“Vote!”, a fighting video game that allows Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike to choose a Presidential candidate and then duke it out, hits the market Thursday just in time for the election season.
And the game has a strong Triangle connection.
Cary-based Epic Games’ Chair Entertainment has transitioned nicely into the Apple iOS gaming space. The Salt Lake City Studio’s Infinity Blade franchise is approaching $50 million in revenues in under two years time.
That same game technology, powered by Unreal Engine 3, is behind Vote!, a free game for Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
The cartoon-style gameplay features a virtual Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, complete with an assortment of humorous weapons, accessories and costumes to put a playful spin on the political race as the nation heads toward a November election. Players can upgrade their candidates with funny weapons like a microphone and light saber fashioned after the Statue of Liberty, as well as costumes like Uncle Sam or a super hero, and accessories like a powdered wig or eye patch. But to get these goodies, gamers will have to earn coins.
“The core gameplay of Vote! is still very much Infinity Blade, but on top of that, it’s a whole different metagame,” said Donald Mustard, co-founder and creative director, Chair Entertainment. “The gameplay is all getting the high score like a classic arcade game like Pac-Man, but it’s also all about earning money to buy more stuff to unlock. Every item that you unlock increases your base multiplier by one, which allows your score to increase exponentially.”
Players start the game with a multiplier of one, but with each new item unlock, the game’s score increases by a multiplier of two, three, four, and so on. The reason that score is important is because that’s how a player earns votes for their candidate. Votes are hard to come by, similar to an extra life in arcade games. One vote is earned for 10,000 points in a round, but then it ups to 75,000 for two and 250,000 for three.
The game’s structured into three 75-second rounds. Each round has a colorful political backdrop like a Presidential debate, the White House lawn and the Oval Office. All of these environments are built on Unreal, taking an animated approach to the worlds Chair created with its fantasy Infinity Blade franchise.
“The game is less about winning the fight and more about points,” said Mustard. “This is all about high scores. If you’re able to survive to the end of the 75 seconds, you essentially win. You’ll knock your rival on his butt, and that tallies up your points. The higher score you can get, the higher you’ll be on the leader board, the more votes you’ll unlock for your candidate, the more money you’ll earn to unlock more stuff so you can get an even higher score. It’s really a fun, skill-based game that can really become addicting with the high scores.”
There’s also an online dimension to the game. Every game will be connected to the Internet, which will be keeping a running tab on votes collected. So the game will be serving as a type of virtual barometer of what the American public is thinking in terms of candidates, especially since Republicans and Democrats will be fighting along party lines.
While the game is absolutely free to play, political junkies who don’t have as much free time to play through for all of those coins can use real money to buy items. This micro-transaction approach has been a big success with Infinity Blade, even though that is a paid game.
Obama and Romney will each have a host of one-liners they can deliver throughout the game. Chair worked with professional impersonators for each of the candidates to do voiceovers for the virtual brawl.
“While you’re sparring, each candidate will shoot out some kind of classic lines that they’re known for saying,” said Mustard. “These are funny, but they also motivate the player. Because no matter which candidate you like better, there’s an incentive to play as both because they both have equally funny lines.”
Epic has partnered with Rock the Vote to connect the game world to voter registration. An in-game button will allow players to register to vote. This marks the first time this type of functionality will launch in a game.
“The gaming community is comprised of passionate, well-informed individuals who have an important voice in our democracy,” said Chrissy Faessen, VP of Marketing & Communications, Rock the Vote. “We are really excited to partner with Chair and Epic Games to encourage voter registration among gamers, in a completely new and innovative way.”
The idea for Vote! came from one of Chair’s “Epic Fridays,” which occurs once every few months and allows employees to work on whatever they want.
“Instead of all of us just working on our own thing, we had been talking about this game idea for a while,” said Mustard. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we took Infinity Blade and put super-cartoony characters on top of it? Would that be funny or not?’ It generated so much laughter internally that we decided to take the concept and add Presidential candidates as the central characters. And we replaced swords with ice cream cones and funny weapons.”
Over the course of one day, Chair had built a cartoony White House with the front lawn and an animated Obama and Romney. Mustard said it still looked really cool and had a different Unreal feel to it.
“We went through and adjusted all the animations to make them more exaggerated and the weapons all floppy and just really cartoony,” said Mustard. “We were just laughing our heads off; this game was just so funny.”
While Mustard was in Cary discussing the studio’s next big game, he showed VOTE!!! to the Epic board and they loved it so much they wanted to release it because it was so fun, different and topical. So Chair spent about a month fine-tuning the game and Apple approved the title for a global launch.
Now it’s up to you to take the political fight in your own hands by picking a candidate and duking it out.