Colin Foran is CCO at Shrapnel. With 15 years of publishing experience in bringing rich narratives to platforms ranging from mobile, to indie, to AAA flagship products, Colin has worked on such titles as Ryse: Son of Rome, Sunset Overdrive, and the Emmy-winning Westworld VR: A Delos Experience. Prior to joining Shrapnel, he served as Creative Lead at HBO and as an Art Director at Microsoft.
With the evolution of the gaming landscape, why is merely creating a game no longer sufficient, and why is there a growing emphasis on building expansive universes and transmedia lore?
People have an overwhelming number of entertainment options competing for their time, and if they don’t feel like they have a world in which they can invest in and explore, you’ll never get them through the door. I think it’s worth saying that a transmedia approach isn’t necessary or ideal for every game – sometimes a simple and direct interaction with your audience is all you want or need. But studios that are striving for rich, long lasting stories should understand the strengths and weaknesses of different media and explore them where it makes sense.
At Shrapnel, we’ve been exploring comics, live action shorts, CGI pieces, and frankly anything that sounds interesting to us as a way to help explore our characters and world. Each medium conveys a story differently, and if you’re willing to take chances here and there, you can find yourself in interesting territory. One of the nice things about founding a studio is that there’s no one to tell you not to experiment with a narrative, which gets really exciting when you start inviting the community to contribute. Our hope and belief is that as the universe starts to solidify, our community will contribute to the lore just as much as we are at the studio.
Tell us more about Shrapnel’s journey in curating a unique transmedia brand. How have initiatives like comic book releases and the award-winning trailer contributed to the anticipation surrounding the game?
The benefits for the studio have been huge both from a public facing perspective, and in helping us tighten up our thinking internally. We’ve built out our universe very quickly, and the ability to interrogate story ideas in our comics or make bold visual statements with the trailer has helped to ensure a common vision in the studio.
When we first started to define the world in pre-production, we had a general set of themes we wanted to explore and went through the usual exercises you’d see at the beginning of a new title, such as mood boards and concept art. Our CEO, Mark Long, had had a lot of success in the past working with comics and shorts as a way to cover ground quickly, and he encouraged the team to get comfortable committing ideas to paper.
At the same time, we were starting work on our first live action piece, Solitarius Lupus. It can definitely feel anxious to start spending money before the story is entirely buttoned up, but my request to the team at the time was to ensure we were telling stories that could exist in this world. They didn’t have to be the stories – those would change over time and continuously over the development of the game. But once you get over the initial shock of starting the work, it’s an exciting process. Later, we started work on our official CGI trailer; that development was very much informed by what we thought worked and what didn’t in the earlier pieces.
Shrapnel is being developed by an esteemed team with accolades like BAFTA and Emmy awards. How do you believe this expertise and experience in areas like virtual production and transmedia storytelling have influenced the game’s development?
A common trait across the members of our team is an affinity for weird, complicated projects that merge new technologies and storytelling. After you get a few of those under your belt, you start to build up strategies and processes that can break intractable problems into manageable production beats. With a project as large and complicated as Shrapnel, that sort of perspective is essential.
Any game that successfully ships is a miracle, and every production is a collection of a thousand daily successes and failures. Our team members that worked at Infinity Ward, or Irrational, or even HBO all had to navigate unique production constraints, personalities and politics to produce something they were proud of. Now we’re going one step further and mashing up those techniques and perspectives into a new studio that hopefully builds on lessons learned in past gigs.
One standout feature of Shrapnel is the empowerment it offers players in terms of modding, shaping, and owning their creations. Can you delve deeper into how you envision this impacting the overall gaming experience for players?
Our hope is that user generated content becomes the core of the Shrapnel experience. We look at our role as providing exemplar content – such as artwork and specific mechanics – and seeing what the community can do with it. But our perspective is that the tech is only part of the equation; there’s an enormous amount of community engagement and active mentorship that we want to provide to gamers to help expand their skill set and make the most of what we’re making available.
We’re hoping we’ve got the timing right: we’re creating a universe for gamers that have grown up with UGC in games such as Roblox, Minecraft, and Forge, but don’t really have a next lilypad to jump to as their tastes naturally gravitate towards more sophisticated or mature experiences. This is also happening at a time when a lot of the sharper edges have been shaved off of historically complex content creation tools, and people’s familiarity with online worlds has become super sophisticated. We’re developing with Unreal Engine 5, and the idea that our users might have their own casual knowledge of engine software like that would have been totally insane like 10 years ago.
Community engagement seems to be a pivotal element in Shrapnel’s development, with the community actively driving gameplay decisions. How has this involvement shaped the game’s universe, and can you share some notable instances where it led to significant in-game enhancements?
