At a recent Tapjoy Developer Meetup in Austin, Spacetime Studios CEO Gary Gattis shared his experiences creating Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs (MMORPGs) first for the web, then mobile devices. Spacetime’s Pocket Legends launched alongside the first generation iPad, and they’ve since honed the genre for mobile through titles such as Dark Legends and Arcane Legends.
Here, Gattis dives a bit deeper into Spacetime’s strategy for serving up a deep experience in bite-sized portions.
Tapjoy: Spacetime focuses on MMO games – which typically are played in sessions much longer than typical mobile gaming sessions. How did you adapt the gameplay for these much shorter sessions?
Gary Gattis, Spacetime Studios: We took the core MMO loop: kill-loot-equip, and shortened it to about 15 seconds. We then put it in a level that can be complete in about 5 minutes, so it is possible to get in and out of the game and have a powerful experience while you are in line at the movies. Finally, we chained these together so it was very easy to stay and play if you were so inclined.
Tapjoy: Starting with Pocket Legends, you’ve scaled the “M” in MMO from “massive” down to “manageable.” How were you able to keep the game world feeling alive?
Spacetime Studios: Our game is a synchronous, real-time experience with people popping in and out all the time. We had to instance towns and levels to account for the limitations of the mobile platform, but we match-make players based on guilds, friends, levels, quests, etc. This leads to you being instanced with similar type folk doing similar things. We then connected all these instanced areas together so if you wanted to you could run from one end of the world to the other.
Tapjoy: You launched first on iOS, then Android – how did the results differ between the platforms?
Spacetime Studios: We launched Pocket Legends first on iOS. We launched Star, Dark, and Arcane Legends first on Android. We have a broader user base on Android, and we convert and retain a bit better on iOS. Both platforms are essential to our overall strategy.
Tapjoy: Spacetime’s titles have gained penetration around the world. As MMOs need to retain a connection, how did your titles manage to achieve popularity in countries that don’t have 4G LTE or other high speed cellular infrastructure?
Spacetime Studios: We manage to maintain a synchronous user experience all the way down to EDGE connections, so we have gained deep penetration in markets with high-latency connections. Although the monetization from some of these regions is not great, the volume is sometimes tremendous.
Tapjoy: With a wealth of experience, your longtime core team clearly knows how to make games. But talk about how things changed once you hired someone focused on analytics.
Spacetime Studios: It gave us some extreme clarity on what specific aspects of our games needed improving. It has been an amazing evolution for us. We look at acquisition, retention, conversion, and engagement all the time. We also look at the level spread, where players are monetizing, and what they are buying.
Tapjoy: What is Spacetime Studios working on presently?
Spacetime Studios: We’re working on a super-secret next game that will take our studio in a new direction. I can’t say any more about it yet but we are very excited!
Tapjoy: Finally, what’s the Austin mobile development scene like now?
Spacetime Studios: The Austin mobile development scene is very hot. The prevalence and ease of publishing on mobile has been a perfect fit for our town!