UPDATE: Go Go Giraffe is now available on the App Store for iPhone + iPod Touch!
Considering that we’ve never built a game before, I thought it’d be fun to share with you our step-by-step progress; what went into development and some of the challenges we had to face being the newbs that we are.
The ultimate goal was to complete the game precisely in 1 month (yeahh that didn’t happen). We’ve been working on the game for a bit over 5 weeks now and are just about ready to wrap things up. If all goes well (keeping my fingers crossed), we’ll have it submitted to the App Store shortly.
Go Go Giraffe is based on a simple idea of physics, just like you’d control a motorcycle and go off of ramps. We use tilt for balance and control of the giraffe and the angle of its neck (pretty entertaining to watch). Then, with simple forward, jump, and tilt controls, you’ll feel like a boss plowing and sweeping everything, anything, and anyone while busting out crazy stunts mid-air at the same time. Only a Giraffe can pull this off!
We tried to keep the main objective of the game fairly simple – try not to die! But aside from that, the other goals are to: go wild doing as many back flips as you can while feeding the giraffe’s obsession with ice-cream and finishing as fast as possible.
So, with that being said, here’s a raw and uncensored overview of what happened behind the scenes at Strapped to a Meteor. Enjoy!
Monday morning, week #1
The first week we got together, things were a little rough. We weren’t sure where to start or what to expect. Finally, someone had to step up and fulfill a leader’s roll – get Red Bull!
And so we were off to a great start. We begin with collecting ideas (some call it, brainstorming), and spent the next 2 days doing just that. Sitting in a room for 2 straight days busting our brains and forcing ourselves to think of ideas wouldn’t have done anyone any good. We find it more productive to have for instance 4, 30 minute brainstorm meetings throughout the day rather than 1, 2 hour conference.
Considering our position, we of course, weren’t looking to change the world and revolutionize gaming (but who knows, perhaps with our second game). Our focus was to introduce something fresh and humorous to an existing idea and with that thought in mind, Go Go Giraffe was born. I guess the idea of this crazy clumsy giraffe with a gigantic wobbly neck struggling to balance itself, appeared funny to us which is why we chose it – that’s all.
The rest of the week (the next 3 days) we spent doing the research necessary to make sure it was feasible to complete the game within the amount of time we had. Sketching concepts and prototyping, looking up references, and prepping the platform to try and not lose the momentum once we were rolling. In other words, predicting any major problems that may occur and creating solutions in advance.
We thought we had everything figured out; rewards system, levels, physics, feel and mood of the game, enemies, etc. Little did we know that a massive bag of crap was about to fall out of the sky, split open and spill all over our desks (not literally, but almost). Point is: we didn’t spend nearly as much time as we should have outlining gameplay prior to building anything. Preparation is good, more preparation is better; we’ve learned that much.
Monday morning, week #2
Feeling good from the previous week, we began with sketching the assets such as; worlds, enemies, and rewards. After this, we moved on to UI wireframes and basic framework of the game. The first unanswered question that came up fairly quickly was, “wait, is there a story line?” Perhaps something that should have been figured out during our 3-day research and preparation, right? I think this was the beginning of our realization of just how unprepared we really were LOL.
We quickly set up another brainstorm session to figure out who this giraffe character really was and how the hell it got to the North Pole.
After answering these vital questions, we were back to our sketch books. We had a little over 100 different versions of our giraffe, enemies and in some cases world scene selections to pick from and chose the ones we liked most.
The whole idea of a giraffe and cold weather may seem a bit controversial but it worked for us; we really enjoyed the irony in it. It’s not like giraffes like ice-cream either (perhaps they do…I’m not really sure).
Overall, our entire week 2 was spent really trying to shape the feel and the mood we were looking for in that game. Honestly though, being our first game project, I think we played real safe using typical color schemes. We’ll make sure to do something a little different in our next game
Monday morning, week #3
It was a holiday, we took the day off!
Tuesday morning, week #3
Right about now we began to realize – this game’s a little bigger than we thought! Having it finished within the next two weeks would be impossible with our given resources. In other words, we overestimated our abilities . We met up again to evaluate our biggest time killers and how to improve on them. Turns out, it was a matter of unplugging our N64 (jk). On a serious note, having such a strict timeline kept us really focused, but it was also beginning to frustrate us which forced us to extend our due date.
