May. 02, 2011

Q&A with Synapse Games: Developer Questions

I recently had the pleasure to do an interview with Alex Reeve, President of Synapse Games, which launched the hugely popular game Tyrant on Kongregate a month ago. In addition to some more general audience questions (viewable here), I asked some questions about game tech and integration specifically for our developer newsletter. These should be of special interest to anyone considering launching virtual goods games on Kongregate, something Synapse Games has done very well with Tyrant.

Kongregate: What technologies do you use to develop and run Tyrant?

Alex: The client uses Flash and is programmed in Actionscript 3. We use FDT as an IDE. The back-end is a PHP + MySQL stack. It's pretty traditional, but it's tried-and-true technology so any issues that come up for us have usually been solved before. Reliability is extremely important.

Kongregate: You started out as a Facebook game and then did a port for Kongregate. Can you briefly describe what kind of interface changes were needed to work within Kongregate's system?

Alex: The two biggest changes were user authentication and the Kreds/payment system. Neither were particularly big changes - they both follow the same basic setup as our Facebook version, so it was mostly just swapping in the different function calls. Architecturally, they work very similarly. We also removed a couple extraneous features from the Facebook version to create a more streamlined experience.

Kongregate: The Kongregate APIs are different from Facebook's. How are you able to maintain both versions while developing new features?

Alex: We've abstracted out all of the platform-specific code to a separate module, so it's completely trivial to support both platforms. All of our deployments are identical except for the platform flag, which tells the system how to call the various API calls (such as authentication, payments, etc). It's great because after the initial implementation, it doesn't take any extra time for us to support both platforms.

Editor's note: Synapse Games kindly agreed to open source their abstraction layer for use as a library or tutorial for anyone looking to do multi-platform social game releases. You can view the source code for Kompatible at this github project.

Kongregate: How long did it take you to prepare your Facebook game for launch on Kongregate?

Alex: The integration time was only a few days, followed by about a week of testing. In the end, the integration ended up being much, much simpler than we were expecting.

Kongregate: What sort of differences, if any, have you seen between how Facebook and Kongregate users approach and play the game?

Alex: Kongregate users are extremely competitive - Faction rivalries filled out very quickly after release. We've seen very high retention with Kongregate as well. I think the chat rooms help to engage the users and allows new players to ask questions and get answers very quickly. Kongregate: What percentage of transactions in the game are spent on energy refills, stamina refills, elite memberships, and cards?

Alex: Not surprisingly, the majority of the transactions come from buying cards and packs. Almost everyone who spends Kreds will buy the Elite membership and then move onto buying the expansion packs.

Kongregate: We often see a significant boost in user activity when new content is launched. What kind of schedule do you aim for with regard to content and feature releases?

Alex: We aim for a new major expansion every 6-10 weeks. In-between expansions, we release smaller updates that include challenging side-missions, new achievements and additional reward cards. We also have a couple big features in development and plan on a 6-10 week release schedule for those as well.

Kongregate: Thanks for sharing some details of your experience with porting your Facebook game over to Kongregate!

Be sure to check out Tyrant, the military-themed CCG!
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