On Movies and Mobile Games

An interview with Sam Fisher, CEO on creating an idle game for a streaming audience

Games Industry

What do movies and mobile games have in common? Turns out, more than you might think! Hyper Hippo recently collaborated with Netflix to launch Dungeon Dwarves, an idle dungeon crawler adventure hosted on Netflix’s mobile gaming platform. We asked Sam Fisher, our CEO, to share some insights on building a game for a new audience and the importance of telling a good story.

Why Netflix? What makes the platform a good fit for Dungeon Dwarves?

Dungeon Dwarves is designed to give players a short burst of joy; we didn’t design it to be played in long sessions. We thought it would be great to give people on Netflix something fun to do when they only have 5 minutes to play. And honestly, there was a certain freedom that the creators had in designing Dungeon Dwarves when monetization did not have to be a primary driver in the design. The collaboration with Netflix gave our designers space to focus on creating joyful moments within a short period of gameplay.

We know that people on Netflix are looking for great entertainment, which is at the core of what Hyper Hippo is about.

Dungeon Dwarves is perfect for giving subscribers a short enjoyable break, as it is available anywhere on a mobile screen, and can be enjoyed as a stand-alone experience or as a game played between movies. In the true Hyper Hippo way, the game includes idle mechanics which make it ideal for breaks. Simply put, if you leave your dwarves in a dungeon and close the game, they will continue to fight, mine and collect resources in your absence. So every session can be spent setting up, using your spells, upgrading and investing in your dwarves, and you can reap the benefits when you come back.

Even when a player is away from the game, their Dwarves are digging deeper into the dungeons, full of mystery and wonder.

Finally, we know that people on Netflix are looking for great entertainment, which is at the core of what Hyper Hippo is about. We also know that Netflix has a very large global audience in countries that have different behaviours than traditional Western gaming markets, and we are curious if we will see new players globally as a result of our collaboration with Netflix.

What challenges did the team consider when designing for Netflix’s audience?

Our focus is on providing opportunities for deeper engagement in our games, and I think this is a challenge that Netflix, Google, and Apple all share. As entertainment creators and providers, we all want to know, what platform will give the players the experience that they want? Which platforms will give creators the audience and the tools to build truly engaging experiences for players?

We are still working on this challenge, however we are excited by the opportunities we see ahead. We believe that building a community is an essential part of building a lasting and impactful entertainment IP. We are looking forward to working with Netflix to establish these communities and build long-lasting, engaged relationships with our audience for Dungeon Dwarves.

The fun of collaborating with Netflix to develop Dungeon Dwarves is that we are in a period of discovery; we don’t necessarily know what to expect, but we are excited by the possibilities that come from developing for, and learning about, new audiences.

How important is it for a game to tell a good story? And how can we do that in an idle game which is meant to be played in short bursts?

Netflix has an audience that understands a good story. When the design process started for Dungeon Dwarves, a central element came from technical limitations; all Dwarves had to be visible on the screen at all times. This inspired the design team to come up with our number one creative rule, “no dwarf left behind!” Having five inseparable dwarves is the foundation of our story, but also the material for building in fun banter and friendly competition to drive the group dynamic.

The collaboration with Netflix gave our designers space to focus on creating joyful moments within a short period of gameplay.

Another gameplay mechanic that contributes to the story is about ‘prestige’ and the concept of resetting some of your progress again and again. We wanted this mechanic to be justified narratively and illustrate the iconic character of the dwarves, in particular, their typical nonsensical approach to adventuring. This is why they systematically decide to spend all the riches they mine… in a party at the local tavern after each dungeon.

Dungeon Dwarves is, at its core, a dungeon crawler, in which you explore dungeon after dungeon. It was important for us to build the world around the dungeons, even if it is not always visible to the players, so the gear, the spells, the minions and their bosses are all facets of the Lost Kingdoms of the dwarves. This approach has given our creative team endless possibilities to continue developing the narrative and building out the world of the dwarves. We believe that games like Dungeon Dwarves that focus on a good story should have a very exciting future at Netflix.