Mapping the way
Fhacktions is a location-based mobile MOBA game developed by Posibillian Tech, a Paraguayan startup founded in 2015. Set in a near future where the world is ruled by factions of hackers, players must battle each other to maintain control of strategically placed servers that provide them with currency and power. The core of the game is its location based mechanic, with servers placed in real world places, like your local coffee shop or the laundromat next door. Conceived before Ingress and Pokemon Go were launched, Fhacktions had an uphill road to follow in order to finance, code and promote a game with mechanics no one yet understood.
The game received several awards, like winning the “Best Audio” category in Indie Prize USA, and being finalist in Indie Prize in Asia and Europe in the “Best Multiplayer Game” category. Google selected Fhacktions as one of the 15 best games in the Google Indie Games Festival LATAM in 2018.
We all know there are thousands of variables that affect the way a game is designed. Everything from the number of players your game has to how long they play. Fhacktions had one more variable to work with when we came up with the game’s concept: how to integrate the location based mechanics with another game mechanic in order to keep it fun. We decided to integrate PVP to the game by adding MOBA gameplay elements, where the players could battle each other to conquer and control their servers.
The MOBA aspect of the game had to be simple and fun, but even the simplest MOBA takes a lot of planning and time to develop. Instead of adding dozens of heroes like traditional MOBAs, we wanted Fhacktions to have fewer characters, which we named avatars. There are three avatars, and each avatar has at least fifteen skills to choose from. The gameplay is influenced by strategy, where players need to choose which abilities to learn and balance them out with other team members. Each avatar has a role: the Gunner is a range DPS, the Striker is melee, and the Fixer is a ranged healer.
We had to learn to balance the game’s economy and the avatars’ abilities as we went along, because everything changes once it goes live. The amount of players and how long they play directly affects these mechanics. Balancing the avatars’ skills and roles has always been a challenge, and we keep learning as more players join the game. More players means even more balancing, because higher level players need to be able to play with newer players without having too much advantage over them. At the same time that we were correcting bugs, we were learning how to make the player’s experience more enjoyable and fair for everyone.
One of Fhacktions ideas from the beginning was to invite players to collaborate with the game, directly and indirectly. The official beta test began in June 2017, with thousands of Paraguayan players joining the game as soon as it was available in the Apple and Google stores. Their feedback helped us shape and reshape the game. There were several recurring events like ‘Urban Hackers’ and ‘Quick Battle Warriors’, where our players received in game and real life prizes for participating. Some of these events were made with allies like Domino’s Pizza and Burger King. We placed premium servers in their venues and invited players to conquer them.
We knew from the start that geolocalization games present a unique challenge for developers: how do we make the game enjoyable for people who live in places where the cold discourages them to leave their homes? Paraguay does not share this problem- it is warm most of year, even in winter. So we had to plan ahead and continue to work on our ideas in order to make the conquest mode more attractive for would-be players from around the world. We recently launched an update where only one member of a faction needs to be physically present at a place in order to conquer it, whereas before, the entire faction or team had to be present. The game notifies his or her team members, who can then join the player to battle and conquer from the comfort of their homes. Once again, we need to test out how this influences the economics of the game. Will it make it too easy for people to conquer and break the game? Will it eliminate the real life world exploration dynamic that we fought so hard to implement?
While Fhacktions keeps presenting many challenges, the beauty of designing a game that incorporates different mechanics is that its possibilities seem to be endless. These possibilities are always limited by the fact we’re a very small team, but we aim to implement all our ideas eventually. Our road is set and we’ve gone quite far in the span of two and a half years. One of our greatest accomplishes has been our South American launch, followed by being selected by Google as one of the best 15 games launched in Latin America in the past 2 years, in the Google Indie Game Festival LATAM. The servers placed around the continent are the visual representation of our own roadmap: work, fix, and expand.
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