The story of ngmoco and Demiurge Studio's WordFu
offers an interesting look inside the development of an App Store-topping iPhone game. In an in-depth Gamasutra postmortem
, the Demiurge team discusses what went right and what went wrong, from swift iteration to localization complexity and beyond.
One platform-specific benefit was that it was easy to implement features:
"Since features are relatively easy to implement, we could take feedback and quickly put it into the game. The Apple App Store made this process easy and fast, so when customers and critics requested features, we could turn around and easily update WordFu.
Some people didn't like the stress (or what we like to call "challenge") of a short starting time, so our first update allowed people to choose a longer starting time. We also allowed people to play their own music while playing WordFu.
Multiplayer was limited to playing against people in your local Wi-Fi network, so we added the ability to challenge your friends via email. This feature was expanded in the next update."
But there are also platform-specific problems. Not only was Demiurge new to iPhone, the platform itself is new, and this unfamiliarity caused a few problems:
"Old habits die hard, and in our initial stages, converting primarily PC users to the Mac OS seemed like enough of a problem. Just getting over the fact that Ctrl+C didn't copy and F3 didn't find the next instance of something took a while to retrain the muscle memory. After many years of using Visual Studio, switching to Xcode also took some getting used to.
Next came the real problems. We were crashing a lot, due to running out of memory. When we learned how to use the Instruments tool, it showed us quickly where the memory was being sucked up. It turned out we weren't allocating memory efficiently, and we could see that audio was the main offender. Using this tool, we could pinpoint problems and optimize the game accordingly.
The UI Kit system for making Apple buttons and lists didn't integrate well with OpenGL, and we didn't discover this until relatively late in the project. We had to redo a lot of the way the UI was handled to make things run smoothly. Had we known the systems didn't work well together from the start, we would have planned differently."
The full postmortem
, with many more rights and wrongs in the development of the successful WordFu
, is now available at Gamasutra (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).