iPhone game teaches players bartending through narrative

13 Jul

Players assume the role of a bartender in Nimble Strong's branching narrative.

An iPhone game teaches players to create mixed drinks while assuming the role of a bartender in a branching narrative spanning four acts.

Nimble Strong: Bartender in Training, developed by Nimble Strong LLC, uses real mixed drink recipes and pouring techniques to teach players the basics one would learn in a professional bartending course. Adam Ghahramani, director of Nimble Strong, said the game’s central mechanic of players timing their pours by pressing their fingers to the touch screen makes Nimble Strong both fun and educational.

“My ‘aha!’ moment was sitting in a bartending class and hearing about pour counts: how good bartenders have to have a mastery of how long a second is,” Ghahramani said. “If Nimble Strong was just about picking the right ingredients and putting them in a glass it would have been a massive bore.”

Ghahramani said he was inspired to create Nimble Strong when he saw an ad for a $500 bartending course after sitting in on a speech by Will Wright, creator of the Sim series, in Vancouver.

“The fusion of those two experiences, the speech and learning about the ridiculous cost of bartending courses, with the fact I’d been playing a lot of Professor Layton and that the iPhone was starting to really take off for gaming, thus reducing the barriers to entry for game development in general, led me to Nimble Strong.”

Ghahramani said he performed extensive research in order to deliver on his promise of using the game to offer basic bartending course knowledge for five dollars instead of $500.

“I took an expensive bartending class, which, in retrospect, ended up being laughable,” Ghahramani said. “I took three advanced courses taught by top mixologists here in New York City. I bought a stack of books on mixology, the history of cocktails, memoirs by bartenders, etc. I read through articles, I joined a cocktail chat group, I bartended small events for friends.”

Ghahramani also enlisted the help of accomplished mixology author Jeffery Lindenmuth to add to Nimble Strong‘s researched background.

“I ended up partnering with someone five tiers above me in terms of mixology and bartending experience,” Ghahramani said. “I wanted the education to be beyond reproach and as authentic as possible.”

In addition to offering real bartending techniques, Ghahramani said he wanted to frame the game’s mechanics with an interesting narrative to draw players in.

“From an educational perspective, narrative and characters are crucially important because they keep you engaged longer, mix up game variety, and create more of an emotional connection to what you’re doing.”

Ghahramani said games like Professor Layton, Phoenix Wright, Trauma Center, and Cooking Mama as well Japanese role-playing games like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger influenced Nimble Strong‘s presentation.

“Personally my favorite types of games are character and story driven, so if I was going to take a huge risk in time and money to make a game, I wanted to make something that was an homage to the games I grew up loving.”

Nimble Strong is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad for five dollars. Ghahramani said the game sold 100 downloads in its first week, but he needs to sell 15,000 downloads to make up for his research investments. He also said he is aware that consumers are often vocal about iPhone games selling for more than 99 cents.

Nimble Strong is a game that replaces or supplements bartending courses, which cost hundreds of dollars,” Ghahramani said. “It’s also a game that could help get you a job in the future. This isn’t even considering the fact that drink mixing isn’t a cheap hobby to learn…so you’d think that a $4.99 price tag would be seen as an incredible value.”

Ghahramani said the people who will really enjoy and benefit from the game won’t mind the price.

“My marketing philosophy has always been to keep your product premium and justify the price, rather than sink to the bottom to please people who wouldn’t really invest the time and energy into the game to begin with.”

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