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Jagged Alliance Online Announced

Social Strategy
Jagged Alliance Online Announced

Okay so talk about timing. Just days after my last post it's announced classic team based tactical game Jagged Alliance is getting an online treatment.

So now often people think strange things but often an idea's time has just come, the influences are there and given enough brains some will arrive at similar conclusions. This happened for Calculus for instance. Now in the international mono-culture it is even more common. I could point to a beta which was made public today and pull out a pitch document I wrote two years ago and you would be convinced it's the same game (not telling what the game is).

Back to the new game though. The following information is from the launch site.

Tactical Turn based Action in 3D isometric graphics with parameterized maps for fresh challenges

Procedural Generated content and browser based, these both get two massive thumbs up. Also this implies a low technical barrier to entry.

Management of mercenary company with extended RPG system

Levelling up characters and long term progression are key sticky factors keeping players engaged. It raises the barrier to entry a tiny bit if done right, and by a mile if done poorly.

Synchronous and asynchronous online PvE, co-op and PvP

Every word there is gold. Synchronous is nothing new but it is the most engaging way for players to interact and is always brilliant that you support it. Asynchronous is crucial in the busy online world and social environment, especially for casual players. As we discussed it was a key factor of new social Multiplayer elements, also means you need a much smaller player base before getting critical mass.

Co-op is key for the non-competitive players and if pitched right with the correct buffs ect... will be a key recruitment point. If you make co-op a powerful experience with rewards you can turn your player base into your most vocal recruiters. Finally PvP and PvE has to be in there for the more traditional player, and PvP tends to increase the depth of play significantly.

Build up your own HQ

This has social written all over it espcially if its easy to share and show-off. Build your own formula is a key element of almost every successful social system. For Xbox it's achievements and for Farmville it is the farm.

Players can choose to accept campaigns, which are essentially a string of missions on a specific map that need to be resolved within a given time frame.

Player's can choose is a nice phrase, that power to the player that social systems push, but the kicker is the given time frame. The choice gives the sense of control but the time limit is the pull-back and the sticky factor. I assume the time frames will be very lenient but just short enough to encourage you to come back before your crops wither, so to speak.

Players can support other’s campaigns by renting mercenaries for a certain amount of time and can also bolster their roster by using their ally’s mercs.

Here comes another viral vector, and reason to recruit friends. It's the golden goose trick of turning a person's friends into a game resource. Making them ensure they have more, and therefore you have more players. It also provides a very passive social interaction which will keep reminding players to get back in because their friends are still playing.

The game can be played as a normal browser game, managing mercenaries and sending them on missions or players can dive into the action on the tactical map, improving their chances and rewards.

So the depth of engagement is chosen by the player, and how much time they have. Again it's smart because many people will be recruited by their friends but not be deeply invested enough, at first, to engage in tactical game-play. Think of it as getting someone into whiskey by giving them fruiting cocktails to start with.

This is also encouraging because it suggests the game will have the desired depth for us more traditional tactical players.

The game has three core layers of gameplay:

  • The tactical map, where players control their mercs directly in turn based/real time combat.
  • The management level, where players run their company, rent out mercs and choose missions or campaigns as well as build up their HQ facilities.
  • The social layer, where players may support or fight others on campaigns or missions.

Again the different depths of engagement.

Overall they have landed a licence to one of the most seminal tactical titles in gaming history, and unlike the raping of the X-Com franchise.

Upgrading a franchise and making it relevant for a modern audience isn't hard. When done well it's like the new Star Trek movie, keeping the key things and rebooting it. All you do is brush it off look at the key mechanics and update it a bit. They have updated it without losing the core game-play which was key to the original title, and updated it to fit into the social gaming space.

Here's hoping it turns out well.