I've met with David Marsh here in San Francisco a few times before, and somehow it always turns out that I meet with him right before his big releases. The last time was right before he and his brother Ian, the founders of NimbleBit, released Pocket Planes, the company's follow-up to Tiny Tower. And this week here at GDC, we met a few days before Nimble Quest was finally due out for release.
So it's tough to ask questions about how the release of Nimble Quest is going when the game hasn't actually come out yet. But Marsh and I did chat about what they expect to see with this latest release. It's not a simulation game at all, unlike Tiny Tower or Pocket Planes, and Marsh says he hopes this game will demonstrate that the company can make a successful game that is a little more action-oriented than what they've made in the past. The two brothers were very struck by the gameplay of a game called Call of Snakes, and Marsh says Nimble Quest is essentially an exploration of that gameplay into a little wider fantasy realm.
I've been playing the game for quite a while now and it is very fun, though Marsh agrees that "compared to our last three games, it is less casual." Pocket Planes and Tiny Tower basically both ran their course no matter what you did, but Nimble Quest requires some finger agility and can be lost pretty quickly. At the same time, however, Marsh says that while the game might not appeal to a casual audience, he hopes it will be very engaging with the audience it finds. The game includes a boost system (which Marsh says was inspired by PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz), and there's a certain bit of strategy there to choosing which boosts you use regularly and which boosts you put into play when you're on a hot streak in the game.
I asked Marsh about the game's name, and he said that putting the company's name in the title was more about making sure it was something that could be theirs rather than something generic. "Pocket" and "Tiny" are both words that are hard to trademark well, he said -- "we couldn't really own that." When the brothers sat down to try and name this title, "Nimble Quest" is just what came to mind, so it'll be interesting to see if the game's release drives a little more interest in the company for people who may not know their story.
Nimble Quest was developed in Unity (using Matt Rix's Futile framework), and Marsh says that engine worked very well for them. Unity allows the company to port its games more easily, and so Nimble Quest is the first title that will become available on PC, Mac and iOS all in the same day (NimbleBit even released a browser version already thanks to Unity's portability). Marsh does say that getting the game on Steam is a goal, though he hasn't started talking to Valve yet about how that would happen.
Finally, Marsh says that while NimbleBit is currently focused on Nimble Quest (and will likely provide more content and support after released), the team's next title is actually a step backwards. When Pocket Planes was being developed, it originally started out as Pocket Trains, before David and Ian decided that having to stick to rail routes was a little too limiting and that they should take to the air instead. "But we still had all that art from Pocket Trains," he told me, so the company has an artist working on recombining that art into a "completely new game." That release is still a ways away, but we may see Pocket Trains return in some form in the future.
Nimble Quest is coming out this Thursday -- NimbleBit continues to impress (the company is still just three developers and one support employee), and Nimble Quest should continue the brothers' streak of freemium hits.