Having a lot of the basic framework figured out by now, we rolled up our sleeves even further and began painting the worlds, designing actual UI elements, building level structures and gluing it all together with code. Whenever possible, we’d invite our friends over to give input on level designs (you’d be amazed how creative those that aren’t around you all day can be).
For each world, we would design a variety of over 40 different layouts, and at the end we would pick our favorite 12 levels. You see, the amount of time that goes into actually designing a level isn’t much at all; the most time that’s taken in this process is not only in designing a level that works (this should be obvious), but while doing so, keeping the level fresh, and exciting.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say that we “sort of” forgot to play the levels as they were being built (because…we’re idiots LMAO). In our defense though, the giraffe wasn’t quite ready to travel anyway. Which obviously created a problem – when we played our first stripped version of Go Go Giraffe we quickly realized that we had to rethink some of our levels.
Rob (our designer and animator), on the other hand, was plowing away designing every element of the game. It wasn’t too difficult to create our main character since we already knew what it would look like. I guess it was just a matter of picking the look (how dumb and goofy) that we liked most.
Monday morning, week #4
This is where it all got interesting! A few levels are in, the giraffe is running and ice-cream is everywhere – we’re playing the game! You know how sometimes it may seem like all the terrible things only happen to you? Well, they happened to us, too! It turns out that our physics were a little too real. I mean with the gigantic neck and constant up and down hills, things just weren’t looking good. The gameplay was awkward and difficult to control which frustrated us as developers. As a result of that, we had to scrap and entirely rethink the mechanics of the giraffe – Dan was pissed! He spent most of week 4 rethinking and fixing our crazy giraffe LOL.
Of course I didn’t just sit around – I helped…by playing the game, forward and sometimes, backwards!
While I’m doing the most difficult important job in the world, Rob is working on animation sequences for the characters, Roland is refining the levels and Surge is taking care of audio. It may not seem like it (not that you’d know at this point), but there are over 30 unique sound effects in Go Go Giraffe. From main menu soundtracks to “bump” sounds – all picked from hundreds of different options (and yes, we purchased them all).
But it wasn’t until we could play a full-on level from start to finish with every piece of the puzzle in place that we could tell what worked and what didn’t in terms of sound effects, animation sequences, rewards, etc.
After a long week of fine-tuning, we were ready to move on to our first beta phase (which basically means, more fine-tuning). WOOHOO
Monday morning, week #5
Quite honestly, I think we were ready to move on to our second game. Things were starting to get a little repetitive. But it was up to our fearless leader to prepare a motivational speech and once again, lift our spirits up. Ok, kidding; energy drinks do a great job at lifting our spirits, too.
So now that we’re all caught up, enjoying the game, and putting together bug reports, we begin to realize that we weren’t enjoying it as much as we thought we would (yeah, I just said that). Btw, you can get discouraged real fast like that – don’t let it fool you; the smallest things can make the biggest impact. As it turned out, the game was just missing a bit of liveliness; it felt somewhat stiff and rigid. Our next task was to figure out a way to fix that. We begin experimenting with lots of new features, animations and effects; implementing some and getting rid of most others – in no time (well, 5 days to be exact) we turned it all around from, “hmmm, something’s missing” to, “wow this looks and feels great!” (And that’s what she said).
Go Go Giraffe is ready to roll! Everyone’s pleased with the performance, looks, and of course playability of the game!
And now for week 6; here we are, just finishing up the final phase of beta testing before submitting our first-ever-built game to App Store.
It’s amazing how little refinements and tweaks can take up so much of your time but nevertheless, they’re the ones that make the game what it is. Building Go Go Giraffe was a very challenging, yet truly fun and learning experience for all of us (something you can never get out of books). Can’t wait to start our second project – it is going to be awesome!
TOTAL HOURS INVESTED: 978
TOTAL DEVELOPMENT PERIOD: 6 weeks
PS: I didn’t cover the marketing aspect of the project because I feel like it deserves a whole new chapter.