3 Minute Games is a skunkworks-style studio that operates from within Big Fish Games’ Oakland office with the goal of making lots of games very quickly, testing them out in the marketplace, and seeing if it can discover new hits. Its latest experiment is a fascinating Apple Watch game called Lifeline, which it seems to be a success—it’s now one of the top ten best-selling premium iOS apps. Team members Colin Liotta, Mars Jokela, and Dan Selleck told us how they built one of the most innovative games available for Apple’s new device.
Gaming Insiders: The setup for Lifeline is pretty interesting—it’s almost like an ARG where you’re having a text-message conversation with a real person. What inspired the concept for the game?
3 Minute Games: It started way back when Apple announced interactive notifications on the iOS lock screen. Colin wanted to build a game that could be played completely outside of the app, by making choices when notifications arrived. The idea of a pick-your-path game came out of that constraint, and a prototype was born in October 2014. When we started talking about making games for the Apple Watch, the design was a natural fit so we proceeded into full production.
The game has great support for the Apple Watch. Do you have any knowledge about what percentage of your audience is actually using that integration?
Unfortunately that data isn’t readily available to us, and it’s hard to make estimations. We do believe though that Apple Watch customers drove the initial sales momentum, since it was prominently featured in the Apple Watch app store and customers clearly have an appetite for interesting applications for their new hardware. Since then the game has taken off on iPhone and iPad as well, so we’re seeing a pretty even spread of different platforms.
How long did it take to write the game, and is it set up in such a way as to allow for future content expansion?
We’ve been working on multiple projects concurrently (fun times for a small team!) so our best estimate for the total production time is about six weeks, with Dave writing the story in about four to five weeks. We’re definitely working on a sequel, but it may or may not be set in the same universe!
Given that there are certain built-in breaks in the game experience, what’s the absolute fastest that someone could beat the game?
There is one (rather grim) ending that you can reach pretty early on Day 1, after just a couple of hours. And another at the end of Day 1. And another in the morning on Day 2. And so on—it’s a hostile world, after all! The “optimal” ending takes three days to reach if you’re responding promptly.