If there is one thing that can be learned from a developer like PopCap, creators of such notable franchises as Peggle, Bookworm and Bejeweled, it is that gameplay is paramount. A considerable amount of time went into tinkering with Monster Slider's fundamental mechanics, in order to assure that it was challenging, while still maintaining an approachableness that would appeal to the masses. The problem was that even after the prototyping stage, something seemed to be missing.
It was only a matter of time before they realized that the game lacked a compelling main character. Sure, a random monster is temporarily amusing as a placeholder, but they found themselves wondering what about this indiscriminate beast would compel the player to spring to their aid? Realizing that something needed to change, artist Jess Riola sprang into action, producing several pieces of concept art for different protagonists. The team instantly fell in love with an adorable blob-like creature named Squishy, and then proceeded to build a world around the character.
This was far from the only change from the game's original design, but thankfully the small team structure fostered within Toy Studio allowed for programmer Pavel Nakaznenko to implement changes very quickly.
"...For Squishy’s Revenge, we were able to change and add a number of things. We did that with relative ease and speed for how major some of the changes were. With only three people, if something didn’t feel right or wasn’t fun to play, a quick meeting would get everyone on a same page. It’s drastically different where in a big company you’d have to go through a lot of red tape to get changes approved." -- Christian Arca, Studio Director
While this brand of development isn't necessarily specific to Toy Studio, one aspect of their proverbial "special sauce" is the use of their own unique style of focus testing. In an age where millions are spent on making sure every aspect of a console game is suitable for mass consumption, the team opted for a more grassroots approach that was far more economical to boot. Who knew that opinions were as close as a trip to the local coffeehouse?
Operating under the assumption that the best way to get feedback is to simply take the game to the masses, every couple of days they would take a build to a nearby coffeehouse and ask random strangers to give it a whirl. Much to their initial shock, not only were people more than happy to pitch in, they would also frequently provide unexpectedly helpful feedback. These bits and pearls of wisdom were extremely crucial in shaping the finished product. Plus, when part of the job description includes time away from the office, everyone can benefit from the change of scenery.
The result of this constant collaboration, communication, cooperation, and commitment is the brain tickling puzzle game that will be released on the App Store today. While the trio who worked on this project will move on to assuredly develop even bigger and better products down the road, Toy Studio is still far closing the book on Squishy's Revenge.
"We’d love to continue to work on Squishy’s Revenge. One idea we had was to add the option to create your own levels and share them with others. To be able to put the tools we had in the players hands, it would be awesome to see the creative levels they could dream up." -- Rob Lockhart, Game Designer
Sometimes the process of completing a task and the knowledge gleaned throughout can prove to be even more valuable that the finished product. While tremendously proud of the Squishy’s Revenge, Arca was quick to note that this release is part of a much bigger, studio-wide plan for looking towards the future.
"Regarding future releases, instead of saying, 'We need an iPhone game,' we’ll say, 'We have this great game idea, where would it make sense to release it?' iOS is obviously a powerhouse in the mobile industry so offering future games there is often a given but not all the time."
This is far from an iron clad promise of more iOS games in the future from Toy Studio, but it is good to know that now the platform will be in serious consideration down the road. Rest assured that they have nothing but positive things to say about the entire process and look forward to applying what they have learned going forward.
Starting today, Squishy's Revenge has finished its quest from concept to completion. The game is available for download now in the App Store at absolutely no cost, so there is no excuse to not take the blob out for a spin. For more details check out the trailer below.