The Finnish JavaScript and HTML5 game engine and game developer Rocket Pack has released their new game Warimals: Cats vs. Dogs into open alpha. The new social game is playable both on Warimals.com and Facebook. As for the target devices – the game plays just as well on e.g. G2 Android phone, iPad, and iPhone – to name just a few (see video in our previous post). Any device with HTML5 and decent JavaScript performance should do. The game is a casual tower defence and attack game, based on asyncronous multiplayer gaming among friends and strangers. As the tagline puts it: “Warimals is the epic browser game about the everlasting battle waged between Cats and Dogs.”

When you start, you’ll first select whether to represent dogs or cats and then create your avatar accordingly. In the game, you have your own backyard which you must build defences onto to protect it from attacking strangers (or rogue friends for that matter). The defense types are quite standar for the tower defense genre including counter-attack units, slow-downs, etc.

Next, you can attack your enemy’s (dogs or cats, based on your own species) yards, which can belong either to your Facebook friends who are on the other side, or strangers within the game. When going to battle, you select which units you want to go with (just 3 for now, at least below level 5) and then try to break through the opponents defences and break her cat/doghouse. There is a message for returning users announcing if someone has attacked, and what the result is. You can also revenge by attacking their yard with one click.

The game concept is well suited for casual mass-market online play, which is more driven by occasional gameplay sessions rather than coordinated real-time multiplayer sessions. The game also looks great (on all devices, even if sceen size as such is somewhat limiting on smaller devices) and graphics are well polished. Animations could perhaps use a few more frames to make them smoother, but the look and feel is very good overall.

The first-time tutorial is ok, but not quite as straight-forward as it could be. It continues smoothly with missions that guide the player deeper into the game. There are some other elements that are maybe not as intuitive as they could be (like the building menu accessed through the on-field character rather than a HUD icon as usual), but as it’s still early Alpha Rocket Pack will surely optimize the user experience based on real user data.

Seemingly as a user retention mechanism, more advanced defences require purchasing a generator to power them up. However, the generator only keeps on going for 24 hours at a time, after which you will need to (come back to the game to) restart it. Otherwise your higher end defences will be out of order making it easier to break through.

The viral elements are still in their infancy – intriguingly, you cannot send free gifts to friends as in most other games – instead you have to purchase all gifts with cookies, which limits the frequence and volume of gift sending both in terms of available cash (cookies) and selfishness as you might use your currency to improve your own yard instead.

On the monetization front, Warimals uses the standard Dual Currency model – Gold is the premium currency that can be bought with real money, while Cookies can be earned through gameplay (attacking) and converted from Gold. The real money transaction price points range from $1.00 to $100 USD. For the payments provider Rocket Pack uses SocialGold that includes multiple different payment methods.

The Facebook front of the game features Applifier cross-promotion bar. AppData shows Warimals has attracted a bit over 8,000 Monthly Active Users (MAU) in just a few days, though that translates to only less than 600 Daily Active Users (DAU). However, with just a few days’ of data it’s too early to make any calls yet on the appeal of the game (and personally I presume quite many of the early users are industry followers who have no other intention than taking a quick look at the game).

As Rocket Pack told us earlier, the company’s main business is licensing its game engine technology and tools, but the founders also want to also develop their own games to make sure it they are building what game developers really need.

The HTML5 gaming scene is likely to become very hot during 2011, as the focus of the industry is moving towards cross-platform gameplay, and HTML5 is currently the only technology allowing using the same code base across practically all devices, considering iOS doesn’t run Flash. The social gaming giant Zynga also just recently announced acquisition of German HTML5 game engine provider Dextrose.