Game Development Reference
NOTE Some of the insights about KIXEYE's gaming strategy discussed in the preceding sections were
drawn from a presentation at the 2012 Flash Gaming Summit made with David Scott, co-founder of
Designing Story-Rich Facebook RPGs
the 5th Planet Way
In 2009, Robert Winkler was a full-time student at UC Davis with a wife and three kids, and he'd just been
offered a full scholarship to the university. However, he wanted to help launch a game studio, 5th Planet Games,
even though he had no background in game development (beyond a love of playing them), and doing this would
mean giving up the scholarship. Despite that, his wife gave Winkler the go-ahead, telling him, “This is the one
chance to follow your dream.” Winkler's co-founder in the nascent company, Steve Pladson, was a program-
mer, but he didn't know Flash, the platform they intended to develop for, and had to learn it on the job (so to
speak) through a book. The first 20 people on their team, for that matter, also had no prior game development
experience. The company had no investors and was 100 percent bootstrapped and self-funded.
The original plan, as conceived by the four original founders, was to create a web-based, massively multi-
player online game like Ragnarok or Runescape and hope to get it into a presentable demo they could then shop
around, to get a bigger budget. “We knew it wasn't going to happen,” Winkler remembers. Instead, he and Plad-
son argued that they should instead make a Facebook game—even though none of them even had an account on
the social network at the time. Rejecting that pivot, two of the founding team members quit.
“[But t]hat's where all the users were,” Winkler reasoned, arguing they could create a better game than what
was currently offered on Facebook in 2009. “If we grabbed a tiny section [of users], we could make a living
Dawn of the Dragons was developed for less than $10,000.
5th Planet's first game was Dawn of the Dragons, a text-driven RPG in the vein of early Facebook hits like
Mafia Wars (see Figure 5-7 ). “We put in 40 hours in our normal day job and 60 hours developing the game,”
as Winkler remembers. It took about four months to go from the game they imagined on whiteboards to a live
game on Facebook that was taking paying customers. Their second game, a text- and art-heavy RPG called
Legacy of a Thousand Suns, launched soon after.