How about a best-in-class poker game for all skill levels that looks good, plays fast and has no annoying pop-ups? Yay, it's here!
We love games and we love poker, but as regular players we’re frustrated by the time it takes to get into a game. Players are usually confronted by endless pop-ups (and sometimes even a forced visit to a new game) just to reach the game lobby. It drives us crazy!
Technically, most Facebook poker games are OK but their appearance is disappointing. They’re missing some nice-to-have and fairly obvious features too.
Why is this? Well... the major online poker games are published by billion dollar corporations whose mission is to commercially exploit us - continually. Chip deals, sending gifts, play another of our games… it’s endless. Fact is, their survival depends on it.
Returning to our biggest complaint, have you counted the number of pop-ups you skip before you can play Zynga’s Texas Hold ‘Em? It’s more like Texas Dodge ‘Em!
Several months ago we were complaining about this (again!) when we started thinking… we’re all from games backgrounds, so why not stop the bitching and put some time, effort and money into designing the game we really want to play? So we did.
We wanted a social poker game that plays as fast as the best-in-class, which offers a full range of functionality and provides the same great feature set free of charge. And it should offer gameplay enhancements that get closer to the real life experience...
One example is the Hand Strength Meter. Unlike Zynga, it should be free and we should allow players to turn it off if they want. If they do, it is logical to assume that their wins are determined by their skill, judgement and tactics, so they should be rewarded with more experience points than players who are still using the HSM for guidance.
And speaking of experience points, these should be more intelligently calculated. If you win a game despite holding a poor hand, shouldn’t you gain more credit than if you win with a strong hand? Shouldn’t your careful tactical approach be better rewarded? We say yes!
Next, the game shouldn’t look as if it was designed by kids imagining what a casino looks like (red leather studded seats and virtual pot plants – yuk). We want a clean, clear interface with absolute focus on gameplay.
It’s a fact; the world needs a great next-gen poker game for enthusiasts of all ages, genders and experience levels. The good news is we’ve planned it, partially financed it and development is under way. A few elements of the code are working and we know that we’ve got something solid. But that's where we ran out of road...
With your help we can get this finished and released worldwide on Facebook in less than six months.
We need your assistance in three ways please; firstly to help fund the final dev phase, secondly to provide input and feedback on what we’re developing, thirdly to help us test the Beta version to ensure perfection when it goes live.
You'll benefit from this too – and we don’t mean simply the satisfaction of helping with the birth of a new baby. We mean something useful. As any online player knows, poker tables need chips and chips cost dollars – but our backers will get special treatment!
When the game goes live we'll credit your in-game bank with chips worth much more than the value of your original pledge. We’ll multiply every pound you pledge between 2.5 and 25 times. The more you pledge, the bigger the multiplier we’ll apply. So, from day one you’ll be in credit way more than you contributed. If you’re an online poker player this is the cheapest table you’ll find anywhere.
The principal objectives of this game are to look good, play fast and not to commercially exploit the players. We’ll explain:
Firstly, “look good” means an interface that acknowledges it’s a game not a real casino. There will be no leather seats, wood trimmed tables or velour curtains.
Watch out for updates to the artwork over the coming weeks; we'll post any new stuff for feedback.
Our interviews with professional poker players revealed that their focus is solely on the game mechanics. It sounds obvious but they need to know what their competitors are doing, how quickly they are playing, how much is in the bank, the value of the main pot and the side pots etc. A player’s decisions are based on the availability of clear information and speed of play (ie server response).
Players do not want to be bombarded by invitations, offers and suggestions to play other games. The only valuable pop-ups are reminders that credit is running low, or reserved seating at the table if a player runs out of chips and needs to quickly re-charge.
So we’re going to keep the main screens clean, tidy and fairly minimal. If each on-screen element isn’t needed to progress the game or improve communication with the players, it won’t be there. We’ll keep pop-ups to a minimum and if we have anything to say about offers or messages from friends, we’ll do so when a player first logs in. If these messages are ignored, it’s the last they’ll hear of them (the only exceptions are the two listed above that we’d like to retain. Other than that, play will be uninterrupted.)
