This week Coda had the chance to sit down with Mubeen Iqbal, Product Manager at Arcadian Lab, the Pakistani based studio behind Coda’s latest hit game Real Drive 3D. This is Arcadian Lab’s second game to hit the top charts globally and we had the pleasure of getting Mubeen’s insight into his studio’s practices and thoughts on hyper-casual’s next big trends. Read on to discover more on how Mubeen and his team were able to publish their second hit game with Coda and have it reach #1 in iOS Games charts in over seven countries worldwide.
Q. Congratulations on your recent success with Real Drive 3D! Firstly, can you talk us through the game concept itself and what’s the objective?
It's essentially a game where you have to drive your car from point A to point B but your paths have obstacles, so it's kind of like an obstacle course.The game is heavily dependent on the different level designs. Most people are familiar with Super Mario, so it's the same type of concept of an obstacle course, but with cars instead.
We put the steering wheel onto the screen itself, so users literally rotate the steering wheel, and that's how you can control the car. While we didn’t invent the mechanic itself, we noticed that it was something nobody else had been doing at the time, and then soon, the industry started following because this was a relatively new and simple control that we had.
Q. Typically in hyper-casual games, the graphics and backgrounds are quite simple, toony and less realistic. Real Drive 3D however is quite realistic in both its settings and cars. Could you walk us through why you chose this realistic art style?
So we actually started off with realistic graphics, as it wasn’t something we developed throughout our iterations because we already had some intuition that it would work.
While we were working on Police Quest, it was evident that the industry wasn’t really moving towards that direction [realistic artwork], but there were a lot of indicators that made us confident that it was going to be the next big thing.
So we didn't really wait for that to happen, we jumped on the opportunity and predicted it correctly.
Q. So in terms of ideation, how did you first come up with the concept?
So the way it happened was that one night, me and my buddy, we were both sitting at the office, quite late, and we came across this idea of a very old landscape PC game with a similar mechanic. We started thinking about how we could convert this into a hyper casual mobile game because that could be an interesting concept, but we didn’t know if it would perform well or not.
So to test the concept, we just edited the video of the PC game, cropped it, changed the aspect ratio and added our own UI on top of that so that it resembles a mobile UI. And then we tested the game and it did get positive results. So that was how the original idea was conceived
Q. And how did you work with Coda to bring it to life?
It was a good experience for us as Coda let us work quite autonomously in the development of the game. They trusted in our abilities to develop our game, which is obviously something that we do and we trust them in their ability to publish. The team checked in on the development and were kept in the loop, but they were confident that we knew what we were doing as we base a lot of what we do on data rather than guesswork.
Once the game was fully developed, then obviously, the ball was in Coda’s court to help launch and monetise the game. And they did a good job of that as well, like every time they do exactly that.
Q. At any point in your development of Real Drive 3D, were there any key iterations that you felt helped contribute to the success of the game?
I’d say we had to have some creativity when it came to the monetization model, as our original model based on the original game board would not have made as much money as it could have. So that was something that probably we did have to think about, and we discussed this with our publishing manager and Coda helped to make this as profitable as possible without compromising on the game’s user experience.
Q. In your experience with hyper-casual, would you say that the ideation process is the responsibility of the developer or publisher? Or do you think it’s moving towards a more collaborative partnership?
I would say it’s more of a shared responsibility, and it has its own benefits because you know sometimes as developers we overlook certain things, which a publisher wouldn’t, for example, monetization has to be in there. If the game doesn't make money then no matter how many users are out there, it's no good for business.
So you know, having that kind of insight from somebody else who is seeing things from a very different lens is enormously valuable.
There’s also certainly this standard where it's thought that developers should be coming up with concepts but the truth is that anybody can come up with concepts. Knowing exactly when to execute on an idea, what's the right move, how to go about it, and how much time... that's where things get tricky. So once you know the concept, as developers our job is to execute it as best as we can. And then the publisher’s job is to publish it as best as they can. So, we have our own set, because that can be a shared effort.
Q. Were there any big lessons learnt during the development of Real Drive 3D that you can share?
For us it boiled down to level design, and then after that it boiled down to different vehicles on the same levels. When we made a track we had to make sure it would allow a convoy truck to manoeuvre, as well as a car. So that was something that we had to keep in mind.
And then as far as speed of execution goes, you know we did do a fairly good job on this. We didn't develop it too fast and we didn't go too slow. We worked at an optimal pace.
Q. How important is it to create and release a concept that is currently trending vs. releasing a concept that might be really unique to the market at the time?
There is always an anomaly. You always have an anomaly in the market where somebody will come up with a game which is completely different from what everybody else is doing and it can sometimes become a massive success depending on what kind of game it is.
But I think it’s really important to follow trends and go with the flow, because not everybody is interested in a certain theme at a certain point in time.
We really need to keep in mind what people want, rather than just a good game idea. So the timing for a certain concept does play a big part in how successful the game is going to be.
Q. In your opinion, are there any key trends that you think will be emerging in 2021?
Well I think what I see happening right now is that hyper casual games are becoming a little more complex. I feel that 2019 was the biggest year for hyper-casual games, where they were at their peak and once something reaches this peak, then it's going to go down from that point on.
I don’t believe that hyper-casual games will necessarily die off, they're not going to become extinct. Rather, they will simply transform into something else. So this entire industry might become a hybrid between hyper casual games and more casual games. We might see more meta in games where they may feature more than one mechanic. This is obviously my own opinion, but I could be completely wrong… let’s see!