We code-named our first game “a cross between Viva Piñata and Clash of Clans“. The goal of this game is to build a powerful animal army. Your animal army protects your Garden from other players, and attacks other players Gardens to obtain raw materials.
Start with Viva Pinata
In this game you start with a sparse and desolate island. You cultivate the island by growing trees, edible plants, ponds and waterways, and other features which attract animals. The better your garden is, the more versatile your animal kingdom would become. The focus during this part of the game is the make the most lush and diverse animal garden you could.
Finish with Clash of Clans
You raise and teach your animals skills like wielding weapons, building walls, planting and harvesting, and stuff like that.
There are lots of different kinds of animals you can attract. Among them are young Foxes. New, young foxes, only know how to steal food and supplies to build their own habitats. Over time the you train the Foxes to combine various raw materials into new items, like armor for other animals. Warrior Bears are the biggest, strongest, and most versatile of your army of animals. They are also the hardest and most expensive to attract and train. Warrior Hawks would provide air support. Stuff like that. Once your army is strong enough, you send them out to battle other player armies.
Proving the Concept
I wrote huge spreadsheets of character traits, plant names, animal skill sets, and the like. The game got bigger and more complex. There seemed no end in sight.
During the same time, Salty worked on a small scale proof-of-concept (POC) to demonstrate a fox foraging for food. Here’s a demo video of an early POC.
We had a lot of trouble with the gaming engine, Unreal Engine (UE), the AAA game platform of choice. Firaxis Games used this game engine for the exceptional tactical action mobile game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I thought UE could give our ‘arcade style’ games extra polish. It took several weeks to make the demo above. A quick calculation and, at this rate, the game development is already triple the original budget. Salty was making progress fast, but UE is a very demanding software platform. Epic, the makers of Unreal Engine, provide excellently crafted precision tooling suite. But, the suite of tools in the platform are highly specialized. Plus they require full-time, experienced people to wield them. At a minimum, we need a full-time graphics designer, concept artist, animator, and several other positions, in order to render the vision for this game.
Our target timeline for the first release was within one year. There was no way we were going to make such an ambitious game happen in that time-frame. The key takeaway here is that the Warrior Pinata idea was too big. So, we looked for a more manageable game idea.
One company goal is to produce games that will gain a top spot in mobile game rankings on the most popular mobile platforms. In order to understand what makes a top 20 or top 50 mobile game, we studied the mobile game market. As we discovered, it takes a whole lot of time, effort, and resources. We needed to trim our ambitions back to something a new studio could handle.
In order to understand what makes a top 20 or top 50 mobile game, we studied the mobile game market. As we discovered, it takes a whole lot of time, effort, and resources. We needed to trim our ambitions back to something a new studio could handle.
I grew interested in Hyper-Casual games. Hyper-casual is a type of game that is easy to pick up and play on a mobile phone. These games work a lot like the old coin-operated arcade games from the 1980’s and 1990’s. These mobile games rely on fun and addictive game play to keep paying customers coming back for more. Hyper-casual games must be so much fun that a player will watch in-game ads in return for more play time. It takes a lot of practice to acquire the skills needed to build a great hyper-casual game.
So we started to practice.