Over at the Games Development Conference 2023 (GDC 2023), we got to sit down with Paul Brady, the co-founder and CCO for Resolution Games in an interview.
Paul Brady was initially the found of public relations agency, Carve Communications. Throughout his career, he has amassed more than 15 years of experience in ushering new companies and products to the market, along with helping established players redefine their space or break into new arenas.
Paul Brady had also launched Candy Crush Saga and shepherded its maker King to its record breaking $7 Billion Initial Public Offer, among other feats.
Interview is edited for clarity. We would also like to thank PICO for arranging the interview.
King, as a company had focused more on hyper casual mobile games. What was the drive that made you jump into the AR/VR scene?
Paul Brady: What’s interesting about the transition from mobile to AR and VR is that we think it [AR and VR] will eventually become the ultimate gaming platform, especially mixed reality and augmented reality. Mobile has become an enormous audience for games, whereas consoles have somewhat not grown a ton over the last decade or so, comparatively speaking to mobile which has increased rapidly.
We think that will also be the case with especially the AR and MR side of things. There’s things you have to totally just leave behind in mobile, that you can not replicate in this space at all. Especially the business models and some of the ways you monetise players or advertising things like that, and also even the gameplay elements.
Mobile is very “snappable” and short-burst. People wanna be able to get in and get out, save progress and have a quick gameplay experience that’s engaging and makes them want to come back for more everyday, multiple times a day possibly even. Whereas with VR, the retention at least is not that people are playing throughout the entire day, so you have to create experiences that pull people into the headset and into that world, and make them want to go through the steps of turning on a console and starting up a gameplay session.
There’s a lot of differences, but what’s cool about VR and AR is that we get an opportunity to start over and to learn from things we did in the past that maybe we see could be better, discover the ability of games, and things like that and how can we try to shape the future and be a part of the early days of this platform shift so that we can hopefully make it a more positive game environment.
With Mobile games, you can just get a phone and start playing. For VR games, do you take into account about the space needed for people to play a game when you create games?
Paul Brady: Yeah absolutely. When you’re doing mobile game development you have to take into account all the different types of devices people will play on. When you’re doing VR, you have to take into account all the different spaces where people will have varying spaces to play in.
We try to make experiences that people can play in just about any small space that you can possibly think of. Most of our games are stationary, so you don’t move. You can sit or stand and maybe you move your arms a little bit and some of them you move a bit more like Blaston. But for a lot of them, it’s stationary, mainly because locomotion can get people sick.
One of our thesis as a developer is to create content for newcomers and to make sure people who never tried VR to have a positive experience.
You mentioned that you needed needed to move around a lot. Have you ever thought that someone would accidentally bump themselves into a wall?
Paul Brady: Yeah! In the game Bastion, you’re standing on a small platform, so you can only move maybe a half step. You’re kind of shuffling a half of a small movement, and that’s on purpose because we didn’t want people to take dynamic moves when they’re closed off in VR.
There’s definitely incidents where if you’re not aware of your space and you’re not mapping your Guardian Systems out right. But hopefully the players make sure the spaces are safe.
But that’s actually why we really like Passthrough and why we made Blaston mixed reality mode too so you could play it in case you have little kids or pets walking around, or you just want to see your real world environment.
You can see all the bullets and the guns and the avatar of the other player while seeing your real world environment. We did that so people would have the option, but we haven’t really seen any incident where people are running into walls or hitting furniture too much.
Blaston is one of the very rare competitive VR games in the market. What are the deciding factors when developing a PVP or competitive VR game?
Paul Brady: We wanted to find something that’s new and unique that hadn’t been done before. And actually when we first started developing Blaston, we thought it was going to be an old Western quick shoot draw. But what we found is that it just didn’t work so well, that people weren’t having as much fun with that, and that the session was too fast.
We thought what if we slowed down the bullets or what if we changed the bullets so that there’s different impacts from the different bullets. Or what if some were larger or some were lasers, some are grenades that come at you from different angles. And then it turned into this thing where it feels like a puzzle too.
Not only is it a PVP shooter but you also have to solve a puzzle while shooting at the other person that you’re playing against. And then it’s also like a deck building game where you choose a loadout of weapons that you use.
Then 3 or 4 dynamics of the gameplay make it skill-based where you can choose the right weapons, the right deck, and the right puzzle strategy for you to get an advantage and to become more competitive, and to have a unique advantage that’s unique to you.
A lot of this came up organically in the development process, that’s kind of how we work. People on the team find something interesting and they play test with the team. It’s like finding a vein of gold in a mine.
VR games are such a niche market itself. Do you ever consider crossplay or things like that?
Paul Brady: Yeah absolutely. We actually have multiple games that have crossplay capabilities. Our first game that we launched in that respect was called Acron. It’s a game where you play with one person in VR against up to nine people on their mobile phones. And the person in VR is a tree who is trying to protect its acorns from up to nine squirrels on mobile that are trying to come in and steal them and capture the flag. You can throw things at them, like pick them up and throw them, swipe them out of the way and stuff like that.