The quality of the feedback we get from our community blows my mind – we consistently get thoughtful questions or ideas that surprise the devs and get them thinking about new directions we can take the story or tech. Going back to transmedia, the comic series and Operator campaign introduced the world of Shrapnel to a huge audience, and they immediately started telling their own stories with their own Operator characters. And on the UGC side of the house, user feedback is constantly being integrated. At this point our roadmap is almost entirely driven by user feature requests.
In the early days, I was worried that community input would be at odds with our natural desire for creative control, but I think that’s just a holdover from our days in traditional publishing. After a while you start to realize that in the AAA space you don’t necessarily do things because they’re correct, you do them because any process that gets a game out the door is better than the alternative. That sometimes confrontational relationship between gamers and the people making their games strikes me as one of the worst examples.
Every hook that we’ve given the community into the world – whether it’s voting on which levels enter preproduction or competitions around world lore – has been met with a ton of enthusiasm and good will. I’m really excited for the game to go live so we can open up even more of the game to people.
The trailer of Shrapnel, created with Unreal Engine 5 and in collaboration with renowned names like Plastic Wax and Jerry O’Flaherty, has set high expectations. What can fans anticipate in terms of gameplay and graphics, especially with the upcoming release of the never-before-seen footage on Shrapnel’s Twitter?
The idea behind using Unreal 5 to render the trailer was to give people a 1:1 vision for what we want the game to feel like. Our Early Access level will take place in the same environment, and players can expect to see familiar faces when the build becomes available. Things are going to change over the course of development, but I’m really proud of how closely we’re sticking to the beats that we’ve telegraphed out to our community. It really does feel like we’ve been building this thing alongside people online, and we’re super excited to get those first early playables into peoples hands. In the meantime, check out the trailer or hang out in the Discord!
ComeOn Group renews sponsorship deal with Sliema Aquatic Sports Club and Sliema Wanderers FC
Award winning iGaming operator ComeOn Group announced renewing their sponsor partnership with Malta based sports clubs Sliema Aquatic Sports Club (ASC) and Sliema Wanderers FC. The sponsorship is a way for the Group to continue supporting the localities close to their headquarters in Malta. ComeOn Group and the two clubs are now embarking on another year of success and exciting projects in order to further anchor the partnership for the benefit of their local community.
Last year the sponsorship was kicked off by a launch video, which was a way for ComeOn and the two clubs to show the mutual cultural fit and foster a sense of community through sports.
Daniela Vella, Chief Operating Officer at ComeOn Group, said: “Sliema is very close to us being the first location of our offices, and even though we have moved some metres up the waterfront, we have found synergies with both teams and their path to success. Both teams tie in well with our values, especially the Run Together The Group is also focused on giving back to the communities with its CSR strategy being a key, strategic pillar and sports plays a vital role in nurturing teamwork, and leadership skills.”
ComeOn Group, highly ranked by EGR Power 50, is a tier one operator on the island with their headquarters based in the modern office facilities of Spinola Park. ComeOn Group has more than 560 employees spanning over 53 nationalities globally, with Maltese being the biggest nationality represented in the headquarters. ComeOn Group has been present for over 13 years on the island, employing over 250 people with 50% of its workforce being female, further anchoring their presence and commitment to Malta.
ComeOn Group works hard to preserve their award winning culture and the company continuously develops their people strategies to retain what is most important to them: their people. An important way to do so for ComeOn is through their extensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that serves to offer help to employees when they are experiencing a tough time. The program is a part of ComeOn’s overarching CSR strategy where the focal point is mental health and wellbeing. Another important part of ComeOn’s EAP is the wellbeing allowance employees get each year to spend on activities aimed to boost overall physical and mental health.
For ComeOn and the two teams, sports and active lifestyle is something that goes hand in hand with boosting mental health and wellbeing, hence the importance of the continuing partnership.
Frank Testa, Club President of Sliema ASC, added: “It is with immense pleasure and gratitude that we renew our collaboration with ComeOn Group. Without the involvement of such organisations it would not be possible for clubs like ours to continue to work towards achieving our targets. As we move into a new era with our excellent prospects, we are delighted to continue the journey with ComeOn.”
Rupert Perry, Club President of Sliema Wanderers FC said: “We are immensely grateful for the unwavering support of our valued sponsor. ComeOn’s commitment to our mission has been instrumental in our success. As we look ahead to the future, we are excited to continue this journey together, creating lasting impact and achieving new heights of excellence.”
John Wright Joins Kwalee As VP of Mobile Publishing: Trades Unity For The Billion Download Studio
Wright’s leadership will reinforce Kwalee as the publisher of choice for top mobile game developers, drawing from his legacy at Luna Labs and ironSource.
Kwalee, a UK and global mobile, PC and console games developer and publisher, is thrilled to announce the appointment of John Wright as the new VP of Mobile Publishing. John joins the Kwalee team on the 2nd of October and will revamp the studio’s strategy to sign, launch and scale the games of external studios.
