See Part 1 and Part 2 of this exclusive interview with Toy Studio.
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.
To understand the roots of “Monster Slider” you must first back track to when the game’s design was originally conceived. Community Manager Ryan Olson helped fill in the blanks:
“Rob Lockhart, the game designer, was at a game design conference called Games Learning Society in Madison, Wisconsin. He was thinking of god games like Black and White and The Sims and what would a god game look like in its simplest form. Directly shifting the world to guide a creature to a goal was the result. When Rob got back to the studio, he gathered up some odds and ends in the office to create a paper prototype of his idea. Once some of the gameplay was tweaked, then the game went into full production…”
As great as having a unique idea and vision for a product is, only through iteration and collaboration can these kinds of concepts make the jump from the page to the screen. This is where prototyping comes into play. Despite the word “prototype,” implying some sort of playable product, different designers choose to present their concepts in different ways. Each studio is different and apparently Toy Studio is no exception to the rule.
“The original paper prototype we made of some gameplay options was something to experience! Rob, the designer, was acting as the game AI creating puzzles from scraps of paper and moving the monster we had to represent Squishy in front of us. He would bring in people from their desk and sit them down to play out a few games. There was a bowl of jellybeans in the meeting room and then Rob put them on some tiles and we had portals. Just like that. Squishy’s Revenge was just scraps of paper, candy and odds and ends from some board games we have in the office that turned into an original game…” — Rob Lockhart, Game Designer
And just like that, a game was born. Shortly thereafter a tight knit collection of three were tasked with bringing a glorified break room mess to life. With the help of only a single designer, coder and artist, the product leapt for the design document page and into existence. But not all was well in the world of rotating tiles.
Stay tuned, for tomorrow we finish our epic tale, and learn more about Toy Studio’s latest effort, Squishy’s Revenge!
This week at 148Apps.com, writer Blake Grundman offered part one of his developer interview with the folks behind Squishy’s Revenge, Toy Studio. Grundman writes, “Despite only having been in existence since September of 2009 the team working behind the scenes at Toy Studio have been hard at work, churning out an impressive thirteen games in that short span. Having successfully released titles on both the Nook Color and Facebook, it seemed like the next logical step was to transition into the iOS space.”
Read the rest of part one at 148Apps.com, and keep checking in for parts two and three soon.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-09-29 :: Category: Games
Over at 148Apps.biz, founder Jeff Scott reported on Unity’s big announcement at Unite11. Scott says, “Shown during the Unite11 keynote, Unity 3.5 includes lots of new, very impressive sounding features like Multi-threaded rendering, Improved occlusion culling, and Radiosity Normal Mapping lightmaps. All in all, about 40 major new features. I’m thinking this will make some developers very happy — and me, as a game player will reap the benefits! For a full list of new features in Unity 3.5, check out the press release.”
GiggleApps writer Amy Solomon contributed a review of Snap and Share Kids Cam, stating, “I take a lot of photos of my son, who will also now ask me to take a snapshot many times of things he finds amusing, sometimes asking me to email them to family members. This app easily allows a child his age to take and send photos himself, as this app is very simple to use and contains nice spoken prompts explaining each event leading up to the emailing of photos. So easy to use in fact, that I plan to use it myself as this application is surely quicker than taking a picture, finding it on the camera roll, tapping to email, typing the recipient’s email address and tapping again to send the email on its way.”
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-09-06 :: Category: Photography
And thus we come to another weekly round-up of 148Apps network goodness. There’s so much more to see on the various sites, so check them out for yourself – and don’t forget to follow our Twitter and Facebook feeds for daily news updates and contests galore. See you next time.
Game development is a curious field to say the least. All that consumers really know is that cool ideas come in and fun games come out, with very little insight into the tedious process that ultimately forms the final product. Even on a platform like iOS where the overhead to actually producing a game is far smaller, taking a game from conception to completion requires the time and effort of several tremendously dedicated individuals. But why would you take our word for it? We have enlisted the help of the team over at Toy Studios, who generously gave us a brief glimpse behind the curtain of their newly released puzzle game, Squishy’s Revenge.
Toy Studio is a fairly small developer based out of Chicago Illinois made up of fifteen folks that share a common thread of passion for creating quality videogames. When asked about the origins of studio’s unique name Studio Director Christian Arca stated confidently:
“What does everyone consider fun? Toys. You’d be extremely hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t think a toy is fun at some point in his or her life. The only purpose of a toy is to be played with, which is key to having fun. Toys stimulate the imagination and take you to a magical place only you can see. So we wanted to emphasize play and fun, not just in our games but the studio culture itself.”
Despite only having been in existence since September of 2009 the team working behind the scenes at Toy Studio have been hard at work, churning out an impressive thirteen games in that short span. Having successfully released titles on both the Nook Color and Facebook, it seemed like the next logical step was to transition into the iOS space.
The process of learning to develop for a completely new platform is not necessarily an easy one, even for the most talented of squads. So why would a team want to go through the hassles of trying to come up with a whole new game design, when they already have thirteen successful templates already in their quiver. After careful consideration and deliberation amongst the group, it was decided that the best way to introduce themselves to the iOS world was with their Nook Color game, “Monster Slider.”
Stay tuned for part two and three next week, wherein we learn all about Squishy and his Revenge!