With its latest title, Can Knockdown 3, recently earning a coveted Editor’s Choice award here, I took the time to learn a bit more about Polish game developer, Infinite Dreams.
Who is Infinite Dreams?
Based in the Southern Polish city of Gliwice, Infinite Dreams is made up of around 15 members of staff, encompassing several developers, graphic artists, Quality Assurance workers, a game design guru and one marketing expert.
What’s next on the horizon?
PR and Marketing Manager Artur Starzyk answered this one for us: “At the moment we are working hard to release [a] new level pack for Can Knockdown 3. We are more than happy to receive positive feedback from the fans and we would like to meet their expectations. There is also [a] huge community gathered around Let’s Create! Pottery HD and they encourage us to release updates for that title too. Obviously, [a] new project is in the pipeline but I can’t reveal more info about it [yet].”
Anything else I should know about Infinite Dreams?
Artur had some more to say to us about things of interest.
148apps: What does the team enjoy most about iOS development? Artur: It’s the satisfaction of making good products in a short time. We are doing our best to release polished games and then…waiting for the media reviews and our fans’ opinions. We can release games more often on iOS than [the] AAA industry can, so the fun is much…better
148apps: Infinite Dreams offers quite a few different types of games. Is there a particular genre you’ve found most enjoyable to design? Artur: There is no any particular genre we like the most. We simply love to create new type of games (like Let’s Create! Pottery) or just redefine the existing genres (Jelly Defense) to surprise our fans. This is our way of thinking about the mobile games industry.
Where can I find out more about Infinite Dreams?
Infinite Dreams has embraced the social networking world, so there are plenty of places to learn more, besides here. There’s the website, Google+ page, Forums, Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube channel. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about the latest developments, too!
rymdkapsel made a bit of a splash when it was released on the PlayStation Vita a few weeks ago. And in another couple of months this excessively minimal and abstract strategic base building “sim” will be making its way on to the App Store for everyone’s enjoyment. Martin Jonasson, rymdkapsel’s creator, was kind enough to tell us a bit about where it all came from, as well as what it all means.
148Apps: First off, how in the heck to you pronounce “rymdkapsel?” And what does it mean/refer to? Martin Jonasson (MJ): When I started working on the game (unaware what I was getting myself into) I just named the project file “spaceblocks” because that felt nice and descriptive. But as the game grew it became clear that I would have to come up with something more interesting. I wanted something that sounded vaguely russian. I threw around a whole bunch of names before I finally settled on “rymdkapsel“. It’s the Swedish word for space capsule (rymd = space, kapsel = capsule). One thing I didn’t quite expect was how much of a hard time Americans would have with it. The Y seems to really throw people off. It’s pronounced “rimdcapsel”. Either way, I’m stuck with it now.
148Apps: So where did all of this come from? By which I mean the gameplay concept, abstract and simplified visuals, setting, and so on. MJ: I’m not quite sure where it all came from! I started working on the game right after GDC last year. I needed a bit of a break from what I was working on at the time and figured I’d take a week to knock out a quick prototype of this idea I had. The original idea also featured a space station, but the element that stood out in my mind was having your station be attacked, losing pressure containment and seeing your little space-station dudes get blown into space flailing helplessly. As I was fiddling with the mechanics of building the station I discovered that it was very pleasant to just build a nicely organized station. I knew from previous prototypes and plenty of Tetris playing that Tetrominoes are perhaps the most satisfying to build with, so I put those in early on and the building felt great. As the building parts felt so good I decided to focus in on that and put another week on the prototype. Those two weeks grew to a month, and then two months, and then all of a sudden I had a game.
The minimalism also comes from previous prototypes I’ve made. The concept of removing cruft [the leftovers] to expose the “core” of a game has proved very successful for me in the past, so digging deeper in that made a lot of sense. It also aligns very well with me being just a one-man team (arguably two with Niklas Ström on music), keeping the graphics minimal makes my work burden smaller.
148Apps: Was releasing on PSN before iOS a strategic decision or is that just sort of how it worked out? MJ: The game was originally made with the iPad in mind, and the first teaser trailer I released back in June last year is in fact filmed off of the screen of my iPad 1. After posting that I was contacted by Sony who asked if I would be interested in putting the game on their platform. The game has evolved a bit since then, but it’s definitely made with a touch screen in mind from the very beginning.
It also uses some magical technology to target all three platforms (Playstation Mobile, iOS, and Android) using essentially the same code base, so any improvements I make for one version will be easily brought over to the others.
148Apps: Please tell me you have future plans for rymdkapsel. More content/challenges, a sequel, SOMETHING. Pretty please? MJ: I’m not quite sure what my future plans for the game are at the moment. I agree that it’s ripe for expansion, but at the same time it’s hard to keep it aggressively minimalist and at the same time add a bunch of stuff. I’d say it depends quite a bit on how it does once it hits the bigger platforms. At the very least I hope to get Game Center support in there before releasing on iOS, but I haven’t had time to look into that yet so I’m not sure if I can make it in time.
Big thank you to Martin for answering all our questions, and especially for shedding some light on rymdkapsel’s pronunciation. You all should keep an eye out for it when it hits the App Store this July. No official price has been given but Martin promises it will be less than the current $5 going rate on the Vita.
Demon Chic‘s storytelling impressed us so much that we came up with a whole new scoring category just for it: Story Quality. So, in order to learn more about just how the wholly unique title came to be, I chatted with one half of Beret Applications, Michael Frauenhofer, about the inspiration and creative process behind it.
148apps: Demon Chic is hugely different from anything else on the App Store, what inspired you guys to make it? Michael Frauenhofer (MF): I was planning on making something more traditionally “video game”-y, with stuff like fights to the death against robot soldiers and mind control chips in it. But, I’d just finished a novel for my undergraduate fiction thesis about a bunch of broke college kids doing drugs and getting in trouble, and then shortly before we kicked into full gear working on the project…I had a dream about a man in a dress with a big furry boa and a tasseled hat burning spiders with a magic cigarette. That dream’s atmosphere sounded way cooler than the, admittedly, generic sci-fi we’d been planning on pursuing, so we switched…and ended up combining the novel with the vibe of the funky spider dream.
We don’t have the budget or skills to compete graphically with something like Infinity Blade so we figured we might as well make the kind of game that probably only we would ever come up with.
148apps: What research was conducted in terms of the mental illness issues dealt with in the game? MF: The characters’ experiences with mental illness reflect a varied portion – but still, by necessity of scale, only a small portion – of the broad range of experiences someone diagnosed with schizophrenia might have. It’s a tricky diagnosis because there is so much variation within it that there really is no one experience a person with schizophrenia will face. It’s more of a symptom class – diagnosed based on what the person experiences rather than any one cause.
So a lot of the “meat” of the way that the game deals with the subject of living with schizophrenia comes from my own experience – the way that it talks about adjusting to life with hallucinations, trying to make decisions about medication, things like that [which] are…more universal experiences of trying to deal with the situations it creates.
As for the characters’ various coping strategies, they…reflect the variety of experience rather than propagate any specific viewpoint. Just as one protagonist identifies as straight, one identifies as gay, and one identifies as bi [and] they are, respectively, an atheist, an agnostic, and a devoutly religious person, the characters make different decisions about whether or not to seek treatment within the medical establishment or even how openly to define themselves.
I was very frustrated with how most of the media I saw dealing with schizophrenia seemed to either take a very strong hardline tack where the only acceptable way to handle it was through a doctor, and anything else was reckless or dangerous. I think [this] can be a damagingly closed-minded viewpoint, or alternatively romanticize being “free” and living off medication on principle, which I can see being just as or even more damagingly closed-minded. Some people are really helped, some people are really hurt.
I think it is important for art to take a stance when an issue requires it, but in this case I felt the most accurate and best stance to take was “different things work for different people and it’s critical to let people have the ability to make their own choices.” Once you’re open about having an experience of your own with mental illness, a lot more people open up to you about their own, and you end up realizing a way huger percentage of the people you know than you would ever have imagined have some form of “mental illness.” All of the people I’ve known have had wildly different experiences dealing with it, and used very different strategies, so it only really felt honest for the game to reflect that multiplicity.
148apps: Did any specific games or artwork influence the look and feel of Demon Chic? MF: The main story art’s style was largely defined by the artists we worked with for that – Marika Cowan, Julie Chien, and Elizabeth Gearreald – while the art style for the interludes, that I made, was mostly defined by my exploration of the limits of my own artistic ability. I…grew to appreciate the more hand-made-looking aspects of that…but to be totally honest, everything would look photo-realistically detailed in those sections if I’d had the capability to make it look that way.
In the end I was glad I wasn’t the best at drawing. The feel of the game was very heavily inspired by No More Heroes, Suda 51’s game for the Wii, which I’d been playing a lot of and really loving for its pacing. It experimented a lot with its structure and form, and wove rapidly between high- to low- concept and humor, but still retained a really jittery and frenetic energy with its quick cuts and rock guitars that I wanted to take inspiration from.
With eight billion coins having been collected in-game since Joe Danger Touch’s release in January 2013, the adventures of the daredevil stuntman have proved to be quite the hit. We managed to drag Hello Games’s managing director, Sean Murray, away from work on the latest game update, in order to learn a little more about the game and its future direction.
148Apps: How hard was it to take such a successful console game (Joe Danger 1 and 2 on PS3 and Xbox 360) and convert it to iOS? Sean: It was really hard! One of our weird little things we have at Hello Games is to never just port a game to a new platform without doing something special that fits it. We couldn’t just shunt Joe Danger over with virtual controls and the same set of levels because we knew it wouldn’t really work. Joe Danger on PS3 uses every single one of the pad’s buttons and sticks. So we went right back to scratch and thought about how a touchscreen can bring something new. We set ourselves two big goals – it was really important that it would feel like it could only work on iOS because we were building it specifically for iOS devices. And we wanted it to feel like nothing else you can play on iOS. No biggie We’ve designed lots of console games in the past, so it was really refreshing to get to think about touchscreens, and that meant the whole process was genuinely inspiring even while it was head-bangingly hard at times.
148Apps: What’s been the team’s reaction to the huge success on iOS? Sean: I can’t tell you how excited it’s made us. It’s quite embarrassing, really. We always get really nervous launching a new game, and this one was for a platform we had never worked on before, so we were especially scared. We had good feedback from playtesters, though, so we were sort of confident, but that’s never going to prepare you for what actually happens when the public get their hands on the game. As I said, we were trying to make Joe Danger Touch feel new, so it justified the hard work that went into it, and showed us that we could be at home on iOS as we’ve been on console in the past.
148apps: Are you able to reveal any details regarding the next major update? Sean: Yes! So, we’re working on more new characters – we’re planning on asking players to help design and choose them on our blog actually – and levels. We’ve got a nice idea coming that we hope will give players a reason to come back and play every day. And, this is probably saying too much, but we’re planning a massive set of cheat modes that are inspired by being obsessed with games like GoldenEye. That’s all coming in just a few weeks. On top of all that, and this is really is saying too much, but we had some ideas for a JDT update that have completely spiralled out of control into something else entirely. It’s super exciting and has got us all deep into learning new things on iOS, but it’s not quite ready yet for us to show off. I’m so excited about it though
148Apps: The Joe Danger series has always offered plenty of humour and personality, where does the inspiration for such level design come from? Sean: That would be the contents of our art director Grant Duncan’s head. To be honest, sometimes it frightens me, but if we give him a bright enough theme it’s usually OK. It all actually came from our very earliest days as a team when we were trying to decide on what game we would make. Grant came in with some toys from when he was a kid and one of them was an Evel Knievel stunt cycle. Mix that with our love for Mario, Sonic, Paperboy and so on, and the style kind of flowed from there.
148Apps: Any more fun statistics gleaned from Joe Danger Touch? Sean: Sure! So this morning we worked out from the total distance that Joe has ridden that, if we assume he’s 6 feet tall, he’s been the equivalent of to the moon and back three times. And he’s been in 5 million crashes. I think his insurance premiums are pretty high
Yes, we’d suggest avoiding ever riding pillion with Joe Danger!
Most famous for its work on fairly violent fare such as console game, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and, more recently, iOS title The Bowling Dead, Slant Six Games has experienced quite a change of pace lately. That change of pace has manifested itself in the form of Max’s Pirate Planet, an immediately adorable looking board game adventure for kids. With such a drastic change of focus, I thought I’d take the time to find out more about Slant Six’s thinking, courtesy of the game’s producer, Kelly Richard Fennig.
Kelly Richard Fennig
148apps: Max’s Pirate Planet is quite a change of pace from other titles, what was the inspiration behind making a children’s app?
