World-LooM goes casual with Fix-it-up: Kate's Adventure
by Deborah M. Fike · 01/21/2009 (2:51 pm) · 5 comments
The casual games market continues to boom, and lots of small studios find this an attractive place to launch their first game title. We caught up with World-LooM, Polish game developer, with their first big game release, Fix-it-up: Kate's Adventure. In Fix-it-up, you help young Kate to restore the family car repair business and help her create a car service empire. With fast play that includes buying, repairing, and selling cars, the game meshes two popular casual game genres: strategy and time management games. Fix-it-up was made with Torque Game Builder and has been released on Big Fish, PlayFirst , RealArcade, MacGamesStore, and more to come.
Read on to hear straight from Company Owners Adam Robaszyński-Janiec and Karol Kowalczyk about how their company launched their first successful game!
What makes Fix-it-up: Kate's Adventure unique?Cars. Absolutely. We wanted to choose a central topic to the game that is close to everyone, and everyone rides a car. Cars also threatened this project. Many distributors did not think people, especially the women who make up the majority of the casual games market, wanted to play a game "about cars." Happily, that has not been an issue with Fix-it-up, and the feedback so far is that women players enjoy it.
We also paid a lot of attention to detail to make the game stand out. Little things like our drag 'n' drop mechanics and employee animations create the climate of the game and make it more enjoyable overall.
Where did your inspiration come from?A year ago we took a look at the casual games market, what was popular, etc. We discovered that there are two main genres of casual games: abstract games (marble-poppers, match-3) and real-life games (adventures, time managements and even hidden objects). We decided to go the "real-life" route. We also found inspiration in Build-a-lot, a big hit at the time. We improved the Build-a-lot theme by adding story and characters to really bring the game to life.
Car repair was not considered a "good theme" by some casual games portals, but World-LooM convinced Big Fish to give them a shot, and the game has seen significant success.
What was your development process like?
We used our previous development experience, both in the games and non-games industry. In the beginning, we made basic assumptions, created a design document and took Torque Game Builder in our hands. We also made a schedule, but then forgot about it. ;-)
Game development (programming, scripting, creating levels) was done by two people, but the entire team was made up of nine people who worked on other areas like graphics, music and animation. Each team member worked varying levels of time, depending on what was needed. We tried to work in the same proximity at first, but later in the project tried to do more remote work. We ended up using Trac and Subversion to manage whole project. It took us a whole year to finish: we started in mid December 2007 and finished in December 2008.
Why choose Torque?
We took a look at a few engines and all of them had some glitches, which was to be expected. Torque was the easiest one to start with. Torque Game Builder lets you make prototypes quickly instead of reading about the SDK. It also has community, and that's probably the most important thing! The community found and fixed many of our major problems, even before we started the project. We also tapped the community to help us solve problems as we continued development. I want to send greetings and big hugs to Amanda and Bryce from Amaranth Games. :-) They helped us a lot when we needed it the most, overcoming bugs just before the release.
Community was key to World-Loom: Long-time members like Amanda from Amaranth Games helped troubleshoot many issues.
What were a few major challenges you encountered?
Well, at beginning we did not have access to source (we were not using the pro version of TGB). There are some things that are really hard to do without altering the source code, so we had to invent a lot of 'workarounds.' Then, we created a game that was too complicated; it had a lot of buttons, options, and the interface wasn't clear.
It was very important for our game's quality that we sent our game to the distributors. They sent us valuable feedback which helped to improve the game a lot. We first distributed our game exclusively on Big Fish Games. Huge thanks to Jeffry from BFG for that and his faith in Fix-it-up, as we spent months polishing the game. Big Fish Games was incredibly problem-free and fast. You would be surprised how soon they are able to launch a game after the build delivery.
In the end, we had to delay the project for 4 months and basically re-write 50% of the code.
If Karol's grandma could play it, World-LooM figured it was intuitive enough for anyone to pick up!
How did you accomplish QA and beta testing?
On the software end, we created a Trac server. It is compatible with SVN, has multiple plugins, and allows users to control both the tasks and bugs of a small project.
Beta testing was rough and we really worked hard on it. We worked for 12 hours/day sometimes. We also tapped our friends and families for beta testing. Every time we went somewhere, we carried a copy of our game for testing. One of the most important decisions in the project came after the game had been tested by Karol's grandmother (If she can use drag 'n' drop without problems, anyone can).
What did you learn in creating the game?
A ton of things. First of all, prototype, prototype, prototype. There will be a lot of things you'll have to change in the game - the less work you put in a portion of the game that will eventually go into the garbage, the better. Also, there is more than meets the eye in literally everything. When someone says, "This is easy. I will do it in a week," it means he needs a week for the prototype, another week for modifications, and a third one for fixing bugs.
What might be even more important - we learned a lot about the casual games industry. I think the turning point was our attendance at Casual Connect Kyiv. I recommend everyone thinking seriously about making casual games to go to Casual Connect, mostly to meet with publishers and hear what they expect from a game and what kind of help they can offer. Also - a very important thing - distributors don't bite! They really want to get good games and are very open to talking about that. So do not hesitate and mail them as soon as you have a playable prototype.
Story and character was important for World-LooM. They hope to continue Kate's story in future games.
What can we expect to see next from World-LooM?
To finish production in a reasonable time, we had to leave behind some of our ideas for Fix-it-up. We would really like to put the ideas back into the game. But since we want to expand our studio, we'll probably launch two separate projects soon. First, we'd like to follow the story of Kate and friends like we promised players at the end of Fix-it-up. Our second project is not yet clear. Maybe we'll go for a different genre, hidden objects for example. So stay tuned!
Thanks to Adam and Karol for their time. It has been hard to track them down with the release of their game. And maybe it's time I try to get my grandma to play some casual games...hmm...
For more stories like this, check out GarageGames' Developer Interview series.