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Challenges in designing Mucho Party (a local multiplayer party game for touch screens)

GlobZ is a small French indie company of four team members: Alex Houdent, Laurent Fernandez, Fabien Riffaud and Jérémy Damon. Alex talks about the challenges and lessons of the creative process for their latest game, Mucho Party.

The entire GlobZ team has been working together for more than 10 years, becoming works-for-hire for web/mobile games in order to finance our own productions. In the past, GlobZ got some recognition as an IGF finalist in 2008 and Milthon prize winner in 2009 for Globulos, released first on the web in 2003 and later on the Nintendo DSiWare in 2010, including in Japan, where the game was sold best. In 2011, we also published an iOS version. Since then, we released the arcade puzzler Twinspin on iOS and Android in 2012, but despite all the good player reviews, the game did not sell well at all. The question arose: what game are we to make next!? The answer to that question turned out to be a touch party game called Mucho Party, to be enjoyed by several players on a single touch screen. Local multiplayer!

A Party Game: A Perfect Fit For a Work-For-Hire Studio

GlobZ is a very small studio, but the team members all have strong personalities and somewhat different tastes. And even if I am the “final boss”, I like it when decisions are collective and we reach a consensus. I like to say that we are two developers, two graphic designers, and four game designers!

So when thinking of a game, we thought about the games we like to play together. Bishi Bashi was in the top list. Thinking about it, we liked the idea of doing a touch party game with the spirit of that great Playstation game! Everything seemed a perfect match:

- Minigames were ideal for a possibly sliced (between work-for-hire) production!
- A crazy art direction would allow us to experience many funny styles at no cost!
- We did not find any game like ours in the App Store, so we had a kind of “blue ocean” strategy!
- This would qualify for a PREMIUM title! No F2P – because premium is all about “perceived value” (here we have 30 minigames) and “I don’t already have this app on my device” thinking (we hope so!).

Following All Great Advice Seen in Postmortems

We were very excited about the project. We made a huge document with 35 minigame ideas, came up with “Oh My GlobZ” as a working title, developed a prototype (Candy Match), and filed an application to a French state office (CNC), who agreed to give us some money at the end of 2012 to help develop the game. At the time local multiplayer was nowhere in any radar.

And for once, I promised myself I would follow all the great advice that I constantly see in postmortems, like:
- Do playtests as often as possible and take the feedback into account!
- Speak about the game as soon as possible and as much as possible!
- Work with a PR company instead of doing it yourself!

What a Touch Party Game Needs

In 2013, we started working on the game. Production happened not to be sliced at all, and we had to make lots of decisions on a daily basis. In other projects, we usually have some time to think between actions, so this was new to us. We discovered quite a few more things during development as well. First, our gameplay had limitations. We had no buttons mashing up stability of the device, no swiping, and no virtual controls. Also, some games that we wrote out did not turn out as fun as we hoped.

We planned to use many local multiplayer possibilities, but kept only the two in the the top picture that appeared the best

Doing something “crazy” and “fun” might seem simple when you look at it, but it’s not like that in real life (unless you’re really crazy, maybe). The first designs were “serious” and too “well-executed”. They looked like nice Flash games, but lacked a special twist, a specific identity and style. We wanted the game to be recognizable from any screenshot, not dependent on the diversity of graphic directions.

Our original plan for the identity of the game was to rely on some black-and-white characters we called Arcarids/Blubz, but we eventually changed them to avatars, where players would put pictures of their faces instead. We had worked on a Facebook game for a client where the Facebook profile picture was used as the face of the character in the game, and it was great fun and so much easier for the players to see who they are!

During development, we realized that the party game (“stupid, but fun”) orientation was a bit frustrating for some, because we also like simple and deep puzzle/strategy games, and had some as prototypes. At a certain point, in order to help ourselves decide to completely get rid of some of those we joked we would do a “Mucho Strategy” sequel.

Some of the games that we kept for the "Mucho Strategy" sequel

The Mayonnaise Doesn’t Work

In April 2013, the production was put on pause due to some work-for-hire projects. By that time, we had lots of content for the game, but the whole thing still lacked a clear direction and identity. In French, we have a great expression that fit our situation: “the mayonnaise doesn’t work”. It means you have all the ingredients, but it does not work as great as you expect. The pause happened to be a good opportunity to perform many playtests and show the game to some fellow game designers. This helped us outline the “fun factor” and identity/style – the avatars were the thing! So we decided to feature them in all games, not only in the UI!

Some minigames, all featuring the avatars: the identity of the game is in every screenshot despite the graphic diversity

We got back to the project in mid-November. It’s terrible to say but it felt difficult to find the motivation to start working on the game again! I thought the way out was in making totally new games, but the team was much more reasonable, and we ended up polishing the existing games, UI, and game modes. It was a wise decision, because we really had the feeling of consolidating the grounds of the title at last. What is more, the Google documents we were using included too many comments, so we decided to clear everything and keep only the latest and relevant feedback (note: Google keeps all the modifications anyway!). We also had some communication issues due to remote locations, but solved that by simply doing a little more Skype conference calls!

The Happy Ending ;-)

We are now super happy with the avatars; they are really fun and give a strong identity to the game. And when we do playtests, we see people enjoying the minigames, which is ultimately the goal of the whole thing! In fact I realize now that the ultimate game choice was determined by the playtests! You can see a short preview video of the game to see the result and the game definitive game icons:

The game release date is set to June 5th! Don't forget to follow GlobZ or Mucho Party on Twitter!

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