Asia 2014Video Coverage

Oliver Jones: The Importance of Evaluating Yourself | Casual Connect Video

June 4, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton


Oliver Jones discussed reasons why an app may not succeed during Casual Connect Asia 2014. “This is not a list about common sense, or the obvious,” he said. “It is a collection of bits and bobs that myself and the team at Moonfrog Labs have learned throughout our gameography in developing our portfolio.”


Oliver Jones is Designer and Co-Founder of Moonfrog Labs, a company that emphasizes its commitment to radicalizing mobile gaming and bringing engaging entertainment to everyone. Jones believes starting Moonfrog in India was the best decision he ever made, although he had never intended to found a startup. But he says, “After a series of stochastic career choices, social connections and favorable market conditions, the stars aligned!”

The Moonfrog team enjoying the Holi celebrations in India

Moonfrog is made up of a team of game industry veterans who recognized the potential of a fast-moving mobile company. Jones’ contribution to the company comes through his experience working in startups, where, he points out, he learned, “to craft quality titles and identify murky gray gaps in the market.” His years in the Free-to-Play market taught him to scale games to enormous proportions.


Always Ask Questions

Jones maintains that the ability to critique yourself and your work is the most important attribute a developer can have. “Once you learn to evaluate yourself and your work, you can catch yourself in the act of digging holes,” he says. He emphasizes the value of asking questions such as, “Am I too personally attached to this idea?”, “Am I catering to my target audience?”, or “Is my bias affecting how I am interpreting my data?”

Being Active

Before starting Moonfrong, Jones was involved in a wide array of hobbies, including flying microlight aircrafts, sailing dinghies, and painting landscapes. One month he would be creating a simulation of the solar system and the next, learning to paraglide. He has discovered that finding a balance of physical and mental activities in his free time opens up his frame of reference when approaching problems.

Oliver doing whatever it takes to avoid stagnation!

Gaming is one of the things he does for mental exercise. He particularly enjoys the Wii, pointing out that it was the first console to prove the potential of casual gaming. Because developers during its lifecycle did interesting experiments that were largely unnoticed, he considers it a treasure trove of unrecognized innovation. Part of the fun for Jones is speculating about how the experiences could be made to fit the mobile platform. Currently on the Wii, he is playing Endless Ocean, a game about scuba diving, exploration, and discovery. He tells us he has fallen in love with the way it presents the ocean as a vast endangered world packed with chests and secrets. And he is asking questions such as “How could you chop an exploration game down to ten-minute sessions?” or “How could you intuitively use a touch screen?”.

F2P and Other Trends

Jones’ years of work in the Free-to-Play business saw him very successfully selling items costing $100 each. As a player, he is enticed mainly by virtual cars. In CSR Racing, he collected all the vehicles, the most expensive of which was the Venom GT, about $10 – $15. He also acquired a Coupe in Yoville, although he admits, “It served no practical purpose in the game, other than being fabulous.”

Oliver Jones
Oliver Jones Co-founder of Moonfrog labs

According to Jones, several trends are coming that will affect the games industry. These include $50 smartphones, internet chat networks, and connected accessories/wearable technology. At Moonfrog, they plan to respond to these trends by monitoring the viability of emerging markets. These include countries such as India and Indonesia, which are now in the Top Ten for app installs, but at the bottom for monetization. Jones feels that as problems with payments and device storage are addressed, these markets will become more attractive to developers.

He sees the biggest impact on the games industry coming from the Internet explosion in Asia fueled by cheap phones using post-paid plans. As a result, the economic center of the industry will shift to the southeast. Jones states, “It feels like someone is about to hit the reset button on genres developed in the last 25 years of game design. In new markets, users will have few preconceptions about how games should look and behave. A lot of us will have to start from scratch.”

Bingo Club
Moonfrog’s first game “Bingo Club” aims to prove that an Indian game company can hit a high quality bar.

At Casual Connect Asia, Jones announced the launch of Moonfrog’s first game, Bingo Club, in the US on iOS and Android.

Learn more about Bingo Club’s development here.



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

September 12, 2013 — by David Nixon


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.”

Albert Lai
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.”

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.

“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.


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.