Editor's note: I thought about retitling this one as New Game Promises to Rot Brain, Liver, but then I chickened out. -Demian
Nimble Strong: Bartender in Training uses real mixed drink recipes and pouring techniques to teach players bartending basics — over the course of a branching, four-act narrative. Adam Ghahramani, director of the game's developer (also called Nimble Strong), said the game’s central mechanic of players timing their pours by pressing their fingers to the touch screen makes Bartender in Training both fun and educational.
“My ‘aha!’ moment was sitting in a bartending class and hearing about pour counts; how good bartenders have to have a mastery of how long a second is,” Ghahramani said. “If Nimble Strong was just about picking the right ingredients and putting them in a glass it would have been a massive bore.”
Ghahramani said he was inspired to create Nimble Strong when he saw an ad for a $500 bartending course after sitting in on a speech by Will Wright, creator of The Siim series, in Vancouver.
“The fusion of those two experiences, the speech and learning about the ridiculous cost of bartending courses, with the fact I’d been playing a lot of Professor Layton and that the iPhone was starting to really take off for gaming — thus reducing the barriers to entry for game development in general — led me to Nimble Strong.”
Ghahramani said he performed a great deal of research in order to deliver on his promise of using the game to offer basic bartending course knowledge for $5 instead of $500.
“I took an expensive bartending class, which, in retrospect, ended up being laughable,” Ghahramani said. “I took three advanced courses taught by top mixologists here in New York City. I bought a stack of books on mixology, the history of cocktails, memoirs by bartenders, etc. I read through articles, I joined a cocktail chat group, [and] I bartended small events for friends.”
Ghahramani also enlisted the help of accomplished mixology author Jeffery Lindenmuth to add to Nimble Strong‘s knowledge base.
“I ended up partnering with someone five tiers above me in terms of mixology and bartending experience,” Ghahramani said. “I wanted the education to be beyond reproach and as authentic as possible.”
In addition to offering real bartending techniques, Ghahramani said he wanted to frame the game’s mechanics with an interesting narrative to draw players in.
“From an educational perspective, narrative and characters are crucially important because they keep you engaged longer, mix up game variety, and create more of an emotional connection to what you’re doing.”
Ghahramani said games like Professor Layton, Phoenix Wright, Trauma Center, and Cooking Mama as well as Japanese role-playing games like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger influenced Nimble Strong‘s presentation.
“My favorite types of games are character and story driven, so if I was going to take a huge risk in time and money to make a game, I wanted to make something that was an homage to the games I grew up loving,” said Ghahramani.
Nimble Strong is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad for $5 — a bit more than the 99 cent sweet spot, Ghahramani acknowledges. The game cleared 100 downloads in its first week, but he needs to sell 15,000 to cover costs.
“Nimble Strong is a game that replaces or supplements bartending courses, which cost hundreds of dollars,” Ghahramani said. “It’s also a game that could help get you a job in the future. This isn’t even considering the fact that drink mixing isn’t a cheap hobby to learn…so you’d think that a $4.99 price tag would be seen as an incredible value.”
Ghahramani feels that the people who will really enjoy and benefit from the game won’t mind the price. “My marketing philosophy has always been to keep your product premium and justify the price, rather than sink to the bottom to please people who wouldn’t really invest the time and energy into the game to begin with.”
Read more about how video games can be more than just entertainment at BOLDSTATE.