The Continuum: Flash Gaming Goes Hardcore

Most of the browser-based games we see tend to be very simple, aiming to attract casual gamers looking for a quick diversion. The Continuum, a new Flash game that launched last week, is looking to break this trend, featuring an extremely polished interface and deep ranking system that will keep gamers’ attention for hours on end. The game is the first to come from Chicago-based development studio Seven Lights, and has been in production for over 18 months (very long compared to most other Flash games).

The Continuum isn’t meant for casual gamers – rather, it’s aimed at a more hardcore audience, mixing elements from traditional table top card games, RPGs, and turn based strategy. Each player builds up a virtual “deck” of in-game characters, each of which can be customized with various skills and attributes. The game’s monetization model comes from sale of these characters, which are sold in packs (you never know which characters you’ll be getting in each pack). However, company CEO Tim Harris says that buying lots of characters won’t necessarily stack the odds in your favor, it will simply give you more options to choose from when you send your army to battle.

There’s no end to the amount of customization that users can put into the building and fine-tuning of their armies, but this is all just buildup to the game itself, which consists of a turn based one-on-one war. The battle system uses tiles to determine how far each character can move, and each action (be it attack, cast a spell, or any number of special abilities) is activated through an onscreen menu. The graphics are all sprite based (there’s no 3D rendering), and while they don’t hold up well to those found in games like World of Warcraft, they’re more than adequate.

The Continuum certainly isn’t for everyone – the amount of customization, stat-tracking, and strategy involved will alienate a lot of people. But it will have a strong appeal for gamers who’ve enjoyed franchises like Magic: The Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons and are looking for a strategy fix beyond the games they already play. If The Continuum can establish a sizable user base, its combination of addictive gameplay and cheap (but lucrative) virtual goods could well be a recipe for success.

Seven Lights intends to use The Continuum’s engine to produce two more games in the future: A sci-fi wargame aimed at hardcore gamers, and a more laid-back “corporate sendup” for the casual audience. You can watch a trailer for The Continuum here.