"In combat, you deploy the army all at once--you're not doing a particularly complicated, RTS kind of move," Funzio VP of business development Jamil Moledina gushes to us about its new action role-playing game (RPG) for Google+, Kingdom Age. "It's a way to get closer to a more layered combat system while still being ludicrously accessible. It's still just a click."
An action RPG akin to classics like Gauntlet and Diablo is an oddity in social games. (Actually, it's said that Zynga attempted to create one for Facebook before the days of Mafia Wars and scrapped it.) But Funzio sees that as one of Kingdom Age's advantages. This RPG, which will premiere on Google+ and the Chrome Web Store and later spread to Facebook and elsewhere, is neither a core social game--like, say, Backyard Monsters--or a casual one a la FarmVille.
"The environments of the game look and feel very much like those classic games. You are walking around in a beautifully animated game with monsters that look and move just like you would see on a console or PC action game," Moledina tells us. "The difference is that this is till midway between those two categories. This is a mid-core game."
Kingdom Age is a fantasy RPG through and through in more ways than just aesthetics. In order to keep players coming back, Funzio has injected what it calls "loot lust" into the game. Veterans of games like World of Warcraft will understand that term immediately. But for the average social gamer, this means that the strongest beasts in the game hold powerful, rare items like swords and shields that will prove vital in players' various quests. In short, expect to kill some monsters way more than once.
Of course, the game will employ the appointment-based mechanics that have become the mode of social games. We imagine that these will be reserved for the empire-building portion of Kingdom Age. Players will get to create their own kingdoms, complete with castles and other buildings, only to defend it from other players. So, while the single-player portion of Kingdom Age will see players crawling through crypts for loot, the multiplayer end pits friends against one another in large scale battles.
However, unlike the "hardcore" social games that allow players to micromanage every skirmish, Kingdom Age leaves the strategy up to building the most prepared, balanced army of troops. Then, Moledina tells us that battles will be decided in one click, asynchronously, based on which player designed the best squad. Of course, players get to watch the entire battle unfold, which could either be quite the cinematic treat or like watching a train wreck (if you happened to plan poorly).
"The thing that really amazes me is the level of audio and visual polish in the game. When we show this to the platform, they freak out when they see the quality of the game," Moledina raves. "While it still is a 2D, isometric game, every version of our game is built natively to the platform. So, we'll exploit every possible last inch of capability that the platforms enable, and our game looks and sounds epic."
We're told that fans of grandiose fantasy movies like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy will feel right at home in Kingdom Age. Based on these early screen shots that depict dragons burning down villages, catapults firing massive projectiles, wizards flinging fireballs and knights clashing swords, that could be accurate. According to Google Games' Punit Soni, this is the fifth game to launch exclusively on Google+. That said, it begs the question: Why?
"One of the interesting things about Google is that they have a tremendous appreciation for games," Moledina says. "They put a lot of time and energy into making sure the games are well presented on the network. Our expectation is that it does have the ability to scale up and become one of the leaders in social games."
Moledina thinks that more platforms competing with Facebook can only be a good thing. According to him, the competition drives game makers to create even more interesting, inventive game experiences for all platforms. In the end, it's clear to Moledina just who the real winners are in the game platform wars.
"There's a very specific, targeted strategy going on [at Google] to create a unique kind of social network. And, from our point of view, competition is an incredibly healthy thing," Moledina says. "And when you have a range of different opportunities here as a game developer, that makes it a lot more lively. Everyone becomes that much more interested in creating compelling experiences for players. And you can expect Facebook to keep ratcheting it up, too, so the winner ultimately is the social gamer."