Irish SME, Lockbox Games is using robots to streamline the game design process.
The Irish gaming industry has come a long way since 1979 when Atari, the US arcade game giant, came to Tipperary and set up a cabinet making factory (the plant closed in ’98). Since then, big names like EA, Activision, and many more have opened offices in Ireland, while scores of home-grown gaming companies have set-up shop and started making waves.
One such outfit is Lockbox Games, whose first game is a mobile gaming app Solitaire Quest. What’s exciting is how the game was made.
One of the greatest difficulties developers face when designing a new game is setting its difficulty levels, as getting this wrong could prove critical to a game’s success. “Uneven difficulty of levels is a common complaint from players, and a source of poor reviews and consequent poor sales,” says Martin Smith of Lockbox Games. “Companies must invest heavily in having levels meticulously tested, with teams of designers and testers, and high costs. Solitaire Quest was designed without this problem.”
Through the development of an application dubbed the ‘Level Construction Tool’, Lockbox Games was able to streamline the game design process to save the firm both time and money. Effectively, Lockbox has outsourced the work previously done by large teams to artificially intelligent players, or ‘bots’, that can measure a level’s difficulty for a fraction of the cost and time. “LCT has allowed us to construct a large number of levels very quickly and accurately, with a team that consists of only a single level designer and tester,” says Smith.
The innovation allows the game designer to focus on construction while the ‘bots’ do the testing. The bots aren’t workshy either, remarkably clocking up to 10,000 test plays in five seconds. Through this process, each level ends up getting played several million times, allowing for an accurate and efficient assessment of the quality.
While it is unclear, at this moment, what impact the development of LCT could have on the gaming industry, there is no question that Irish firms like Lockbox are not afraid to create, innovate and bring new ideas to the world of mobile gaming.