Recently, we showed you a sneak peek at the design evolution for our newest game ‘Paper Trail’. We’re excited to announce the launch of the new Paper Trail website and gameplay trailer.
Don’t like long games with overly complex story arcs? Prefer games you can pick up and revisit frequently when you have short breaks? Ya know, like in between work meetings, microwaving that frozen burrito, or sitting on the toilet. Ok maybe not the latter, that’s kinda gross. For any gaming occasion, Paper Trail has you covered. Fair warning though, we are not responsible if you can’t stop playing it. Aaaaand it’s really #*&@%^! hard.
This week is a special one here in the studio: the one year anniversary of Dragon Army. We had an exciting first year, but the best is yet to come. During our first year, we’ve seen the launch of our first app Nibblr, released our first game Robots Love Ice Cream, and even traveled to Germany to represent the Georgia gaming industry.
The launch of Robots Love Ice Cream was a huge success for our studio, especially considering it was our first game. Well received by consumers, RLIC boasts an impressive average of 4.5 out of 5 stars, over 500k downloads, listed as one of the best games on iOS, and is available on a variety of platforms from Apple to Amazon Fire TV. The game was even selected by Google to be one of the first games available on the new Android TV, which led to an on-stage feature during the Google I/O keynote presentation.
Our RLIC experience also brought about a very interesting learning opportunity for our studio with brand integration. We worked with Arby’s to help promote their new shake with unique themed levels, which led to some amazing results in brand awareness and time spent with their brand. These learnings have us excited about how we can work with other companies to create game experiences or leverage our knowledge in game mechanics to enhance and influence customer behavior with a brand.
Not only have the projects our team has been working on evolved, our structure in how we are building games has as well. As a startup, especially one in the gaming industry, we need to harness and leverage passion in everything we create. This passion is the cornerstone upon which all things our studio works on should be built if we are to be successful. To do that, we’ve changed how our studio runs, putting more power in the hands of the creators. This led to the recent leadership shift by turning control of the studio over to Will Hankinson.
So what’s next? We have two great games that are about to launch: Defend the Dam and Paper Trail. Both of these games are fantastic and we can’t wait to release them to the public so everyone can have as much fun playing them as we are here in the studio. We’re also excited about what is on the horizon with the brands we are working with.
We’ve come a long way in only a year, but we still have a long way to go. We want to thank everyone who has supported us along the way and appreciate your passion for our games. A passion matched only by the passion of the amazing folks here in the studio who want nothing more than to bring the best in mobile gaming to you. Game on.
By Jeff Hilimire, CEO
We’re coming up on our one year anniversary at Dragon Army and I’ve had the chance over the last several weeks - due to some incredible trips to Alaska and Germany - to step back and reflect on just how far we’ve come and where we stand today. And I came to a pretty startling revelation.
Over the last year, my view point has been that before we make a game, we should be able to a) market the game to a broad audience and b) monetize the game effectively. I’ve been looking at our game development through that lens and guiding the team accordingly.
Sounds reasonable, right? We shouldn’t make a game that we don’t think we can get enough people to play and that we can’t monetize. Unfortunately, I now realize that’s the wrong way to build an engaging consumer product.
Inspiring consumer products and games - Google, Super Mario Bros., Apple, Minecraft, Facebook, etc. - are all born from a passionate group of people that say to themselves, “The world MUST see this!” They are driven to make the best product they can and they rally together to bring their vision to life.
They do not start by worrying about the market. And they don’t start by worrying about how to make money. Their vision is pure and that’s where true greatness comes from.
Terrific games find a market and have no problem making money. If it’s entertaining, people will play it (and pay for it).
What I have at Dragon Army is an exceptional team. I love these guys and they’ve been constrained by the way I thought this business should be run. So from here on out, the studio will decide what we make, and how we make it, with very little constraints from yours truly.
And now that the team is free to build what they want, they need a leader who can help them realize their full potential and build THE GREAT Game.
