[Interview] Indie game developer bets on Betable
Rusty Axe Games, an indie game studio run by Lennard Feddersen, has been making simulations and strategy games for years. He’s now working on a new browser-based Risk-inspired game called Endless Empires, and has multiple ways he could spend his time over the next 6 months. He could build a single player version of the game, flesh out the multiplayer content with new maps, or use Betable to integrate real-money bets into the game.
To help him pick which feature to focus on, Lennard created an IndieGoGo campaign for Endless Empires where people can vote with their wallet: a $9 donation is a vote for maps, $10 is a vote for Betable, and $11 is a vote for single player. Frankly, it’s a brilliant experiment, so we reached out to Lennard to interview him about the IndieGogo idea, his upcoming game, and why he hopes Betable can save indie game developers from the App Store price mentality.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Rusty Axe Games and your past successes?
Rusty Axe Games is the company I started 10 years ago when it was time to stop working in the mainstream video game industry. I spent a few years writing games for portable devices and have since focused on strategy games like Real Estate Empire, Big$hot and my RPG map editor, Dungeon Demon. Real Estate Empire is a real estate management game where your goal is to make it big flipping real estate in various scenarios. Big$hot is a business sim where your goal is to leverage market trends to build a big business empire. Dungeon Demon is a tool that comes with a bunch of pro-quality RPG artwork and allows the game designer to rapidly drag and drop great artwork to create cool map designs.
With so many Risk-style web games out there, what inspired you to make Endless Empires?
I’ve been playing Risk type games for 30 years. As someone who loves the genre, I’m excited to be able to make a new version that fits my vision of a great Risk-style game. It’s a joy to play the game every day against new players, as well as to work on making new maps of the kind that I want to see. Also, I feel that we really nailed the interface for a web based game of this type.
For me as a designer, Endless Empires is a jumping off point. Everybody knows how to play Risk and I’m interested in extending that basic game play format with new twists that are still very easy to pick up and play while re-inventing that game type and giving players new things to think and strategize over.
You’ve set up your IndieGoGo project so that it also serves as a voting tool so that your backers can vote on which features they prefer. This is pretty cool, I’ve never seen it before. What made you decide to do it this way?
I felt like this was a great way to get feedback from people interested in what I’m doing. I’ve got a number of different ways I could spend my time in the next three to six months, so I wanted to find out what people felt I should invest my time into. It also helps me gauge the relative popularity of each potential feature.
What excited you about Betable when you first saw it?
Being able to bet on Endless Empires is something I would really like to do personally, and I feel like other fans of the genre would like to as well. Risk and other strategy games are inherently competitive, and a friendly bet of $5 to $10 is something I’ve never been able to do online. Now with Betable, I can make that happen.
What do you think about Betable as an opportunity for indie game developers?
Games are kind of in a weird place right now. They cost money and lots of time to make well, but everybody has come to expect that games either cost $0.99 or they are free. The problem with that business model is that it doesn’t support every kind of game equally well – there is no need to outfit your character with a purple frock or a bamboo pith helmet in Endless Empires (although I would like a bamboo pith helmet myself…) and shoe-horning that into a game design just to fit current business trends doesn’t make sense for every game. Betable is one answer to that very real challenge for game developers who want to stay in business while still providing the free games that consumers have come to expect. [Click to Tweet]
Endless Empires is a competitive game that people can get passionate about and casual betting around the game will increase the fun factor for some players. I’m happy to work with Betable to provide that experience for those people who want it. One feature that I haven’t seen other games in this genre provide is our “Fair Start” option which enables head to head play to not be badly skewed towards the player who goes first – without that feature head to head betting on Endless Empires would be a frustrating experience. I’m looking forward to finding more ways that we can increase the competitive fun aspect of Endless Empires and I think that Betable will be a key component in that pursuit.
Thanks for the interview Lennard! To find out more about Endless Empires and vote on his IndieGoGo campaign, click here.