Kelly Richard Fennig (KRF): You are absolutely right there! We are creating lots of new “firsts” in our studio right now, and Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure is our first children’s game and our first self published title. The inspiration for the game, came from a studio game design jam. Last year, a small 6 person team pitched this board-game set on a globe, about pirates, to be played on a tablet. The concept was definitely different from what we historically developed, there wasn’t a zombie or US Navy Seal in sight!
Creating such an entirely different game genre for a new audience was a welcome challenge for the team, and we wanted to see if we could successfully create an app kids would love…honestly it was way too fun of an idea to not make it. We enjoyed being able to step back in time and reminisce on our experiences playing classic board games with our families and the simple treasured moments they provide. As luck would have it, one of our artists has a brother who is a child psychologist, and his insights helped tremendously. We also did many play tests to see firsthand what the response was…So when the timing was right, we assembled a very small team to make the game…and 15 weeks later, Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure was born!
“If you’re going to try something so left-field of the norm, might as keep going left as possible and eventually it feels right.” (Some advice Slant Six’s Producer’s father told him as he was growing up)
148apps: It’s only just been released, but will there be any additional content for Max’s Pirate Planet in the future? KRF: We do have some content planned, but we are keeping this in our back pockets as further bonus material once the game has had a chance to gain popularity. As a product targeted at young children and also a board game, we wanted to avoid adding content via in-app purchases. This was a comfortable decision for us, as we know it will appeal to parents with young children. Our goal was to keep it very much like the experience families have when they buy a physical board game so all the pieces are complete. However, Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure has been designed to easily add more content if our customers are demanding it. We have already thought of additional characters, mini-games, and possibly even a new globe. In short, the more popular the game becomes, the more content we’ll keep adding to keep it exciting for players!
The Slant Six Offices
148apps: As the first self-published title for Slant Six, how have things been different compared to working for a separate publisher? KRF: Simply put, we are masters of our own destiny! It was a very empowering process for the team to make design decisions, influenced by having our game play tested by our target audience (children 6-10 years, and their parents). Our goal now is to get as much awareness for the app as we can.
As an independent studio, we don’t have the financial backing of a large publisher driving the publicity and user acquisition for this game. Our biggest challenge, which is the same for any independent developer, is getting our app discovered without a pre-existing user base. We had extensive play-test sessions prior to launch and the response was overwhelmingly popular. Our team couldn’t quite believe it until we saw the reactions of the kids, including a group of cub scouts going absolutely nuts over the game! Simply put: If children play this game, THEY WILL LOVE THIS GAME (this may sound like a bold claim, but this is our truthful experience). Another “first” for our studio is that this isn’t a free-to-play app, therein lies the challenge. It is a matter of informing people and getting it in as many influential hands as possible to see for themselves.
148apps: What’s next for the team? Will we continue to see this new, light-hearted Slant Six or will there be a return to more serious fare? KRF: To answer your question: we do have some large core multiplayer tablet games in the works that will appeal to our traditional gaming audience and we are looking at some potential next-gen console opportunities. That being said, we had so much fun making Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure, it’s been a breath of fresh air for the team to try something new, and if our customers tell us they want to see more light hearted family friendly product, we will gladly oblige. In fact we’ve got a few ideas up our sleeve already!
Thanks to Slant Six and Kelly Richard Fennig for taking the time to answer our questions.
Max’s Pirate Planet is available now as an Universal app, priced at $2.99.
With the release of Little Bit Games’ first title, The Seed, we thought it was time to get to know more about these up and coming Canadian developers.
Jennifer Vogt, Curtis Vogt and Cody Lee
Who is Little Bit Games?
The team is made up of developers/founders Cody Lee and Curtis Vogt, musicians Eric Cassell and Jennifer Vogt, as well as artist Jeffrey Taniguchi. Based out of Winnipeg, Canada, the team have been together since 2011 having been previously inspired courtesy of Ron Gilbert’s keynote speech at PAX 2009.
What is Little Bit Games most famous for?
Currently, its sole release: The Seed. It’s a physics puzzle game in which players must guide the Seed to the end of the level using droplets to manipulate its path. Minimalist in appearance, David Rabinowitz gave it 4 stars when he reviewed it earlier this month.
What’s next on the horizon?
We checked in with Cody Lee about the team’s plans. “The current version of The Seed in the App Store is part 1. We have plans to release part 2 as a free update later in the year, but we are planning for a quick project in between. We aren’t ready to announce anything yet, but we are currently experimenting with some really exciting and unique ideas that can only be accomplished on the mobile platform.”
Anything else I should know about Little Bit Games?
Having been intrigued as to just what makes the team tick, I checked in with Cody for a few answers.
Concept Art for The Seed
148apps: What was the inspiration behind The Seed? Cody: The original inspiration for the basic physics based puzzle mechanic of The Seed was an old PC game called The Incredible Machine. The game involved creating elaborate Rube-Golderg contraptions for each level and featured a very addictive tweaking trial-and-error type gameplay. Overall though, The Seed has taken a much different tone than its inspiration. We’ve noticed that most physics-based puzzle games on mobile platforms these days look and feel the same. Quite frankly, many feel like they’re trying to capture the Angry Birds “feel.” They’re colorful, and childlike and try very overtly to appeal to the casual audience. With The Seed, we really wanted to do something different and decided to take a much more mature and minimalistic tone which is what every detail [of The Seed] strives for. There’s very little text in the game, and the music and art are designed to give a zen-like experience, to offset what can often times be a very challenging game.
148apps: What’s your favorite thing about iOS development? Cody: Developing for iOS (and mobile in general) offers many constraints when it comes to screen real-estate and memory concerns, but it opens up a whole world of exciting game design possibilities you just can’t get on traditional video game platforms. The tools available and popularity of iOS development also make it super easy to get up and running and find documentation and open source libraries when you need it. Above all though, my favorite thing is probably how easy it is for indie developers to distribute their games. Digital distribution such as the App Store has made it super easy for up and coming game developers to get their games out to the public, and as a result the indie game development scene has been stronger than ever. It’s a very exciting time for indie games and iOS is definitely part of the reason why. This easy distribution is of course a blessing and a curse, as it also means a lot of noise in the App Store, making it difficult to get noticed!
Where can I find out more about Little Bit Games?
Plenty of places. While we’ll be keeping an eye out for the next update to The Seed, you can also check out the developers’ website, Facebook page and Twitter account.
Deirdra Kiai is a young game developer with several games to the good, including the most recent, Dominique Pamplemousse, a “stop motion musical detective adventure game” that’s available on Mac, Windows, and iPad. Here’s a quick preview, with Deirdra’s own singing voice as the lead character:
We had a chance to sit down with Deirdra this past GDC week, and chatted a bit about Deirdra’s game development experience, the choice of gender-neutral protagonists, and some of the techniques that went into making the current game. Some of the interview has been edited for clarity.
148Apps: How many games have you made now?
Deirdra Kiai: Well, I’ve been making games ever since the early 2000s. It started out as a hobby in high school. So there are probably maybe at least ten or so games I’ve done that are available on my website. I have a reverse chronological order portfolio on my site so you can kind of see the evolution of what i’ve done there.
If you had to describe the evolution of your style of your games in a sentence or two, how would you do that?
Hm, a sentence or two? I started out heavily inspired by classic Lucas arts adventure games, (which is) apparent even today. But as I went on, I started incorporating so many more influences, particularly from interactive fiction and basically narrative-based, choice-based narrative games that aren’t necessarily always about puzzle solving but have some kind of interesting story you can explore and some kind of personal twist to it. So a big part of my evolution has been incorporating more of the personal into my work.
So when you say the personal, do you mean the characters or yourself?
Kind of both. The characters I write have a lot to do with myself and the people I know and just thoughts and feelings I have and sometimes the characters I write embody those.
Would you say your work is becoming more personal over time?
So, Dominique, how do you say the last name?
Pamplemousse. It’s the French word for grapefruit.
I just think it’s a cool word. It just sounds cool. it’s like an early detective–a big French detective name and I’ve always liked pamplemousse. I want a character named Pamplemousse. And what’s a good gender-neutral French sounding name? Dominique.
The gender neutral thing is a big part of this game, and the last one you made, as well. Tell us a bit more about it?
Well the genesis of the whole idea of doing a gender-neutral protagonist came with some of my past games featuring female characters and protagonists–I have a very androgynous drawing style for characters. I don’t like to sexualize women. I like to design characters who I can empathize with, and that goes for female and male and whatever. And so in (my previous game), Life Flashes By, I had several comments along the lines of, “I didn’t know I was playing a woman! Charlotte totally looks like a man! She’s got a square jaw and everything.” And I was thinking I wanted to play with this a bit. I want to play with this expectation that cartoon characters and gender that you have to explicitly show tertiary and secondary characteristics if you’re going to, like Minnie Mouse is Mickey Mouse with a bow on her head and Ms. Pac-man is a Pac-man with a bow on her head.
They’re not that different, right.
Not that different at all. It’s just weird that you have to specifically mark something as female. so yes, Dominique is a very neutral character. So I was like, “Why don’t I just make the character completely neutral?”
I was also partly inspired by the game Echo Bazaar, it’s now called Fallen London, and one of the character selection options involved having a gender neutral character. So it’s like a person of mysterious and indistinct gender. I chose that as my character and as I was playing my character in this game I felt like oh, I really like this. I’m just playing kind of this sneaky, charming thief-type person and people keep going “Sir, uh, madam, uh, what…”
But that was part of the fun. I just thought that was really cool. I, myself, kind of identify as somewhat androgynous so there’s definitely a bit of personal inspiration there. Definitely in the last year or two, my personal sense of style has gotten a lot more androgynous and I really enjoyed embodying that and playing with people’s assumptions. It’s a more comfortable role for me to play. I was never always comfortable just being a full-on woman but I’ve never really felt like a man, either. So it’s inspired by personal and inspired by people’s reactions to my previous work.
Tell us a little bit about this game and the claymation and all that. It’s taken about year to get this together?
Kind of, yeah. I’ve spent about a year, since maybe summer 2011 or so. I got started prototyping, creating and putting the materials together, making the puppets, and trying to make a set and seeing how that would look. and doing some art tests and gradually over the year. I built the preliminary game engine, I had the music um…
The music is fantastic, by the way. I love the way that plays out.
Thank you! Yeah, so just getting the music to loop seamlessly for the most part, and getting the musical queueing to work in a way that I am more or less happy with.
How did you put that together (besides with magic)? Was it a lot of manual tweaking or was it more programmatic?
Well, I sort of programmed a system based on counting the beats per measure, measures per loop, and I had this timer loop running, with every kick at a certain point, like, “now you can queue the music and now you can queue the action.”
What was the most challenging part of the claymation itself?
Well, it was figuring out basically what the best way to capture the characters and the background would be. I decided to create sprites like one normally would in a video game, instead of a traditional claymation movie where you shape every frame by every frame. It’s really, really time consuming. I wanted to make the best use of the interactive format as I could.
I looked into trying to create a green screen but the way I was getting my characters and the camera equipment I was using, which was admittedly quite cheap, it wound up being more cost effective to use a white background and kind of trace around in Photoshop and create the alpha channel that way. It was a slightly tedious process, but since I wound up doing a more simple animation style, cause I have kind of short-limbed characters, so they show they’re kind of moving a bit fast and stuff. It’s kind of like a herky-jerky silent film kind of feel. So I was able to maintain that, and that was kind of interesting.
Did you study up on any claymation?
Oh yeah. I did a whole bunch of research on how people make claymation puppets and how they do armatures. The simplest way to do it is basically use aluminum wire and that’s what I did–use a skeleton and put the clay material around it. I used some silicone-based putty that cured but at the same time would also bend. So the wire would bend and the skin would move along with it.
There isn’t a lot of deformation of the characters, right.
Yeah, it was cured material. If I were using plasticine, then there could have been more movement but at the same time a lot more potential for things to go wrong and to really deform and not being able to get it back to where it was.
How much do you think your final product matches your initial vision? How much of a compromise did you get along the way?
Usually there’s always some kind of compromise especially when you’re a small indie developer. This was new art technique (for me). I tried to keep my expectations pretty open. I kept it to like, “Alright well, it’s not gonna look like Aardman or anything like that, but I’ll do the best I can.” I’m pretty happy with how it came out.
I wasn’t at the very start intending for it to be a black and white game, for instance. But when I was doing color tests and animation tests, I decided to try and see how it looked in black and white. The very very first game I did was also a back and white detective game and I thought I should try that again. Back to my roots! And the black and white style ended up looking really good for the art style, so I decided to keep it. So I saturated the colors a lot more so it really did feel like a silent film.
A huge thanks to Deirdra for talking with us at GDC this year. We wish nothing but the best with Dominique Pamplemousse and any future endeavors, which–according to a blog entry–include working on an MFA in Santa Cruz, California.
