While my days as a gamer are behind me I felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm as I downloaded a preview copy of the new build-your-own-brewery game called "Fiz" available starting today 12/11 from the Android or iPhone App stores. Beyond just the subject matter "Fiz: The Brewery Management Game" also has a delightful 8-bit retro aesthetic that will remind you of the original classic Zelda and Final Fantasy games. Fiz goes on sale today for the first time but I have been playing it for nearly a week. Be forwarned though, this game takes a lot more investment and attention then Angry Birds which is good and bad, it would be hard to engage in a game while waiting on a bus but the options and attention to detail bring a surprising depth and realism to a mobile application game.
After walking you through a training session where you have little choices but lays out the parameters and multitude of options than your given a choice of characters. Each ethnically and sexually diverse character has their own skills and attributes as well as brief backstory. They also can develop skills as their/your experience increases. I chose "Kip Douglas" who after years of hearing from his friends how tasty his homebrew is decided to quit his day job and brew full time.
You begin the game in a setting probably not unlike most of you homebrewers are in now, in a garage with a few home brewer friends there to help you out. You start off with a couple of basic homebrew recipes that can be adjusted. Yeah you can even create your own beer recipes from scratch though the game makers wisely avoid getting as detailed as how many pounds of grain, ounces of hops etc. you may have. It is accurate enough though that beers are brewed to style and you can even choose among hop varieties and lovibonds of crystal malt i.e. Crystal 40 vs Crystal 60. It's all set-up in a way that the non home brewer can figure it out though.
The goal of the game is to create, brew and sell your beer and it's amazingly customizable in the ways you go about doing this. From designing your recipes to then assigning your friends to manage different parts of the brew. You can actually hire and fire staff each with different skills and eventually requiring salaries. So how and who you use is a factor. Then you have to bring your beer to market, you start off with a friend who is willing to carry and sell your beer for a small stocking fee. There are a variety of bars that you can sell your beer and each takes a different cut, has a different clientele that likes higher or lower quality, specific styles and will pay more or less. After choosing how much you want to sell them and for what price it goes to work and you can watch the stats for sales and profits. You can even do market research at different accounts to see what their customers are like. Other challenges arise like entering your beer into competitions that you can win or lose.
I discussed the game with one of the designers Sean Sanders one of just 2 members of Bit by Bit Studios who's first release is "Fiz". Sean started Bit by Bit in June 2012 after the company he and his partner Kelly O'Donnell worked at Buzz Monkey Software was acquired by game developer Zynga.
"I came up with the idea for Fiz while at the Sasquatch Brewfest in Eugene, Oregon." explained Sean who is the programmer while Kelly O'Donnell is the designer. "I was standing in the middle of the room, seeing all the happy people getting their pours at the different booths, thinking how cool it would be to be one of the brewers supplying that joy, but there was no way I wanted go through the work of actually following up on the fantasy -- to quit my games job to start a business I had no knowledge about. I'm a big fan of games as a form of escapism, and I decided that playing a game where I could own a brewery would sufficiently scratch the "own a brewery" itch for me, but there was no such game available. I scribbled the idea down on the back of my tasting notes and went on enjoying the fest. Months later, I started Bit By Bit Studios and decided to make Fiz because I didn't think there's another game quite like it, and it was still the type of game I had been wanting to play the most."
The authenticity to Fiz and real life scenarios are startling for a mobile game.
"I considered myself a beer enthusiast before working on the game, but I wasn't a homebrewer and I didn't know nearly as much as I do now after researching and working on it for a year and a half. I've used a combination of my own research as well as input from brewers and homebrewers who I personally know or who have tested the game during our 6 month beta phase in order to design a game that is fun yet realistic with regard to the science and art of brewing. All of the ingredients, beer styles, recipes, and brewing steps in the game have glossary-like descriptions that I've compiled through research. The game's story also features anecdotes and references to historical beer events and figureheads, some of which only true beer geeks will recognize.
From the onset, I wanted Fiz to be as authentic as possible. In the early versions, the game used actual brewing formulae and BJCP guidelines to calculate real world vital stats for beers designed by players in the game, such as original and final gravity, alcohol by volume, SRM, and IBUs. This meant that to create a beer in the game, you actually had to go through several pages of ingredients and designate exactly how many pounds of grain would be mashed and at what temperature, or how many ounces of hops would be added to the boil and when, for instance. This ultimately played more like a homebrewer's recipe calculator than a game, and most non-brewers found it to be far too complex. Today's version employs a simpler combination-based recipe system that still uses realistic ingredients and combinations, but leaves out the gritty details related to weight or time of use for each specific ingredient, and it has tested very well with brewers and non-brewers alike. The end result is a fun yet educational game that both introduces gamers to brewing, and introduces brewers to gaming."
Fiz: The Brewery Management Game is a must own app for home brewers that do mobile gaming though it's not for everyone. It's not nearly as approachable as Angry Birds and is not as easy to open and play just a few minutes of but requires your full attention. That said it can be addictive and educational at the same time.
Look for it now on the Apple App Store and Google Play app store for android.