Ravenwood Fair developer LOLapps announced the aquisition of both the Fliso Flash-based social game engine and its creator, Sean Cooper, today as the developer expands its business model to include technology licensing. Cooper joins LOLapps as Chief Flash Architect reporting to CEO Arjun Sethi.
Fliso — named for a combination of the words “Flash” and “isometric” — is a graphics engine that builds 3D environment on an isometric grid, a visual model that most social games employ. At present, several game developers currently use the engine for active games, though LOLapps declined to name any of the current licensees. Sethi says LOLapps intends to continue all existing license agreements and offer the current version of Fliso for free until it works out a new licensing model for the engine. Additional feature support for the current version is planned.
“It was more of a strategic asset for us, like what we want to build longer term,” Sethi tells ISG. “Sean is committed to making high quality social games, to pushing limits on what the games can do. There are developers out there that are going to use some of the Facebook APIs, but some people don’t want to focus on cross-promotion or publishing or getting a lot of traffic. They really just want to focus on the quality of the game. Hopefully from a development perspective, it’ll be easier for a lot of developers already working with [Sean] to make games better and faster.”
As Cooper based out of the United Kingdom, LOLapps intends to bulk up a studio around him from that location, starting with two to three new employees to be brought on in the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, LOLapps is currently developing a new version of the Fliso engine for use in its Ravenworld series of Facebook games, which it will also license to interested developers at a later date. Sethi says that the new version of the engine pushes the visual elements of the existing game and its future installments beyond what the developer was originally able to do with hand-drawn tiles laid along an isometric grid. The new engine allows developers to simply draw a complete map and lay it out without even the appearance of a grid on the map, giving the entire level design a smoother, painterly style uninterrupted by lines. The new engine also makes it possible to increase the overall world size.
The acquisition puts LOLapps in an interesting position somewhere between publisher and technology developer. While not uncommon in the traditional video games space where Epic Games’ Unreal engine series dominates the technology licensing market, this is a relatively new concept to social games, where developers are really only just beginning to experiment with traditional developer-publisher models.
“We look at [licensing] as supporting the developers, letting them use the platform to actually build a game itself,” Sethi says. “Whatever model that comes out of that, we’re still thinking about it and what the best thing would be for the developers that we work with. I mean, we’re all friends in the industry, so it’s better to have higher-quality games out there that you could start pooling together with. Sort of like Steam-style attitude with Half-Life.”
The price of the acquisition was not disclosed. LOLapps’ next announced game is Ravenshire Castle, which will be launched before the end of this year using the current Fliso engine. The following game in the series, tentatively called Ravensky, will be the first Ravenworld game to use the new Fliso engine, though Sethi says all its Ravenworld games will be retrofitted to keep the aesthetic consistent.