George R.R. Martin’s dark and mature fantasy book series Game of Thrones has exploded in popularity thanks to the acclaimed HBO television adaptation of the novels. Naturally such popularity has allowed Game of Thrones to work its way into other forms of popular media including video games. One such game, a Facebook social game called Game of Thrones Ascent which ties closely into the events of the t.v. show, is actually being developed by local Massachusetts-based studio Disruptor Beam (the studio recently migrated from Boston to my hometown of Framingham).
I recently got to sit down and chat with Disruptor Beam founder and CEO Jon Radoff about Game of Thrones Ascent, what inspired the team at Disruptor Beam to make it into a social game, and how they plan to support Ascent in-between seasons of the show.
Nate Hohl: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Jon. So, first off, What inspired you to create Game of Thrones Ascent? There’s no doubt that Game of Thrones is a very popular series now thanks to the HBO show but what sort of thought process led you to take Westeros into the online browser/Facebook space?
Jon Radoff: Well, the idea for a social game based around George R.R. Martin’s books was actually one that started long before the HBO series even began. The depth and complexity of Martin’s plot lines and robust characters inherently translates into a very social environment. Characters are constantly collaborating with one another or backstabbing each other, while getting married and staying true to their houses. It really makes for the perfect scenario for a social game where players can take part in all of those activities, but within a game environment.
In addition, back when we first started thinking about a Game of Thrones social game, I saw a huge hole in the world of Facebook games – and thus, a huge opportunity. Social media is very powerful, especially when integrated with games, which are at their core social experiences. All games are social. But, the same type of in-depth, story-driven game experiences of console and PC games were missing from the social graph. This is where Disruptor Beam came in with our goal of disrupting the social game landscape through immersive gameplay based around the worlds that gamers love most.
NH: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you study each season of the show extensively when it comes to developing new content for Ascent but how big a hand has George R.R. Martin had in influencing the game, if any? I know he’s helped with developing other game adaptations of Game of Thrones in the past but I was just curious if he’s ever offered his support or advice regarding Ascent.
JR: We created an initial concept for Game of Thrones Ascent and then, through George R.R. Martin’s agent, first pitched George on the idea in 2010. He loved it! From there, we kicked off a relationship with HBO and we now work in lock-step with them on the development of the game. So, while George played a key role in developing the overall concept for the game back in 2010 and now fully supports the game, he is more hands-off in terms of day-to-day development. He is a busy guy!
NH: Do you plan to continue supporting Game of Thrones Ascent even after the show ends? I understand you’re working to tie the content in the game to what happens in the show and books but it seems like kind of a tricky schedule to go by considering the length of time between seasons of the show not to mention the amount of time between new book releases.
JR: That is a great question and we’ve worked hard at Disruptor Beam to find a solution to keep players engaged between seasons. To appease viewers of the TV series while it airs, we did adopt a “watch on Sunday, play on Monday” philosophy to content development and releases. New content that mimics each new episode would be added every week. Players loved it! Beyond Season 3, we’ve kept up the cadence of frequent content releases adding new, original content for players to dive into and immerse themselves even further into Westeros and their in-game characters. This takes the form of new quests, artwork, and items – all added regularly to keep players entertained.
NH: What sorts of games do you hope to make in the future? Would you want to continue utilizing online/browser-based systems or would you want to eventually move into more focused single-player efforts? Maybe even break into console game development?
JR: Lots! Game of Thrones Ascent is our primary focus right now and we have lots of new content and features planned that will be rolled out in the coming months, as well as new platforms on which to play the game. We also have plans to develop more games in the future – staying true to our model of story-driven social gameplay applied to other worlds. Right now we are specifically focused on browser-based and tablet/mobile game development and I see tablets as increasingly taking the place of consoles over time. So, I’d say that we’re keeping a closer eye on what happens with the convergence of TV and platforms like iOS and Android.
NH: Awesome, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me Jon!
Game of Thrones Ascent is currently in open beta and can be played for free via Facebook. For more info on the game and on Disruptor Beam be sure to check out their official website. Special thanks to Elicia Basoli for helping to set up this interview.