The Gobang Social Story

Bruce Everiss tells us how Gobang Social came to be.

As you know, Kwalee is a start up app game developer and has been going for just over 6 months.

Although we have much video game industry experience, a lot of how the app industry works is completely different to what we have done before, this gives us many learning curves to climb. So we decided to learn by doing.

The early prototyping phase

Early Gobang prototypes were pen & paper games


To start with we wrote a turn based game of noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) just to test the development process and how to get a server working. We realised that this game was not viable as a published product because it is too simple. Any player quickly realises that any optimally played game ends in stalemate. So we looked at what our options were and experimented with some of the very many variations of that concept which have been played around the world for over a thousand years. In the office we played large numbers of games on paper, some using pieces that could be moved after their initial placement, a bit like playing draughts. Some of these games were enormous fun, but many of them were tactically predictable with only a bit of gameplay experience. Eventually we came to the conclusion that connect 5 on a sufficiently large playing surface gave a tactically satisfying two player game. In fact it has the key characteristic of many great games in that it is very easy to learn but has layers of complexity as you try to master it.

We then wrote the core gameplay and loaded it on to the iPhones of all the people who work here and played it against each other for a couple of months. During this time we made many improvements and had a great deal of fun. The game mechanic certainly works to keep people entertained.

Then it was time to climb a little further up the learning curve by releasing the game to the world. But we didn’t know how much we had got right and how much we had got wrong. So what we needed was a relatively small market which spoke English, where players of the game could tell us what we were doing wrong and we could then apply that to improving the game and the way we work. New Zealand fitted the bill perfectly! So V1.0 was released only there.

Within a month we had learned a lot and made many changes to the game, so were able to upgrade to V1.1, again only on the New Zealand App Store.

Then we had a rethink about many aspects of the game, especially its look and feel, based on what we were seeing from the game being played out in the wild as well as focus testing that we did here in Leamington. This led to V1.2, which was launched to a far wider audience in Asia, then due to popular demand in the UK and Ireland as well.

So Gobang Social is two things. Firstly it is a fee to play, turn based strategy game for all the family. But secondly it has served as a learning mechanism in lots and lots of different areas of how we go about what we do.

But the story is not over with V1.2. In fact it is the very beginning of where Kwalee intends to go as a company and the way that we intend to do it. We have built our foundations, now let’s see what we can come up with in the future.

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