As its latest title comes with the unique proposition of helping a children’s charity, we thought it time to learn more about Polish iOS developer, Shortbreak Studios.
Who is Shortbreak Studios?
Part of Techland, one of the biggest Polish game developers out there thanks to its work on titles such as the Call of Juarez games, Shortbreak Studios is made up of a core team of 9 passionate developers. A mixture of programmers, designers, level designers, artists and a producer, the company benefits from relying on Techland to work out the finances and allowing the team to focus on the creative side of things. As explained by producer, Pawel Rohleder, it means the combination of “the flexibility and creativity of a small independent development studio with the experience and knowledge of an established player in the gaming industry!”
Why should I remember the Shortbreak Studios name?
There are a couple of good reasons, so far. First of all, they made Sugar High, a game that perhaps owed a little too much to Tiny Wings but still proved to be great fun. More importantly, Shortbreak Studios has worked in conjunction with the Cape of Hope Foundation in order to create oncology clinic for children with Cancer.
How did Heal Them All come about?
Pawel Rohleder explains, “We have been supporting Cape of Hope for some time and it was our mutual idea to create a game about defending the organisms for mobile devices. We thought that fighting microbes inside the human body would be [a] very nice setting for a tower defense game as this genre is very popular on mobile patforms. Another idea was the freemium business model as we wanted to reach as many users as possible by offering a part of our game for free.” Notably, Heal Them All is entirely free to try out with the full campaign unlocked for $1.99.
What’s next on the horizon?
The team has lofty plans, with Pawel happily declaring the ambition that many hold, “Our main goal is to conquer the whole world with our mobile games!” At the moment, though, the firm is mostly working on two different projects that they aren’t able to discuss just yet, as well as porting to other devices. Possible updates for their current titles are also in the works and currently being brainstormed.
Anything else I should know about Shortbreak Studios?
Pawel was all too keen to tell us just what he and the rest of the team love about iOS development.
Pawel: Everything! We enjoy every aspect of mobile game development and we put a lot of effort and passion into every step of [the] production process. We believe this is the only way to make high quality games. One of the most important…[parts] in efficient mobile development is rapid prototyping. Each prototype must convince us that this could be a GREAT game. We cancel the project if we do not believe in its playable demo. And the sooner, the better. The development process itself is also very interesting because of tons of small decisions that the team needs to make in [terms] of hard negotiations or just [our] gut feeling . Personally, I love the final stage of the development where all individual assets turn into a working product and our vision materializes into a real game. This…shows us that it was all worth the effort but…it always makes us come up with a lot of new ideas and changes that we could make to improve the final quality.
With the firm’s first release, PUK, hitting the App Store this week, we thought it was the perfect time to get to know more about the folks at up and coming UK based developers, Laser Dog Games. Here’s what we’ve learned.
Who is Laser Dog Games?
Based in Manchester, UK, Laser Dog is a three man team made up of Simon Renshaw, Mike Milner and Rob Allison. Simon and Mike, previously, worked in creating user experiences and digital branding through web apps, which made games the “natural progression.” Rob works on the code side of development, while Mike deals with the visual design as a conceptual artist. Simon deals with animation, production and game mechanics.
How did the Laser Dog name come about?
Simon explained to us, “We throw around ridiculous fictional brand concepts and ideas regularly, Laser Dog was one such example, originally the name of our ’80′s inspired electronica band’…[which] was never going to work as I can’t play music for toffee. We were playing with ideas on a train back from a client meeting in London and I think it was me that remembered the name Laser Dog. We both debated whether we could seriously use it, laughed a bit, then agreed that it was perfect. Mike mocked up the brand the following day and Laser Dog became final.”
What is Laser Dog Games most famous for?
Currently, only PUK, a fast paced, minimalist action puzzler. It’s a pretty entertaining Endless puzzler with 1000 unique levels testing players’ ability to react quickly and think fast. It’s certainly entertained me in recent days. We should have a full review shortly.
What’s next on the horizon?
Still in the ideas phase, Simon told us that one possibility is a game focused “on the player having to destroy themselves” with the hope for a “deeper experience than PUK“. There’s also the possibility of expansion with the team’s eyes closely on Ouya (a new type of games console) as well as working on mobile formats.
What else is there to know about Laser Dog Games?
Simon Renshaw was all too happy to answer a few burning questions I had about the developer and their latest title.
148apps: What was the inspiration behind PUK? Simon: We wanted our first game to mess with our players’ feelings of anxiety and stress so we started developing a simple concept about a fish repeatedly jumping out of a bowl, running out of air and having to be popped back in. [It] was nice but very limited…before we knew it, we were adding Super Meat Boy Saws and it became an all devouring mess! Scrapping this, but keeping with the fish theme led us to an idea about waves washing up on the beach and leaving pockets of water and fish in their wake. The basic game mechanic: to put the fish back in the pools before the pools dried up and the wave washed in again effectively clearing the screen…this was quite a nice idea, but fundamentally it didn’t require the theme.
We stripped the idea down to the bare minimum, designed a set of simple and pure game rules with a single clear objective: shoot PUKs at Portals before the time runs out, PUK was formed. We wanted the game to have enough ‘simulation’ freedom to feel like throwing a tennis ball around a court or bouncing balls around a snooker table so physics were essential. After some external play testing, the only thing players weren’t seeing were that the Portals (once puddles) were shrinking. This was replaced with fixed size portals and a timer…It didn’t really change the overall mechanic of the game, it just forced us to rethink the level design a little. I think (after a huge amount of play testing) if you can honestly say you still like your game after playing it for this long, you have to be proud of it, and we are!
148apps: As a relatively new iOS developer, is there any advice you wish someone had given you beforehand? Simon: Yes, I wish someone had said ‘get going, you bloody idiots! It’s great fun but it’s gonna take you a lot longer than you think!’. Test your game idea in your mind for as long as you can, move up to a note pad, squeeze this, bang out a prototype (PUK was originally created with Game Maker in 3 hours, albeit terribly and with just a mouse touchpad to test) then do something pretty with it to inspire you to make it great. Be prepared to bin big chunks of work if you haven’t thought it through, no matter how good. Allow plenty of time for testing and get involved with local Indie Dev meet ups. They proved invaluable for us as you can get genuine feedback (learn to read faces, not words!), advice and wisdom from people who genuinely want to help.
148apps: What’s your favourite thing about iOS development? Simon: One of the greatest things about iOS development is that it’s opened up a massive outlet for indie devs like us to showcase their work. It’s great when you open up the App Store and see so many indie companies competing with the ‘big dogs’ and, in most cases, maintaining more integrity with less in app purchases and generally more. As visual designers, we’ve always been inspired by Apple and their commitment to quality. Designing primarily for their devices and for iOS is a real privilege and it’s exciting.
I freaking love mech games. It’s just a shame that this is a largely ignored genre on the App Store. Or at least it was, until Small Impact Games took it upon themselves to show it some love.
M3CH looks to be the answer to iOS mech combat fans’ prayers. Of course showing a little love yourself on the developer’s Kickstarter page might speed things up a bit. It evokes a similar feeling to other gritty/semi-realistic mech piloting titles and sports some pretty impressive production values. I had to pry myself away to ask M3CH’s animator, James Rowbotham, about Small Impact Games’ baby.
Were there any particularly major influences in the design of M3CH‘s world? I know it’s not exactly the same but I’m getting a pretty strong Steel Battalion vibe from it.
At the time 3D iOS games exploded, we were playing a very mixed bag of games but fortunately they were all with the same genre, Mechs! We just loved the direction the iOS store was heading, it was screaming for a game with user-friendly touch-screen controls but with the in depth details you get in our favourite mech games.
Surprisingly however, Killzone 2 was a big inspiration in terms of AI and cover based action. What some mech games lack is the use of buildings as cover and enemy’s that work together to out flank you, something we saw that had been untapped in the genre (a lot of open spaces/terrain), so we looked at the great AI in Killzone and their behaviour and found a way to work it into our game.
You folks have done a bang-up job with the control scheme. Was it the product of rigorous testing and polishing or did you know right from the start how you wanted to handle it?
The aim with M3CH since the beginning has been to try and create an iOS game that doesn’t feel like it’s an iOS game, and more like a console experience. Touchscreen controls are notorious for being hard to use and something that we really wanted to nail. We went through a lot of different iterations to get to where we are now; having both shoot buttons on one side, holding down shoot instead of the auto toggle system, putting the shoot buttons on the thumbsticks and a lot more. We are keeping open minded about it and although we are getting later into development if we have an idea for an even better control set then we will be sure to test it out!
Were there any mech designs you wanted to include that ended up being scrapped?
There are quite a few that didn’t make it into the game (we already have 40 different mechs in the game). At the moment we have a mix of legs styles such as reversed legs in the game but [an] animalistic style is something we are keen on in terms of animation and how the mechs behave.
What exactly are your plans for the multiplayer?
We are hitting some technical limitations which means it most likely be 1-on-1 to start with. We would love to get a larger number of players battling at the same time (8v8 is the dream!), especially where the winning players get new weapons unlocked and credits to spend. At the moment its deathmatch style gameplay but we have plans set for objective based multiplayer.
Are you allowed to talk pricing?
It’s still early days but we are hoping for around the £1.99 [$2.99] price range. One thing we are certain of however is that we don’t want pushy monetization and in-app purchasing interrupting your gameplay experience, all mechs and weapons are attainable without too much grinding and we reward dedicated hard working players with big payouts.
How about a release date?
As for a released date, a lot of that depends on the kickstarter campaign, if we are successful then we are aiming for an April release this year.
Greedy Bankers Vs. The World was only the beginning for Alistair Aitcheson. Now we have Slamjet Stadium to satisfy our same-screen multiplayer desires. Think football re-imagined by a bunch of aliens who were trying to piece the rules together a couple hundred years from now and you’ll have the basic gist of it.
Where exactly did you pull Slamjet Stadium‘s inspiration from? Not just the wacky-looking gameplay; I’m talking about the physical roughhousing, too. Super-intense family game nights as a young boy perhaps?
Haha, I don’t know really! I’m generally a fairly calm and friendly guy. I was never into rough-housing at all when I was a kid! I am very competitive though, as my friends know – I’ll always be looking for a way to mess up my rivals in any game.
So I wanted to experiment more with this kind of game design. The original prototype for Slamjet Stadium came out of a big batch of experimental multiplayer games I did over the summer and tested out in the pub.
Often you’ll find yourself scoring by spotting a really awesome shot or powerup, so paying attention to the board is really important. Hand-grabbing is certainly a useful tactic, but it’s only one way of doing things. That makes play really dynamic. One moment it could be best to play rough, the next moment you might need to think fast, or play accurately.
While we’re on the subject of the multiplayer, how are you going to influence players to stop being polite?
People tend to jostle as much or as little as they feel comfortable with, and surprisingly that’s usually quite a lot! There’s typically a “eureka” moment when one player realizes they can get in the way of their friend, or use their opponent’s characters instead of their own. The physicality often grows from there!
So I’ve put messages in the loading screens suggesting ways you can “cheat.” The game’s advising you to play foul, so it must be okay! That eureka moment has to inspire creative play, so it’s important that players know that the game isn’t degenerating into chaos.
Would you mind going into a few specifics? Stuff like general gameplay, number of teams, differences between teams (if any), etc.
Each player gets two characters on a team, and the rules are fairly simple. You grab a character with your finger, pull back to charge their engines, and let go to send them flying across the screen. You want to hit the ball into your opponent’s goal, and the first to score five points wins the match.
There are also various power-ups and stage hazards that appear: rage power to smash up your opponents’ characters, freeze power that traps them in ice, multiball release, powerful gusts of wind.
My favorite activates “Last Man Standing” mode, where traps come in from the side of the screen, and it’s up to you to avoid them (or throw your opponents into them); a point is awarded to the survivor!
There are nine different arenas in the game, with different effects and hazards. As for the teams, there are six to choose from and each has different physical properties: shape, weight, boost power and grip.
Are there going to be multiple game modes? Might we be able to look forward to something similar in a future update?
Right now it’s split into Multiplayer and Solo Play. In solo, you take on a gauntlet of computer-controlled opponents over three leagues of increasing difficulty. Beating each one unlocks an extra multiplayer stage, and you can compete via GameCenter over your fastest completion times.
In Multiplayer it’s very much a quickmatch format: you choose your teams and arenas, and can have a rematch or pick new teams after someone wins. I’ll probably add some extra variations and setups in updates; I guess it depends on what players want to see after the initial launch. My focus was on getting players into the action as fast as possible.
All the elbow-slamming, wrist-grabbing, butt-nudging madness of Slamjet Stadium can be unleashed upon your iPad on March 14th for $2.99.
