Category: Our Games

About Smart (Kat) Game Design

So, Smart Kat is out, and we’ve got fantastic feedback about it, such as “I’m not sure what to think about this!” Given the game’s setup, that is actually the kind of feedback we were expecting – we’ve made it clear throughout the trailers that the game should not be taken too seriously. It’s simple and silly, but good fun. And definitely child friendly!

However, it’s seriously a game, and even if it started out as a silly idea, it’s grown to be quite a long-lived game, compared to other “minigames”. This thanks to the, logically completely detached I might add, combination of gameplay modes.

A quick roundup about the game:

  • The goal is to “make your cat as smart as possible”, i.e. earn a score as high as possible.
  • You do this by simply tapping the screen, and holding down your finger for as long as you dare.
  • The closer to the “maximum smartness” of the cat you get, the higher your score – but if you overrun it, the cat becomes “too smart”, and – game over.
  • Once you’ve done this, you can – here the game takes a surprising turn – put on various, hilarious, STICKERS on your cat! Because, why not?
  • You can save and share these creations of art, and return to them in the “My Cats” list.

If you think about it, most of the good-old computer games, like C64-old ones, were about one single, simple game mechanic. The sports game where you whacked the heck out of your joystick in the hope of a new world record for 110 metres dash. There wasn’t more than some graphics and sound FX on top of that, and the full game was essentially a collection of sports, each of them based on a similar one-function game mechanic.

With that perspective, I don’t feel like Smart Kat is “too small” to be an actual game. At the same time I don’t try to convince people that it’s a big game, either. The game mechanic is not ground breaking, but it’s one of those very smart ones. Kudos here to a friend of mine – he told me about the mechanic, I didn’t invent it. It lingered in my mind for some weeks, until an opportunity to quickly make a minigame arose, and I went for it. At that point, mainly to just release something, and to increase my source code repository.

I’m not sure when we, I and Nico the Graphic Designer, came up with the “Slap stickers on the cat” idea, but when we did some prototyping it quickly became evident that the idea is too hilarious not to be included in the game. Furthermore, being a father of two < 8 y girls, I always investigate and keep in mind what would be suitable for kids as well. I’m especially proud of this part of the game – it seems to engage kids, not to mention kid-minded adults, to create wildly diverse pictures of cats in hilarious costumes. Especially kids are extremely good in using the stickers in most surprising ways!

The game’s longevity comes from this Sticker Mode. We will be releasing updates with additional features and, of course, MORE STICKERS, and we’re hoping this will make players return to the game.

And yes – the next update will be a Xmas Season update, and it will contain, on top of awesome Xmas stickers, the feature we’ve all been waiting for: to be able to put stickers on your own photos! We’re looking forward for some hilarious facebook profile pictures…! 😀

 

Announcing “Smart Kat”

logo-ipad

If you seen silly cat images from us on Twitter or in Facebook, it’s not that we’ve gone totally bonkers and pivoted to a cat meme company – we’re really releasing a game called “Smart Kat”!

Categorized by many as sillier-than-silly, this game has it all: an nerve-wrecking skill session, and a slap-stickers-on-cute-cats part where you and your kids can express your inner talent of dressing up kittens.

The best part is that it’s scheduled to be released already now in November – you can check out the teaser trailer until then!

Fast Forward

Either I have become a lot better at game dev, or then Cocos2D v3.3 is awesome.

To be fair, I’ll give the biggest kudos to the Cocos2D team. Compared with version 2, the version 3 line, currently stable at 3.3 with beta of 3.4 coming out any time now, the engine has become excellent. I’ve had some epiphanies about game dev lately, but those come so much easier when working with a clean code base – and Cocos2D lets you have a clean code base now.

Being an old man, I rather do my games in good old code, meaning, I’m not much for drag & drop IDEs like SpriteBuilder, which is the vessel Cocos2D comes nowadays in. Not that those are bad in any way, I’m just used to hack at actual code. And also here: when the engine is as easy as Cocos2D, I don’t think using an IDE is much faster. Any real coder knows anyway, that it’s not the writing of the code which is the big part in the project, but the time between coding, when you’re brainstorming, testing, and planning what’s next to code.

