The premise is simple: you go to a bar and see a bunch of people playing this cow abduction game on the big screen. They’re using their iPhones, iPads and Androids as controllers, pressing on the screen to abduct, tilting their phones to move. You connect via your mobile device and you’re next in line. Consider it the 2.0 version of putting your quarter up.
Cow Snatchers was just one of several games demoed at D2S Games’ underground event last week. However, the event wasn’t really meant to demo their games more than it was showcase their platform, which is all about playing games socially without the likes of Facebook. As D2S chief visionary officer Donna Bonifield put it, “it’s all about taking people away from Facebook and into face time.” In fact, this event was more about redefining what a social game is.
Now, Bonifield and company are no newcomers to the game of making games. She alone has been at it for more than 20 years, with much time spent at Brøderbund, where she met chief technology officer Matt Siegel who led graphics conversion for such titles as Myst and Prince of Persia. Together with CEO Beth Rogozinski and designer Antonio Toro, they make up D2S Games, whose mission is to put “big screen fun in the palm of your hands”. Your mobile device is truly central to this endeavor.
Cow Snatcher‘s iPhone interface — elegant, stylized, a possible metaphor female anatomy. It definitely shows that two buttons can make for an complete gaming experience. Above all else, it represents the simplicity D2S is focused on in order to get the widest gaming audience playing. Sure they start in bars, but D2S aims to swing big with their platform. As Bonifield explains, “I see D2S in airports, movie theaters, restaurants, clubs, at home. All around the world, communities of people playing together socially through games.”
Imagine you’re at McAfee stadium watching the Oakland Athletics sweep the San Francisco Giants. Between innings, instead of the announcer drawing your attention to the big screen to passively watch a silly cartoon train race, he tells you to pull out your iOS devices and Androids to play a quick game. Winner gets free tickets.
After seeing their technology work first hand, this is a definite possibility. D2S is truly making a social experience of gaming, where people interact with other people, rather than a viral slot machine where you harvest meaningless crops, collect valueless coins, only to post on a news feed where it gets swallowed in a steady river of status updates. In the ball game example, instead you’ve connected on a higher level with an entire stadium of people who are present, in the same place with you; and that lucky game developer just had tens of thousands of people playing his or her game in a matter of minutes. Such a beautiful concept this is.
The D2S loading and queuing screens. First you’re anticipating, then you’re connecting, then you’re playing. If I took that as a metaphor for D2S Games, I’d say they’re in the connecting stage. The platform has been developed, the API has opened this week and now it’s time for developers to go to town. Unlike the Facebook platform, developers are not tied down to making spin-off harvesting games or games super similar to the next in fear of losing an audience who doesn’t have the time to learn a completely new IP.
The other games they showed off, trivia game Smart-Ask and tap-racing game Stone Age Derby, were totally different from Cow Snatchers. More than the gameplay itself, the sheer difference in the type of games show that developers are only limited by their imagination with this platform. One can very well develop a core game that uses the iPad as the controller, a game you can very well play on a super huge HD screen. During the underground event, D2S shared one more vision for where the platform can go.
Imagine the D2S MoJoe app as a central hub, what Bonifield called the “jukebox”. Open the jukebox and you find an invite to a secret event. “You receive special secret invite, and passwords and clues along the way, but until an hour before the event you don’t find out where the event will be. Then when you arrive, check in at the big screen with other players; you can only get in if you compete.” A game leading you to a game leading you to an event that most likely will have another game. Mind = blown.
If you were a hardcore gamer in the nineties, you may remember when just about every venue had an arcade machine. I myself remember many days biking to the 7Eleven on the corner to play Street Fighter II. Most times I got p’wned, but there was something special about playing alongside a real person, talking trash and making friends.
Of course you can still have that experience, but it’s limited to the Tilt at the mall or a 21+ venue like Dave and Buster’s (and I don’t know about you, I’m not at D&B’s mainly to get on the sticks); and all these places are static. You never go anywhere new. You don’t have that personal experience at the neighborhood pizza spot or bowling alley anymore, where anywhere you go, you can get into a fun game and meet new people. D2S changes that, essentially bringing the arcade-everywhere phenomenon back in a big way. Only this time, arcade-everywhere is truly everywhere.
Now here’s your +1. Why no sound fx? It’s because the sound would be coming from your phone.