Note: Wixel Studios has since changed the game’s name from Abou Ahmad the Arabian (AAA) to Survival Race.
Today, Wixel Studios in Lebanon launched their latest and most ambitious game: Survival Race. I had the opportunity to visit the studio during the game’s production to meet the designers, developers, and artists as they created the title.
The above video offers a tour through the studio, showing how they design each level, manage the game physics, mix the soundtrack, and turn 2D concept art into the 3D game world. Check out the video for an inside look at game development in Lebanon.
Wixel Studios was founded in 2007 by husband and wife Ziad Feghali and Reine Abbas, and Karim Abi Saleh. Straying from their previously cheeky and Arab world-focused titles, they hope that Survival Race will be their breakout game into the international market.
I tested Survival Race on both iPhone and iPad, and found it to be pretty challenging at first, but you get used to the controls and obstacles as you progress. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where Salem teams up with botanist Abu Ahmad to reclaim the world from carnivorous mutant plants that have all but destroyed the human race.
Players are tasked with transporting DNA codes to their home base in order to decipher and defeat their plant enemies. It’s a fun storyline, but the gameplay is where the title really shines. Players use their right thumb to move Salem’s vehicle forward and back, and their left thumb to adjust the angle at which the car is pitched, affecting speed and allowing the player to do tricks off ramps and land safely on the track.
There are a lot of elements to balance: moving platforms, enemies firing at you as you drive, different paths to complete each level, time limits, and upgrades to fight back against your enemies. Survival Race is a lot of fun, but can it propel them to international fame?
A Look Forward
After receiving investment from Berytech and Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), Wixel is banking on Survival Race to propel them to success. But, as always, that’s up to their consumers.
Pivoting from very localized and sometimes irreverently titled games, like My Balls, Wixel is hoping that their new international direction will pay off. The very name Survival Race shows their hope to appeal to users outside the Arab world.
In its current form, the game is already a solid title, but they have plans to make it even better, with a key functionality: multiplayer. Should the game become popular, they hope to launch a multiplayer function allowing users to see the “ghost car” of other real-time competitors on their screen, competing against both time and other players.
They have a lot of other great additions planned, but it all depends on how the game is received by users, which will be largely affected by their monetization strategy.
Smartly, they’ve opted for phased levels (on iOS), where users can play the first few levels free and then, once they get hooked, they have the option to purchase more levels. The Android version will be completely free in Lebanon.
By allowing users to at least test the game for free, they will likely see much more downloads than if they used a straight premium model, which creates a huge barrier to gameplay. Ads would clutter up the screen and, with a game that requires both thumbs to play, could really hurt the gameplay; they’ve chosen their strategy wisely.
Only time will tell if it pays off for them, but I for one really enjoyed the game and hope to be able to try out multiplayer in the future.
Check out the interview and tour in the video above and see how they built Survival Race, balance their work-family relationship, and hope to put Lebanon on the global gaming map.