JP company makes video games for phones, Facebook

March 1, 2013
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(Courtesy Image) A doggie detective explores an imaginative world in the upcoming “SqueeDogs” Facebook videogame, developed by local company Infrared5.

The next video game craze could be hatching right here in Jamaica Plain, courtesy of local software company Infrared5.

The JP-based software company is currently working a new game and a new video game system that could change the way people game: a new Facebook game called “SqueeDogs” and a smartphone-based multiplayer system called “Brass Monkey”.

During a recent Gazette visit, Infrared5 co-founders Rebecca Smith Allen and Chris Allen gave the Gazette a demonstration and a tour of their pooch-friendly offices located at 2 Harris Ave. Both founders and several of their staff—and dogs—also live in JP.

“SqueeDogs” is being developed with Brookline-based mother-and-son team Cerise Lim Jacobs and Pirate Epstein, on a point-and-click platform. In SqueeDogs, named after the joyful sound, canine investigators collect jewels and rescue puppies in a “fantastic” landscape, Infrared5 co-founder and “SqueeDogs” lead developer Smith Allen told the Gazette.

Facebook games are played with or without friends on the social networking platform. SqueeDogs, a 3-D quest game, is expected to be released late this month and will have three worlds of overgrown cacti, humongous boulders, and other imaginative landscapes for the dog characters to explore.

“There’s this adventurous side. It’s a little different from other Facebook games,” Smith Allen said.

The players’ dog avatars will be highly customizable, Smith Allen added. While the dog’s size is limited to that of a medium-sized pooch, customizable heads, snout shapes, fur length and color, ears, tails—and optional tattoos and body-painting—could yield as familiar or strange a dog as a player could wish.

So much so, in fact, that Infrared5 actually has a few patents pending for some of the customization tools, Smith Allen said.

“The whole thing is very fantastical,” she said.

Smith Allen is expecting the game’s key demographic to be women over 35.

“SqueeDogs” will also partner with JP-based Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) to raise funds. A portion of any in-game purchases will be donated to the MSPCA, Smith Allen told the Gazette.

“Brass Monkey”, meanwhile, is being headed by Smith Allen’s husband and business partner, Allen. The free multiplayer system uses a desktop computer and smartphones instead of a console and controllers to create a new gaming system. By linking smartphones with the system’s website, PlayBrassMonkey.com, players can play available games individually or with friends.

“Our analogy is that we’re like a game console similar to the WiiU,” Allen said, referring to Nintendo’s newest console, where one of the five possible controllers has a screen that affects gameplay.

“Brass Monkey” was the project’s code name, created by a random generator—the staff liked the sound of it, so the code name became the project’s official name. The platform itself is free, as are most of the games, Allen said. Smartphone users download an app and interact with the system’s website and each other over wifi. The platform can support up to 96 players at one time, Allen told the Gazette, and Infrared5 has a developer working on a 48-player game.

“We’re exploring the possibility of installing it in bars,” Allen said.

Games currently available include puzzle games, adventure games similar to “Legend of Zelda,” sports games and action side-scrollers akin to classic “Super Mario World.”

“SqueeDogs’” website is squeegames.com. “Brass Monkey’s” website is playbrassmonkey.com. Infrared5’s website is infrared5.com.