January 13, 2013 9:00 PM | Staff
Guildford, UK-based Hello Games has had quite an explosive few years since it was founded in 2009, thanks to its rather popular arcade racing Joe Danger series. Now, as the third installment launches on iOS, the studio is finally ready to put Joe to bed.
Joe Danger Touch is the perfect swan song for the franchise, with great reviews rolling in from both the press and App Store users. For Hello Games' Sean Murray, it truly is the end of an era.
"You'd think I would be glad to leave Joe Danger behind, wouldn't you?" he says. "Instead I feel incredibly sad - it's a game that I'm very proud of, that's been very important to us, and a lot of people have a real fondness for."
Hello Games now moves on to its second new IP, currently codenamed Project Skyscraper, with a new genre and new platforms in mind... but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Right now Joe Danger Touch is the big talking point on iOS, and the move from console to mobile has gelled well with the title.
"Console developers still view iPhone as some sort of poor relation to console," reasons Murray. "For the longest time Joe Danger iOS has been the scrappy underdog project in Hello Games, and we really felt like we had something to prove here."
Joe Danger on iOS isn't a port, but rather, a completely new title in the series. In the same way that Ubisoft took the wonderful Rayman Origins on console and re-envisioned it for iOS with Rayman Jungle Run, Hello Games has shown console studios that mobile is the perfect platform for rethinking your franchise.
The majority of reviews for Joe Danger Touch say that it is as good, if not better, than the console versions. Says Murray, "That's a massive triumph for us, it's a first for an iOS game, and is where I think things are going."
In-app attackIn my talks with Murray, I got the feeling that he wasn't a huge fan of in-app purchases. Joe Danger Touch includes a system by which players can pay real money to buy characters with boosting stats, but when talking about this feature, I sensed a troubled view in his words.
"That [perceived apprehension] is not exactly true, but I will say that I don't think I've ever bought any IAP [content]," he said when I questioned this. "I still see it as a challenge the designer has laid out for me - if I'm skillful, I should be able to play the game without purchasing anything. If I can't progress, or enjoy a game without purchasing something, then I see that as a failure of the design."
"The best free-to-play games get that right, I think, and actually provide a huge amount of entertainment for free," he adds. "Then purchasing something makes the game even better."
Argues Murray, if in-app purchases are done right, they can add real value to a game that couldn't be sought through the traditional one-time purchase system.
"When IAP is done well, it gives real world value to what you're doing in game," he reasons. "In Joe Danger, when people unlock the Cupcake character through skill, they value it so much more, knowing that it could have cost them 99 cents!"
"So many times, I see people who aren't as adept at the game, or don't have the time, and they want to spend more, to take shortcuts. I can't ignore that as a designer," he says. "It's the equivalent of when I used to buy Amiga Power so I could get a cheats for things like infinite lives in Cannon Fodder."
Joe Danger Touch is available now via the iOS App Store.
[Mike Rose wrote this article originally for sister site Gamasutra.]