Lucky Space, the resource management and exploration title mixes conventional social game mechanics with ABL's "secret sauce"of retention-driving niche gameplay. A sense of humor and slick graphics also set the game apart from anything it could be compared to on Facebook.
Lucky Space puts players in the role of an intergalactic explorer gifted with a planet from their late space surveyor uncle. The planet allegedly has resources hidden underground and the player must establish and grow a mining town on the terrain to tap the various space minerals. As you might expect, the core gameplay loop resembles many city or town-building role-playing games and simulations. Players build structures that produce the resources, which they then have to harvest at various time points to collect even more resources and unlock new content.
Where Lucky Space mixes things up a bit is in the exploration part of the game. Like classic treasure-hunting social games, players uncover pieces of the terrain one square at time, with each exploratory click costing the player energy. Once enough space is cleared, the game invites players to enter a scanner mode that reveals the layer of rock under the surface, with colored spaces indicating where the player should click to mine for resources. Some spaces yield only resource drops of energy or other items; others reveal a number that indicates the number of tiles between the player and a resource node. Like the classic game Minesweeper, a player can use these numbers as clues to work out where a node is. Building a mining structure on top of a node increases that structure’s overall productivity.
Another thing that sets Lucky Space apart from many city-builders or exploration sims is the meticulous arrangement of the resources into a pyramid. The lowest level is food — players must build food synthesizing structures to feed the miners that the player has to assign to certain tasks (like manning a cannon). After food comes ore, which is used to produce "crystium." Crystium, in turn, buys research points that the player can spend on special items or on unlocking new branches of a tech tree. In addition to these core resources, the game also asks users to collect other materials for building — like components or drill bits. Each of these materials comes with a different level of rarity; the rarer the item, the more of a boost it gives to a structure’s productivity.
Social features include gifting and visiting friends'planets to boost one of their structure's outputs for the day. Lucky Space streamlines the gifting process with a wishlist feature where players can mouse over a friend's icon, view the item desired and deliver it with just one click — without ever having to leave their active game. Another twist to a common social game theme is the daily bonus; here, Lucky Space introduces a daily player-versus-environment event (e.g. a meteor falling on your mining town) from which the player can derive resources. If players are unable to overcome the PvE challenge, one or more of their buildings may be damaged by the event and the player must spend a nanobot resource to repair the structure. Nanobots can only be obtained with hard currency or friend gifting.
Primary monetization in Lucky Space comes from purchasing better materials for building. A Bit Lucky founders Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard were careful to stress, however, that just about anything a player could buy can also be earned through extensive gameplay or friend gifting.
Like Lucky Train before it, Lucky Space is counting on players to have a high level of engagement. In the case of Lucky Train, the developer says the expectation was more than met. In November of last year, A Bit Lucky told that it turned off advertising in Lucky Train and today the game is still running at just over 350,000 monthly active users and north of 45,000 daily active users with new content still being added. The developer tells us that over 50% of these current players joined the game in its first two months on Facebook.
Based on results from the closed beta period, A Bit Lucky thinks it's found the sweet spot for retention in Lucky Space. The developer tells us that of the 2,000 players in the beta, the average time of the first play session is 25 minutes. Average session time overall is north of 15 minutes, and the average number of sessions per day is around five. Part of this probably comes from the in-depth gameplay that requires a lot of user attention. A larger part, though, likely has to do with Lucky Space's charm. Aside from a highly detailed art style that falls somewhere between Saturday morning cartoons and a Sharper Image catalog, the game also contains a lot of humor and inside jokes around science fiction films, TV, and books, like a food storage structure called Wormhole Foods.
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