In " The Vortex, " Doppio Games' first game, the player is awakened from a cryptic sleep on a dilapidated spaceship, coordinating robots to reclaim spacecraft from aliens. Everything by voice command - because "The Vortex" has been developed for use with Amazon Alexa and the Google voice assistant.
"Language is a natural medium for conveying information, but the technology has been barely usable for a long time, but now it's getting better and better," says Brazilian game developer Jeferson Valadares to SPIEGEL at the Web Summit in Lisbon. "There have been a few voice-based games in the past few years, but the genre is still very new, which makes it exciting for me."
Valadares has previously worked for larger companies such as Electronic Arts. With his startup Doppio Games, founded in Lisbon in 2018, the 44-year-old is now experimenting in a niche that is still too small for the established manufacturers. He speculates that the relatively young genre could play a greater role in the future as the language assistants of companies such as Amazon and Google increase.
Game developer Jeferson Valadares hopes voice-driven games will become a trend
As a target group, Doppio Games currently has early adopter in mind - also because their first game was in a sci-fi world with robots. It is designed to be played in short sessions of about five to eight minutes each. Users would play it after asking their smart speaker for weather and news at home, says Valadares. But also on the way to work or jogging.
At first the robots were often insulted
Communicating the story of the game through dialogue alone poses many challenges. For example, the sentences that tell the characters of the game are each deposited in at least five different variants so that they do not repeat themselves constantly in their conversations with the players.
Another problem developers face is, "If you let people say everything, they say it all," says Valadares. In "The Vortex", the robots were therefore often verbally abused. In the meantime, however, they can defend themselves against such verbal attacks.
To give the characters a personality, they are provided with traits and accents. That's why the British robot looks a bit sadder, the American more tackling and the Australian "a bit crazy," says Valadares.
$ 50 for four hours of play
When he first started developing language-based games, just over 20 million devices had been sold with Amazon's Alexa, and by the beginning of the year, the 100 million device brand had been breached. Google Assistant is now available on more than a billion devices, from smartpeakers to smartphones.
In the meantime, developers like Valadares can also make money with their games: Amazon, for example, offers so-called in-skill purchases that can be used to unlock premium features. In "The Vortex", for example, players can buy a so-called multi-gel that allows robots to do specific tasks faster.
"Most people need about six weeks to finish the first chapter," says Valadares. "But there was one who spent $ 50 playing the game in four hours."
Illustration for the game "The 3% Challenge"
In the second game of Doppio Games, " The 3% Challenge ", which was developed after the eponymous TV series, the studio experimented with a subscription model. For example, those who pay will receive more information or additional scenes. A multi-player mode is also available.
How much the developers are still in the dark, how they can actually make money with their voice games and who their customers are, Valadares shows when he explains that a new target group have just discovered the games of Doppio Games for themselves. A group he had never thought of himself: visually impaired.