Lucien Jeanprêtre – CEO of Abalance
In charge of creating the concepts, strategies and mechanics of the game.
5 people invested in the project.
How did the project start?
The project began in October 2017 when I was doing my master’s degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. I contacted Valentin, a childhood friend from Neuchâtel, to send him the rules of a game I had invented so that he could program it. In January 2019, we released a first version and put it online for free. After that we met Bertil Suter who had a large network in Neuchâtel. At the same time, I had met Eerik Wissenz and Urs Riggenbach in a bar, when they were in Silicon Valley to raise funds for their own startup. The next day, after playing the game for 24 hours, we met again. They were convinced that the project could go further. That’s how Abalance was born.
Why did you set up your offices in Neuchâtel?
Our first financial partner, the one who believed in us, is in Neuchâtel. Olivier Vollenweider, a director at Banque Bonhôte, provided us with premises. It was an opportunity for me to come back, because I am very attached to Neuchâtel.
How do you validate the different stages of the game?
At the same time as we are building the game, we want to create the community, because the players play online against each other, 24 hours a day. Tests allow us to validate that we are going in the right direction. We received about 50 testers on November 23, 2019. The feedback was very positive, which motivated us to move even faster for the Beta version. We plan to put this 2nd version online in the first half of 2020.
What are the major milestones that await you in 2020?
The beta version must be stable. The game will be on the web, accessible from a browser. We still have a lot of development and design to make the beta version attractive enough. We also need to close the fundraising. It will allow us, among other things, to hire designers who will materialize the concepts of the game.
Why did you include artificial intelligence (AI) in the game?
Many intelligent algorithms are used today. AI concepts are very mystified when it comes to talking about them to a large audience. The idea is to create a human-IA partnership that evolves throughout the game. We hope to give a better understanding of how machine algorithms work and deep learning to a wider audience.
How to create a community around the game?
Of course, marketing is crucial. A large number of people need to hear about the game in a short period of time in order to reach a critical mass. Indeed, we can’t afford to have a slow flow of players, otherwise the first users will be finished before the others arrive, which would lead to the death of the product. Social networks will be crucial, as well as influencers on youtube (gaming channel). We will also broadcast ads on dedicated forums. We envisage the creation of a competitive, high level community (e-sport). Our target regions are the USA, Europe, China and Japan. The game has no language barrier, just like chess or go.
How do you see yourself becoming part of the Microcity innovation ecosystem?
Gaming is a fundamentally collaborative medium. No one develops a game alone, it takes many skills and viewpoints. Sharing around entrepreneurship seems very important to us, which is why we want to be part of Microcity’s ecosystem and Neuchâtel’s innovation. From my experience in the artistic world, I know how important the network is and how important it is to belong to a community.
Video : Julien Humbert-Droz
Interview : Victoria Barras