Sydney-based digital production company has highlighted the importance of creating a narrative for time-sensitive games, after launching Christmas-inspired iPhone game Santa Panic!
The Project Factory, founded in 2005 by Annette Parry, Guy Gadney and Jennifer Wilson, creates transmedia entertainment across web, mobile, social media and games platforms.
With offices in Sydney and London, it produces interactive entertainment for movie, television, brands and digital media companies.
The company has launched a festive and interactive iPhone game called Santa Panic!, which allows players to alter the game’s storyline via Facebook.
Every time a user players the game, they are presented with a new version of the story, crowdsourced from other players. This allows the player to add their own creativity to the game.
Santa Panic! was devised and created in-house by The Project Factory’s Australian hub of gaming developers. The company intends to release the game internationally.
Parry describes Santa Panic! as a fast-paced puzzle game where players must pass through 30 levels of gameplay to ensure all of Santa’s presents are delivered in time for Christmas.
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“As well as the game itself, Santa Panic! features a series of storylines which can be personalised by players via the game’s Facebook page,” she says.
“These stories are all then fed back into the game, allowing a different narrative to be presented each time the game is played.
“While Santa Panic! is the first title we are launching with the personalised narrative engine, we see this technology as hugely valuable for parents wanting to customise app experiences for their children, or for businesses wanting to move their fans and community from Facebook to mobile platforms.”
The launch of Santa Panic! comes on the back of an announcement by the Australian Retailers Association, which is expecting a 4% rise in Christmas-related spending compared to last year.
According to Gadney, there are several points to keep in mind when developing a game centred on a particular event such as Christmas.
“Part of the way we approach this is to put a narrative around it,” he says.
“Where [other developers] might get a simple, casual game that is branded as Christmas-y, our approach is to think about the characters – Santa and his elves.
“It’s not just a game… that has characters and you do stuff with them. There’s a bit of a relationship built up.”
Gadney is confident the game could have a lifespan beyond Christmas because “if there is quite a good game, people will run with it at any point in the year”.
“I think a lot of it is about testing approaches around narratives and technology, and seeing if they hold together as a really good game,” he says.
According to Gadney, the biggest mistake app developers make is when they assume they will make lots of money from the get-go.
“There’s a huge amount of expectation around revenue coming in on the first weekend… You have to have a slightly longer term approach to it,” he says.
“Some things, and some companies especially, have been around for a long time. With Halfbrick or any other games company, that has been the case – they’ve been around for a while.”