The small startup with big plans for iPad strategy games
Founded 2013 Location Helsinki Employees 10 Key staff Lasse Seppänen (co-founder, CEO), Teemu Haila (co-founder, product manager) URL www.playraven.com Current projects Spymaster (iPad)
Looking at the CVs of its founder group, it’s easy to see why PlayRaven recently raised 1.7m in venture funding. Co-founder and CEO Lasse Seppänen was executive producer on Alan Wake; prior to that he worked for Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen at Digital Chocolate. PlayRaven’s other founders have a similar mix of mobile, triple-A and social-game skills, and between them they have 50 years of industry experience. Their first game, Spymaster, is a spy management game for iPad set in WWII. It’s intriguingly pitched as “football manager with spies”, with randomly generated missions and storylines to provide the replayability that’s so essential in free-to-play. Here, Seppänen explains how PlayRaven plans to take strategy on iPad to the next level.
Was it your mission to build a team with experience in multiple fields?
I have both mobile and triple-A experience and I thought I would gather a founder group based on that principle: a good mixture so that the team understands the mobile use case, the limitations of the platform, but also can produce really high quality production values. And also outsourcing – it’s very important for us to outsource as much as possible and keep a very tight senior team at the core. Outsourcing’s an interesting choice, especially as you’re working in Unity.
Why not do things in-house?
We like to use experts. Illustrations are a big deal for our game, so we want the best, but we don’t want to hire an illustrator because we don’t have a full-time role. And creatively it’s very important that you don’t have a large head count. The smaller the team, the more creative you can be; you can prototype things and make quick changes. The more people we have, the slower it is to backtrack.
Why choose the strategy genre?
For the past 20 years, I’ve wanted to make them. My first game was a tactical mobile game where you had two submarines fighting destroyer ships. It was asymmetric – a new game mechanic when most other studios at that time were making Battleships. Ever since then, my career has been mostly focused on making games with new mechanics, new ideas, in whatever way possible. I’ve always been a big proponent of being different. We think it’s time to renew the strategy genre, provide a little bit more depth, a bit more realism. This is something I exercised at Remedy for six years: how do you make a game that is anchored in reality, inspired by reality, but not a copy of reality?
You have strong investment – how will you be spending those resources?
The investment allows us much more creative freedom. We picked investors who believe in our strategy – they understand that reaching new gamers requires taking creative risks. So while we of course seek feedback from everyone including the boardroom, the final greenlight decision has to be CEO’s. This kind of groundbreaking game couldn’t be made any other way, in my opinion. The investors asked about our second game; we said we’d design the concepts with the new team we’re currently recruiting, so we can’t give a direct answer. It’s going to fit under our umbrella: it’s going to be innovative, with a new theme, distinctive art style and new gameplay mechanics because we don’t copy, or clone, or incrementally improve other games. I think life’s too short for that.
Lasse Seppänen (left) is clearly relishing his return to the creative process after his time at Remedy, where he served as chief operating officer