Ever wonder how your favorite iOS games are actually developed? Sure, there’s plenty of typing code in and creating graphics, but the actual process of planning out the game can be a massive endeavour in itself. Supersonic, developers of Top Gear: Stunt School, is certainly pursing a pretty unique way of organizing a new title: courtesy of the past eight years of the team’s lives!
Their lofty ambition revolves around The World’s Biggest Wordsearch, a game that does exactly what the name suggests. It’ll feature over 5,500 words and more than 40 hours worth of gameplay, as well as, hopefully, feature in the Guinness Book of World Records. Like any sensible person, I had to ask the team why exactly they wanted to pursue such an idea: “We’ve been developing puzzles for nearly 10 years now, making interactive products as well as selling to newspapers and magazines…we thought making the World’s Biggest Wordsearch would appeal to lots of people – and make our puzzles stand out…it’s kind of cool to be a world record holder.”
The puzzle has been eight years in the making, with the actual process to get things right quite involved. “The raw building blocks (lots of themed areas) have all been hand made over the years. Gluing them altogether, interlocking them, making sure there are ZERO repeat words, making sure that there are no swear words accidentally hidden in the puzzle, picking trophy words, inserting a secret message, designing Quests, etc. has taken forever!”
It sounds a hugely complex project and one that’s obviously being taken very seriously. Like so many other projects, however, Supersonic need a helping hand in the latter stages of development, which is where Kickstarter comes in. Uniquely though, and for a short time only, contribute more than $32 to the cause and besides gaining a huge poster of the puzzle and copies of the game, your name is also featured in the puzzle and you’ve cemented your place as a joint record holder.
The World’s Biggest Wordsearch sounds like quite the project and we’ll be interested in seeing how things turn out for Supersonic.
Sometimes, it’s quite easy to forget how truly innovative iPhone and iPad apps can be. They can revolutionize concepts that we’ve taken for granted in an earlier guise, something that the folks behind NIKO and the Sword of Light hope to achieve.
Having recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to aid their project, four college friends from London and Toronto hope to change comic books massively, by launching the first fully animated hand-drawn comic book app. They certainly have the pedigree, too. Bobby Chiu and Kei Acedera, from Imaginism Studios, are well known for their work on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Men in Black 3, while Adam Jeffcoat and Jim Bryson, of StudioNX, have worked for companies such as Nickelodeon, CBBC and EA Games.
With a plan to launch NIKO and the Sword of Light this summer, the team told me a little more about exactly how it all came to be and precisely why it’s worth taking this Kickstarter campaign seriously.
“Niko was born from the idea that we wanted to make something different from the types of cartoons and movies that were out there. Something dark and edgy that enabled us to tell a story that would transport our audience…through awe inspiring landscapes full of wondrous characters and monstrous beasts.”, explained Adam Jeffcoat. “We wanted to take the darker feel of graphic novels and combine it with the style of modern animated movies to come up with something that would appeal to both adults and children alike!”
As he explains, the story is set to be a classic battle between “dark versus light” with “one tiny hero against all the odds.” After all, it’s an apt concept given that “[the] real world always seems to be faced with so much darkness every time you turn on the news.” Discussing the team’s addiction to TV shows such as Game of Thrones and Spartacus, Adam pointed out that they “love the idea that our world could have once been a place where magic existed, where dragons roamed and where the forces of dark and light were at constant war with each other.”
Further inspiration stemmed from “modern graphic novels such as Hellboy”, focusing on a “darker and more adult way” of telling a story.
Ambitiously, Adam and the team didn’t want to stick to typical ways of doing comic books or graphic novels: “Right from the start we wanted to to something that hadn’t been done before.” The iPad played a pivotal role given, “this thing bridges the gap between static and animated.” Adam feels such interactivity will add to the experience too, “to create a sense of real tension.”
The combined work of StudioNX and Imaginism Studios is a truly modern way of doing things, given that one half of the team is based in Toronto and the other half is in the UK. With a sound designer in Mexico, and coders located in Australia and the US, Adam extolled the virtues of Skype, email and Dropbox to make it easier to be working so remotely.
Acknowledging the importance of retaining momentum throughout the Kickstarter campaign, Adam also explained the importance of getting marketing just right. Facebook has proved a valuable ally, thanks to the team’s focus on keeping fans informed each step of the way.
While the glimpses of work are fleeting, NIKO and the Sword of Light looks quite special already, thanks to some beautiful artwork within.
The Kickstarter campaign has around three weeks to go and it’s already nearly hit its goal. If you’re interested in participating, check out the campaign page, which offers some pretty cool pledge rewards, as well as learn more via their Facebook page. We’ll be sure to keep up to date with all the latest developments, also.
With the studio’s first release, Zombies & Trains, gaining a very respectable 4 stars out of 5 from us, we thought we’d take a little more time getting to know the ins and outs of Dragonhead Games, as well as find out a bit more about what makes the staff tick.
Who is Dragonhead Games?
Based in Norway, Dragonhead Games is a family operation, founded by brothers, Vidar and Tor Martin Kristiansen. Previously known as Kristanix Games, the pair have been regularly developing small games for a number of years now and covering a variety of different systems including the Mac and PC.
What is Dragonhead Games most famous for? Zombies & Trains, the distinctly gory yet rather fun train based smash em up. The developer is fast to make improvements too, given that since our review earlier this week, a new version has already been submitted to Apple in order to improve upon what’s already there!
What’s next on the horizon?
Tor let us know that the brothers are currently in the “planning stage on a Tolkienesque fantasy strategy/management game”. The game is set to allow players to “run [their] own guild of adventurers and heroes” with the ability to “create…heroes, train them up, craft weapons and armour for them, and send them out on quests and treasure hints…”. Tentatively named Heroes Guild, the game is set for release sometime in 2013.
What else is there to know about Dragonhead Games?
Tor was all too happy to provide us with some interesting answers to our questions!
148apps: What was the inspiration behind Zombies & Trains?
Tor Martin Kristiansen: We actually weren’t that interested in making a game about zombies, since it seemed like every other day, someone made a game about them. We were focusing on coming up with an idea that sounded cool when you shared it with other people. At some point, almost as a joke, we started discussing ways of disposing of zombies that hadn’t been used in games or movies, and the idea of a train blasting through a zombie-horde came up. It immediately struck us as an idea that we just had to try, and we made a simple demo that was so much fun to play. And it was incredibly challenging, something we liked!
148apps: What’s your favorite thing about iOS development?
Tor: I think it has to be just the fact that it’s so much easier these days to actually get a game out to a lot of people, and the whole process is very streamlined. All from the development, to getting the game to work on different devices, to actually releasing it and for the customer to purchase it. Every part of this was a lot more difficult for smaller indie developers like us just 6 years ago. Today’s smartphones are a lot easier to get it all up and running on than previous generations. And once you start thinking about features like online leaderboards, multiplayer, and all the fun stuff that make up the complete package of a game, and to make all that available to use for thousands of players at the same time. In the past that would have been very hard for someone like us to do, but now its possible.
148apps: Is there an iOS app or game that you wish you’d developed first? If so, what apps/games?
Tor: Oh, there’s many! Who wouldn’t want to have made one of the big top 10 sellers! But personally, one of the games I’ve spent a lot of time with, and enjoyed so much is Rovio’s Bad Piggies. That idea and its execution were just excellent on so many levels, and was so much fun to play. Just experimenting with what you could create in that game was something I spent way too much time on!
We love to find out more about apps that are not only fun to use but provide a great benefit to their users’ lives. So, when I heard about AutisMate, a new app aimed at helping those with autism develop their communication and behavioral skills, I jumped at the chance to find out just how it came to be.
The History Behind It
AutisMate has quite an interesting history, as it was created by Jonathan Izak, who was motivated by wanting to help his 10 year old brother, Oriel, who has autism.
“As with many on the spectrum, my brother was often frustrated by the inability to express himself and understand what others expected from him. I recognized that those on the autism spectrum generally have stronger visual learning abilities and that there was a huge need for a solution that could help my brother and others connect with the world around them,” he explained.
“AutisMate does this by taking well-researched visual therapy interventions such as video modeling, visual schedules, and visual stories and making them interactive and easily personalized.” Jonathan pointed out that while assistive speech technology is already available for some, it’s “limited to sentence building.”
“This starting point was too advanced for my brother. For this reason, AutisMate uses visual scenes as a starting point for communication and progresses to the more demanding sentence building. Research shows that visual scenes are more intuitive to the early communicator.”
Researching How AutisMate Could Help
Jonathan’s initial experiences with autism came from his brother, but he appreciated that while making AutisMate, it was “important to partner with a wide variety of parents, therapists, teachers and other autism professionals.” As anyone with experience with autism knows, every person on the spectrum is unique and has their own different challenges, and that’s without taking into account the different needs of caregivers and professionals working alongside the autistic person.
Jonathan worked to create a “flexible platform…designed in such a way that it can be personalized to each autistic child and caters to the needs of whoever is using it.” While he explains that he wanted to help Oriel, he also wanted to “build a solution that would help him and the many other children like him who are challenged by the wide variety of developmental issues associated with autism.”
Taking a year and a half to develop, Jonathan started by testing early builds of the app in local schools and private practices. “Along the way we built a network of over 300 industry experts, researchers, clinicians, educators and even parents,” he said, “who provided a 360 degree view of the wide variety of needs and strategies to promote communication and behavioral development for individuals with autism. We also formed an autism advisory board that is made up of some of the leading industry experts and researchers.”
Reaping The Benefits
Always wanting to create a new approach to overcoming the issues that many with autism suffer from, Jonathan was still stunned by the positive response. “It’s unbelievably rewarding to get to experience how something you are working towards is impacting the lives of so many families.”
He recounted to me examples of how a child was able to overcome a fear of elevators by “[using] a visual story to prepare him for what will happen.” and he’s appreciated the many “heartwarming emails” from educators and caregivers, “describing how their child is communicating for the first time.”
It’s been good news for Oriel, too. “Beyond the apparent increase in spontaneous speech, it has also helped my brother with daily activities like tying his shoes, behaving when going to a restaurant or doctor’s office, and learning how to interact with others.”
AutisMate is currently available solely for the iPad, but Jonathan informed us that besides numerous updates, they are also currently busy working on expanding to both the iPhone and Android platforms. Additional products are also in the pipeline, so things are looking very promising for those after a solution for various special needs.
Thanks to Jonathan Izak for taking the time to answer our questions.
AutisMate is available now, priced at $149.99. To learn more about it, check out the AutisMate website.
We thought we’d learn more about the quirkily named developer, Ham in the Fridge, just in time for their latest release, adorably weird, Bumpin’ Uglies.
Who is Ham in the Fridge?
Based out of an office in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, Ham in the Fridge is a small team of talented designers, illustrators, animators and developers, with Bret Hummel at the helm as President and Creative Director. The firm was founded in 1998 by Bret, and he was also the originator of the idea behind Bumpin’ Uglies.
Where did the name come from?
It’s certainly an odd one! So we asked Bret just why it’s called that. “The name Ham in the Fridge came from something my brother Brady said once — actually over and over again — at the beginning of a family holiday weekend, which became an inside joke for over a year.” As he explained, “people don’t forget the name, and always remember it is some sort of meat in some sort of cooling device!”. And, of course, as he told me “… as they say in the deep south, times are good when there’s Ham in the Fridge.”
What is Ham in the Fridge most famous for?
Besides offering such quirky names for things, quite a few things. Bumpin’ Uglies is one such title (with its name origins stemming from a mixture of Bret seeing a commercial for an app involving bumping phones together to initiate a transaction, as well his “slightly sophomoric sense of humor”. The developer has also worked on the slightly disturbing yet no less intriguing, 5 Minutes to Kill (Yourself): Reloaded, as well as a number of Flash based titles.
What’s next on the horizon?
Bret kept his cards close to his chest when we enquired about this but he did go so far as to explain that they are in “development on a number of iOS titles for clients including Cartoon Network, WB, and KidsWB, due to release later this year. “, as well as working on an Android version of Bumpin’ Uglies.
What else is there to know about the developer?
Oh, yes. Besides explaining to us the meaning behind the name, Bret was happy to answer an all important question from us.
148apps: What’s your favorite thing about iOS development? Bret: I really like the casual gaming aspect of iOS, and how the touch interface is very tactile and direct. Concepting and developing interactions for gamers with touch that are quick to grasp, but perhaps hard to master is the delicate balance we’re always playing with to make our games great.
Where can I find out more about Ham in the Fridge?
We’ll be sure to keep an eye on any new developments from Ham in the Fridge. You can also learn more through their stylish website, Twitter account and Facebook page.
PagodaWest Games are soon to release their upcoming title Major Magnet, a physics-based platformer where players tap on magnets and swipe to jetpack around levels filled with orbs, cannons, and secrets, all in the name of getting high scores. It’s a uniquely-executed concept, but one thing stands out when playing the pre-release build of this upcoming game, due in February: it’s very much like the Sonic series.
