At Casual Connect in Seattle, Q-Games president Dylan Cuthbert revealed a new version of PixelJunk Monsters in development for social networks. Though recent trends make Facebook seem a foregone conclusion, Cuthbert did not name a specific platform. He did, however, show that the game retains the core tower defense mechanic from the PS3 and PSP versions. The player controls TikiMan, the leader of a group of villagers, who turns trees into a variety of defensive turrets to stop the waves of marauding monsters from abducting his flock. But it's all been reworked to fit the new browser-based format.
One of the immediately noticeable changes to the social version of Monsters is its new art style. It adapts the distinctive look of the console versions to better fit the different playspace a window in a browser presents. More soft and rounded, every element becomes larger, with a cute exaggerated, almost superdeformed, look. The maps, too, are smaller resulting in an uncluttered presentation.
And there will be fewer waves of enemies on each of them. In keeping with the way people play social games the idea is that a map would be able to be played in a few minutes. But no less challenging. The shorter distance for the monsters to travel to get to the villagers makes every inch count. On that subject, this version of Monsters gives the player some control over where to place towers through seeds that can be used to chose where to grow a tree.
The game takes place on a series of islands divided up into a patchwork grid. Each grid space is a game level. Winning a level unlocks the lands around it which could be another level, ground that needs to be worked with a shovel to become a level, or a functional piece like a store or port to reach another island. Q-Games intends to include a large number of maps at launch that range from beginner to expert skill level, and this grid and island setup works perfectly with the connected platform of social games to allow easy addition of almost endless levels down the road.
And then there's the social aspect of the game. Monsters established itself early on as a "high score" game. Players would go back to levels over and over working to improve their score and beat out the next person above them on the leaderboards. Social networks will make it easy to hold this sort of competition with your online friends. Co-op, though, remains an open question at this time as the team plays around with ideas to see if it can be done in a way that works well with the game.
Other "social" elements may well wind up in the final game but the most exciting part is that this is Monsters first. Sure, it's been adapted to the format, but it's the core game, working out how to incorporate the social aspect. Not vice versa as so many social games of late seem to be. Q-Games plans to release Monsters for social networks later this year.