It can be tough to please a demanding parent. Sometimes it feels like the only way you can truly make them proud is to give them the world – or at least a world. And that’s exactly the kind of problem Captain Bubblenaut is facing. The only way to earn his father’s (Admiral Pop’s) respect is to take over the planet ERF and destroy all the ERFLINGS inhabiting it. Thankfully, Captain Bubblenaut designer and AAA game industry veteran, Dean Tate, has taken time out from his busy ERF-destroying schedule to try and explain all of this craziness to us.
148apps: Where’d the idea for Captain Bubblenaut‘s gameplay come from? Was it a product of the inspiration provided by games like Tiny Wings and Jetpack Joyride, or was it more of an instantaneous “Eureka!” moment?
Dean Tate (DT): Originally Owen [ Owen Macindoe, doctor of computer science] and I started by asking the question “What sort of skill-based actions are really fun to human beings?” and I think at the time I’d read something about how, evolutionarily, humans have succeeded as a species by being really good at judging parabolic arcs. ie. if you’re a caveman and you’re good at throwing a rock or a spear at a mammoth, you’re gonna go far, baby. For that reason, humans really enjoy judging parabolas, and if you look around, there are many, many games based on that concept that are very successful (eg. the Worms series, Scorched Earth, Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, and so on) as well as pretty much every type of sport ever conceived (football, basketball, golf, and on and on and on). So, weird way to come at the design of a game, right? We basically started with that blank slate, asking ourselves the question “what sort of game can we make about parabolic arcs?” Strangely enough the only game we really looked at closely in the beginning was Wave Race 64, which is all about looking at ocean waves (parabolas, kinda) and being really good at riding them on your jetski. A lot of our early prototypes were about water and waves.
148apps: It looks like you had a lot of fun coming up with all the different ERFLING designs. Was there a limit on how many you could add to the game or did you just run with it and see how far you could go?
DT: The only limit was my time and energy. It took around a year of experimentation to land on a set of rules and guidelines that allowed me to quickly create new ERFLINGS. Once I had those down pat, and a huge list of types that I wanted to create, I just aimed to crank out 3 or 4 new ones every week or so, and did so through to now. I probably redesigned each one around 2 or 3 times. We’re shipping with around 90 designs, and I’d love to do another 90 and release them in an update some time.
148apps: Aside from experience, are there any particular insights from working in AAA development that you think might benefit your work as an indie developer?
DT: For me it’s just design process. I learned a lot in AAA about design iteration fundamentals, philosophy, etc. How to fail fast and “find the fun”. How to tackle new design challenges. In some ways I think that allows me to work fast, but then I also think a lot of the more talented indies out there who don’t have AAA experience have an advantage in just being scrappier and more focused in their work than I am.
148apps: Between the music by Chris Remo (Thirty Flights of Loving, Gone Home), sound by Danny Baranowsky ( Super Meat Boy, Binding of Isaac, Canabalt), your own design experience (Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Rock Band), and Owen’s programming skills, it sounds like you’ve assembled an amazing team! What’s it like having so many well known (and super-talented) people working together on Captain Bubblenaut?
DT: It’s great! It’s part of why I wanted to become indie. I love everyone I’ve met in this community and am thrilled to get to work with some of them, and hope to work with more!
148apps: Do you have any reservations about this being your very first iOS release?
DT: Only that the market is very crowded and it’s hard to stand out. From my perspective as a creator and a designer, I feel like my best chance of success is in building something that is high in quality, original, built to take advantage of the unique aspects of the iPhone, and most of all, FUN. For me I think that’s the best way to succeed.
Our thanks to Dean Tate and the rest of the team for all their hard work (past, present, and inevitably future)! Captain Bubblenaut will start exterminating ERFLINGS at the end of this month. If you’d like to help the little guy out, the full game (no IAPs) will only set you back $1.99.