GDC Online 12: Hong Kong-based Life is Crime players are 6 times more aggressive than US, says Red Robot
It's not the question many game designers ask, but that was the starting point for Pete Hawley of Red Robot Labs, when he was thinking about its location-based game Life is Crime.
The question wasn't just about Winnipeg of course, but about how you launch a game that might only have 1,000 players spread across a country as large as the Canada, at least in the early days.
In the game
Life is Crime didn't stay at that level for long, however. Launching on Android in 2011 and iOS in early 2012, it's since been downloaded over 4 million times.
"We now have hundreds of people fighting over our local Starbucks," Hawley said.
Indeed, the most popular venues that people fight over in the game are Starbucks, McDonalds and Subway, which are the most popular fastfood brands in the US. In this way, the game mirrors some general movement patterns. The most 'violent' cities in the game are Chicago and San Francisco.
Yet some surprises have been thrown up.
A bank in the small town of Ridgecrest, California is the most 'robbed' in the game - over 25,000 times. This is something that's likely to continue as the more times a bank is robbed, the more rewards you get for robbing it.
While one wealthy individual in Manhattan flew his helicopter over the city just to regain control over a location he had lost.
The biggest change in the game, however, was when the gang mechanic was introduced, enabling social interactions, which massively increased usage and concentrated national characteristics.
This also highlighted some regional differences between players.
For example, while the US accounts for 85 percent of Life is Crime players, UK and Hong Kong players are more likely to join gangs, and are much more aggressive in terms of how they play the game.
In a recent in-game challenge between US and Hong Kong players, on average US players had 656 battles each, while Hong Kong players had 1574.
There are also more 40 level players (the current maximum) in Hong Kong than there are in the US.
"Hong Kong players are 6 to 7 time more aggressive than US players," Hawley explained.
The result is that Red Robot is now very focused on geo-psychology in terms of how it deals with - and optimise - different play patterns in different countries.
[The slidedeck from the talk will be available from the Red Robot website]