Animal Party is a pet simulation combined with treasure hunting and gardening from indie developer Tribal Crossing. The game was recently signed to a publishing agreement with 6waves, which has since accelerated the game’s growth through user acquisition, landing Animal Party on our weekly top 20s lists.
The game tasks players with collecting animals on various planets using bait. In this mode, gameplay is mostly hands-off, with the player clicking once to deploy a piece of bait and perhaps clicking again on the screen to chase off bait-stealing vermin. Different types of bait (e.g. meatballs, cheese) attract different types of animal, each of which makes up part a collection set that can be collected for a virtual currency and experience bonus. Once the player has lured the maximum number of animals that their spaceship can hold, they return to their garden base and receive virtual currency bonuses for animal weight, type and rarity.
The garden part of the game contains many familiar social game elements from both the pet and farming sim genres. Players clear land to plant crops, which they can harvest for bait and also interact with animals in the garden through a menu interface. Animals can perform tricks, can be petted or instructed to interact with other animals with menu options like “Flirt” or “Boo!” To keep the pets’ happiness rating high, they must also build food dispensers and toys in their garden.
Social features in the game include the usual Wall-sharing and friend invites, along with the pet-specific mechanic where players are prompted to send animals to friends to get them playing. Players can also visit neighbors’ gardens to care for their animals and crops or fend off attacking vermin.
Animal Party is monetized through the sale of premium decoration items, ship upgrades for capturing higher-quality animals, and energy refills. There’s a pretty firm limit to the amount of time you can spend playing the game for “free.” Between collecting animals, clearing land, planting crops, and caring for animals, lower-level players frequently run out of energy well shy of completing construction projects or collecting all animals available on a planet. New planets and items for the garden can only be unlocked at higher levels or in exchange for Facebook Credits, which puts pressure on new users to spend early on.
Tribal Crossing will likely adjust the gameplay over time in response to user feedback. Before signing with 6waves, the developer relied entirely on feedback from users acquired in a limited marketing campaign to adjust the Animal Party into the game it is today.
“What you see now in Animal Party is a fundamentally different game from our first public version (our first version didn’t even have a garden),” Tribal Crossing CEO Tommy Wu tells ISG in an email. “We were set on running marketing campaigns on our own and had just finished finished building a system to measure lifetime value of users by different entry points so that we could have dynamic CPI bids by traffic source.”
Wu says that the biggest challenge small indie studios like his face aren’t development costs, but rather, user acquisition costs. “With the game frameworks we have built over the past year, we could build a new game as complex as Animal Party for ~$200,000,” he says, “but if you look at Zynga’s last quarter, you’ll see they spent twice that amount per day in marketing costs.”
Signing with 6waves eases the burden a bit, but Tribal Crossing still has to keep their game fresh to please the users that 6waves acquires. To that end, Wu says that the developer is in the process of considering new features to add to the game. There is a challenge, however, as Tribal Crossing doesn’t want to make Animal Party too complex just for the sake of a cool game mechanic.
“We have had ambitious plans to do a breeding system for a while but we aren’t sure if it’s something we want to incorporate as a feature in this game or as a standalone title,” he says. “One thing we have not exposed to the user is how the animals interact with each other. There’s actually a sophisticated AI system and we’re able to give animals different personalities. We’re really excited to see where we can take that (any ideas are welcome)!”
You can follow Animal Party’s progress using AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.