Columbian developer Brainz Games is betting that quirky humor and surprisingly deep gameplay will help it conquer the tower defense genre with its game, Vampire Season.
Due to be released as a universal app for iPhone and iPad at the end of March, it will be in the first wave of mobile games published by 6L (formerly known as 6waves Lolapps). Brainz Games was one of the first 16 developers to sign a mobile deal with the publisher.
Although Brainz has been in business for more than 10 years, Vampire Season is actually its first original game. The company has a long history in animation, TV commercials and development of mobile adver-games for the likes of Guinness and Coca-Cola.
In order to make its transition from service work to original IP a success, Brainz has invested heavily in Vampire Season. The game has spent eight months in development with a budget of $350,000 to ensure it stands out with its polish, storytelling and high production values. The game is also free-to-play — a decision that Jairo Nieto, Brainz Games’ head of games (pictured right) describes as a “leap of faith.”
“When we started working on the game we thought it would be pay-to-own. Through the development cycle we came to understand that freemium was the way to go. But that also affects game design because you need to have purchasable items in the game to monetize it,” he explains.
It was this blend of experience, yet newness to the freemium market that helped the company decide to sign with 6L, explains Brainz’ CEO Alejandro Gonzalez (pictured left).
“Since we’re new, we wanted someone who was super committed,” he says. “We wanted our brand to go as far as possible and 6L wanted to do the same thing in mobile. We were really synchronized there. They promised a lot of commitment on paper, and then we signed and it was even better.”
According to Gonzalez and Nieto, 6L helped Brainz improve how users engaged with the game and helped ensure that North American audiences would get all the small details and subtle jokes in the game — an important point for Brainz, who set out to make the game funny and incorporate humor into the narrative.
Described by Nieto as a blend of Blizzard’s real time strategy games and humor website 9gag.com, Vampire Season a subversive take on the tower defense genre. In it, the player commands an assortment of classic monsters (imps, zombies, werewolves and vampires, to name a few) as they defend Dracula’s coffin from wave after wave of rampaging townsfolk. The game’s enemies can be the typical heroes from other games — think handsome princes and ninjas — but also include more left-field choices like interior decorators.
Each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they can be combined to form new, usually ridiculous units. Combining a zombie and a vampire yields a zampire; adding a werewolf to an imp gives the player a wimp and so forth. This adds an additional layer of strategy to the core gameplay as players discover new unit combinations.
Although the game is funny, it’s also designed to be challenging. The game features an endless survival mode and 30-level story mode where players can earn up to three stars for each level. Brainz implemented the star-based scoring system to ensure casual players would be able to advance through the story, and to make sure players looking for a greater challenge would have something to do in the game.
“We wanted to serve a more mid-core audience, but I also believed we could pull off taking a casual gamer and giving them a game that was more rich and had more layers and tell a great story,” explains Nieto. “This can be either a tower defense game that has some more complexity to it, or it could be a little bit like a real time strategy game. You’re not placing towers, you’re placing units and allies [that move and battle]. I think those subtle differences will help it stand out. Not only visually but in terms of gameplay. We wanted people to feel like they were playing something that felt new.”
Brainz Games is backed by $1.5 million in series A funding from a Columbian investor. The company will be releasing four more original games on iOS and Facebook in Q2. Neither Brainz, nor 6L would reveal if the two companies will continue their publishing partnership on future releases.