The Tampere studio dedicated to putting the power of creation into players’ hands
Riku Rakkola’s game-making roots lie in the Amiga days, but his company’s second title, What On Earth!, feels every inch the modern mobile production.
Jari Paananen joins him to tell us more about the thinking behind the game.
Why did you decide to create a game centred on user-generated content?
Riku Rakkola [Co-founder] Sami Kalliokoski and I have always had this passion for physics-based games, because of the potential they provide for emergent gameplay. It’s super-interesting to see what people do with the tools you give them. It’s really appealing that you can’t predict entirely what will happen with the gameplay – you just create the possibilities for players, and hopefully they’ll create something magical.
Does it feel like there’s a big demand in the mobile market for games in which players make their own fun?
RR I think the timing is perfect, really. On consoles, a game like LittleBigPlanet obviously has a huge amount of players, but the amount of potential players for a mobile game far exceeds that of any console game. If the game is well received, you can have a huge amount of players creating things, and because of the free-to-play model there are fewer barriers, providing a way to get a huge amount of content to the community.
What sort of challenges do you come against in creating this kind of game?
Jari Paananen Design-wise, I think one of the difficulties we face is to keep it simple. With a level editor, we want to make sure that it’s really usable so that anybody can pick it up and make things. My sister’s kid is three years old, and he can create levels using the tools we’ve made. We’ve had to scrap a lot of features that we had in mind. We could put lots of things in there, but we need to keep it really simple.
RR Adding features is really easy, but adding them in a way that they’re still super-useable, that’s very hard.
How about your competition?
RR There are editors and sandbox stuff where you can make different things, but you can’t really do much with the content, so I think that our game is unique, in a way. Compared to other platforms, there’s not very much competition on mobile.
JP I think one of the key things we have is that we validate all of the content created for the game. You can’t make a broken level – the game automatically ensures that it is possible to complete it, and then it validates it. It helps to ensure that the user-created levels are enjoyable.
Do you think you’ll continue down this path, creating UGC-driven games?
RR That’s what we aim to do. But we don’t want to get stuck with one particular game genre – we don’t want to get stuck with racing, for example. We want to make user-generated-content-based games of all types. Given the amount of technology that goes into the server side and into creating a good editor and so on, it would be crazy not to use that in the future. We see that there’s a lot of potential here. People love making things, and even if only ten or 20 per cent of the userbase is creating stuff, that is potentially an enormous amount of new content for all of the game’s community to benefit from.
With past experience at Finnish game studio Universomo, the close-knit team collaborated on countless titles prior to the birth of Traplight
Founded 2010 Employees 12 URL www.traplightgames.com Selected softography The Hero Current project
What On Earth!