EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: TourStar Co-Creator Brandon Pankey

While some people dream of being President, and some people dream of being athletes, the truly cool dream of being rock stars. Well, now you can live out that dream with TourStar, an iOS game that let’s you live the rock & roll lifestyle. But in talking to Brandon Pankey, the managing partner of Music Players Group LLC and one of the game’s co-creators, it seems there’s more to TourStar than seeing a million faces and rockin’ them all.

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For those who haven’t played it yet, what kind of game is TourStar?

Simply put, TourStar is a game where you become a music superstar. You go on the road, make good music, and live the dream of being a star. Along the way, you make sure you have the right managers, musicians, tour bus, and even the right record label. It’s a gamer’s intro the life of a rising musician.

It seems like TourStar is kind of like The Sims meets The Voice. Do you think this is a fair assessment?

That’s definitely fair. Though we focus less on the singing aspect of The Voice and more of the touring aspect of music life. And with that comes hiring musicians and making sure your tour bus doesn’t break down. So it’s really kind of like The Sims meets Oregon Trail meets The Voice meets Warped Roadies.

That’s a lot of meetings. It also seems like this has you becoming more of a pop star than rock music. Again, is this right? Can I be David Lee Roth or Steven Tyler, or do I have to be Taylor Swift or Katy Perry?

Listen, this is Rock Band, Country Band, Rap Band, whatever band. Players get to select from seven different genres of music. We partnered with real industry producers, one of which is signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, to help create the tracks used in the game. The results are great tracks in multiple genres.

What’s even cooler is once you add a certain amount of band members, the tracks actually get better.

A lot of musicians — be they pop stars, rockers, country guys, whatever — go a little nuts when they get successful. Is that an aspect of Tour Star? Like when you get big, do you get groupies, trash hotel rooms, and storm out of interviews when someone suggests your earlier stuff was better?

We have a feature in the game called “Tour Alerts,” where random events will occur to players. Do they get as wild as including groupies? Well…no. This is a game that we wanted the entire family to be able to play. But there are some cool events that occur throughout the game.

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One of the interesting things about TourStar is that players can actually win, in your words, “real-world prize packages.” What kind of stuff can people win, and how easy will it be to win them?

This is the feature I love discussing because it really sets this game apart from so many others in the app space.

The development team wanted to make sure we made this game as cool as possible, so we wanted to offer real prizes for people to win. To start, you can win concert tickets, V.I.P. packages, and merchandise will all be available for top artists. There’s a more complete list online. This feature will only grow as the game grows. Though we’ve made it so you have to really play through the game to earn these prizes.

Let’s go back to the gameplay, what other games do you think TourStar is similar to?

I think of such games as Game Dev Story and even Kim Kardashian’s game. Gamers are fully immersing themselves into a world that they may not really know, but want to be including in. TourStar is that game for the music industry. It’s cool, it’s exciting, and at the end of the day, players win free stuff. Not virtual goods, but real world prizes. That’s what makes TourStar the game it is.

Did you ever experiment with other kinds of gameplay, or was it readily apparent what kind of mechanics would work best for TourStar?

We knew the mechanics pretty early. There are some future ideas we have that I can’t disclose yet, but we want people to really enjoy TourStar, because this is the type of game that will only get bigger and bigger. Hopefully our user base matches our lofty goals.

TourStar is available for iOS devices. Are there any plans to bring it to other kinds of smart phones and tablets? Or maybe Facebook?

We plan on making an Android version, but we want to see how it does on iOS first. We believe in the concept and we hope gamers believe in it too. It’s a cool game, and I swear I’m not just saying that because I helped to create it.

What about to game consoles or PCs?

We would love to be on game consoles…but let’s get this initial launch off the ground first.

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In terms of payment, the first five levels of TourStar are free; after that, there’s a one-time charge of $0.99 to keep going, and you can also buy things along the way. First off, why did you decide to go with this pay set-up as opposed to a one-time charge of something like $5 or free-to-play with microtransactions?

Well, we wanted gamers to get a feel for the game before they invested money in it. We wanted them to have the option to continue. In my opinion, the user experience plus the opportunity to potentially see their favorite artists for $0.99 is amazing.

Were there other games you guys had played, and were annoyed by, that had an influence on this decision? And no, you don’t have to name names if you don’t want. Though you can.

Ha ha ha ha, of course not.

Right… So what kinds of things can you buy?

For now, you can buy energy boosts and more in-game cash. Cash will play a role in some of the contests for real-world prizes.

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Finally, of all the rock and pop stars out there today, which do you think would do the best in TourStar and why?

Hmmm… I know Lil’ Wayne is a gamer, so he would do great. I think Taylor Swift would do well, too. This might be the toughest question you’ve asked. I think anyone who remembers what it took to become a pop star, or anyone who wants to see what it takes to be a rock or pop star would become…wait for it…a TourStar in this game.

And on that note….

 

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