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All Aboard - Part Two

Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard on Facebook - and the future of A Bit Lucky

Last week, in the first part of the interview with A Bit Lucky CEO Frederic Descamps and chief creative officer Jordan Maynard we talked about the origins of the Facebook company, its first title Lucky Train, and why they think it's time for a new era of social network gaming.

Here in part two we discuss the retention curve for a Facebook game, how the social network's rule changes have affected games companies, and what we can expect from the company in the next 12 months.

GamesIndustry.biz Attracting and retaining users for any game is a challenge, but for games that don't require an upfront investment it's really tough. One of World of Warcraft's successes was to create a game that people could get into easily enough, but then notched up the complexity on a smooth curve. What do you take into account when looking at that curve for Lucky Train?
Jordan Maynard

The interesting thing about the curve - and they change drastically depending on how many friends the user has playing the game already... if they were introduced to it by a friend who was at a really high level, it'll be a very different user experience beginner curve for them. It also changes drastically if they're willing to spend Lucky Bucks, so you have to design for both of those.

But looking at a user who just comes in raw, we try to give you enough to do in the beginning to get you hooked, and then you've got the come-back time, where you've sent all your local trains and maybe one to a friend - then you've got a couple of hours to think about what to do next.

One of the things we've focused on is the multiplayer aspect - we don't have a lot of single-player. There are local trains, but we don't have a lot that, without your friends, you can really do. In lieu of that I almost wish that the user will go away for a while, go to work for eight hours, then come back and deal with their trains again.

The whole of the team from A Bit Lucky.
GamesIndustry.biz Obviously Lucky Bucks are key here - Phil Harrison recently explained that when investors are looking for opportunities they're really looking for e-commerce companies under the hood. If the layer on top is games, then that's fine - so how do you balance the need to create free content with the need for people to spend cash on Lucky Bucks?
Jordan Maynard

From a gameplay perspective, Lucky Bucks are really a way to unlock gaming content - but also to get exclusive content. There are some trains and buildings that are only available with Lucky Bucks, as well as some upgrade short-cuts as well. In time they might have more utility in the game, or they might just be a unique graphic or model.

From a balance perspective one thing I really like about the game is that one person spending money generally benefits their friends - it's not just that a person who spends money is ahead of me... "Hey, he's cheating!"

It's more that Frederic bought a Gold Moskva Jet and put it on a line that I'm also on, so I get the benefit of it too. When it comes into my town, it'll generate me more money.

So there's a really interesting collaborative feel as well, where one player spending money can help everyone in their social network.