An ancient scroll has been found in a small, peaceful fishing village, and you must defend it from the forces of an evil general trying desperately to retrieve this unique treasure.
That is the mission of "Paper Samurai," a game designed for Android devices and made in the Fredonia area by the small technology startup Academy Geeks Inc. The company's first mobile game launched mid-December and immediately skyrocketed on the Top 50 New Paid Games chart on the Google Play Store, as well as the Top 100 New Paid Action and Arcade Games chart (peaking at around the 25th spot).
"We were pretty excited with how quickly it hit the store. It was a pleasant surprise," Andrew Cullison, producer/director of the game and an associate professor of philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, as well as a co-founder of Academy Geeks, said in a phone interview with the OBSERVER. "We thought it was a very successful launch, having it get that far. We didn't even have a marketing budget, so we were unclear how quickly people might discover the game. The plan was to do a soft launch first and get some user feedback and tweak the game according to that."
Players must tilt their smartphones or tablets in order to control which direction the samurai swings his sword. The game features more than 50 levels that include varying types of enemies and obstacles.
"This is a defense-style game, where you defend from an onslaught of enemies," Cullison explained, adding the paper-like aspect of the game adds to its artistic quality.
"The game has a beautiful, Japanese watercolor on rice paper aspect to it," he said. "The characters look like they were drawn on paper and have come to life."
This Google Play Store photo shows gameplay from “Paper Samurai,” a game developed by the Fredonia-based company Academy Geeks Inc. The game quickly climbed the store’s charts for new applications immediately after its launch.
Cullison went on to explain how Academy Geeks got its start.
"About three years ago, there was a student of mine (Jon Nalewajek) who was about to graduate ... and we were sort of bemoaning the lack of smartphone apps for teachers and professors, and my student said, 'Well, you know enough about programming from designing websites, so you could probably teach yourself how to write some simple apps,'" he said. "So, I wrote an app and he wrote an app, and when he graduated, we thought we should incorporate and see if we could make something out of this."
Cullison and Nalewajek both enjoy playing video games. Cullison had thought up the initial idea to develop a game about a year ago, the end result being Paper Samurai. The idea stemmed from a samurai movie, where 13 samurai defend a village.
"There was this one scene where the samurai put the villager behind him and all these enemies are coming at them down this narrow path," Cullison said. "The samurai tells the villager to get anyone who gets by him. I thought that would be a cool model for a defense game."
"We had no idea if this game we created would take off or be successful. Andy pitched the idea to me and it sounded really cool right from the start," said Nalewajek, assistant developer of the game and co-founder of Academy Geeks.
Nalewajek graduated from SUNY Fredonia in 2010 and majored in Computer Science with a minor in Philosophy, which is how he met Cullison. The two found they shared an interest in technology and collaborated to develop an attendance app for teachers. Afterward, they incorporated to see if they could make any money off their creations.
"I work full-time, so I had a hands-off approach during the development of the game," Nalewajek said. "(The lead programmer) would write the code for it and I would review it to make sure it was structured properly. Andy was really the brains and manager of the entire team."
Additional people involved with Paper Samurai include Robert Szkutak, lead programmer and senior computer science major at SUNY Fredonia, Raymond Bonilla, lead artist and a professor in the SUNY Fredonia Visual Arts and New Media Department, and Jordan Willis, assistant artist/graphic designer and a senior Illustration major at the college.
Bonilla is also an artist for the "Game of Thrones" Card Game and a Gold Medal Recipient from the Society of Illustrators of New York.
Paper Samurai has had over 300 downloads without a serious marketing campaign (yet) and is available on the Google Play Store for 99 cents. It will be available for iPhones and iPads later this year.
To view the game's launch trailer, click on this article on observertoday.com.
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