I’ve been doing various tests on the basic game play of Pixelem, and once I got that to a certain point, I got stuck, so my brain decided to “take a quick look on Jungled Baron“. ADD, anyone? To cut a short story even shorter, I got a working prototype of it made in mere three days. It’s actually playable! And seems like fun, even if there are major parts still to be prototyped (such as the power ups).

JungledBaron-ipadProto002

Well, to be fair here also, big kudos to my intern Elma, who is working more or less constantly in the background on the art. This week we’ve been drafting some animations, and there’s a lot of those to be done in the coming weeks. First two animation drafts are already in the prototype, as I was able to whip the character workflows into a fully working shape already.

Furthermore, I had a few hours to think about the scope of Jungled Baron. Came up with some awesome ideas, in my own humble opinion. I need to think about these things all the time, because Elma is on a fixed contract, so I need to scope the artwork so that the time she spends at Sneeweis makes sense. The master plan is to try to finish as much as possible of the actual game (i.e. start scene + playfield scene), and separate out the “additional” stuff for later. This way we will end up with a fully demonstrable version of the game, and think about the implementation of the monetization strategy, additional fun stuff, etc., at a separate step.

The Global Game Jam is on the coming weekend. There will be the Finnish Game Jam version of it at the school which Elma attends. Gonna check it out as a hang-around (…no time to attend the actual game jam…)!

Late Night with Jungled Baron

Nothing good on TV equals good stuff on the computer. Rushed in some concept art into a freshly pressed Cocos2D v3.3 project, just out of curiosity, and naturally to help the artist along. She’ll probably look into color things and such. I’m just pretending the game works already on my iPhone. Beep beep, pew pew, pow! Tee hee, awesome, got a power-up…

First-screenshot-JungedBaron
The sprites don’t actually move, but my imagination doesn’t care.

 

Monkey Business

I’m going forward with a broad front, business-wise. I’ve piled up a bout 5 – 6 projects, not only game dev related, quite the contrary. Entrepreneurship is interesting generally, and though Sneeweis is the main part of my company, it is not the only one – Sneeweis is the trade name I do game development with, while the rest of the company is still running a full schedule of subcontracting and small projects within the IT world. Yeah, I’ve piled on a bit too much, one could say, but hey, it’s great fun.

I’ve always wanted to grow Sneeweis to a “real” game studio with 4 – 5 employees, but it’s hard to do when you’re revenue based. Simply put, it takes a while before your account contains enough sweet, cold cash to be able to employ someone.

I had an opportunity to take a step forward with Sneeweis a few months back, when I was invited to discuss about game development to the local school, which has a study line for game design. To cut the story short, I ended up signing a student on board for a 6-month learning-at-work period. We’ve been drafting concept art for a game, Jungled Baron, which I had to dig up quickly from the big box of game ideas. Glad I did, as it got a real boost to become the next game for Sneeweis!

The student, Elma Lähteenmäki, is a 2D artist/animator, she’s 18 years of age, and given what I’ve seen in our few weeks of concept work and Skype calls, she’s got a nice career in game design in front of her! You can check out her portfolio right here. While I get actual art for a game which is supposed to be released, I’m hoping I’ll give Elma an insight to both the game devlopment process, as well as to how small game studios operate.

But hey, let’s not stop there. Take a look at some of the concept art Elma’s been pushing into my Dropbox folder!

Baron-concept-web Enemy-ape-concept-web.png

Greatest enemies. The baron and an ape.

Once we’ve got a bit more finalized work, I’ll start dropping some Jungled Baron gems to this blog. But for now it suffices to say that the game is an homage to the 1980’s electronic games (Donkey Kong, and those, you surely remember…) and the theme is, as the name implies, the jungle. A baron crash landed on a desert island, went a bit nutty for the coconuts on the island, and I think what made him snap completely was when he noticed there are apes on the island, vicious, dirty, thieving apes, about to steal his precious coconuts! He defends his coconuts fiercely, and he’ll need a lot of help from you for that.

Palm-light-concept-web
Palm tree, colour tests.

 

 

Palm-dark-concept-web
 Palm tree, colour tests.

