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TUAW exclusive: Makers of Aurora Feint unveil new game, codenamed "VSL"


Aurora Feint was one of the iPhone's first big games, way back in the early days of the App Store. Since then, the company behind that first hit has added on a few different games in the same universe, each with their own separate features and focus, but all in the same vein of puzzle-based RPG. Today, Aurora Feint, Inc. has pulled back the curtain just slightly to reveal their very first original effort since that initial App Store release. The game is only codenamed so far -- they're calling it "VSL" -- but the developers at Aurora Feint plan to turn it into a "showcase" of what's possible with Apple's new policy of allowing free apps to provide content on demand.

Above is the very first screenshot of the yet-to-be revealed game, and TUAW got a chance to talk exclusively with both Peter Relan and Jason Citron of Aurora Feint about the new game, what it'll be like, and how it'll integrate with their growing social gaming platform, OpenFeint. Click the link below to read on.

Aurora Feint on its own was a pretty casual-style RPG -- it had elements of Tetris and Bejeweled mixed in with RPG gathering and leveling elements. But Peter Relan says that the new game will be "much, much more casual than Aurora Feint -- that was a heavy RPG with a casual element, and this is a casual game with light RPG elements." Relan says that the new game will be aimed at a "much broader market" than the original game was.

They've been working on VSL since June, but it's been created with the type of microtransaction purchases Apple only made available last week in mind the whole time -- "we anticipated that Apple would allow in-app purchases with free games," says Relan. To that end, the game called "VSL" will sell for free, but will present extra gameplay in a "gateway" style format: you'll play for a little while (we pressed on exactly how long the free purchase would let us play, but were only told we'd "get a mission or a goal to accomplish, to beat other people in the community at your progression or gaining of virtual goods"), and then you'll reach a point where you are offered a chance to level up and move on into the next content pack with an in-app purchase.

The world of the game itself will be persistent, so, as Citron says, "we are going with totally casual asynchronous multiplayer. People play whenever they want, the world progresses, and you level up to get an opportunity to unlock a whole bunch of virtual goods and gameplay in a content pack."

As for how many of these content packs will be available at the game's launch, neither Relan or Citron wanted to share yet ("we'll have to develop that in beta tests," said Relan cryptically). But they were clear about two things: assuming the game's popularity supported it, they planned to make VSL a never-ending event -- as long as people were ready to buy more content packs, they'd be ready to supply them. And they were also fairly certain about the price: 99 cents per pack. "There's no better price point," says Relan, for this kind of continuous content.

Finally, we were also told that VSL would come with the latest version of OpenFeint up and running, expected to be version 2.4, released sometime this November. Aurora Feint wants this new game to be a real showpiece for what their social gaming platform can do, so it will integrate all of the features available to developers who sign up to their program (over 260 games are already using their software, and they say they've got over 600 games still sitting in development under the platform's umbrella).

In our interview with these guys a few months ago, they seemed extremely excited about the possibilities of microtransactions and periodic content on the App Store, and it certainly seems that with Apple's announcement last week, they feel they've been given the go-ahead to put their ideas about the business model to the test. We'll keep an eye out for more of VSL in the next month or so, and after it releases, we'll have to see if consumers reward that excitement with their in-app purchase dollars.

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