A passionate gamer and 15 year mobile industry veteran, Wright’s mobile journey saw him swiftly climb the ranks at app monetisation and distribution platform ironSource, relocating from London to the HQ in Israel during a pivotal phase in his professional growth. After returning to the UK, Wright re-entered the startup ecosystem by joining mobile app marketing outfit Luna Labs as their VP of Operations. With his leadership, Luna Labs witnessed significant and rapid growth. When ironSource acquired Luna Labs, Wright came full circle back to his former company, this time as the Head of Operations for Luna. Following ironSource’s merger with Unity, Wright transitioned to become the Head of Client Success for the Luna division within the wider Unity organisation.
Kwalee’s mobile publishing team is a proven hitmaker, backed up by a large in-house studio, helping developers scale games successfully with marketing, monetisation and game design expertise. John Wright joins after Kwalee achieved the milestone of 1 billion downloads in 2023 and has won Best Publisher (TIGA and Mobile Game Awards, 2022).
His strategic priorities as he starts the new role are to deepen the support offered by the publisher to developers, improve its efficiency to best serve the global community of mobile gamemakers, as well as emphasise Kwalee as the number one choice for developers close to home in the UK.
During his tenure at ironSource, John was a director in the newly formed and industry renowned “unified team” during the advent of the Hyper Casual boom, collaborating with industry players such as Ketchapp, Rollic and Homa. He helped them achieve exponential growth as an early innovator, seeing the value in combining the strategies of monetisation, mediation and user acquisition activities. John Wright has an enviable record of launching over 100 mobile games globally and managing over $1 billion in client spend.
His vast experience includes joining early-stage startups in pivotal business roles, growing them quickly, and leading large, multi-disciplinary and remote teams. Known for his ability to inject vitality into businesses, John will use his partner-side expertise to drive growth at Kwalee as he moves developer-side.
David Darling, founder and CEO of Kwalee, remarked, “John and I have a strong relationship already, working closely together, having first met a decade ago when we launched TENS!. Seeing his trajectory and achievements since, especially with Luna Labs and ironSource, it’s clear why he’s the best fit for us. We’re eager to tap into his vast experience, enhancing our developer relationships and publishing capabilities.”
John Wright shared his enthusiasm about the new role, stating, “Having worked with Kwalee as a partner and admired their innovation over the years, I’m thrilled to move across the table. We know it’s a challenging landscape post-IDFA, so small to medium-sized studios need a heavyweight publishing ally to help them achieve the highest level of multi-million dollar success. At Kwalee, I will champion developers. Our relationship will be symbiotic, understanding their needs as partners and clients.”
Embracing the rich British mobile developer community while setting sights on global expansion, John is poised to steer Kwalee’s Mobile Publishing into its most profitable and successful era yet.
Aviator to Take Players in Portugal on the Flight of Their Lives
World’s number-one crash game certified for launch in fast-growing online casino market
Players in Portugal, get ready to strap in for the flight of your lives. Spribe, the developer behind the number-one crash game in the world, Aviator, has been cleared for take-off in accordance with the most recent Portuguese regulations.
Aviator is the original crash game and since it took to the skies in 2019 has become one of the most-played games of all time. Today, it has more than ten million monthly active players with 160,000 bets being placed every minute of the day.
Aviator uses the increasing curve format with a plane that takes off and flies into the sky. As it climbs higher, a win multiplier climbs with it. The player must decide when to cash out; go too early and the win is small but wait too long and the plane flies away with their stake and accrued winnings.
Social interaction is at the heart of the game with players able to chat throughout their session. It’s multiplayer, too, with players competing with others on the leaderboard.
Aviator delivers fast-paced action thanks to its seamless user interface that has been designed for mobile play. Engagement is taken to the next level through bonus features including free spins and rain promo where players can make it ‘rain’ free spins in the chat.
Spribe is on a mission to launch Aviator in all regulated markets and the approval in Portugal is a major step forward in this regard. BMM Test Labs carried out the certification shortly after Portugal added ‘crash games’ in the regulations earlier in the year.
Operators in Portugal can now add Aviator to their lobbies and allow them to see what all the fuss is about by playing the most popular crash game on the planet for the first time.
“We are on a mission to launch Aviator in all regulated markets across the world so being given the green light to enter Portugal is a major moment for us,” the Chief Commercial Officer for Spribe, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, said. “Aviator offers an experience like no other; it’s fun, fast-paced and highly social. This has made it a big hit with players but especially those in the lucrative but hard to engage Millennial and Generation Z demographics.
“Operators in Portugal can now provide these experiences to these players by adding Aviator to their game lobbies for the first time, allowing them to join the ten million players that go for the ride of their lives every month.”
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