Bumble Tales: A tale of Casual Portals, iPhone, and GDC
by Deborah M. Fike · 09/10/2009 (9:12 pm) · 4 comments
Being a part of the Torque team puts me in the unique position of watching up-and-comers break out into game development. As someone who believes in risk-taking and doing what you love, it is always rewarding to see a studio take a good idea and mold it over time into something truly fantastic. Yesterday, a game was released on iWin that told the story of not one, but two different studios teaming together to make a great game. That game is Bumble Tales, made by Tandem Games and Perfect Dork Studios.
For me, this tale begins not yesterday, but almost a year ago when I met Billy Garretsen, founder of Perfect Dork Studios, at Austin GDC 2008. His enthusiastic team of developers were showcasing a demo of Box Macabre, an original platformer for the Xbox 360. We liked their presence in our booth so much that we asked Billy to showcase the game at the San Francisco Game Developer Conference last March. It was during preparation for GDC that Billy mentioned Aaron Murray, founder of Tandem Games, was also working on a Torque-made casual game, so we also invited Tandem to our booth. All in all, it was a perfect storm of success. Tandem Games walked away from the show with publishing deals for their game, Perfect Dork got more involved in the development of Bumble Tales, and the Torque team got a lot of press coverage from these two awesome games.
Now as I sit here writing mere days before Austin GDC 2009, I am happy to announce that Bumble Tales is for sale. I also have the honor of giving you more details on how Bumble Tales came into being, and best of all, Tandem Games and Perfect Dork will be back again at our booth at this year's Austin GDC. So watch the video, read Aaron's interview responses, and if you can, come meet two awesome teams in our booth in Austin, TX next week.
What makes Bumble Tales unique?Bumble Tales is a match-3 game with a strong focus on characters. I wanted to make something fun that my kids could watch me play, but that wasn't a kid's game specifically. The depth of characters in Bumble Tales is unmatched for a casual game. We have voice-over for 35 different characters. The gameplay is unique with a playfield and a town to build on the screen at the same time. Originally the town side of the board was to be played by the kids, but that changed during development.
How did Tandem Games team up with Perfect Dork Studios?Tandem Games is an indie studio. After 2 of the 3 original members quit, I met Billy from Perfect Dork Studios and we quickly hit it off. He offered his studio art services and since then we've been working on projects together. Now Tandem has its own artists, but we still partner with Perfect Dork Studios for the art on the Bumble Tales line of games.
"I wanted to make something fun that my kids could watch me play, but that wasn't a kid's game specifically." - Aaron Murray, Tandem Games
What was your development process like?The development process for Bumble Tales was littered with roadblocks, but ultimately there were 4 main developers (code, art, sound, writing), and a bunch of other folks who contributed where we needed help (like actors). The game started life in the Summer of 2007, then turned into a different game named Crunch Time, in early 2008. Then we went back to the original idea and finally released in September 2009. Development was off and on - probably 6 months of continuous work overall. We used Torque Game Builder for the engine and Torsion for the code IDE. Adobe Illustrator was used to make the vector art.
We have a meeting every Monday morning and Friday afternoon. The purpose of both is to set goals for each week and to review how we did on our goals. Other than that we are so small that we just walk about 10 feet and talk to each other with ideas and problems.
Describe your biggest technical hurdle and how you overcame it.Our biggest technical hurdles were with optimizing memory and getting the game to pass all of the requirements to be accepted by the casual portals. There are lots of tests they run with changing resolutions and changing application focus to get the game to misbehave or crash. We made some changes to the TGB engine using the source code and got it working. I also wrote some tools to help me generate code to handle dynamic loading of datablocks so that we could control our memory usage better.
What was it like publishing your game on casual portals and for the iPhone?Publishing our game was a challenge. Making numerous contacts and convincing them to accept our game onto their portal is a long road. My advice would be to have a polished demo done early in the process so that the portals can see a sample of the end product before making their choice on whether to publish it. Regarding iTunes, publishing on the App Store can be a giant pain. It is really difficult for small developers to get any feedback from Apple regarding when they will approve the games.
Bumble Tales was made to be played by adults, but watched by kids. Originally the town side of the board was to be played by the kids, but that changed during development.
If you had to do it all again, what would you change about creating Bumble Tales?I would have spent more time on the tutorial and initial user experience. Also I would have liked to get more animations in the game while staying within my memory limits. I probably would have made the game at 800x600 instead of 1024x768 to keep memory and filesize down. Of course I would like to have more game modes and easter eggs.
What's next for Tandem Games?We're finishing up a new tower defense game for iPhone based on our Domain of Heroes game. We're also considering reviving a hidden object project that we worked on earlier this year. And of course we have a stack of game ideas in our wish list to revisit and see if one of them "strikes" us. We launched 2 games last year, 3 games this year, and hope to keep the pace up for next year.
Bumble Tales was first showcased at San Francisco GDC in the Torque booth. Tandem showcased game play to potential users and publishers at the same time.
Billy and Aaron, thanks always for keeping in touch about your progress about your game. It has been my pleasure thus far getting the word out about Bumble Tales, and I'm really looking forward to Austin GDC. For anyone who will be coming to the conference, come meet us at the exhibition hall during the following times:
- Wednesday, September 16th: 12 pm - 6pm
- Thursday, September 17th: 10 am - 6 pm
- Friday, September 18th: 10 am - 3 pm