It sounds magical; a family gets together and jams on a game. Tim Miller and Catherine Feraday Miller compose the Toronto based Rocket 5 Studios. One summer they gathered their nieces and nephews and decided to make a game. Now it’s a year later and much of the game has changed but the protagonist has not, a ghost-hunting “Phantom PI” named Cecil Sparks.
Phantom PI: Mission Apparition is the full title of Tim and Catherine’s last effort. Cecil gets called from the other side to look into a robbery. We adventure through adorable spooky dollhouses that reminded me of a Wes Anderson movie if he had hung around Tim Burton for a little too long. With light puzzle shoveling, adventuring game item hunting, Tim and Catherine were looking to make a game that anyone can easily pick up and slide into that classic feeling of play. It is refreshing to see a return to this sense of playfulness in a market dominated by timer driven, compulsion forming Skinner boxes.
We are jealous of the origins of macabre-playful Cecil. It was summer and a game fest was coming up so Tim and Catherine got their nieces and nephews together to make a game. While the original prototypes are not representative of the current game Cecil Sparks and his story stuck. He has become a sort of mascot now for the team and what’s not to love about a plaid and spectacle wearing mustachioed wielding a ghost blaster?
Tim and Catherine are industry vets. Together they clock in around 40 years of glorious “AAA” experience. They’ve worked on beloved franchises like Monkey Island, Tomb Raider, and Star Wars. However, while they definitely know about making games, school is in session for navigating the world of being an indie developer.
Phantom PI is what is now coined a premium mobile game. Meaning it’s a finished product with a one-time purchase. While they recently won the critic’s choice award at the mobile/casual focused Casual Connect, they still are having a hard time making the game visible for people to purchase for the small pittance of $1.99. While at that conference I wandered into multiple panels preaching the gospel of games as services and fishing for those whale users. Mobile has become dark waters; this is no news to anyone. However it’s a real shame that games like these have a hard time getting the spotlight because they are “deserving.”
Much of our conversation discussed the points on how does one convince a market that makes you feel invisible to buy in. For them the gambit has been to show it at as many places as possible. They have ran the proverbial circuit of conventions attending PAX East, Casual Connect, GDC, Bit Bazaar, and now they are heading to PAX Prime. They are hoping now that the game is out on mobile market places that the call to action will help translate into sales. They are also running the greenlight gauntlet and hope to land on Steam soon.
But it’s a difficult question. How do you take a finished product and find your space on the mobile market place and the heaps of freemium laden shovelware? Most sites that claim to work at surfacing the gems hidden in the market place tend to look at the same top 100 lists that everyone else is looking at. It never helps either that most games coverage is looking to cover topics that are hot and can guarantee clicks to support their ad revenues, so if you have a game that isn’t “hot” then you are a content risk.
Phantom PI is out and readily available on iOS App Store. If you want to show them some support why not go and give them that thumbs up on Steam. Headed to PAX Prime? Then check them out there on the 6th floor.