A Development Year in Review

On the first of January we started the development of our debut game for the iPad. As the year draws to a close, we thought it would be nice to share our progress so far.

The idea for the game came up in the fall of 2010. Based on the website image, a number of you have guessed that it has something to do with origami. While this is close, the game is not focused on origami, but paper is a central theme. One of the reasons we don’t just come out and say directly what the focus is, is because the idea is somewhat unusual. This makes it hard to imagine what the game is without seeing something playable. This is why we want to wait to reveal more details until we have a video that is representative of the final game, both in visual and play quality.

In order to build the world for our game we needed to create a custom made world builder. The world builder is built wholly within our favourite 3D modeling tool: modo. It has gone through much iteration this year, and we have now reached the point where we are able to build very sophisticated scenes in our own unique style. Despite all the work so far there is still more to do on this as it lies at the core of our game concept.

On top of developing our own world builder, we also decided to create our own engine. If you try to make a game that hasn’t been done before, chances are slim that existing engines are immediately suitable to use. You might end up writing lots of code to ‘bend’ the existing engine to fit your game, which doesn’t save you time in the long run. Writing our own engine means that we know exactly how everything works and, truth be told, we just love to be independent and have our own tech. This is not to say that we don’t leverage other people’s work, as we certainly do; we are just careful about what we see as playing to our strengths and what we can use from elsewhere. For example, we do integrate with some middleware: in particular we are using WWise for the audio. WWise is very affordable for small dev studios and we have a lot of previous experience with it.

We also made great strides in establishing the art direction for the game. This was a difficult process and there were a few emotional ups and downs until Ryo arrived at a style that we all love and that looks like no other game we have seen before. As part of establishing the art style Ryo also designed the main character. The first sketch totally blew us away, and has since gone through a number of iterations to arrive at the near final look.

Alongside all the technical and artistic work, the design of the game has been evolving rapidly. Initially we did a lot of what is called ‘paper design’ – this carries a double meaning for our game. A lot of the ideas were developed on paper and also built with it. Then we went on to make videos of possible game situations using the world builder. Now we are in full on prototyping mode, testing our ideas on the iPad and continuously refining the play experience. It’s such an exciting period!

On the audio side, Dave Wise has made great progress on the music and sound effects. Dave has an incredible knack of just hitting the spot first time, even in a musical area that is wholly new to him. The tunes he has been producing are amazing and we very much look forward to sharing some them with you later in the New Year.

It’s been a long and challenging year for us, but one that has been incredibly rewarding. As 2012 proceeds, we hope to be able to share a lot more about the game and we really look forward to doing so. We hope you all had a great Christmas and enjoy a happy and rewarding New Year.

Jennifer, Ryo, Phil, Graham and Dave