Zipline’s Wolf Toss Game Goes for Hat Trick Debut on iOS, Android, Chrome

12/8/11Follow @curtwoodward

Rolling out a game on two platforms at once is so passé. Why not three at once? That’s the target for Seattle game startup Zipline Games, which is showing off its new game today on iOS, Android, and Google’s Chrome Web browser.

“No one’s been crazy enough to hit three platforms, so we thought we’d put a stake in the ground,” says Zipline CEO Todd Hooper, who’s in Mountain View, CA today for a gaming announcement by Google.

The game is Wolf Toss, a take on what’s known in the industry as a “physics game.” That’s the casual-game format popularized by Finnish developer Rovio’s hit Angry Birds, in which players launch little birds from slingshots to destroy the fortresses set up by a group of marauding pigs that have stolen their eggs.

In Zipline’s Wolf Toss, you’re firing a hungry wolf from a cannon to chase down the three little pigs. The game actually started out as a simple demo months ago—I remember Hooper showing me a proto-version on his phone—but Zipline decided to make it a full-fledged title.

“I handed my phone to a lot of people and said, ‘Hey, here, play it’—and I noticed they wouldn’t give my phone back,” he says.

Like many games of this genre, Wolf Toss is free to play and looks to make money by selling premium content. But it’s also more than a product for Zipline, because it was developed for iOS, Android, and Chrome at the same time using the company’s Moai game developer platform.

Moai is built around Lua, a common programming language for games, and offers a single open-source platform for both the front-end elements seen by consumers and the back-end infrastructure. It allows developers to build their products once and deploy them to multiple user platforms, rather than duplicating efforts for multiple different operating systems.

So if Wolf Toss were deployed to iOS, Android, and Chrome without that system making all the translations, “Then you’ve got three engineering teams and the game costs three times as much,” Hooper says. Moai previously made news by powering Crimson: Steam Pirates, the first release through Bungie Aerospace. Hooper says Moai now has about 3,000 developers signed up.

Even though a service like Moai can simplify the process, it can’t totally eliminate all of the headaches that come with putting a game on three different user platforms at the same time. Everyone has different payment mechanisms for the premium content, for example. There are different approval processes for the app stores. And even different screenshot specs for advertising the games within those stores—a thousand little things that add up for a small company.

“I think we’re unique, and probably also crazy,” Hooper says with a laugh.

Zipline is working on more games, both for itself and others. Check out the video for an idea of what Wolf Toss is like—I see some elements of both Angry Birds and maybe even some old-school Sonic the Hedgehog from the era of Sega consoles, if I’m not mistaken.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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