The resemblance is not so much in gameplay as it is in terms of style: character designs, level backgrounds, even the fonts, all bear the kinds of hallmarks that the series has been known for. It’s very familiar, yet somewhat new. And it was no accident, as PagodaWest Games was partially born out of the love of Sonic, as the team of Jared Kasl, Tom Fry, Khoa Ngol, and Tee Lopes explain in this interview about the game.
148Apps: How exactly did your team come together initially?
PagodaWest: Tom and Jared initially met through the fan game Sonic 2 HD. After only a short amount of time spent socializing outside of the project, it became apparent that besides the obvious love of classic Sonic, our philosophies on game design were perfectly aligned, and so a close friendship was born.
At what point did you folks decide to make a mobile game?
Before our time on Sonic 2 HD was over, we started discussing the idea of starting our own game company. Due to circumstances in both our lives, we were at a point where it felt right [to] start PagodaWest Games, so that’s exactly what we did. With mobile gaming on the rise and the many game design possibilities a touch screen can provide, going mobile seemed like the way to go – added to which, the start up costs for development on a mobile platform were far slimmer than developing for home console or handheld.
Are there games besides the Sonic series that you feel are influences on Major Magnet?
As we were growing up, every so often a game would come along that would bring us pure joy the whole way through. We wanted to recreate this feeling in Major Magnet, so naturally the games that influenced us when we were younger have found their way through. Don’t be surprised to see a hint of NiGHTS into dreams… or the old Kirby’s Dreamland games as you make your way through Lastin Magnetic!
What kind of lessons from the Sonic 2 HD project were you able to apply to Major Magnet?
Shortly after we finished with Sonic 2 HD, we were able to reflect on what went right and wrong on the project. Even though it was just a fan game using an IP owned by SEGA, there were a few of us on the Sonic 2 HD team that tried to treat the project with a professional attitude.
We also learned, whether through ourselves or others, not to treat any piece of work too preciously. For example, there were some pieces of art that should have taken a matter of days to complete, yet they were taking months! With Major Magnet, we give ourselves a deadline for any feature, piece of art, or asset and plan accordingly to make sure it’s finished on time.
One of the most important lessons we learned from Sonic 2 HD was to formulate a team of people we can trust and depend on. It’s important to know if you ask for something to get done, you can trust that it’s going to be taken care of in a timely manner and to the very best of their ability. We chose our team very carefully for Major Magnet, and so far things have gone off without a hitch!
How did the magnet gameplay mechanic come about? Was it a big part of the title initially, or did it become an important part of the game later on?
The concept of tapping button-like magnets within the level was conceived from the get go, working along the lines of Newton’s law of universal gravitation for attracting Marv to a given point. However, it was the “swing ball”/“orbiting” mechanic which is now core to the gameplay that was refined and honed a couple of months into our prototype development.
We had initially planned a hybrid system that allowed the player to select between standard attraction to a magnet or forcing Marv into orbit by either tapping the magnet once or holding down on it respectively. Due to the fact that the game is rather fast paced and holding the magnet would not only require the player to “track” the magnet if the camera moved but also obscured the screen with their finger, we settled on a tapping and timing system using only the orbiting physics, solving these problems and streamlining the gameplay.
The animation for the game is very crisp and clean; is this just a case of high production values on your end, or does the Corona engine that you worked in have any effect on that?
With regards to the engine, our only base requirements when going into using Corona was that it could display sprites cleanly and plentifully without a loss in performance across a wide range of devices. Having satisfied these criteria with aplomb and having a clear idea of what aesthetic we were after, the rest of the power was indeed in the artist’s hands.
For all of the character animation, every single frame (for which Marv’s in-game sprite has roughly 200 alone) was painstakingly hand-drawn adhering to the strict principles of 2D animation that have been well established in the West for over 80 years. A few animations used for special effects like Marv’s particle trail use a mix of “baked in” animation and real-time particle effects making the trail look rich and dense without stressing the CPU.
Major Magnet does appear to have a currency with upgrades, and there’s the ability to buy additional currency. In a world where many retro-focused developers are eschewing IAP, was there any reason why you felt like this was an acceptable inclusion?
From the beginning of development we felt IAP could have a place in our game, but only if we really felt it added something meaningful for the player and would not hinder their experience in any way if they did not want to use the in-game store. Firstly, our system uses an in-app currency, Magnorbs, which you collect in the game’s levels and mini-games. If you save up enough Magnorbs, you can spend these in the store to purchase useful items to help you along if you’re having trouble – such as the Super Boost which can be used at any time during gameplay, freezing Marv indefinitely until the player swipe-boosts him in the direction they choose.
If the player chooses to rely on these items more frequently, they may wish to buy additional Magnorbs to purchase more items at their discretion. However, unlike freemium games whose sole income is from IAP, there is absolutely no obligation for the player to spend more money in Major Magnet in order to progress, it is simply a means to enhance their enjoyment of the game by saving them time if they ever come unstuck.
Thanks to PagodaWest Games for their time. Major Magnet is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2013.
Powering ahead with plenty of interesting updates for traditional yet challenging test of reflexes game, Blendamaze, we thought it was about time we got to know more about developer, BorderLeap.
Who makes up BorderLeap?
A one-man band, BorderLeap is solely Nate Dicken’s work. A 15-year veteran of web and mobile site design and development, as well as work conducted on Flash games, Nate has been going it alone since the summer of 2012. He does, however, plan to partner with other developers this year.
What is BorderLeap most famous for?
Currently, Blendamaze. We reviewed it in October 2012 and admired its twist on an old classic. Players have to manipulate colorful marbles in order to cross over paint palettes and blend colors appropriately. It’s a pretty challenging game but the tilt controls work well making it quite satisfying.
What’s next on the horizon?
Nate explained to us that Blendamaze is just the beginning. While he plans to add new levels and features, with a free version offering a unique set of levels, there’s also going to be a learning-focused version of the game, aimed at kids. Besides Blendamaze style games, there are also plans afoot for a multiplayer puzzle game, plus a few productivity apps, too. Looks like it’s going to be a busy 2013 for BorderLeap!
Anything else I should know about BorderLeap?
You bet! We took some time to get to know more about Nate’s plans for the company.
148apps: What was the inspiration behind Blendamaze? Nate: When I was a kid I had one of those original wooden labyrinth marble games that we’d play often to see how far we could get. Early last year…I came across it in storage. With my love of drawing and painting, I’d been contemplating creating a color-theory game. Memories of playing the labyrinth game began to mix with ideas of how I could combine it this color theory component. In my dream to create something completely unique in the App Store, the idea behind Blendamaze was born – a unique combination of labyrinth board and artist’s paint palette. The difference with Blendamaze is that you actually want to drop your marble into the holes as each hole is filled with paint. Drop your marble into the hole and…whatever color was on your marble blends with the color in the hole. The concept is simple but the end result is a beautiful, yet challenging puzzle game that both adults and children enjoy.
148apps: What’s your favorite thing about iOS development? Nate: I love the ability to create whatever you want and see it come to life. There’s a smaller, more defined set of variables in designing for iOS/mobile rather than building for the web in general and this creates a unique challenge. The market, while crowded, has a massive potential customer base ready for you and it’s fairly simple to publish apps into the App Store. What is truly exciting is to see that really great apps and games are regularly featured, even those developed by small studios or individuals. This…creates a pretty exciting framework for someone like myself to develop in.
148apps: As a relatively new iOS developer, is there any advice you wish someone had given you beforehand? Nate: I wish I had a better grasp earlier on how competitive the market is and how important it is to build your network well before launch. Long story short, after I left Modea to start BorderLeap, I needed to pick up consulting work to help pay the bills. This left little time to build the game, so I had to focus 100% on development and push off all marketing efforts to launch time. While this led to what I believe is a great game, it’s been a struggle to market it post-launch. Friends had told me that launch day was vital, yet to a degree it was too late – I had to launch and strive to build up marketing efforts after going live.
Secondly, I wish I had a better perspective of really how different releasing an app into the App Store is than releasing a web site…there’s such a tremendous emphasis placed on the first version of a game and especially launch day. With so many apps in the marketplace, your app or game must stand out so there…is little to no room for launching with an app that is not fully ready to make its debut…within the competitive iOS space an app or game must be as full-featured as possible as an app’s early presence in the App Store is so important. While I’ve been able to integrate features since the game went live in September, there are times I’d wished I’d pushed it out a few more weeks to bring the game farther along before launch. Good examples are upgrading the app to be universal for both iPhone and iPad, and adding a rewards system along with the Painter’s Toolbox – items that help you solve tough levels. These have been time-consuming to add, but well worth it.
Where can I find out more about BorderLeap?
A few different places, besides here, of course. There’s the BorderLeap website, the official Twitter account, as well as Nate’s personal account where he keeps people up to date with developments.
Blendamaze is out now and is currently on sale at $0.99.
Console gamers tend to dismiss mobile games as dumbed down, casual, kids stuff. Whenever I write a column about how mobile games can be as “good” as console games, the outcry is often loud and fervent.
With the power of current-generation iOS devices, it’s not a stretch to consider that many games that we see on consoles could be ported to mobile devices almost as is with the full game intact. And yet, it does indeed seem that when titles have a console and a mobile version of the same game, the mobile version suffers in terms of content.
Why is that? Even if we assume for the moment that an iOS device can’t push the same high quality graphic power as a dedicated gaming console, why must games on mobile be so much less in-depth than their console brethren?
Console Vs Mobile/iOS
Should gamers expect the same experience on mobile devices as on console? Probably not–but that may be changing. Michael de Graaf, the producer for the mobile version of Need for Speed Most Wanted, feels that the difference between console and mobile is narrowing. “At the moment, consoles still have an edge when it comes to raw power but that gap is narrowing,” he told us, “and we’ve seen possibilities continue to expand on mobile. The current quality of screens we are seeing and new form factors are increasing the quality and diversity of experiences that gamers can now have on a mobile device.”
Nick Rish, vice president of mobile publishing for EA, believes that comparing the two is futile. “There is something very immersive about holding a device 10 inches from your face,” he said, “putting on headphones and enjoying a game like Need for Speed Most Wanted while on your lunch break … It’s tough to say one platform provides a better consumer experience than the other; gaming is in the eye of the beholder.”
“Mobile gaming grew from very basic flash games we all’ve been playing on web browsers,” said Przemek Marszal, art director at 11 bit studios, the developer behind the Anomaly Warzone series. But that’s changing, he said, noting that even a hard-core indie developer like John Carmac sees the potential of iOS gaming.
Is it fair to expect console-level graphics and performance on an iOS device? De Graaf thinks not, and helps his team tailor the gaming experience based on what mobile players want, versus simply what the hardware can do. “For instance, when we approached creating the control scheme for Need for Speed Most Wanted on mobile,” he said, “we wanted to provide consumers with the option to play in a way that was natural for a mobile experience. We listened to our mobile gamers and as a first for the franchise we gave fans the ability to control their vehicle via touch or tilt steering options.”
“I think hardcore gamers should expect the “same level” of experience and immersion but not the exact same experience,” said Marszal. “iOS is about touch, mobile, close-to-your-eyes feel, immediate experience. For a console, you almost need to “plan” your time with it.” He noted that the gap between console and iOS is narrowing, however, saying that the iPad 4 and iPad 5 is about as powerful as the original XBox.
Handheld? Or Mobile?
It’s hard not to compare the current state of iOS mobile gaming to other handheld gaming devices like Sony’s PlayStation Vita or Nintendo’s 3DS. It seems that for every story about the successes of mobile gaming, there’s a story about disappointing sales in the handheld gaming realm. “The DS and PSP are primarily gaming machines, but taking a look at the gameplay in Real Racing 3, Need for Speed Most Wanted or ShadowGun DeadZone it’s mind boggling just how stunning graphics and engaging gameplay can be on iOS devices as well,” said Rish.
So why don’t we see more console-like experiences on iOS and other mobile devices? Could it be the business model? Rish referenced the fact that with consoles and dedicated handheld gaming devices, consumers pay for their games up front, often spending twenty, thirty, sixty dollars or more for the entire experience. “We are seeing that when a developer gives a mobile game away for free,” said Rish, “there is more of a focus on replay-ability and the continual development of the experience through content updates, which prolong the experience, as opposed to creating an in-depth story from the beginning with a definite end.”
Could it also be that developers and publishers who do business in both worlds want to avoid cannibalizing their sales numbers? Our focus has always been on building an incredible experience on mobile that can sit alongside, rather than replicate, the console title,” said de Graaf. With gamers clamoring for high-quality realistic gaming experiences on living room consoles, a company would be hard pressed to give that up and move all its gaming resources to the iOS world, right?
