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GDC 2010: ‘TibiaME’ MMO Coming to the iPhone

Here at GDC 2010 we had the chance to meet with Benjamin Zuckerer of CipSoft and have a look at the upcoming iPhone version of their popular TibiaME mobile MMO.

TibiaME is an exclusively mobile, top-down 2D MMO that made its debut on Nokia platform devices six years ago and has been growing its community ever since. At present there are approximately 50,000 active players in the game world, which consists of 67 islands, with 16 levels each. The islands exhibit a variety of different terrain types, such as forest, dungeons, ice, and “undead."

TibiaME places the player in the game world as either a warrior or a wizard. The islands of the world are peopled by other online players and a host of enemy characters that range from squirrels to demons — 56 types in all. There are magic-using boss monsters to contend with, as well. During the demonstration we were given of the pre-release iPhone client, there was no lack of activity in the world, as can be seen in our demo video.

While the iPhone version of the game client ties into the same game world that has been running these six years, it is a complete, ground-up rewrite that has been under development for a year and a half. The 20×20-pixel character graphics of previous versions of the game have been redrawn at a rather more detailed 50×50 pixels for the iPhone version, a new user interface has been implemented, and fight sequence animations have been added to the mix, as well.

The iPhone release will make its debut mid-year and follow the “freemium" price model. The base release can be downloaded free of charge and offers two (of the total 67) islands to explore. Characters playing in this mode are limited to a maximum of level 20 experience. Those wanting to experience the full game world can buy play time in blocks of one (5 euros) or 4 months (12 euros). Any character that has been built up in the pay model will retain all stats in the event an unrenewed block of time, but will be unable to level higher without the purchase of additional play time. The developer estimates that the base, free play experience delivers about one month of engaging play for the typical user.

To keep the game fresh, the developer has been in the practice of releasing a series of updates over the course of a year: 12 small that alter various game details, and 2 large, bringing new features and notable enhancements.

The only stand-out negative we saw about the title is its complete lack of any in-game music or sound effects. The iPhone version will allow the user to play tracks from their iTunes song library, however. And, of course, the main stand-out positive is the six years the game has been live and the sizable community that has grown within it, a most iPhone MMO’s can’t point to.

See our gameplay video for a look at the action in the pre-release client.

TibiaME for the iPhone is expected to debut mid-2010. Additional screenshots of the game can be seen at CipSoft’s TibiaME Facebook page.