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USA 2014Video Coverage

Tim Teh Wears Many Hats | Casual Connect Video

August 22, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Tim Teh told his audience at Casual Connect USA 2014 how KANO/APPS was able to stand out and be different from their competition. “Instead of viewing being small as a disadvantage and hiding behind our brand, we humanized ourselves by showing that we weren’t a 3,000 person company, that actually, when we started, we were four guys working out of a condo,” he explained. “Players related to us better, and they were also more forgiven with some of the mistakes that we made. By giving players a direct access to our developer teams, we were able to build trust and loyalty.”

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Tim Teh is co-founder of KANO/APPS, but as CEO, he wears many hats. When they first started the company, everyone was developing their first game. As the company grew, he transitioned out of that role. Some of the skills from his software background were transferable, but he had to learn many things on the job, by reading, or from mentors.

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Tim Teh, Co-founder, KANO/APPS

Passionate People

The enjoyment Teh finds in his work comes from the creativity and the people involved, not only the team he works with, but also those who play the games. He says, “It’s awesome to work with passionate people on a project and then release it to the masses.”

He also loves the feedback loop of online games. He points out that when you push a new feature out, you know right away if people are engaging with it the way you expected them to, or if they are not. Because you get these results immediately, you can take whatever action is needed quickly.

Pride in Accomplishments

Teh takes great pride in what the company has accomplished as a profitable, self-funded indie developer. Although there have been many factors contributing to their success, the most important part of it to him is the rewarding feeling he gets from putting in hard work and long hours with a group of like-minded individuals. And seeing that pay off!

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Teh takes great pride in what the company has accomplished as a profitable, self-funded indie developer, such as with their game Pirate Clan.

But even with that success, he is constantly aware that there is still much left to do.

The Trouble With Discovery

He realized that a major challenge in the games industry today is user acquisition and discovery. There are so many products available in the market today that indie developers or anyone without a huge marketing budget will find it hard to get a game in front of an audience. It is especially hard when competitors do have a much larger marketing budget.

KANO/APPS works to mitigate this situation with two focuses. First, they use technology, in their case, HTML5, to allow them to write once and still release to many. They gain exposure because they can deliver and maintain games with smaller teams across many platforms. Secondly, they ensure that every player they bring into their network has a good experience and is retained as long as possible. This results from high-quality customer support, community development, and accessibility to the game development teams to close the feedback loops between the company and the players.

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They ensure that every player they bring into their network has a good experience and is retained as long as possible.

The Emergence of User Generated Content

Teh sees user-generated content becoming an important trend, especially when dealing with games as a service. He insists, “Providing players with good content that they can play with their friends is what keeps them coming back. Being able to crowd source and surface good content really kills two birds with one stone.” He cites their game, Free Rider HD as an example.

When Teh is gaming, he generally has only a little time for long gaming experiences. So he jumps in on his iPhone or iPad Mini. Although there are consoles at the office, he rarely has time to play them.

The game he is most often playing these days is the one they developed: Free Rider HD. He enjoys it because, “There are so many user generated tracks that each play session feels new and unique, and it’s very rewarding to beat co-worker times and share that online.”

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The game he is most often playing these days is the one they developed: Free Rider HD.

Since Teh lives on the west coast in Victoria, B.C., he is very involved in outdoor hobbies, saying hiking is great year-round. And, with more restaurants per capita in North America than anywhere but San Francisco, and awesome craft beer and coffee, social eating is another of his hobbies. He also loves to cook, so he feels it is fortunate that he enjoys being active.

At Casual Connect USA, Teh announced that KANO/APPS has released the F2P version of Free Rider HD to Facebook, desktop, and mobile. By this fall, they will release Free Rider to the iPad. The game is available at www.freeriderhd.com.

 

News

Big Viking Games, Kickstarter, Community, and the next level of UGC

September 12, 2013 — by David Nixon

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KS LogoSince its inception in 2009, the crowdfunding site Kickstarter has seen successful funding of hundreds of game-related projects. From modest one-man projects requiring only a few hundred dollars to over $8,000,000 raised by the microconsole innovator, OUYA, little doubt remains that crowdfunding, and Kickstarter in particular, is a non-trivial force in the creation of new video game content.

