This week's Game Developer's Conference was, I believe, the second time I've meet up with 99 Games, an independent, India-based studio with quite an iOS library. The company has found an audience with time management games. These ask you to manage virtual customers, moving them from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Prison Mayhem is a popular example from 99 Games's catalog (Diner Dash is another example of the genre, though not from 99 Games).
Founder Rohith Bhat says the company has been developing on its own time mangement game engine, which will let them develop games quickly and then port them to Android within "less than a month."
That may seem a little mechanical, but this genre is set in stone. The games only require players (who tend to skew female, and sometimes even a little older) to execute a few simple taps and swipes to keep the game going. Therefore, 99 Games can crank these out and appeal to many markets with the same genre.
The company's latest title is called Night Club Mayhem. It requires you to move clubgoers through a series of nightclubs, sending them from the entryway to the coffee bar, the "mocktail bar" and finally the dance floor. To play, you simply drag a customer over to a certain part of the screen as requested, and then tap on them to take care of whatever they need. Bhat says he is working on some minigames with a little more action, like choosing the right stamp for the nightclub, or serving the food to customers. However, too much complexity will lose that casual audience that these games need to stay alive.
There's both a story mode (in which a young woman needs to build up her father's club empire over time), and an endless mode to play with. Things are very business-as-usual for this genre. Bhat isn't wasting any time putting his engine to work, either. There's yet another time management game due out from 99 in another three months.
The company showed me two other games they're working on, both which add just a little more innovation. Tito's Shell is the more intriguing title. It's heavily influenced by physics puzzle games like Cut the Rope, in that you need to make some physical objects interact to try and connect a round turtle named Tito with his circular shell. But the key component here is that objects can be connected together. Once a line is drawn between them, the line will pull them together.
Those lines can be used in all sorts of ways. Sometimes Tito can be pulled to his shell, and sometimes the lines keep objects from going off the screen the wrong way. In one level, connected lines open up doors and pull up platforms, pushing Tito and his shell together. Unfortunately, the interface looks a little clunky (which makes sense, given that this is 99 Games' first entry into a genre like this), but there are some good ideas. Tito's Shell should be out next month.
Finally, I saw a title called Dream Star that should also be out next month, and it's the company's first entry into social freemium gaming. The idea is that you're building up a character into a movie star. In order to succeed, you'll need to use the game's freemium engine to do all the things movie stars would normally do, like work out, take on jobs as models and actors, get seen at clubs and go shopping. They even get caught by the paparazzi. There are a few minigames too, but most of Dream Star is just customizing your character, and then clicking away on the various activities (at least as long as the in-game energy stat will allow you to). This one seems targeted at a younger female audience. Most older gamers probably won't look twice at it, but 99 Games could build a significant following if the right players find this one out.
Bhat has laid claim to his time management titles. They may not appeal to all players (and certainly they're not doing anything too innovative), but there's definitely a place on the App Store for those. We'll have to see if 99 Games' other experiments in various popular mobile genres pan out in the next few months or so.