 

We’re hoping to whip up enough of the basic art to start creating a real “screenshot test” on a real device in the coming two weeks. I’ve really started looking forward for the development phase of this game!

Announcing “Pixelem”

OK, it’s out there. Our next game will be called “Pixelem” and is a science-themed word puzzle game with, naturally, some unique twists, just as any other mobile game out there.

Chemists, physicists, and anthroponomastics will certainly get a extra kick out of the game, but casual games all over will definitely love this. I think. Well, it’s my best bet. So far.

But more on the game in later posts. I’m packing a secret which will most likely catch your eye – stay tuned for more stuff on the game as the prototype is being built!

Here’s the game’s page.

Oggipital Hit the Top Chart

Still in release hangover mode. It’s hard to concentrate on any new stuff. Turns out, releasing a game is quite some work. 🙂

Oggipital did quite nicely in Finland: it topped the overall charts with positions  11. and 16. on the iPhone and iPad, respectively. On Games it topped 4th, and on Puzzle game category it was actually no. 1 for a day!

Oggipital-puzzle-top1

While this is fantastic, the downside is that the peak is hard to sustain, and the market is small in Finland. So from a monetary perspective, it’s not a great success. But for what I was looking for with this first release – to enter the market and gain some media attention – it was certainly successful! Very happy with the whole release weekend.

The plan is to update Oggipital with a few new features and some score balancing, as well as a couple of bug fixes, in the coming weeks. Parallel to that, I’ll try to drum up some international media attention to it. Next week I’ll attend Pocket Gamer Connects game conference in Helsinki, and hoping to meet some press and fellow game developers there.

Local Media Attention

For our first game, Oggipital, I set up a release party which I humourously called “The World’s Smallest Release Party”, as opposed to the huge releases the big companies do. The happening was essentially a small stand in front of our house (= Sneeweis offices), where I had a few seats where people could stop by for a coffee and a Kisau Veela -cupcake, and try out the game on iPad.

The release couldn’t have gone better. I had actually to cancel the release party due to heavy rain on Saturday (a few came actually by and I treated them inside the house instead), but the main local newspaper – not a small one in Finnish scale, with about 151’000 readers a week – came by just before the rain and did a huge interview with video and all. They made a big piece and published it in the Sunday paper, double-sided, on pages 4 and 5 with a front-page mention!

Satakunnan Kansa

In light of this the rain was actually a good thing: on Sunday the weather was great and I continued the release party on Sunday, and lots of people came by and recognized the game and place from the morning’s paper.

Front Page News!

THIS JUST IN!

My for-fun release party, which I promoted to local newspapers as “The World’s Smallest Release Party”, made first-page news on Satakunnan Kansa, the “New York Times” of Pori, Finland ( 😉 ).

In Finnish only, naturally, but there’s a video on there where I demo the game to the journalist. Thanks to Harri Aalto and photographer Kari Mankonen for the piece!

Direct link here.

The rain ruined the party, but hey, that’s life. I’ll continue tomorrow, they’ve forecasted sunshine!

Oggipital Pro Tip #23

Pro Tip #23

And lastly, it’s not about the size of your fingers, it’s how you use them.

Inaccurate cuts? One word: training. Different styles apply, but a stationary thumb and a quick index-finger flick is a good candidate.

Hey! The game’s out! Get it from the App Store, now! Thanks!

You have the chance to put all the wisedom of these pro tips to use now. Go on, I know you can do it. Yes, surely you’ll be frustrated and the Kisau Veelas will hear some words which shall never be written, but no worries: they can’t hear you.

The two-finger pinch-out move is not the easiest to get accurate, especially on the rather small iPhone screen. But it is as accurate you train it to be. The hurdle is small – you just need to get used to where your fingers “touch the screen”, meaning, which part of your fingers the iDevice translates to the exact pixel on screen. The game is pixel-accurate, so you can miss by a width of a hair.

Last tip: all the Pro Tips are available behind the Pause button. COnvenient to browse through them when you need to pause the game.

This ends the Pro Tip feature. Good luck and see you on the leaderboards! (I’ll be the one on top 😉)