Patrick Meehan, left, and Todd Hooper of Zipline

What has Zipline Games co-founder Todd Hooper been building in the basement of Founder’s Co-op over the past few months? The Seattle entrepreneur — who previously co-founded Napera Networks and worked at WatchGuard — quite simply wants to change the way mobile games are developed. And his idea for doing that is a new platform called Moai.

Hooper, who has raised cash from Benaroya Capital and Founder’s Co-op, tells GeekWire that the open source platform allows developers to switch languages and architectures back and forth as they build games for the iPhone or Android. That’s a critical time saving element of the mobile game development process, he said.

“…They can focus on the game content that adds value instead of learning new languages and new ways to plumb architecture,” said Hooper.

For example, Zipline recently used the platform to create its own game — one  similar to the blockbuster hit Angry Birds. Using Moai, Hooper said that the “Wolf Toss” game was built for the iPhone and Android with multiplayer functionality in about a week.

Moai works in conjunction with Lua, a popular scripting technology for games. There are plenty of competing game development platforms out there already, but most are “closed source” and very few are aimed at pro-level developers, Hooper said.

“On the cloud side, Heroku is an obvious parallel but to our knowledge nobody has built a gaming-centric platform,” he said. “Certainly nobody else has brought the whole mobile + cloud picture together for gaming like we have with Moai.”

The idea for the company came from co-founder Patrick Meehan, a graduate of the DigiPen Institute and the former head of mobile development at Groundspeak. At Groundspeak, Meehan helped develop the company’s award-winning iPhone application Geocaching.

That process introduced him to some of the challenges of mobile game development.

Meehan and Hooper have met with a number of game developers and installed the system at a few game studios, and so far the feedback they’ve received for Moai has been positive. Hooper declined to disclose partners, but Seattle area gaming veteran Jordan Weisman is one of the early adopters of Moai. (Weisman says that they are using Moai for his latest “stealth” mobile project).

The company also is working on a couple of its own titles utilizing the game development platform: Wolf Toss and Chronosaur. “It’s obviously a huge, booming space right now,” Hooper says.

Zipline now employs 10 people. Hooper declined to say how much they’ve raised to date, but a filing from last December indicated $150,000 of a $500,000 round had been raised.

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  • Guest

    How is this different from z2live before they realized there was no money here and changed to a publishing model?

    • Todd Hooper

      As John noted, Zipline has both a platform and a publishing model, with two games in development.

      I can’t speak for Z2Live, but as I understand it they were competing directly with GameCenter and OpenFeint with a set of API’s that you added to a game to enable multiplayer, social etc. Moai Cloud is a more open-ended hosting environment for building back-end systems in Lua – think games like MMO’s, Cityville or Words with Friends. Those games aren’t built around existing API’s but maintain a lot of custom game logic and content in the cloud.

      To my knowledge nobody else has offered anything like Moai SDK, which is a cross-platform open source Lua SDK for creating games, not just adding multi-player features.

      • Guest

        Not sure if that’s a better or worse choice for game developers to have to use your platform end to end. Sounds cool though! And if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have publishing revenues.

        • Todd Hooper

          Thanks. I should point out Moai is mix and match – you can use Moai SDK without Moai Cloud and vice versa. And because Moai SDK is open source, you can add game-specific API’s if you need them.

  • Bryan Starbuck

    Congrats Todd & Patrick!

  • davidgeller

    Success usually breeds success. Both Napera and WatchGuard were really good companies with strong products and great engineering. I had a Napera switch when they initially made hardware and enjoyed several generations of WatchGuard firewall appliances.

  • Carol Greene

    I agree that an open source platform will definitely assist developers in saving time for iphone game development. Learning a new language is the most time consuming aspect of building a new game. There is increasing potential in the mobile game market, especially with the cloud platform.

  • iPhone App Developers

    For this we can use Moai SDK without Moai Cloud and vice versa.

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