Mobile titles, then, are like extra DLC, available to gamers who own both an iOS device as well as a console. They also function as advertisements for their console versions, driving even more sales to the publisher and developer than anything else.
While games on iOS can offer near-console quality and depth, then, perhaps consumers are, in fact, driving the types of games that show up on mobile devices. Rish pointed out that mobile gamers tend to prefer shorter play sessions when on the go, as well as the ability to immerse themselves into a deeper game as they have the time for.
Depth And Scope
Industrial Toys CEO and industry veteran Alex Seropian thinks we can have both kinds of games on mobile devices, but that developers are rightly concerned about just how to do so. “There seems to be some built up developer fear of bringing console games to mobile,” he told 148Apps, “because most of the ports and games that are structured like console games have been commercial failures on mobile.”
Seropian makes a distinction between the scope of a game and it’s depth. A deep game, he says, “is one you can play over and over again, the same bits, and get better at it and continue to enjoy it. A game with scope is a longer game with more things to look at and lots of single use content.” He points out that creating a console-type game with scope isn’t the best strategy for success, as people use their devices differently than they game on consoles. “The real trick,” he said, “is marrying those depth elements – compelling story, fantastic artistry and deep game mechanics with that accessible and quicker structure.”
The benefit of mobile gaming, then, may in fact be ability to serve many types of people by providing many different types of gaming experiences. It’s much easier to have some shorter, more casual experiences available on the same iOS device as the more console-like games with depth and immersive gameplay.
It’s Just Different
Perhaps it’s best to stop trying to compare consoles and iOS games altogether, and note that there is room in the market for all sorts of games. The mobile gaming world has proven to be a disruptive force in traditional gaming, but that doesn’t mean it will replace it, completely. Both executives seem to say that replicating a game like Need For Speed on iOS or mobile would be counter-productive, as they already HAVE a console-quality version of the title: on consoles. Creating a second, mobile-friendly counterpart to a console game just might expand the title’s audience, as well as provide new customers who might purchase the higher-initial dollar title at some point, based on the mobile experience alone.
It’s the publisher’s job, then, to differentiate the mobile titles even more, if that’s the case. It also doesn’t quite explain why there aren’t at least SOME games with the kind of depth and immersiveness we expect from console games made by the larger gaming companies like EA.
In addition, maybe the games we’re looking for, the ones with depth, significant gameplay,storytelling, and amazing graphics, won’t be found fromt he larger publishers. Perhaps we’ll only see them from smaller, less risk-averse companies who don’t need to worry about a console vs. mobile version.
If companies want to make games to meet their customer’s needs, then there should certainly be a market for deeper, console-style type games on iOS. Here’s hoping that the increasing power and ability of mobile devices continues to allow game publishers to create a few more deep, long-form video games for our favorite mobile platforms.
Having recently released its first title, Buddha Finger, which gained a respectable 3.5 stars from us, we felt it was about time we got to know more about developer, Lady Shotgun.
Who is Lady Shotgun?
Doing things a little differently from the rest, Lady Shotgun considers itself as a co-operative of freelance game developers, with the team working remotely from each other rather than through a central office. It might be unorthodox but this team is made up of folks with some extensive experience in the game industry. Uniqueness continues through the fact that Lady Shotgun is made up, predominantly, of female game designers and coders with men forming the minority here.
What is Lady Shotgun most famous for?
Only the one game has come from them, so far: Buddha Finger, a rather crazy rhythm action game with a soundtrack inspired by the 1970s and 1980s. Rightly or wrongly, its female weighted team has also garnered Lady Shotgun some extra headlines, within an industry so well known for its gender divide.
What’s next on the horizon?
Nothing has been officially announced but design director, Anna Marsh, did have some news to share with us, “…we’d still really like to bring Buddha Finger to other mobile platforms, and do a couple of updates.” She also discussed plans to release a lite version of the game, ensuring that anyone can try it out without having to commit to a purchase.
Other plans are slightly more secretive, but certainly varied: “There’s 3 projects…we’re…considering for [the] future, one is a very slow paced “transmedia” thing, very narrative led and totally different to Buddha Finger, one is another crazy action title and one is a children’s game”
What else is there to know about the developer?
We love to get to know more about interesting developers, and Anna was all too happy to oblige!
148apps: What’s your favorite thing about iOS development? Anna Marsh: I love the touchscreen. I love the immediateness of it, that the player doesn’t have to learn the connection between a controller and the game but can just touch the game elements directly. We’ve given Buddha Finger to someone who literally has never played any game before but in 30 seconds they got it, and love it! That’s what I wanted to do, something completely different from the console, Triple A stuff I’d been working on. Of course there’s other devices with touchscreens, focusing on iOS was really just so that we didn’t stretch ourselves too far by trying to tackle multiple platforms with our first game. The coders who worked on the game all had a lot of iOS experience so we plumped for Apple. We’re looking at moving onto other platforms now.
148apps: Lady Shotgun is known for working remotely from each other. What challenges have you faced by not being in the same office?
Anna: Well not too many actually, and that’s largely because the bulk of us all had a fair amount of freelance experience prior to doing this. We’re all comfortable with working this way, in fact, we prefer working this way which was the whole impetus for starting up the company really. We didn’t want standard office jobs. Some of us have kids, some of us have other personal projects, some are studying – some of us are just plain misanthropes who prefer being alone, ha ha We use online tools like Assembla and Dropbox to co-ordinate, and we’re pretty organised. I guess that’s our strength really. Myself, Sarah (Executive Producer) and Derek, our lead coder, can break down the game into its smallest components which can then be easily tasked to the team. I suppose that’s the challenge – but we’re all fairly persnickety people who like doing that kind of thing!
148apps: How much of a change of pace is it going from working for major developers to working in a smaller, and virtual, environment? Anna: Things go much faster if you want them to! We don’t have the many different meetings to attend and approval processes to get through which slows down a big console project. Plus of course, creating the tech for a mobile project is much less time consuming than for a big console or PC game. We got a game done in 10 months, even with us all being part time, whereas a console project it’s not unusual for it to take 3, 4 years or more. Its refreshing
Fortunately, amongst all this, Jack has found the time to answer a few of our questions when it comes to all things to do with Curiosity and just how he feels about its progression.
“At first we were going to just allow players to tap the smaller 60 billion cubelets that make up the cube one by one. This was to see if the power of curiosity alone was enough motivation for people to carry on tapping with no other benefits,” he explained. “Surprisingly, this worked and it’s great seeing tons of tweets flying through of people hooked on this…we could have left it as pure as this but we felt that there was more that we could do with the cube.”
Jack explained that the inclusion of features such as the potential for combos via rewarding players with more coins, the longer they chip away for has added to the appeal: “…some people out there have been going crazy about getting the highest chain in the world: currently the highest chain is up in the millions! ”
As he points out, “…there is an urge in some people to tidy up all the left-over cubelets that are scattered around where people have come and gone, and so for those OCD-type players (there’s a few of those on the team) we give coin bonuses for clearing the screen of cubelets.” With such bonuses, it enables players to buy small upgrades thus feeling “powerful”, while aiding them in their quest to “get to the center faster”.
Along the way, Jack reckons that Curiosity can be considered as art. Echoing many of our thoughts here, “…I think it’s a pretty ancient perspective to have if you feel that Video Games cannot be art.”
“There [are] many wonderful things about Curiosity, the fact that people from all over the world can join together in working towards one goal…Each layer contains some mysterious image and it’s really fascinating to see the world unwrapping it like a present before it is revealed in all its inspiring beauty…it’s fascinating how each image or colour changes how players interpret the whole experience with some tweets saying one layer feels cold and and another motivating, and even thinking the audio has changed when it hasn’t.”
“I love that people have chiseled some phenomenal art into the cube that have surpassed my expectations and that literal art is being digested by people through their phones across the planet and then being shared across social networking sites and blogs. People have chipped marriage proposals into it as well as obituaries.” As Jack describes it, “…the cube itself is a giant canvas that the entire world can share with no censorship or moderation.”
Such feelings are what Jack hopes to be the main benefits for players. “I hope that people feel like they have been a part of something regardless of whether they have made that final tap…especially since it won’t be able to be revisited by anyone else after this experience is over.”
Having said that, he does suggest that it’s not entirely for the sake of it: “…there is something that people tapping on the cube are doing, and are already involved in that they are unaware of. I can’t say what that is yet, but in the future…that tapping will have counted for something.”
Given that Curiosity is just part of the 22 experiments planned by the team, we asked Jack just what the eventual end goal will be, “The final game we make is something that Peter has been thinking about for 20 years. He considers it the defining game of his career and we are all very excited about creating that experience for the world. The dream is that this final game will be something that 100 million people will play everyday.”
Jack’s willing to acknowledge, however, that this is a “huge ambition”. As he points out, Curiosity managed over 600,000 players in the space of 4 days but that’s still a way off such a lofty number. “…by creating these experiments and analysing the tons of data that we get from them we are finding out exactly how we are going to construct a game that can change the world.”
A game that can change the world? Suddenly, huge ambition sounds like an understatement. It’ll be fascinating to see what 22Cans come up with next, and after GODUS.
If you’re interested in contributing to GODUS’s development, check out the Kickstarter page.
Jean-Philippe Sarda’s Micro Miners, releasing on Thursday November 15th, is a game with an interesting origin and history on its way to the App Store.
The game has its inspirations in a Java game called Miners4K made by Markus Persson, better known as Notch of Minecraft fame, back in 2006. Notch and Sarda have been in touch before: after the game was created for the Java4K competition, Sarda says he “contacted Notch to get authorization to modify Miners4K with [the] pepere.org scores system…this game has made more than 1.3M plays on pepere.org until today.”
So how did Sarda’s take on the concept come about? He says “when I started developing iOS games in 2009, I still had this game/concept in a corner of my mind as I knew it was really special and so suited for touch devices.” However, this is not a case of unauthorized cloning: he got in touch with Notch to receive his blessing to build out the game. Sarda says “From the beginning I tried to contact Notch by email to get his authorization…Notch was busy with Minecraft and he ignored my 3 emails among thousands of emails he receives every week. Until I sent a link to the gameplay video, he replied ‘Haha, that looks cool! ’ and tweeted the video. Don’t need to say how happy I was to receive this email.” The project, almost two years after its initial prototype, finally had its official blessing.
However, the game might not have ever made it to the App Store. As Sarda explains: “After 10 days [of] waiting, the game was rejected for low res graphics…I had 3 choices: 1) do another game as Micro Miners’ engine and art is entirely based on pixels 2) Resubmit the game hoping it’s reviewed [by] a smarter guy 3) Request a second review by the appeal board.” The game does have a lo-fi pixel art style, but we’ve all seen one too many crude fart apps for such an excuse to hold water. Also, see the Pokemon Yellow fiasco.
So what did Sarda do? He says “I selected 3) and I waited another 15 days, before I received their response ‘This app version has been approved. All communication regarding your previously-rejected binary is now closed.’ This is short but that was enough to make me happy.” The game’s fate was saved from seeming oblivion, and the release was scheduled for November 15th.
This game is not meant to be just a port of Miners4K, though. Sarda says “Yes it’s inspired by Miners4K for the ”Lemmings+Dig“ idea, but the gameplay is totally different and new, and it took me forever (and 5 beta tests) to tweak/adjust it.” And he has questions about how players will take to it: “…my games are usually really hard to play and appeal most to harcord players. I made a huge effort trying not to discourage casual players…the whole game is guided by contextual help.”
Micro Miners releases on November 15th and we’ll have a review of the game. For Sarda, however, the long journey will finally come to an end, as the world will finally get to check Micro Miners out for themselves.
As Appy Entertainment sees 2 million SpellCraft School of Magic downloads, they prepare to release their next social game, Animal Legends. We spoke with Paul O’Connor, Brand Director at Appy about their new game and their experiences so far in the App Store.
Animal Legends is both a city builder, and an RPG battle game and has some amazing artwork and a huge number of character customization options. As you level up through the game, your animals gain special powers and equipment to help you fight through ever increasingly difficult levels in a Pokemon type battle arena.
Animal Legends will be released this week worldwide and Appy brings some new things to the social game scene. Not the least of which is a social game that is really social. The multiplayer is tuned for the mobile landscape where users play a bit here and there throughout the days. In Animal Legends, as you include your friends in your world you can use their built up creatures. Both sides get a little extra reward for doing so.
