Muskedunder is one of the leading European social game developers. Their first hit game Icy Tower is a social version of a popular ten year old game which the Swedish developers brought to Facebook in September 2009. Within a couple of months Icy Tower had over 1.5 million monthly active users and 200.000 daily active users. Now they are planning new games and the expansion to other social networks. In our interview we talked to Muskedunder’s Director of Social Games Johan Peitz about problems during the launch and success factors like in-game features and distribution channels.
SocialGamesObserver: Icy Tower was an overnight success, which problems did you face during the launch?
Johan Peitz: Our biggest issue when we started growing for real was the capacity of the servers. The game grew faster then we could handle and would constantly hit the performance roof faster than we could improve the backend. This lead to constant frustration and a lot of “quick fixes” that eventually would not work properly anyway. After having grown out of a couple of servers of increasing size we eventually settled with Amazon’s EC2 services. Then the game also had a number of early issues which arose from us not quite knowing how to utilize the Facebook platform which stopped some players from playing the game. These were however minor problems that could be fixed and disposed of fairly quick.
SocialGamesObserver: What are the most important competitive features in the game?
Johan Peitz: Since it is a game about beating your friends’ scores, the competitiveness revolves around knowing how good your friends actually are. In Icy Tower we try to show the player how tough the competition is as often as possible. First off is showing your friends’ results inside the actual gameplay. When players ascend the tower they will see their friends’ avatars positioned at their best results. As soon as they pass (or not pass) they will know that they were better (or worse). This is combination with weekly resets of the top lists keeps the competition fresh and engaging.
SocialGamesObserver: Icy Tower was successful a long time before it came to Facebook. Why did you adapt gameplay to be more forgiving?
Johan Peitz: We wanted to lower the barrier of entry and reach a broader market. A lot of casual players aren’t interested in the kind of humiliation playing a new game often brings along. If we could minimize that we hoped to have more players stick to the game. That said, even if the game is more forgiving it is still as challenging as ever for experienced players.
SocialGamesObserver: Individual avatar creation can increase user retention. The avatars in the wardrobe are breathing , what other features did you install to bond users to their characters?
Johan Peitz: The characters do these little animations every now and then to look alive. For instance, in the wardrobe when you try something on, the character responds with an appropriate animation. Try out a new pair of shoes and the character will lift her leg and look down on the new item. We also diversified the clothing items so that players should be able to express themselves with different styles. As we localized the game we also added nationally themed clothing items that allowed players to identify with their characters even more. Since players also see their friends’ avatars when they play and recognize them as their friends, they also make the connection that they are seen by their friends every time they play. This adds an additional layer of bonding. Finally, we choose to as often as possible display players’ characters in combination with their profile pictures, further reinforcing the identification.
SocialGamesObserver: Which distribution channels did you use to promote Icy tower?
Johan Peitz: With Icy Tower being around for so long we had quite an arsenal of promotion tools at our disposal. We started off by (more…)