Our own David Rabinowitz checked out Scopely/Rocket Jump’s Mini Golf Matchup a couple of months ago, and thought very highly of it. And why shouldn’t he? It’s a great casual game of virtual mini golf with painless online functionality. We’ve since managed to get in touch with Antony Blackett, the Managing Director of Rocket Jump, who agreed to give us some insight as to how their project became the gleeful game of putt-putt that it is.
148Apps: I imagine it was fairly easy to decide to make a mini golf game since virtually everybody loves mini golf, but were there any unexpected challenges in actually creating Mini Golf MatchUp?
Antony Blackett (AB): Mini Golf did seem like the an obvious choice for an asynchronous multiplayer game. We experimented with a few methods of input and only after much discussion and testing did we eventually land on the sling shot method that’s in the game today. Another big challenge was finding out how to make each shot satisfying even when the player didn’t manage to get the ball in the hole. We wanted to make it feel physical and solid as if it were a little toy inside your phone, and also remain predicable unlike a lot of other physics-based games. Finally, while the idea of making a turn-based mini golf game was intuitive, we quickly discovered that creating a polished multiplayer game is no easy task, especially for a small team.
148Apps: I know touch interfaces, especially in physics-driven games, can be tricky to pull off. Did it give you any trouble? And if so how were you able to get through it?
AB: The hardest part of designing the input system in Mini Golf MatchUp was discovering not only how to communicate things like power and direction to the player, but also figuring out exactly what we did and didn’t need to communicate to the player. Our initial approach was a flick system where the ball would inherit the momentum of your finger along the screen, but we found it was difficult for people to grasp the concept. Scopely ran frequent usability tests on players that had never seen the game before. We recorded them playing and ran over the videos many times to get an idea about what players expected to happen. Watching the video recordings gives you clues to what is really going on as people play the game and we closely analyzed these usability tests with the Scopely team to hone in on how best to improve the game.
Specifically with the flick system, we learned that it was easy for the player to make a mistake, but hard for us to know programmatically whether they had made an error. This meant we couldn’t reliably show them corresponding help tips and teach them effectively. On the other hand, the sling shot mechanic was a lot clearer to players because we included an arrow that indicates direction, and power appears as soon as they touch the screen.
148Apps: Any juicy bits of gameplay, specific holes, or mechanics that never made it into the final build? Any chance they may make an appearance in the future?
AB: We’re currently discussing how we can add even more variety to the gameplay in Mini Golf MatchUp. We have some ideas around more pickups and new power ups to go alongside the mulligan, scoring changes, item collection mechanics and even cooperative gameplay. Potentially, developing new social features like sharing replays of your awesome, unbelievable hole-in-one shots. We might even stumble across completely new ideas along the way that are better. Who knows? It’s an organic process, but ultimately it’s driven by a detailed analysis of how players are interacting with the game.
148Apps: I love the colorful, yet simplistic, visual style. Was that pretty much what you had in mind from the get-go?
AB: Corie Geerders is an amazing artist and he’s never shy of using color. Just look at the other titles he’s worked on that exemplify this vibrancy: GripShift, Shatter, Major Mayhem. At Rocket Jump, we find that nailing down a visual style very early in a project helps to unify all the decisions we make in the future. It’s much easier to see if a game mechanic, feature or sound effect doesn’t match the visual style of the game thereafter. One of the best parts about working with Scopely was that they supported our artistic vision, and they gave us the freedom to explore various approaches so that we could find the most exciting and engaging style for the game.
148Apps: Assuming you’re able to talk about it, what’s the plan for Rocket Jump’s next big project?
AB: We have a few ideas in the back of our minds about what we want to do next. One of the things we’d like to do most, and what our fans would love to see, is a sequel to Major Mayhem. We don’t have anything planned out in terms of storyline, gameplay features, or dates, but we have a ton of ideas! We definitely want to push the limits of what mobile games can be like Major Mayhem, Rail Shooters, and Mini Golf MatchUp.
We’d like to thank Antony for taking the time to fill us in on the ins and outs of Mini Golf Matchup. If you’re interested in checking this cartoony game of golf out you can do so right now by grabbing the universal version off the App Store for free.