Secondly, we want the game to “play fast” by which we mean we’ll minimise the amount of data we are trying to send / receive from the server. Tech-savvy poker players will understand the vast amount of information that is being transmitted backwards and forwards in almost real time to communicate with every player. This implies masses of requests to / instructions from the server. A great deal of effort is being put into ensuring that this is all done as efficiently as possible. This does have commercial repercussions; the lower we keep our hosting and server costs, the more free credits we can give away to our players.
Thirdly, you can see from our packages that everyone who supports this game will be able to play free of charge for a good length of time. In reality the highest level investors are pretty unlikely to spend a penny on the game - ever. Our intention is to make sure that poker fans who regularly spend a few dollars or pounds on their gaming will save money whilst enjoying a better experience. Every penny you spend supporting ACTUA POKER will be returned many times over in the form of real game cash. It’s worth re-emphasizing this key investment point - some of our supporters (either as a result of skill or investment level) will never spend money on a poker game again.
Here’s an example: If you’re a reasonably regular ‘casual’ player who visits three times a week and plays for an hour or two, it is quite possible to spend £2 – £5 or $3 – $7 per month. If we take the bottom end of these ranges, that’s £24 or $36 per year. Obviously more committed players spend 5 to 10 times these amounts.
If you invest this amount in our Red Tier pledge you’ll receive $125 million* in game credits, that’s over $10.4 million* per month. Realistically that is more than you would normally spend and these credits don’t ever expire. Plus, they’ll be boosted by additional bonuses each time you visit.
As a Kickstarter founder member you’ll receive another incentive too. Our base cost of £1 for approximately $500K in credits is roundly the same as Zynga, but our founders will receive 25% in bonus credits if they need to top up – and that’s a deal for life that will never be available to the general public.
Our poker servers will be based on Amazon Elastic Cloud instances, which bring the benefits of scalability and reduced maintenance costs. They give us a proven robust solution and we can quickly adapt the configurations being used to support a growing number of daily active users. This will keep costs low to provide better value for everyone.
The back-end will be based on a mixture of custom, high-performance architecture and secure and stable open-source software, all of which are proven to handle high volumes of clients, even on servers of fairly minimal specifications. Again, this helps to keep the costs low but also means we can quickly and efficiently develop our server code without having to reinvent too many wheels.
Response and requests are being optimised to minimise traffic to and from our servers, which will mean less lag and therefore faster gameplay - increasing stability and making for a better user experience.
The intro mentioned that we’ve been working on this game for a few months. With a game of this nature, speed and quality of play is determined by the quality of the code, therefore this has been our priority.
The time has now come to turn our attention to the design and you can see a few early thoughts on logos here This is where you'll find our first set of game chips And here are a few thoughts on how players will be represented around the table.
Update 1, Feb 11... this is the Player Panel for the Lobby screen.
Update 2, Feb 12... this is the Profile Panel, a crucial element for the top of the Lobby and Game screens.
Update 3, Feb 13... And here is our idea for the layout of the table lists.
Update 4, Feb 14. Here is the (slightly unconventional) layout for the impulse panel that sits next to the table lists.
Update 5, Feb 15. And finally we get to the friends panel that sits at the foot of the page.
Hang on... we'll post the full Lobby screen shortly.
Update 6, Feb 15. We made it... Lobby... here it is...
We're continuing our work on the lobby and gaming table screens, so we'd appreciate any thoughts or feedback please. More updates soon...
Our experiments focus on the colour palette, buttons, player panels and the main play screen plus a couple of pop-ups as we try to find the right flavour. Please let us know if you have any thoughts.
An extra £28,000 above our funding target would allow us to create a free iOS app, optimized for the platform to be released four months after the Facebook launch.
A further £22,000 would allow us to produce a version for our Android fans. This would take an additional two months.
We’ll focus on four iOS resolutions (unless Apple comes up with something extra in the meantime!), which means we’ll support iPhone 3, 4 and 5, all corresponding iPod Touch devices, plus all iPads, including the two retina devices. So we’ll be supporting OS versions 3.x and beyond, although we’ll review this again before work commences.
