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Countdown to game release

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Ah! lovely Dundee - where the wild winds whip up the loose kilts of lads and lassies - ahem!...

Ok, so the scenario is we have 3 talented people working for us, with skills more suited to pc/console development, learning the fallible intricacies of mobile development and, to boost things up a little, we also hired a friend of one of the team members to tackle level design.

It was our (co-founders) intention to allow all members of the team to be able to bring their creativity into the brainstorming sessions we had pertaining to original game ideas or enhancing old ideas if they wanted to. We had assumed that they would want to have at least some kind of creative input, whether it was in the look and play, props to be used, missions etc, after all, we were a dynamic creative team and it's not every day a young 20 something year old can say they're a director and part-owner of their own mobile game company, having a say in everything that it does!, but it was soon realised that most of the team just weren't interested in the creative side of things at all, which was fair enough in the grand scheme of things. Of the rest of the team, it became pretty clear anyway that you can have too many designers trying to flesh out a basic design (an experiment if you like on our part but one which we won't attempt again!) - while the co-founders wanted to focus more on originality as much as possible, the others just couldn't look past elements of old games....the word 'original' was very taboo, too obscure and couldn't be successfully implemented into a game apparently, so, after many arguments (sorry, level-headed discussions) for and against, an eventual design was agreed upon, big woots!.

Meanwhile, we allowed an industry 'veteran' a peek at what we were developing and, although he liked the idea, he iterated it had too much happening in it for a mobile game and suggested we take some of the features out to make it a much simpler one (his reasoning being that the mobile player does not like having different game modes in the one game and it would cut down on its size also). Now, as we were new to mobile development, as indeed any game development, we took everything he said to heart and cut out what he suggested (well, he had previously sold his share of a well-known mobile game company for a pretty penny and had set-up a new company in game publishing, so he knew more about the market and what it wanted than we did; we thought it would have been very foolish not to take what he had said on board) - we were now left with a much more straight-forward mountain climbing puzzle game (now in hindsight, it would have probably been a much, much better marketable game with the features we wanted kept in - we've certainly got an opportunity to re-use the engine and develop what we wanted to develop it as in the first place and more...if we're still around to do it of course!).

Things were eventually chugging along nicely for a while - we had our final design, the coders and artists were working to it and we had a publishing contract but, after some fraught weeks and tensions, it became obvious our previous woots were very premature due to a couple of our team members beginning to lose interest in it all. Timescales just seemed to be numbers picked from the air - sometimes we'd be told it's gonna take a week to do whatever and, lo and behold, 3 days later it's done (ok nice, but not proper planning - a cunning formula to make one seem more brilliant, imo ) sometimes though they went exactly the opposite - yeah, it'll take 2 weeks to get whatever done and, lo and not behold, it would be almost a month later before we got that particular whatever bit working (and even then, sometimes it would not be working to all our expectations straight-away), testing of code was not properly adhered to as in normal development (why test while inputting little chunks of code when you can finish a really big chunk first and then test it?..huh? good grief!) and, to cap it all, to completely annoy us, to drain away any last vestige of hope of getting the game out as it was (we were rapidly running out of time and money), the publisher started moving the goal-posts, as it were...they wanted changes - this was after we'd been working on it for several months and had got a fair bit of the game working on several handsets - they now wondered what the point of the game was and began asking why there was no real background story or narrative to the game (question: why am I on a mountain? answer: it's a puzzle game - you're picking up various precious metals within set time-limits to gain mucho points) so, after much banter backwards and forwards, eventually we went ok, if you don't like it we'll change it into a 'rescue' game then - which is what we did. We gave it a background story with a narrative, changed some of the graphics and, after having to completely re-write the collision system and some other technical stuff at the publishers' request (I'm not a techie btw), it was then we got the following from them. ....we don't like the name of the game - eek!, the marketing pack was already finished and delivered to the publisher, the game was now working smoothly on several different makes of handsets with the original title written all over everything, we just couldn't change it! and, as it happens, we didn't have to in the end (well...they had to accept they were just far, far, far too late in wanting that to happen almost at the time of final delivery).

Once the porting to all specified devices, QA and translations were completed, the game was Gold to go and signed off. A huge sigh of relief descended with the satisfied realisation that finally, we had a product off to market.....sweet woots!.

Are you questioning now if we have we been successful with our first game?....well, the answer to that can't be answered for some time. In November, the game went to several portals plus Vodafone Ireland, Vodafone Portugal and Motorola. We were ecstatic with this news and happy it was going into several countries but it soon transpired that, although many of these blighters had our game to sell, it was up to each individual company to decide when they'd actually sell it on their sites which, in some cases, could take up to 6 months to release - we were gutted that only about 2 sites made it for sale straight away; the rest started catching up around March/April and some are still yet to release it. The good news is it's going to be on sale in the USA & Asia over the coming months, if not already, and we're hoping it'll be played by many more people. A quirky problem with the marketing of the game has been that many of the sites that took it could not decide on what genre it came under; currently it's either an 'action', 'platform', 'puzzle', 'arcade' or 'sports' game - quite infuriating and confusing at times!.

So there you have a brief synopsis of how we got started in mobile game development. Are we willing to go through all the stress, sleepless nights, frustration, deep worries about the lack of money again? bet!.....I'll tell you where we are with our current game and how things are going next time...only if you are interested of course! :)
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This is actually one of the most interesting journals I've ever read.

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