Restoring Rhonda Developer Interview
by Deborah M. Fike · 09/24/2008 (3:22 pm) · 5 comments
Restoring Rhonda is a unique match-3 puzzle game with an interactive art restoration meta-game by indie developer Skunk Studios. I recently had the chance to talk with Skunk Studios CEO & CTO, Kalle Wik, about the game and debut.
What makes your game unique from other match-3 games in gameplay?We've put a twist onto the gem swapping genre with Free Swap mode, where you can swap non-adjacent pieces. This twist opens up the game for faster action and larger combos. Also, playing the match-3 game earns tools you use for the art restoration minigames - where you help Rhonda restore precious works of art with tweezers, brushes, needles, spray cans and cloths.
What makes your game unique in story from other casual market games?We feature a 10-stage emotional progression of the main character. Rhonda begins in a run-down studio, in a bummed out condition, and progresses through 10 different levels of happiness as she redeems herself by doing good work for her colorful customers. Rhonda converses with these customers about art and life between rounds of gameplay.
Where did your inspiration come from?One of our founders was dating a woman who restored art for a living. The meta-game sort of arose from that!
What was your development process like?We do use a modified SCRUM process, and also an online project management system called Basecamp, to control the chaos that is game development. In a nutshell, we put together the first playable as quickly as possible and spend most of the project cleaning up and improving the build week over week.
What appealed to you about TGB? Did you consider other technologies?The sweet particle effects! Hah. But seriously, the sweet particle effects! And the level editors and visual tools, alternate platform support, and the high frame rates. We also liked that the source code was available for a reasonable price, and we have compiled in many key improvements and fixes to the core engine along the way. We did look at a few other technologies before selecting TGB, however we are very happy with the choice we made.
How many people worked on the game team? How did you work together?We have a team of 10 development staff and we develop 4-5 games in parallel. Usually there is a core team that is most focused on specific projects, however, in the case of the Restoring Rhonda game all 10 artists and programmers played a role.
What were a few major development challenges you encountered? How did you overcome them?This was Skunk Studios first TGB game, and we did not know the Torque engine at all when we began. So, the learning curve was steep at first. We overcame this with a lot of trial and error, code rewriting and art asset revision - eventually reaching a level of mastery that is serving us well on current titles. Additionally, the game design, especially tying the tool-earning of the core game to the art restoration meta-game, was fuel for many a design discussion and we tried a lot of different variations along the way.
How long did it take to create the game?This particular title has been in on-and-off development for around 2 years. That's quite a lot longer than usual, but due to learning new technology, making a lot of design changes, and the incorporation of the art-restoration meta-game, it wound up being a marathon rather than a sprint. We were also developing 3 other games in parallel, and had the added responsibility of teaching 6 new employees how to argue and yell like true professionals.
How did you accomplish QA and beta testing?Big Fish Games came into the picture late in development, and helped us out with some excellent QA testing and feedback on the title. Beta testing was a little light on this one, however we did run a few user tests along the way that yielded valuable insights.
Did you expect your game to do so well in the charts, or are you disappointed it didn't do better?We don't have a lot of data on sales yet, as it's only launched on 2 websites thus far. Judging solely from the charts it is performing about how we expected it to out the gate.
What did you learn in creating the game?We'd like to think we've mastered development in the TGB game engine (always more to learn though!). And due to hiring a lot of new talent we learned a lot about how to work with new employees, manage mid-size development teams, and deal with some tricky game design challenges in this setting.
What can we expect to see next, either in development of your game or from your studio?We have 4 downloadable casual games in development right now, 3 of them on the TGB engine and one built in Flash 9. We are very excited about these titles, they are definitely the best-looking games we've ever put together. The Restoring Rhonda project was a training mission for Skunk Studios, and now we're running, gunning and funning with these new tools and a great team of people. We've also got a few stealth projects in the works, including some exciting new ways to play QBeez. Stay tuned!
Thanks again for the interview, Kalle! Be sure to check out the Torque Game Builder made title Restoring Rhonda.
For more stories like this, check out GarageGames' Developer Interview series.