Paul O’Connor from Appy Entertainment gives us the background story of the game that revolves around the triumph over an evil Vampire Frog, Skulk. “In Animal Legends, the evil Vampire Frog, Skulk, has cast a blight upon the land, and you and your friends must defeat him by clearing back the poisoned forest, building up your fantasy kingdom, and questing for loot and glory in battle with Skulk’s minions. The whole game is slightly unhinged, with rampaging Rhino Warriors, giant Ogre Bunnies, and other half-savage, half-funny animal opponents. The tone and story are light and the game is welcoming to casual players, but it is crunchy under the surface, allowing players to explore different towns and character builds, and to kit out parties with their friends taking advantage of the combos and special powers in the game’s tactical battle system. Our motto at Appy is “Deadly Serious About Stupid Fun” and Animal Legends has the distinctive polish and sense of humor that we’re known for. Our release video should give you a sugared-up taste of what the game is all about.” Here’s that video:
Interesting, an unhinged game about animals battling an evil vampire frog. Where did that come from? We asked Paul a little about the influences for Animal Legends to get some idea. “We are fantasy geeks of long standing, and the love of the genre that was poured into SpellCraft School of Magic is in Animal Legends. We have deep roots in creating fantasy worlds, reaching back to Oddworld and our own creation of Darkwatch in our High Moon Studios days, and our CEO used to be editor-in-chief of Malibu Comics, which brought all sorts of crazy original monsters and heroes to life. Animal Legends has been an opportunity for us to bring all these deep nerd obsessions together to brew up a new kind of RPG for this new touch-based, mobile computing generation.” Deep nerd obsessions indeed, but the game still remains quite accessible. It’s easy to get into and progress even if you aren’t familiar with RPG games.
Barely two weeks have passed since the release of 2K Games’s Borderlands Legends. Things travel fast in the world of iOS gaming, however, and we checked in with James Lopez, associate producer at Gearbox, to see how he felt about Legends, as well as any plans for the future.
“We never really imagined [Borderlands Legends] being a FPS. It’s clearly possible, but we’re very happy with the FPS experience in Borderlands 1 and 2,” explained James. “The goal of Legends was to try something different, something that explored other facets of Borderlands, untapped potential.”
As anyone who’s played Borderlands Legends can attest to, it’s quite a change of pace to its older siblings, but it turns out that there are some significant similarities in its 4 player based squad combat. “Although you can play Borderlands 1 and 2 alone, we always intended the true experience to include all 4 characters at once. We wanted this to be the same for Legends.” James Lopez elaborated to explain that, “…clearly, we can do missions with fewer characters (the tutorial starts off that way), so it might be something we revisit later.”
Somewhat unusually for a game closely connected to a console or PC title, Borderlands Legends lacks any functionality directly tied into its bigger brothers. James told us that this was “never really considered…an option”, citing that the team wants the fans “to be able to enjoy the full experience for whatever they buy.”
What challenges were faced trying to convert a typically FPS title to the iOS screen, and implementing strategic elements, however? James explained, “We kept asking ourselves what the core ingredients of Borderlands are. Some things were obvious, but some were elusive and some were difficult to accomplish because of time constraints (like randomizing gear, UI tweaks, adding gameplay features).”
Despite such issues, James has been pleased with the response to Borderlands Legends. “We tried to put as much of the core formula of Borderlands in as we could, and we’re glad people are feeling like we accomplished that. That doesn’t mean we won’t try to squeeze in more, though!” It’s worth noting that, at the time of writing, sales figures as well as critical reaction to its release, aren’t as positive as Lopez and the team hoped. App Annie’s listing demonstrates the progress sales wise, while an average Metacritic rating of 51 demonstrates that not everyone found it to their liking.
Improvement seems to be a common theme with 2K and Gearbox’s future plans for Borderlands Legends, however. As James explained, 2K China’s developers believe that “…there are some things we’d still like to revisit, and I believe they’ll knock it out of the park.” and while he couldn’t discuss any immediate plans for DLC or extra content, he did tell us that “…given the great response so far, I think we’d be crazy to stop here”.
As 2K China finds its feet in the iOS world, it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with next. As James explains, “Legends hasn’t been out long, and this is somewhat of a new frontier for us”. Discussing the recent announcement by Subatomic to include in-app purchases within Fieldrunners 2, he expanded upon that by explaining ‘…I think we’d like to explore any option that allows to create content of value for our fans.”
While James Lopez and the team might be clutching their cards close to their hands for now in terms of DLC support, we’ll be keeping a keen eye on any further developments for Borderlands Legends. For now, check out our review to learn more.
Shellrazer isn’t just another shooter. After all, the main character is a giant war turtle with guns on his back. As designer Shane Neville states, “I’ve never seen a game like it, either thematically or in gameplay. Most shooters are about dodging bullets in a screen filled with bullets, where Shellrazer has no dodging at all. Rather, Shellrazer’s gameplay is about weapon management, choosing what weapon to shoot and when to use it to destroy as many goblins and yetis as possible.”
I had the opportunity to review Shellrazer a few months ago, and I instantly became hooked. 148Apps gave the game its prestigious Editor’s Choice award, as well. Goblins, steampunk war machines, sheep riders and a whole lot of bad ass elements combined together into one game was a dream come true. I was kicking butt and taking names and it was awesome. Once I eventually made it to the end, I yearned for more turtle warfare and so did others.
Slick Entertainment heard the outcries of gamers and chose to issue an update to wipe away the tears. Just like Shellrazer isn’t just another shooter, this isn’t just another update. It’s a HUGE update. When asked why the team decided to update Shellrazer owner Nick Waanders responded by saying, “A lot of people told us that they thought the game was too short, even though it took them 5 hours to complete. (For a $.99 game that’s pretty good though, isn’t it?). We had all the tools ready, so it was easy to create a bunch more enemies and levels, and provide more content for people to enjoy. It seemed like the right thing to do.” Artist Jesse Turner had more to add, “For me on the art side it was because I really love the wacky universe of Shellrazer. It’s a ton of fun and really easy to just come up with stuff that fits in such a strange setting and it felt really natural to make another world full of bad guys and guns.”
The update adds a completely new world to Shellrazer known as Ice-Breaker and it launches on November 8, 2012 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The Yeti King’s have stolen a freshly laid War Turtle egg, and gamers must help get it back.
Along with over 25 new levels and 20 new enemies to battle, the best addition to the game are the Yetis. They are extremely tough, but they do have one weakness: fire. “We’ve added two new weapons to help deal with the Yeti hordes: Chuckles the Dragon whose fire breath cuts through the waves of enemies and Combs the Necrobomicon who has a cool projectile that does damage over a vertical column of magic fire,” said Neville.
There are more updates that Shellrazer fans will appreciate, like iPhone 5 and retina support, multitouch controls for crazy combos, iCloud support to share saved games between Apple devices and ratings for the levels. In addition, Shellrazer will be free from November 8th to the 15th, after which the price will increase to $0.99 afterwards. Since it’s completely free for a week, there’s no excuse not to grab a copy. Snatch it up from the App Store, and help the war turtle rescue his girlfriend and get back their precious egg from those pesky yetis.
While the update trailer is in the works, check out the exclusive visual design for the Wal-Russer, below.
Many understate the importance of feedback. Certainly not ZIO Studios. We reviewed their debut game, Vampire Season, a few months back, and while we enjoyed our experience with it, we did highlight a few issues that stopped it from being perfect.
Fortunately, they were listening. As CEO of the company, Jairo Nieto explains, 148Apps actually helped structure the game that Vampire Season has now become:
The 148Apps review shed some very much needed light on two things: 1- We were still very naive about monetization, to the point where we were trumping the gameplay experience, 2- Our User Interface was still far from ideal. We were glad that the Vampire Season was found enjoyable and charming, but we were aiming to make the best game possible, so we took this feedback and sat down with our team to create what is now known as Vampire Season – Monster Defense. We wanted the economy to feel like part of the game, we didn’t want to force players into purchasing stuff, and we wanted everyone to easily understand the game, and to intuitively know what everything in the interface did.
We decided that the economy should feel like a game by itself. We got rid of all the invasive pop-ups, and we created an additional currency, called Sapphires, while making sure earning them was as fun as everything else in Vampire Season. We integrated Sapphires with the revamped Survival Mode, giving players the ability to earn them by chance in the Roulette, or by beating their friends in timed tournaments.
Sapphires are a logical and unique way to support the microtransaction mobile model. Most importantly, it’s much less expensive, and as Jairo points out, less intrusive than before. Many of the criticisms we made about the previous version of the game have been erased, improving the overall experience, making it feel more natural, instead of invasive. As a reviewer, there is no greater satisfaction to know that you’ve been able to help a developer evolve their product. Jairo continued:
Vampire Season is the culmination of various efforts and expectations, long months of creativity and coding, all wrapped up into this game that we hoped would be as enjoyable to play as it was to make. To our surprise, launching the game was just the beginning of a long (and exciting) learning process for a studio that is passionate about delivering the best kind of product it can create.
The other element we critiqued was the user interface. This is an area the development team seemed to take very seriously. Said Jairo:
We moved forward to tackle the User Experience and Interface as a whole. This turned out to be quite a challenge, as we iterated many times, taking the tutorial as a starting point. We redid levels, balanced many of the monsters and enemies, and then did it all over again. Then we took to the main menu, the loading screen and finally the in-game HUD. After a couple of months of hard work from all our team, we were finally satisfied. The game had reached a new level, as we had as a studio. We now firmly believe that reviewers are not just talking to the audience, but they are also talking to the product. Its our role as developers, to listen.
In January 2011, British games developer Bizarre Creations was closed by Activision. Looking through the games that Bizarre were responsible for, it’s no surprise that many fans were hugely disappointed to see its closure. Racing titles such as the Project Gotham Racing series were seen by many as the pinnacle of racing games, with similar successes coming from the retro shooter Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and the cartoony Fur Fighters. Unfortunately, despite the release of arcade racer Blur and James Bond 007: Blood Stone in 2010, it wasn’t enough and Bizarre Creations was dissolved.
What happened next, though? And why am I talking about console games on 148Apps? Because a number of new gaming studios rose from Bizarre’s flames, many of them iOS focused. Recently, I got the chance to see how things are progressing for a few of them.
One of the first to reach the iOS market was Grubby Hands, a one-man studio founded by company director Dr Danny Pearce, the firm released their first title, David Haye’s Knockout in June 2011, immediately topping the charts. A new release emerged in December 2011 with Boy Loves Girl, which garnered similar success. How has Danny found going it alone, however, and why did he consider setting up his own firm?
“At the time that Grubby Hands was founded in 2011, the AAA console market was a volatile place…After Bizarre Creations closed, I was cautious about joining somewhere that may suffer the same unfortunate fate,” Danny explained to us. Much of the temptation also came from the “exciting new market” of the App Store. “Apple had created a suite of cool gadgets over the past few years, and I was itching to start making games for them. Now seemed the perfect time to launch a studio with a new mobile focus.”
Going it alone proved quite beneficial for Danny. He could finally “get [his] hands dirty with design, art, code, sound and music” rather than be forced to specialize. A “fast development cycle” also appealed, although “strict budget” constraints proved tough.
I recently had the chance to speak with CEO Victor Penev and check out an app called Edamam that has set out to change how people find recipes. The app features over one million (yes that’s six zeroes) high quality recipes for users to browse through. What makes it so unique from other apps similar to it is the semantic technology to enhance the search experience. “Behind this seeming simplicity and elegance sits a powerful semantic platform, utilizing artificial intelligence technologies,” said Penev.
When a list of recipes is shown, users browse them by picture so they can actually see the dish first. Each recipe provides a complete nutritional profile, a list of shopping ingredients and the source of the recipe. If the results look overwhelming, it’s possible to narrow and filter them based on diet or health restrictions. There are popular choices like Vegan, Gluten-Free and meals under 200 calories.
The goal is to help users make better food choices. Instead of spending hours in front of the computer, Edamam makes it possible to find exactly what they are looking for thanks to its intuitive interface. According to the Penev, “It saves time and allows for intuitive, easy answers when they are most needed – at the grocery store or the green market.”
I asked Penev about what makes Edamam’s service better than just searching for a recipe on Google? “Google in particular is a very painful search experience with regard to recipes,” he said, “especially in a mobile environment. The top results are never of quality recipes but rather of sites that are good at SEO and often times are not even recipes. Users inevitably have to scroll, click through and read through many pages to start narrowing results. Google also does not allow for diet/health filtering. Last but not least, Google’s recipe search is not a visual search. People want to see only a few quality, visually compelling recipes and have the ability to quickly compare them and choose what they need all while walking in the aisles of a store. Edamam has solved this problem for consumers, Google has no answer.”
So, there you have it. Edamam is for passionate cooks as well as those who love to eat. It not only saves time, but it also helps users discover new quality recipes. Edamam is completely free to download and there are no hidden in-app purchases.
Talking to Terry Cavanagh (pictured, left), the first thing that jumps out at me is how pleasant he is. How soft-spoken and thoughtful he comes across as. Particularly for somebody who tortures people.