I’m happy to announce that Will Hankinson has been promoted to the studio head of Dragon Army. Outside of being a tremendously talented game developer, Will has a vision for our studio that I fully believe in, and I can’t wait to see where he and the team take us.
Onward and upward!
We are thrilled to be in beautiful Cologne, Germany, this week for our first international game conference - gamescom. Over 300,000 gamers and industry professionals will attend the week long series of demos and events.
What makes this trip even more special for us is that we are here not only representing our own company, but also representing the gaming industry in Georgia. We are sharing a large booth space with several other terrific local companies: Hi-Rez Studios, KIZ Studios, and Kontrol Freek. We are honored that the Georgia Dept. of Economic Development asked us to participate and to help shine a light on this growing industry segment in Georgia.
Gaming is not just a stateside phenomenon, it is an exploding international business. Conferences like gamescom provide studios like ours the ability to network with both gamers and businesses involved in the gaming industry from around the world. Here at Dragon Army, we aren’t just designing games for the domestic market, we have gamers from around the world enjoying our titles.
If you’re at the conference, please stop by and see us. We are located in Building 4 Booth D49. Game on!
We have a weekly tradition here in the studio that’s basically a modified version of show and tell - yes, show and tell from your days back in elementary school. Every Thursday, we gather as a team and each spend time talking about games we are currently playing.
Each team member has an opportunity to share one or more games and discuss the aspects that they find the most interesting. One of the great things about video games is the many varying elements that work together to produce the game you see on your screen. While the person is sharing perhaps a tutorial method they enjoyed, others in the room may notice something interesting with a graphic or control element. Any and all of which might spark ideas that will lead to improved methods for our portfolio.
As a small indie studio, we all feel ownership for every game we create. That’s because every game we build involves the entire team working together. Here at Dragon Army, we believe that team culture doesn’t start once a game build project begins, but in the inspiration before the idea.
We wanted to give you a sneak peek look at our newest game “Paper Trail”, set to launch soon. What is perhaps just as interesting as the final product, is a glimpse at the evolution of the game visually through the prototypes.
This is the original mock-up design. The gameplay is relatively similar to the final version, but the art was very rudimentary. At this point here in the studio, we were calling it “Snakes On A Phone”.
Keeping with the snakes theme, we moved into more detailed art concepts. In these, we wanted to have the snake travel through more fantasy-like environments.
Exploring alternate environments continued which included bending the background into a 3D-esque look.
In game concepting, you can’t be afraid to stray from your original ideas in search of better variants. Here we started to consider dropping the snake aspect and moving into something else.
During that exercise, we started playing with the concept of “paper” instead of the snake, even toying with the idea of some kind of mystical alien tech. We dropped the sci-fi aspect and just stuck with paper.
From there, a trail of paper seemed logical and “Paper Trail” was born. Now that our scope was narrowed, we started to make changes to what the paper trail itself would look like, which led to a slightly more fluid and folding design.
So how long do you think this entire process took from start to finish? 12 days. You read that right, only 12 days from idea to final game design. There is only one reason we were able to move that quickly: our team’s ability to collaborate efficiently and effectively to reach a unified goal.
If you want to see exactly how the final version turned out…well you’ll just have to download the game and see for yourself. We are excited about this new game and can’t wait to unveil it as we believe you’ll enjoy it as well. Game on!
Michael Stanley, Dragon Army Art Director, with some insight into how he moves concept sketch designs to full color images in our games.
Defining the art style for Defend the Dam was a bit tricky for us initially. We knew that we wanted all of the art to be vectorized so that we could easily reuse the assets, but we didn’t want it to look that way. After the team played around during the concepting phase, we found a style that we loved; and here’s how we’re doing it.Here’s an example of how we are handling the UI elements in the game and how I got from concept to the final piece. As usual, this menu screen started with a sketch. On this screen, player’s can see items that they can permanently upgrade and reset their skill points. We use a wood motif throughout the game and frame certain areas in metal or ornate carvings. The pipeline that we use to create the art is rather simple and can be seen below.
