Lumpy Games Brings BuggOut to Life on the iPhone
by Deborah M. Fike · 08/06/2009 (12:09 pm) · 6 comments
Good things come to those who wait. A game, for example, often starts out as a small idea, maybe a musing between friends or taking a popular idea and converting it into a video game. The small idea grows and changes over time. Sometimes a game idea ferments for a long time before it actually sees the light of day, but when it does, the result is both satisfying to the developer and audiences alike.
This is the story of Lumpy Games and their recently launched iPhone title, BuggOut. BuggOut is a colorful and enjoyable puzzle game based on the classic board game Rush Hour. Lumpy Games had been sitting on this idea for many years, even posting it as a game concept on the old GarageGames website back when Torque 2D was in its infancy. With the popularity of the iPhone, Lumpy Games saw its chance to revive an old idea and give it new life. Check out the trailer:
Lumpy Games is an indie game development studio established in 2005 that works both on contract game development and their own intellectual properties. Dave Myers, President of Lumpy Games, talked to me about finishing his first iPhone title. Enjoy!
What makes BuggOut unique?We love the palette and theme we chose for the game and the animations and music are terrific. There are other iPhone games in this genre on the App Store, but we believe ours is the most fun and the most polished.
What was your development process like?Originally I developed BuggOut for the PC in 2004, though it was never released on that platform. I put together all of the code for the game, including a pretty complex algorithm to generate solvable puzzles for both 6x6 and 7x7 puzzle grids. I worked closely with some very talented indie artists in the game dev community, including former Bravetree owner Mike Jahnke, and a great audio guy, Steve Simmons, who worked on other titles I helped ship.
I am not sure on the full number of hours that were poured into the original game. However, when we decided to ship the iPhone version of BuggOut, I would estimate we spent approximately four man-weeks redesigning the original game for a mobile device. This included recoding a new version of the game in Torque 2D for the iPhone, redesigning the art and other gameplay aspects of the game, and learning Mac and iPhone development.
BuggOut began as a PC game concept in 2004. Lumpy Games saw an opportunity to revitalize the idea when the iPhone became popular.
What tools did you use to create the game?We used 3ds Max for the 3d models for our animated sprites, Adobe Photoshop for all the rest of the art, Xcode for coding and scripting, and of course Torque 2D for the iPhone.
We chose Torque as our iPhone technology for a couple of reasons. First, I have extensive experience both as a contractor and on my own titles using Torque-based technologies. Second, as with all of the Torque-based tech, I wanted to work with a game engine, not game libraries. I want to get to market quickly, and for me personally, utilizing a game engine is the quickest route there.
Describe 2-3 of your biggest technical hurdles.
1) Zero Mac or iPhone development experience prior to working on BuggOut.
This was not intimidating, but it definitely was challenging. Learning an entire new set of tools, learning the latest version of Torque, learning the ins-and-outs of both iPhone dev and Torque 2D for the iPhone itself, and let's not forget learning how to use that darned Mac 'Command' key in place of either the Alt or Ctrl keys.
2) Trying to cram many megabytes of awesome animations into 20mb of memory.
You really want to come close to 20mb of memory usage on your iPhone game. When I initially loaded up the original art with full animations for all of our Buggs, we were over 60mb. The game wouldn't even start on the iPhone itself, as it shuts down somewhere around 50mb-60mb. Not good.
We attempted to solve this initially by converting our animations to PVR. However, rather than spend a lot of energy on attempting to make PVR work, we decided that we'd attack this in three ways. First, we cut down the number of frames of animation wherever possible. Much of the original art had 24 frames of animation for each Bugg, and we had two versions of every Bugg (one facing vertically, one facing horizontally). We cut that down to 12 frames, and for the most part everything still looked great.
Second, we decided that Sparky would only exit the puzzle on either the left or right side. Previously, we allowed puzzles to have exits on the bottom. This allowed us to remove all of the vertical-facing animations for Sparky - a big win, as Sparky has many more animations than the other Buggs.
Third, we decided to only show two types of Buggs on a given puzzle in addition to Sparky. This had the added advantage of making the puzzles look less messy. When you switch towns in BuggWorld, we unload unused Bugg animations and loaded up only what we needed.
Lumpy Games preserved art integrity of their game by saving on the number of animations per frame per Bugg.
Describe any challenges or issues you had getting published in the AppStore.Getting published was actually pretty easy, as most of the kinks have been worked out of the system. However, we learned a couple of simple rules to keep in mind. You cannot test your final distribution version on a device, but you can at least double-check it on the simulator. It's better than nothing. And keep in mind that Apple's job is not to QA your stuff - that's your job.
What can we expect to see next from Lumpy Games?We've already launched a lite version for free so people can demo the game. We'll also be issuing some updates to BuggOut, including some art that was not shipped with the first iPhone version. We have thousands more puzzles to release, so we'll try to find some way to update the game for others to enjoy those.
Past BuggOut, we are brainstorming on our next title, which we hope to start serious work on now. W're also actively looking for both contract work and collaboration with other game developers. Folks should feel free to contact us - we love talking game development!
Lumpy Games is looking for other collaborative partners to make games, so send 'em an e-mail if you're interested!
Kudos to Lumpy Games for finding a great opportunity for a game concept they had squirreled away. I've already spent way too much time moving Sparky around the board than is good for my late night mental health!
For more stories like this, check out GarageGames' Developer Interview series.