Android is more of a moving target but we’re assuming 7 different resolutions which should ensure we function on the most popular devices from big brands such as Samsung and HTC, plus the most popular tablets. This means we’ll run on devices from other manufacturers where similar resolutions have been implemented. All operating systems from 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) and above will be supported. As with iOS, we will review this once more prior to development sign off.
Ian is known as an ‘industry veteran’ he founded Gremlin Graphics around two hundred years ago and was responsible for some of the most famous video games you’ve heard of and played (if you are old enough). These include Monty Mole, ZOOL (Ninja from the Nth Dimension), Premier Manager, Bounder, Realms of the Haunting, Loaded, the Actua series and many others. Ian recently moved into apps with a great version of Bounder on iOS plus Premier Manager (soon to be released) and is now turning his attention to social media.Ian also founded ZOO Digital Group Plc and is an Honorary Doctor of Sheffield Hallam University.
A co-founder of Route 1 Games, Pete began his career as a musician and evolved into producing video games – and they’ve been in his bones ever since. In his early days he produced titles including N2O, Hogs of War and Alien Hominid on PS1 then PS2. After a period making mobile games he moved into interactive DVD production as Dev Director. More recently he produced The Cube on PS3, 3DS and Wii, and is currently working on some ground breaking global multi-platform releases for Manchester United.
Jon’s the technical genius who will lead the dev effort on our poker game. His career in coding includes some amazing innovations; games that run on DVD players, movies that run on Nintendo DS and games for Kindle e-readers. More recently he’s developed web sites plus titles on iOS, Android and Facebook too. Is there nothing he can’t do? Nope, don’t think so. Mind you, he does seem to struggle to work the kettle.
The other co-founder of Route 1 Games, Andy comes from a public company branding and retail background. With a focus on playing poker… sorry, producing commercial hits, he is to blame for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Wallace & Gromit, Hercule Poirot and A Question of Sport, released by publishers such as Universal Pictures, Ubisoft and the BBC. These games are available in pretty much every major language and territory worldwide.
We've tried to cover off the information you’ll be interested in, but if you’d like to go a bit deeper click the links below. If there’s anything we haven’t covered, please just post your question and we’ll get back.
1 To read an outline spec, please click here
2 To see a schedule of all the main technical components and progress to date, click here
3 To see a summary spreadsheet of all the pledge options and how the packages compare please click here
4 * Conversion rates; see pledge descriptions.
When launched, $1 will buy 500,000 game chips, each nominally valued at $1 in the game. These will be used for play at all tables, entry to certain tournaments and for the purchase of in-game gifts and achievements.
A multiplier (between 2.5X and 50X) will be applied to each Backer’s investments in accordance with the details set out in the pledge descriptions on the right.
The total value arrived at for each Backer will be converted into game chips at the standard exchange rate of 500,000 X $1.00 chips for each $1 of value. There are no cash or other alternatives.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Fortunately there are very few risks. The main ones we considered are:
1 Insufficient funds to complete the project
We've already invested approximately 60% of the total production budget to get this far, so we're only asking for help with the balance - and we know it will be enough. We're experienced games developers and producers so we can schedule, plan resources, buy in the required skills / services and monitor the timeline. The risk is very minimal but we mention it for the sake of openness.
2 Late Delivery
Most of the comments made above relating to experience apply here too. We won't be late.
3 Technical Hurdles
We've worked on all the main console platforms from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, plus iOS, Android, Facebook and Kindle. We've hosted on Amazon's cloud servers before and used all the middleware on previous projects. Our game code has been independently tested to ensure it works at every level of the game. We don't believe completion of this project will present any unknown technical hurdles.
4 Game Becomes Uncompetitive
We offer parity of chip prices with Zynga for members of the public. All our backers benefit from preferential chip deals for life, plus massive day one bank values and daily visit bonuses. If our main competitor improves their chip deal prices, we'll fall in line straight away to ensure our backers always stay ahead.
You can gift your chips to another person, they just have to register to play Actua Poker and of course be a Facebook user! Great if it's somebody's birthday or you just want to spread a little love! :)