Most fighting game makers brag about the precision of control in battle. Not Gree. The company’s G-Labs team is launching Flop Fu, which could be one of the dumbest mobile games ever made.
Therein lies its appeal, according to Gree. With Flop Fu, you fight against another player in a traditional 2D battle. But instead of kicking and punching, you can only do two somewhat vague and imprecise actions: flop or flail. The cartoon graphics are also among the worst you’ll see in a game coming from a major company.
My boss, GamesBeat editor-in-chief Dan “Shoe” Hsu, tried out the game at recent reception, and I watched him struggle to control his character via a tablet’s touchscreen. He put his fingers on two virtual joysticks. Flop provides for one kind of movement, while Flail does another. Your character’s body floats around the screen, and you try to land a blow on your opponent by lashing out. The limbs have rag-doll physics and mostly move wildly out of control. The sound effects fit the wacky tone.
Flop is one of the early games coming from Gree’s experimental G-Labs initiative in San Francisco. That team encourages Gree’s staff to build games and apps that teams can finish in less than three months. The developers come from groups of artists, engineers, and designers who want to push out a quick prototype. The idea is to take advantage of bursts of creativity and then throw a bunch of resources behind the result to make the app fully functional. The company launches them quickly and then sees how the game does organically with downloads.
Anil Dharni, the chief operating officer at Gree International, said in an interview that G-Labs is a recognition that hit mobile games are often a byproduct of small indie developers with good ideas. King’s massive mobile hit, Candy Crush Saga, was made by a team of three people who adapted a game from the Web. And the smash hit Flappy Bird was made by Dong Nguyen, a lone inventor in Hanoi, Vietnam.
G-Labs enables Gree to take a lot more shots on goal, Dharni said. A typical game will test a new mechanic that could prove useful in more elaborate titles. Andrew Keidel, the vice president of engineering and one of the heads of G-Labs, said that the company has launched a couple of other G-Labs projects in the app stores: Coco Pets and Legends of Slap. So the G-Labs record is pretty good now in terms of commercial releases.
“If we had made Flappy Bird, we would not have taken it down,” Keidel said, referring to the fact that Dong took his game down after he decided people were getting too addicted to it. “It’s wide open, for things that are fun and might be things we want to play.”
G-Labs has gone through a couple of iterations.
“We are not of failing in the traditional sense,” Keidel said. “We want to make fun games. But if at the end of the day, we don’t ship it, then that’s OK. In the short time frame of two or three weeks, people get very passionate about it. Sooner or later, things take off.”
Keidel said that Flop Fu came from a hackathon the company held in November. More recently, as friends started enjoying the prototype, Gree put a couple more weeks of resources in to fleshing the game out.
Flop Fu will have more marketing dollars behind it, as it shows promise and has short, fun play sessions. The game’s creators say that you can actually master the difficult controls.
Flop Fu has real-time synchronous multiplayer action, a global leaderboard, a variety of characters, and player stats. That adds some big company polish to a game that would otherwise just be a silly exercise in tossing an idea at the wall and seeing if its sticks.
The Android game is available today on the Google Play store. Japan’s Gree is one of the largest mobile social game companies, and it was founded in Tokyo in 2004.
“Simply put, Flop Fu is just a really fun game to play,” said Patrick Traughber, senior product manager at Gree International and leader of G-Labs. “The G-Labs team is always thinking about new and innovative games and ways to play them. Flop-Fu is definitely all of that with a dash of hilarity. The concept of the game is simple, but once players get ahold of the joystick controls and attempt to master each fighter’s awkward movements, laughs are sure to follow.”