To get the rough idea across, I do an initial colored sketch to get into the game for testing. After that, I do a high resolution pass in Photoshop. I use Photoshop instead of Flash because I get more control over the brush and find the results that I get from our vectorization software to be more desirable. After the high resolution image is done, I upload it to Vector Magic and vectorize it. Then it’s back into Photoshop where I overlay a simple gradient. This gives the final image a bit of depth and keeps it from looking obviously vectorized.We then have an awesome export script that links every image to its location in the .PSD and saves it out appropriately, generating MetaData with it to be imported into Unity. All we have to do is set up the .PSD for the UI screens and press a button.
When one thinks about the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, what immediately comes to mind are the film and TV studios. Often overlooked is the vibrant video game community.
Part of what makes the video game community so strong is the cross-pollination of talent and support between large studios, indie shops, and academia.
While much has been reported about the rapid explosion of Georgia as a rival to Hollywood in terms of film & TV production, we believe that Atlanta is poised to have the same sense of community and growth with games as well.
The strong academic programs in technology and art from SCAD and Georgia Tech are producing a wealth of talent. These programs, coupled with large game studios like Hi-Rez and CCP Games, indies like Thrust Interactive, and even TV studios with Cartoon Network and Adult Swim from the Turner portfolio, have Atlanta poised to become a major player in video game development. This is one of the many reasons why we chose Atlanta as the home of Dragon Army.
While we have come a long way as a city in terms of talent and the formation of companies doing great things, there is always room for improvement if we as a collective are to rival that of our west coast counterpart. By continuing to bridge the gap working with academia AND each other, we can create the necessary cross-pollination to make our community even better.
“Tobias and the Dark Sceptres" is a new indie game which launched last month on June 17th. The game itself will not impress you with amazing graphics or a revolutionary new design, but its significance to the gaming community is bigger than that. This is because the game took 13 years to create. You read that right. 13. Years.
The lessons Adam Butcher learned on his 13 year journey have been succinctly captured in the video “The Game That Time Forgot”.
All six of his points are valid, but two stood out as important concepts that we, as a game studio, are continually faced with:
- Always Sticking to the Plan: Even the best laid plans need to evolve. While we may believe at the onset that a specific direction is needed for a particular game, not being flexible in the course of action can be detrimental to its success. We’re always learning. Always changing. This is a natural part of the creative and design process. By not allowing your games the fluidity in the design flow to evolve, then you are limiting their potential.
- Albatross: An allusion to the Coleridge poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Often we find ourselves so headstrong about something we’ve been working on that there is no way we can simply let it go. This is true both professionally and personally. In creating games, trial and error with prototyping is a way of life. Not allowing yourself to get hung up on one design that is not working is something game studios have to learn early. There is also a point in the lifecycle of a game post-launch where you must cease trying to update, change, or continue to release on new platforms. This can be the hardest because of the time, sweat, and money that you have invested in a game. The law of diminishing returns will eventually set in with whatever you create. Letting the albatross continue to push you beyond that point can be detrimental and stall your studio.
While 13 years developing a game is certainly an extreme example, the underlying lessons that Adam Butcher has shared are ones that will resonate with both game studios and just about any creative profession.
This peripheral connected TV device not only brings your favorite movies and shows over the web to your television, but will also allow you to play Android based video games with a gaming controller. In short, it is a complete entertainment experience.
Robots Love Ice Cream has been modified to work with the new Android TV device and gaming controller. We are honored that Google trusted us with early access to the device and to have the ability to build on a platform that is moving game technology to new heights.
RLIC is fun on a mobile device, but we can’t wait for Android TV to hit store shelves so you can experience how great it is on the television screen.
Thank you to our friends at Google for giving our studio the opportunity to debut on the device and for putting our logo in the limelight at Google I/O.