Idle Worship developer Idle Games is gearing up to launch its next social title and get into the social gambling scene with Fresh Deck Poker. The game is a social and mobile poker game that the company created a new studio to develop and is poised take advantage of real-money gambling’s impending legalization.
Idle Games tells us it isn’t going to implement real-money elements to Fresh Deck Poker until it’s been legalized in the United States, something that most people seem to think will happen by 2014 or sooner. In order to prepare for this eventuality, a separate company called Idle Gaming was created to deal with all the legal issues and licensing fees that accompany online gambling (as most countries have very different laws surrounding the issue, provided they haven’t totally outlawed it), though it still operates under the same corporate umbrella as Idle Games.
VP of Product Stuart Lewis-Smith, who has over 15 years of experience in i-Gaming, was brought in to help with these challenges. Lewis-smith helped prepare the company for real money gaming in two different ways. He had the game’s random number generator certified by Technical Systems Testing (the group that audits these devices for real-world gambling groups) and also helped set up sweepstakes-like tournaments: These are free to enter but offer substantial cash prizes in the United States, barring Oklahoma and Mississippi. These sweepstakes-like payouts could do a lot to help the game stand out in increasingly-crowded market of social casino games, since they provide the possibility of real-money prizes.
Fresh Deck Poker incorporates the MMO technology Idle Games developed for Idle Worship. The game allows users to drop in and out of poker sessions, providing the option to play different types of poker like ring games, sit ‘n go’s and multi-table tournaments. The title contains a proprietary recommendation engine that places players based on open seats at a table and other players’ skill levels, though users can also manually browse tables should they desire.
There’s also a slots-based mini game where players gift spins to either Facebook friends or in-game buddies. Each time a gift is received, players earn another spin. When the slots result in poker-themed hands, players earn in-game rewards.
As opposed to Idle Worship, which delivered high production value and innovative gameplay with mixed results, Fresh Deck Poker is aiming to deliver a familiar online poker experience with a couple of twists. The most immediate of these is the high quality art style. Both the environments and character show an incredible amount of detail, and were so high-rez that there was no pixilation when we played the game on a 60-inch display. Current online and social poker games use top-down views of a card table with fairly basic characters seated around them; while Fresh Deck Poker offers this perspective, it also has a first-person point of view for players to fully enjoy the images. The game also has a clean, simple interface, as opposed to other social poker games that tend to contain flashing and cluttered layouts.
Social mechanics in the game allow users to chat with each other at the table (represented as speech bubbles above avatars’ heads), and users can also add players to their own in-game buddy lists. Each player has an ID card associated with them, allowing others to check out facts like what their win records are, what their best hand ever was and how many games they’ve played against the user checking them out.
Although the game is being set up to take advantage of real money gambling when it’s legalized, it currently has hard (Gold) and soft (Chips) currencies for players to use. The currency system wasn’t in place with the version we got to spend some hands-on time with, so we didn’t get to see what the pricing would be like. That said, the game features several hundred accessories to purchase and thousands of possible avatar combinations for players to create.
While new character accessories have to be paid for with either soft currency (chips) or hard (gold), new environments are unlocked by earning experience points. Players start out in a grungy garage-like level and progress through other environments like beach bungalows, Victorian parlors and ultimately arrive in television studio-like settings. None of these levels affect gameplay, but they looked like they could add a lot of ambience to overall play experience.
Fresh Deck Poker is a cross-platform title that allows users to play with others no matter what system they’re using, as well as switch devices on the fly. We got to see this during our time with the game when we switched between PC and iOS. The mobile version also incorporates the first-person perspective and simplified layout, though adapted for the iPhone’s screen.
Fresh Deck Poker is expected to launch on iOS and Facebook on July 31.