DeNA's Ben Cousins on The Drowning's balance of coherent monetisation and restrictive game sessions
Inspired by CSR Racing, Infinity Blade & more
Scattered Entertainment has just decloaked some information about the novel control scheme for its horror FPS The Drowning.
You can check it and the handy explanation video out on PocketGamer.
During our session with Scattered's GM Ben Cousins, we also delved into how the start up had approached the equally tricky issue of monetising a free-to-play shooter.
"The game couldn't be focused on multiplayer because you can't guarantee connectivity, so we had to think about creating a free-to-play game with strong single player monetisation options," Cousins pointed out.
Surprisingly, given that the developer's parent is Japanese outfit DeNA, The Drowning is targeted at western audiences.
"First person shooters aren't popular in Japan, but they are in China, Korea and the Philippines," he explains. "But we're focused on the western market first."
And in keeping with the general trend, the game is most definitely designed for core gamers.
"It's a great game, but this isn't Clash of Clans," he points out. "We don't compromise on the type of game we want to make for this audience. This is a core shooter. It's not on-rails."
Bones of the game
As for the monetisation, that's heavily integrated into the way the game is structured.
Set following another version of the zombie apocalypse, players entered various locations (effectively arenas) for a fixed period of time - typically two minutes.
The goal is to kill as many enemies as possible, with success measured in terms of points racked up - you get more points for headshots, or chained kills for example. This provides you with more time to scavenge the location for useful items before the zombies return.
"The items you find will be random, like a slots game. You can also buy flares that will provide additional time to look for items," Cousins explains.
But, he says, there's no in-game store per se.
The closest is the gunsmith's junk yard, which you can pay to get access to, but which will only provide you with rarer items and broken guns that will have to be fixed by successfully playing the game and collecting more items.
"You'll be able to play for hundreds of hours without spending any money. The monetisation is coherent within the game world," he states.
"This is skills-based game."
Combined with this collection mechanic is an energy system that's similar to the approach taken by NaturalMotion in CSR Racing.
Starting off with a motorbike (and working your way up to a helicopter), players will 'travel' to the different locations (it's a metaphor: there's no driving gameplay), with fuel being a restriction on how quickly they can progress.
"We want there to be a balance to the game, so you can't just burn your way through the content and then churn out because you've run out of things to do," Cousins says.
This is one of the problems of not having an endless gameplay style; although post-launch, The Drowning will be updated with an asynchronous co-operative multiplayer raid mode where players combine to take down bosses in timed events.
Infinity Blade had a similar approach, while DeNA's Blood Brothers also employs something similar. Indeed, The Drowning shares similar compulsion loops to Blood Brothers.
And there's more
Another important element to The Drowning's success will be its post-launch strategy.
Due to hit the App Store in March, Cousins says 12 months of updates have been planned. These will range from timed events in the game, such as the boss raids, to new levels and new story arcs.
Originally set in the Pacific Northwest, the action could move to Canada and other locations in the US, for example.
Of course, The Drowning will also plug into DeNA's Mobage social platform for extra retention.
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