It’s one of those things when we first demoed it at PAX East, especially it’s a show where parents would bring their kids to play games. We would see parents come up and the kid would want to play the mobile game only because they never seen VR and all of a sudden the whole family is there playing.
Most households only have one VR headset, so it’s a way for people to share that VR experience without everyone having to have a VR headset on because otherwise, they’re just sitting there watching someone playing and having fun, and it’s not terribly fun for the spectators. We wanted to have a non-threatening way for people to get exposed to VR and to decide if they wanted to get into VR too.
We also did it with Demeo. Demeo you could play on PC or you could play on VR, and the reasoning there would be that if one person in VR plays it and loves it, they’re going to invite a few friends because it’s usually four people playing a co-op experience. And then all those people who don’t have a VR headset but could play it on PC, then they can choose once they’re in game, they might realised that they’re missing out a little bit that in VR it looks a lot cooler and you can scale in and be life-sized with the characters. You can do a lot more things that you can’t do on PC, and you kind of want to upgrade into VR.
That’s kind of the thought there, it would not prohibit us from giving people exposure to VR, and if anything we would widen the audience. With multiplayer games, it’s important to have concurrencies, so enough people to play with and if you are only in VR at this stage in the industry, it might be limiting and hard to keep that audience. Especially when games get competitive if people come back and they’re not finding people good enough to compete against, they’re gonna drop off. We’re trying to keep that concurrency alive.
I think for PVP games that would be a huge issue especially when you search for a game, and you search for 5 minutes and there’s no-one playing, and you’re not going to play for the next few days after that.
Mobile games have a lot of AIs, but after you play with AIs, you sort of know their tactics and strategies. Things start to get boring, so how do you solve that?
Paul Brady: We think about that a lot but I mean it’s important to have a single player mode or a mode where you can play against bots or you could have a training mode or something like that. But then also having the ability to have something else to do while you’re waiting, for instance in some of our games we have what we call the Tinyverse, which is a social hub, like a lobby where you go into.
For Demeo, it’s a basement of an old games shop where you might expect people to play like DnD nights, or something like that. You could go in there and paint little miniature figurines and you could play archery games and listen to music, and there’s an arcade game in there. And you can hang out and meet people that you could play with.
A lot of the times too with Demeo, it would be like a 3 hour gameplay session, so it gets people a chance to meet someone before they have to be stuck with them for 3 hours in a gameplay session. And also afterwards to come back to a place where you can talk about the adventures you went through with those people and build community and relationships with these people.
And also, with Demeo for instance where Demeo Battles, which is the PVP version of Demeo, and that will be 10 minute gameplay sessions. Our thought there is hopefully if people would want to come in to play Demeo, maybe they’ll play a couple PVP sessions while they’re waiting for a friend to get off work or to get online, and they’ll wrap that up and all go into Demeo and play a four player experience.
You can have just two players who take on two characters each and you could still have a four hero co-op experience with one player and play through the whole thing by yourself. I also think the roguelike element of Demeo where you never know how many enemies that are going to spawn or you never know what kind of cards you’re going to get, makes it interesting for people to keep coming back and trying different ways.
We have people who try to be the fastest to get through a certain adventure. We heard that there’s someone who beat the first adventure in 6 minutes with one character and they lucked out. They got the key fast and they didn’t have any enemies spawn and they were able to get the right dice to roll and all that stuff.
But people are always trying to conquer the game with just assassins or just bards or something like that and keep challenging themselves.
Do you have anything you want to tell us that we think we should know?
Paul Brady: VR is incredibly exciting but mixed reality is also super exciting. We’re a 200 person company and we focus half of our energy now in mixed reality content. Right now we’re showing something called Spatial Ops, which is a mixed reality first person shooter experience where you can actually see your own living room environment where you could hide behind your couch or rest your weapon on a table in your room to aim your weapon, and you can open a portal wall into a virtual world where there’s bots coming at you in waves.
It’s an FPS wave shooter and basically you’re sitting there defending against them, making sure they don’t come into your space and if they get close enough, they’ll actually walk through the wall and into your space and try to take you out. But all kinds of weapons spawn, you got shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles, grenades, and even a turret. It’s just really cool because it really blends your real world environment and if you threw a grenade, it can bounce off the table for instance and just like that.
Even though it’s just your real world and not fully immersive in VR, it almost, to me, feels a bit more immersive because the real space that you know and familiar with is becoming a part of the game. It’s just a very unique thing and it’s something we’re very excited about because it opens up the possibility for so many new genres of games and potential of game mechanics and ideas to come to life that weren’t there just months ago.
We would like to thank Paul Brady for taking the time to answer our questions. For more information about Resolution Games, do check out their website here.
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