Creating a game requires an idea and a group of people to breathe life into that idea. Creating a great game asks a little bit more of its designers. When Pixel People launched on January 31, LambdaMu Games introduced the world to a fresh take on the simulation genre. A game with far more than money in mind, Pixel People is a love letter to all of the best things that an app can offer.
Birthed from a casual conversation, Pixel People was, from the very beginning, meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at the various ways that occupations mix and match to meet varying degrees of need throughout a community. Abhishek Radhakrishnan, Chief Creative Officer of LambdaMu Games, thought that creating a game to bridge a multitude of genres would be the best – and most fun – way to allow gamers to interact with their virtual community.
“We love city building games, especially when well executed,” says Radhakrishnan, “And having enjoyed our time spent with games like Doodle God and Tiny Tower on iOS, we thought that Pixel People would be the perfect bridge between these popular genres, allowing us another chance to create the deep and immersive experience that we are dedicated to building into all our titles.”
The gameplay in Pixel People is deceptively simple: you are tasked with creating a community out in space, as the world that we know it no longer exists. You only have access to a few jobs during the tutorial, but you are then set free to do whatever you please. The magic, though, comes in the form of “splicing” – choose any two jobs, and they may or may not combine to form an entirely new job. Should that job require a building, you gain access to that, too, and are able to continue constructing your city.
All of that is well and good, especially considering the fact that plenty of games require you to pour copious amounts of time into maintaining your bakery, town, or pet shop. But that wasn’t enough for LambdaMu. Instead of simply creating a worthwhile game on its own, the team decided to add some humor. For example, the description text for the Architect is, “I will never tell you how I met your mother.”
“We’ve always loved putting loads of references into our games,” says Radhakrishnan. “but this is never the core of the game obviously – it’s flavour. And so far it’s been really cool to see all the tweets from players who enjoy the little jokes, shout outs and tributes littered across the game.”
Of course, Pixel People is not without its critics. Though technically a Freemium game (a game that is free to download, but offers the ability to gain a leg up by paying real money for virtual goods), it differs from its counterparts by allowing full access to one-hundred percent of its areas as long as the player is willing to put in the time.
“Pixel People was always going to be a Freemium game,” says Radhakrishnan. “However, when it comes to designing our own games, we strive to allow all content in the game to be accessible for free (with the right amount of effort and strategy), thus rendering any kind of purchase purely optional. We’re gamers too and we enjoy playing games that are set up this way a lot more than those that don’t give you any way around the pay wall.”
It’s a bold move, to be sure. Plenty of games available on the market right now appear to have the player’s best interests are heart, but there are several whose ulterior motives are clearly a grab for cash. By taking a route that caters to both casual and hardcore gamers alike, LambdaMu is able to maintain a business perspective without compromising their own inherent beliefs that players shouldn’t have to pay for something when it can be obtained through effort alone. It’s a rarity, really, in a market that is so concerned with profitability and coming out on top. Pixel People is not just a game – it’s an experience, and one that its developers clearly had a lot of fun making.
“The game’s theme is whimsical and light hearted so we’re hoping everyone takes it that way, and doesn’t get too worked up about why there are whales bouncing around in the trees,” says Radhakrishnan. “There was one particular version of the beta where the arriving clones would lose their clothes accidentally after getting beamed down, causing them to streak across the arrival center before getting indoors. Chasing down that bug was quite the riot.”
While their experience across genres is staggering in its breadth, LambdaMu Games made sure that their passion shone through in all areas of their latest creation. And that passion, that unflinching desire to show what a game can truly be, is what makes Pixel People stand out amongst its peers.