An award-winning independent developer from Ireland, Cavanagh has become known for wonderful, mercilessly difficult games like VVVVVV and Super Hexagon. The latter is Cavanagh’s first iOS game; a low-fi arcade gauntlet that challenges players to move left and right to survive an incoming barrage of lines and shapes for as long as possible. It bent our brains in circles and became a surprise cult-hit on the App Store, moving about 72,000 copies since release, according to Cavanagh’s last look.
Wonderful. Mercilessly difficult. The two don’t quite go together, do they? Against all odds, however, it seems that driving people mad is what’s driven sales for Super Hexagon. It’s a phenomenon that beckons the question: why is a game that’s so hard so very easy to love? What makes difficulty so satisfying?
“I think it really comes down to a couple of small things,” reflects Cavanagh. “The main one is that it’s fair. It never feels like…” he pauses for a moment. “Put it this way: whenever you mess up in the game, it always feels like it’s your fault, and that’s really, really important.” We’re talking about his game, but Cavanagh’s first guiding principle speaks to a fundamental shift in values within the industry.
Where once it was understood – embraced, even – that quarter-sucking games would be hard-wired for player failure, notions of ‘cheapness’ have taken over. Blistering difficulty can still exist, but with less erratic exceptions and more dependable rules. If dependability is one piece of the difficulty puzzle, it becomes clear in talking more with Cavanagh that simplicity is its interlocking mate.
“With [Super Hexagon], the sort of things that can happen in the game are very simple, very learnable. In a sense, nothing comes out and surprises you.” Almost immediately, he corrects himself. “Well I suppose that’s a lie…waves are decided randomly at the edges of the screen… [but] every pattern in the game is discrete and learnable. That’s a big part of the game; training your muscle memory and getting to know the patterns.” An important distinction, it seems. Nailing down the difference between too hard and just hard enough means understanding that systems can be complex, but that learning them shouldn’t be.
Playing Super Hexagon, it’s easy to see the way that approach informs every layer of the game. Case in point? The score. Far from recycling the bloated arcade method left over from the coin-op era, Cavanagh gives players only one measure of success: time. An ever-present reminder of the true game at work…survival of the fittest.
Soon after the game’s release, it became apparent that this choice just may have been the unexpected ace in the hole. Players would tweet out their latest time, wearing it like a badge of honor. Super Hexagon has no formal social features, no “tools for virality,” but armed with their hard-fought numbers, players began jostling for position in a metagame of milliseconds. I ask Cavanagh if that was part of his plan all along, and while he won’t speculate as to the social impact, I may have just discovered a third rule of difficulty.
“I think you’re dead right about the score being an exact measure of how good you are,” says Cavanagh. “If you’ve lasted for 14.36 seconds, that’s an exact measurement; it tells you a lot of information, which is not like the kind of scores we’re used to seeing. People are used to seeing exaggerated scores, scores that are multiplied by a million. Scores where there are all sorts of measures in place to prevent you from knowing how you’re actually doing. I think having a score that means something makes the score important to players.” Something to strive for. Arguably, difficulty becomes easier to cope with when success isn’t obfuscated by jargon, when players feel like they’re being rewarded for of their work.
Inevitably, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Feeling rewarded. Yet in some ways, that leads me back to square one, wondering what could be so rewarding about frustration. About losing. Pausing again, Cavanagh responds simply.
“I don’t know if I really think of the game as frustrating.” Only then do I realize, I’ve never asked what he does think of the game. So I ask.
“I feel like you’re trying to get into a rhythm with the game; when you’re playing the game really well, it has this sort feedback, and your senses are going off at the right time, and you’re making all the right moves, and everything…just feels right. And the game is about trying to get into that frame of mind.”
And perhaps that’s when something that’s so hard becomes so easy to love: when the pursuit of that feeling is more satisfying than the experience of not always finding it.
I make no attempt to hide my adoration for Organ Trail: Director’s Cut. I love this game and I’m proud of it. So having the opportunity to ask The Men Who Wear Many Hats – specifically Ryan Wiemeyer, co-owner and designer – a few questions was quite exciting. From the Flash game with over half a million fans to their new Greenlight venture, it’s all fair game for these enterprising haberdashers. Okay so they don’t necessarily make the hats but you get the idea.
So, Oregon Trail with a brilliant twist. It must’ve been fun conceptualizing the original Flash game and putting it all together, huh? Yes.
You probably want more than that, huh? It was really easy since we were just making a 1-to-1 conversion of the game with new art and text. It really helped keep us in scope since we had an exact playable target of what we were aiming for right in front of us at all times.
And then there’s the Kickstarter project that resulted in the iOS Director’s Cut. What made you decide to try and adapt/improve the original version into a mobile game? The fans. We included this feature in the flash version where you could easily leave comments for us about the game. A large number of people told us they wanted it for mobile. And as the number of players for the flash version broke half a million, business people started to tell me we REALLY needed to make a mobile version. But I didn’t feel comfortable just porting and selling it when there was a free version on our website. So we devised a way to make the game bigger and worth paying for while also moving away from the source material so we could proudly call it our own.
Were there any significant hiccups along the way such as platform constraints to adjust to or other issues? Anything you were expecting to be a problem that actually wasn’t? Our biggest issues have been dealing with the Kickstarter backers. We found out the hard way the android doesn’t do gifting and iOS won’t let you gift internationally so we had scramble to make sure the backers that had pre-ordered it were going to be happy. Not to mention the month or so we couldn’t touch the game because we were dealing with all the reward shipments. Most of the platform specific issues were handled by Unity, our development engine, or Michael Block, the lead programmer.
Do you have an aspect or mechanic in Organ Trail that’s your favorite? I personally enjoy the little detail of putting a party member down. Love the contextual bullet impact animations. Yea everybody loves killing their friends. In the flash version it was just a text popup but we wanted to embellish on it. We added the animations and made it so you had to pull the trigger yourself. And then we went the extra mile and added hit zones so you can actually put your friend down by shooting them in the crotch. People seem to enjoy that. I also like that we managed to add like… 10 or 12 new combat modes to the game. It really helps with the monotony of the flash version, which was the goal.
I was also pleasantly surprised with the boss fights. Were there others you had in mind that never made the cut (save the theorized zombie squid)? Any chance there might be more added in the future? Honestly the boss fights feel off to me right now. The bear is unkillable and most people don’t know that so they die trying to shoot it down. And the dogs are way too hard, last time I played. There is also no pay-off for defeating them which is a big missed opportunity. I think the boss fights might add more frustration than fun in their current state. We might try and balance them better. Boss fights was actually one of the $500, “Buy a new mechanic,” rewards on Kickstarter. The original suggestion for a boss fight was actually a giant zombie octopus. I though it was too silly for our sometimes-serious-game. But at this point I think it would be really cool and exciting for the end boss fight so I’m eager to see how it could work out. I’m a huge fan of Resident Evil and they always have giant crazy boss monsters that end up being really memorable. So, I figure I should take a note from my favorite zombie franchise.
And now Greenlight. Are you finding this endeavor to be any more or less stressful than the Kickstarter project? Greenlight has been a real pain but probably also a blessing. The only reason it could be considered less stressful than Kickstarter is because there is no real time deadline and no real failure state. We just kinda sit in there until we get greenlit. Again, my biggest concern is getting it out on PC/Mac for the Kickstarter backers. I feel bad every day they have to wait. The advantage to greenlight is that we’ve had around 70k hits to the page. Not to mention this Content Campaign we are running which is getting us some another odd 30k hits here and there from press attention. More eyeballs on the game is always good.
One of the strange elements we are tackling is the total lack of accountability for people who are supporting us. We cannot reward them or talk to them directly like we could on Kickstarter. So we had to come up with rewards that everybody can enjoy. This is why we mostly went with adding new content to the game. The downside is that we get people thinking that we are doing this “hostage voting” thing where we are holding back content. That’s entirely not true. The game is done and we were set to never touch it again but we decided we would be willing to jump back in if the community can help us out and we know we can get more sales and justify going back into this finished product of ours. It’s easy to say that some people are less enthused.
The Kickstarter was a lot easier to run because there was an established system with live updates and it’s a great community that people can get behind. For “The Greenlight Trail” We have to introduce our game, what we are doing and greenlight (Which most people who are using it have no idea what it is yet.) It’s a hard sell. And on top of that… We currently exist in this strange black box where we get very little information about how we are doing. No on I know has changed rank for over a week and we don’t know how to update our fans on how we are doing because we don’t really know…
I’m really liking the tiered rewards – although I think the aim assist is for wimps – however I noticed that most of it seems to be intended for the PC/Mac/possible Linux releases. Just how “for now” do you think that will be? What I mean is I wants it on my phone, too! We get a lot of complaints about the controls being too hard to use. My girlfriend can easily beat scavenging with deadly zombie activity, while pitching the game idea (at PAX) while playing upside-down. So yes… some people are wimps. But we want wimps to be able to enjoy the game too. So we will just reward people who don’t use the aim assist.
In regards to the PC/Mac/Linux only stuff, since we are working in Unity and all builds are basically the same… there is little reason to hold content from the mobile version. Unless, that is… it doesn’t work for the resolution or touch controls. We are saying “for now” on certain things because for instance… the nude patch… although hilarious and not really obscene in any way… could easily get us pulled from the app store. So we might try and call it “pink baby mode” or something for mobile… if people really want to see it.
The CRT filter will only work well on a monitor since it will be a somewhat high def effect and might cause some distortion for some of the buttons and combat… We aren’t really sure how that will work out, haha. We just though it might be a fun idea.
We plan on charging more for the Steam version and a some Steam users are getting up in arms since there isn’t really any extra content for it… so how can we justify the price? Well I’ll tell you the mobile version is well under-pricedb for the amount of content and time that went into that game. But we needed to be realistic for the market. So, I was trying to find some way to justify giving Steam users something extra. But it’s so hard since there are so few reason to not put something the mobile version… it costs us almost nothing to do so. So… I still don’t know how that will all turn out. I think if something cool is in the game… everyone will get it. That’s probably what will happen.
Short of jumping on Steam and thumbing-up for Organ Trail for Greenlight, is there anything else any of us can do to help make all the awesomeness a reality? It’s less about the voting… which obviously we need you to do. But more about sharing it. Getting the word out. Telling people about our game and all the cool stuff we want to do and mostly share this link with everyone you know: http://www.hatsproductions.com/organtraildc/greenlight.html
Another weird hurdle: There was no way to integrate the Content Campaign into the Steam page so we had to make it on our own website and a lot of people just end up sharing the steam page… which means no one sees the cool stuff we are trying to do. There is this frustrating disconnect.
We easily get a thousand people to the greenlight page a day… so it’s strange because if you get someone to tweet about it… that might get a friend or two to see it and vote… which at the end of the day isn’t really make a big a dent as I would like. So we are trying to find bigger ways to reach more people. This… no money, twitter only marketing approach isn’t working for us as much anymore. This is sort of the big leagues. So… if you know anyone famous… get them to tweet about it for us, thanks! Haha.
As of writing this… we only have 13 days left to make a big splash and get out by October… (yikes)
Assuming everything goes according to plan and the ultimate edition of Organ Trail becomes a thing and we have a begrudgingly made *other* zombie game to tide us over, where to from there? Even more content updates for Organ Trail? Revisiting other projects? An altogether new project? A much needed break? I don’t get a break. I quit my job to do this full time. We have a lot of idea we are prototyping and talking about. We’re trying to find ideas that excite us but right now there is this nagging, “I have to pay rent,” feeling. So time and money are currently a factor in our designs and I hate it. I would love to get to the point where we can just make whatever we want without having to limit ourselves because I only have 6 months of money left. I know that’s probably pretty selfish but that’s the reason I quit my job; so I can be selfish and enjoy myself.
I guess the other goal is to become someone in the indie scene. I would love to have one of our games in the IGF or Indiecade or anything like that. This is less about fame and ego… although I have a pretty sizable ego, but more about accountability. I feel like if people expect great things from you… you tend to raise your own bar a little. So I’m hoping to use outside pressure to turn us into a diamond… or something like that. Also I just love indies and want to meet more of them. Great folk.
Finally, is there any sage-like advice you’d be willing to pass on to other independent game developers out there? Those moments where it’s hardest to focus, when you feel like you have writers block or just can’t make any progress; those are the most important chances you have to becoming a better developer/person and push yourself. Set a new standard for yourself.
Also, advice I think about every day: “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sort of good at something.” -Jake the dog.
Organ Trail: Director’s Cut can be had on the App Store right now for $2.99. You can also “demo” the game in a manner of speaking via the original Flash version. And don’t forget to vote on Greenlight!
Evernote now comes with reminders to ensure that you never forget an important note. You can pin a note to the top of the list and add a due date to receive in-app and email notifications. It will also mark a note as done when you complete your task. Now we shall never forget to [...]