This is the second article in a series of posts spotlighting indie mobile games that have won the hearts of the toughest critics: industry insiders, themselves.
Ben Newhouse’s day job at NYC media relations firm Advance Digital doesn’t scream “mobile gamer.” But outside his 9-to-5 he dabbles in his passion, as an investor with the Indie Fund ? a group dedicated to helping independent developers succeed through funding options outside of the traditional publisher model (read: autonomy).
“I always dreamed of making games, but life happened,” Newhouse says. “I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can help others act on their dreams through the Indie Fund.”
With such a busy schedule, Newhouse loves to game on the go ? so turn-based titles are his current games of choice (as both an investor and a player). Mobile games that can be played in short bursts and “don’t require a persistent Internet connection” or take up a huge amount of space on his phone (he can’t give up his precious podcasts) are right up his alley.
Still, Newhouse refuses to skimp on quality and says he’s usually willing to pay for a game, as a result. Not surprisingly, the game he can’t put down is pay-for-play, but its innovative approach and design elements are something any mobile game developer can appreciate.
The game: Auro. “I’ve been getting my ass handed to me,” says Newhouse. This RPG/strategy game may seem like a departure for Newhouse, but it’s still turn-based ? requiring similar strategic thought as one of the oldest turn-based games out there: chess. The goal is to create spell combinations that will help advance the game’s main character.
The studio: Dinofarm Games, the studio behind acclaimed RPG game 100 Rogues. Some of what Newhouse loves most about Auro can be attributed to Dinofarm’s designer Keith Burgun. “He’s also made a wonderful game called Empire, which completely flips 4X games on their head,” Newhouse says.
The monetization strategy: The game costs $4.99, but Newhouse insists it’s worth much more.
What makes this game different: It begins with the game essentially already won?as a player you’re equipped with every skill the main character needs. The trick is to figure out how (and when) to use these skills in order to advance. “The tutorials will teach you enough to get by,” Newhouse explains. “But each play-through creates opportunities for these wonderful moments when you discover new tricks with the tools you’ve been randomly assigned. Also it’s really, really, hard.”
Fun fact: Auro was funded via Kickstarter in 2013. Newhouse regrets he was unable to back the game because he only recently found out about it, but he’s excited about new features the game has in store.