Victoria studio striking gold with new game Crusaders

Somewhere between the ones and zeros, buried within the world of heroic fighters and imaginative villains, Codename Entertainment has found “it” — the secret to the success of idle gaming.

Just don’t expect a concrete definition of what “it” is. While the success of the company’s most recent game, Crusaders of the Lost Idols, has meant the Victoria studio is expanding its ranks and is on the hunt for more office space, chief executive Eric Jordan admits nailing down the reason is difficult.

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“No one really knows why it works so well, but we all have our theories,” said Jordan.

Crusaders of the Lost Idols follows a group of fighters that take on a variety of villains, including a giant panda with lobster claws.

Jordan believes idle games tend to resonate with players because of the gaming loop they offer. A player gets gold, levels up, gets more gold, becomes more powerful so they can get more gold, then they can level up again and so on.

Idle games allow players to put as much time and effort as they wish into a game as they do not require “active play.” Players can leave them to idle and play themselves.

“What sets our game apart from others in the genre is you can either take it as it comes and be very simple or spend a lot of time with it and get into the complexity of the game. Either way you can feel really good about your progress,” Jordan said. Another feature of these games is there’s little or no downside to making a wrong move.

It’s hard to argue it has appeal.

Earlier this year, Crusaders debuted at top spot on Kongregate.com’s (the largest dedicated webgaming site in the world) idle gaming chart and since then it has expanded its reach to more than five million unique plays on Kongregate, Armor Games and Facebook.

It remains the top-rated idle game on Kongregate and was recently launched on Steam, the largest PC gaming platform in the world.

There are plans for a mobile version to be launched early next year.

While Codename does not divulge revenue, the success of the game has meant the company has doubled its monthly revenue, which translated into expansion from 11 staff to 14 with plans to add to that number.

“We are bursting at the seams here, and our lease is up early next year so we are probably looking at new space,” said Jordan.

The gaming sector in Victoria has been growing. A Victoria Advanced Technology Council study in 2014 found 20 studios employing about 250 people.

“It’s still a young sub-sector of tech in Victoria, but it has developed quickly,” said VIATEC chief executive Dan Gunn. “The 20 or so companies are really good at working together to support each other and to address shared challenges. This has allowed them to do a very effective job of telling their story which has increased awareness and interest.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps suggested Codename is an example for other firms to follow.

“Successes like this breed further success and help our city become even more of a hub for this kind of independent game development,” she said.

To celebrate the success of the game, Codename is holding an invite-only event today at Fort Tectoria, featuring a presentation from provincial Technology Minister Amrik Virk and entertainment from local band Towers and Trees, which composed the music used in the game.

“In today’s ever-evolving music world, you're always on the hunt for cool new ways to push yourself as an artist and reach new audiences. Art and music are such a huge part of the video game industry so the partnership feels very natural,” said Adrian Chalifour of Towers and Trees.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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