Lolapps acquires a Flash game engine that makes Facebook games run fast

Aiming to deliver better graphics in social games, Lolapps has acquired the Fliso graphics engine from Sean Cooper Games and hired its creator.

The Fliso Engine is a foundation that designers can use to create games in Adobe’s Flash environment on platforms such as Facebook. By acquiring it, Lolapps is making a power play to outdo rivals when it comes to beautiful-looking graphics in its games. It also opens up a new licensing business for Lolapps, which is one of the largest social game makers, with millions of users. Lolapps will now brand the engine as the Lolapps Fliso Engine and license it to other game companies.

Veteran game creator Sean Cooper created the Fliso Engine, which has the ability to run fast isometric Flash games without taxing a computer’s memory. That means it can run a beautiful scene like the pseudo-3D one above at full speed without bogging down your computer, even on a relatively slow platform like Facebook.

Arjun Sethi, chief executive of Lolapps, said his company came into contact with Cooper about 18 months ago and used the Fliso engine to create its Critter Island game, which was noteworthy because it was able to display lots of moving critters on an island at the same time. When that game debuted last year, it was a step above the animation quality of many other Facebook games.

Lolapps used the engine again in its groundbreaking title, Ravenwood Fair, which was designed by game veteran John Romero. That game let players create a camp in the middle of a large forest with lots of trees, numerous animals, and transparent clouds that floated across the sky. For a cartoon-style game, it looked quite pretty. That game took off (it still has six million monthly active users on Facebook) and Lolapps began creating more and more titles based on the Ravenwood theme, including Ravenstone Mine. Cooper began helping with the games, and the parties started talking.

Under the deal, Lolapps acquires Cooper’s company and Cooper will work for Lolapps as chief Flash architect, reporting directly to Sethi. The company will maintain support for existing engine licensees and try to sign up more of them, Sethi said. In other words, Lolapps won’t keep the technology completely exclusive for its own internal game design purposes. Four out of the top five social game makers now license the engine.

Besides making games prettier, the engine also reduces the amount of time and money it takes to develop games. And it expands the audience that can run Flash games at high speeds, as it allows weaker computers to run the games. Games built with the engine can have more interaction.

“I’m excited to be joining Lolapps where I believe the technology I’ve developed can be leveraged to bring the highest level of creativity to life,” said Cooper. “The strength of the team chemistry between the art and technology teams at Lolapps will continue to give them a massive advantage in creating the most immersive game worlds.”

Flash is the slowest medium for games, and it needs help displaying things on the screen. If this isn’t managed properly, then a game becomes jerky and unresponsive. Flash wasn’t built to run games originally, but Fliso speeds its ability to run animations by 50 times. Hardware-based improvements are coming that could make for dramatic speed-ups.

Cooper has worked on games that have sold more than 20 million copies. He lives in the United Kingdom and has worked at Bullfrog Productions and Electronic Arts on titles such as Command & Conquer. He started making casual games in 2005 and created Fliso in order to make better games. His Fliso Engine is now on version 2. Sethi said that future games, such as Ravenshire Castle, pictured above, will have much larger territories for players to explore, thanks to the more efficient engine. Another title, Ravensky City, will also use the Fliso engine.

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