 

Big Viking Games Taps Kickstarter

London, Ontario-based Big Viking Games hopes to soon join the growing ranks of game companies that have found creative independence, funding, and community support on Kickstarter with their new project, Tiny Kingdoms – kicking off today, September 12, 2013.  Founded in 2011 by Albert Lai and Greg Thomson, each individually successful social games industry innovators responsible for products like YoVille and Kontagent, Big Viking Games is “A passionate group of artists, designers, and engineers that love making great games as a part of a great team.” Big Viking pursues success through cross platform mobile and social game experiences based on HTML5.  For more information about HTML5, make sure to check out Chris Shankland’s talk on The Technical Challenges of HTML5 Development from Casual Connect USA in San Francisco.

Tiny Kingdoms is a free-to-play, RPG adventure game for mobile and social platforms.

So in the crowded world of crowdfunding, what makes Tiny Kingdoms stand out? First – a clear focus on User Generated Content as value of the community experience that comes with any good Kickstarter program. The campaign promises future backers that, “Through this Kickstarter campaign, you will not just be helping to fund this project, you will be helping us create it! We want to reinvent the game design process, and change what it means to be a funder. You will receive game updates, dev diaries and partake in polls which will determine the nature of future game assets.”

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Albert Lai, CEO of Big Viking Games

The message is further re-enforced by the company’s press messaging which states,”…what really makes this game different from any other is the way players will be able to influence the development of the game, with unprecedented access to the game creation process. When players become backers in this campaign, they will help craft the vision and direction of the game, along with the developers at Big Viking. They will be given the opportunity to offer ideas and feedback on characters, environments, items, features and tactical gameplay modes. Big Viking sees the backers becoming part of a tight knit development team, as they experience rare insight into the development process. To facilitate this process, Big Viking will host live chats, provide designer diary updates and conduct polls throughout development. This feedback will begin when the game reaches beta and will continue through and after launch as the game evolves.”

Albert Lai, CEO of Big Viking, sees this as a unique opportunity for players to leave their mark on the game and build the game they really want to play, saying, “We want our fans to go beyond just pledging their dollars to also lend their ideas and creativity. The ultimate goal will be to re-imagine the way players interact with game developers, through both Kickstarter and collaborative online platforms.”

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Greg Thomson, CPO

Second – a very modest initial funding goal of $50,000 coupled with the wide variety and professional polish of the assets developed to kick off the Kickstarter campaign suggests that while Big Viking Games could potentially bring this game to market on their own, they genuinely see value in letting consumers behind the curtain to become a part of the creative process.  While a few thousand extra CAD isn’t anything a successful games industry indie is likely to turn away, it’s clear to anyone familiar with the genre Tiny Kingdoms occupies that both Albert and Greg conceive of a game that is far, far bigger than $50k will buy. In a super-savvy move, the founders of Big Viking appear to tap the passion of the games crowdfunding community to guide their offering AND build their foundational community at the same time. The low funding threshold also virtually guarantees funding success while compelling stretch goals like free new characters, Co-Op and PvP Multiplayer functionality give ample ammunition for convincing their backers to pony up to the next level for those popular features.

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“When players become backers in this campaign, they will help craft the vision and direction of the game, along with the developers at Big Viking.”

Third – virality is built in from the very beginning. Tapping into the natural social component of today’s games, the RPG genre, and the crowdfunding community, Big Viking has built in social benefits even before the game is available by rewarding backers with bonus “buddy” rewards to share with friends. Clearly, the folks at Big Viking understand that gamers, especially midcore online and mobile gamers, want to share the love with their gamer friends, and in doing so, promote the Kickstarter campaign to the exact market most likely to find value in it.  With this core understanding of the power of virality and the gamer’s social networks, Greg, Al, and their team can surely expect to build strong social features into the game as well, completing and perpetuating social positive-feedback loops that enhance Tiny Kingdoms’ growth.

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More about Tiny Kingdoms

Tiny Kingdoms is a free-to-play, RPG adventure game for mobile and social platforms. In this game, players take on the role of adventurers on a quest to prove their worthiness to become the next ruler of the kingdom. To do this they must defeat deadly creatures through hundreds of strategic battles as they conquer the most insurmountable odds. They will have to choose a tactical team, craft items and weapons and find the loot that will strengthen their warriors. The powerful enemies in this gameplay can only be defeated through tactical strategy, item and weapon crafting and obtaining the amazing loot. The game is built using HTML5, which allows player to seamlessly play across different platforms, such as Facebook and their mobile devices.

To learn more or to contribute to the campaign, visit Kickstarter.  To learn more about Big Viking games, visit their website.

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