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Roger, The Flying Pig: An Indie iPhone Game Post-Mortem

A look at the storied development of Roger: The Flying Pig, developed by fellow Abertay Masters student & current Studio Producer Maciej Czekala.

Maciej Czekala is a fellow Games Development Masters student at Abertay University, where he is currently operating as Studio Producer for the entire class, overseeing 3 projects at once.  In his spare hours during the last semester, he produced an iPhone game called "Roger, The Flying Pig", which has been receiving positive reviews since it launched.  With English being his second language, he asked me to help him translate & write up the interesting story of the game's development:

Roger1

In the beginning: Concept

I had the idea in my head for some time – a game where you launch something from a ramp and see how far it can fly.  The character of a pig who wanted to learn how to fly came quickly after.  I took a cue from similar existing games to create a timing-based mechanic with a “jump” button, but I felt it needed more interactivity, so I had an idea that you could drop food, that would give the pig a boost to his jump, from balloons that hung over the ramp.  Like all the ideas I had, it was interesting, but you never know how something will work until you try it!

Prototype2 


Prototyping

Luckily I had a very useful prototyping tool called “Construct” that I had used before.  It was perfect for this project – I had the basic idea up and running in just a couple of hours with basic shapes and blocks.  The ugliness of the basic shapes made it hard to get a feel for the game itself, though – so I used Inkscape to knock up some basic graphics.  This took a bit longer – Pigs aren't easy to draw – but in about 2 days I had a prototype that felt fun and didn't look completely horrible.  After playing around with it for a while, I decided it was really fun, and I wanted to take it to a mobile platform.

Funding Development

My first step in development was to get funds together to start development.  I decided to look at a new crowd-funding website I'd found, and advertised it on there as a potential iPhone/Android game development.  In the meantime, I went looking for a programmer and artist, as I'm not too skilled in either area.  Things looked difficult – I had found a programmer who was interested and could spare 5-10 hours a week, but I didn't have a single dollar donated to the project.  I felt like it wasn't going to go anywhere.

Publisher

Just then, I got an email from a publisher who was willing to publish the game!  I reiterated to them that I didn't have any money to fund it myself, and they assured me they had the money to fund it all themselves.  It was all very exciting – both to be getting recognition for my game, and to be getting experience of  working with a publisher for the first time.

At this point, we agreed I would deliver the finished game in just eight weeks … and I didn't even have a team yet!  To make matters worse, my programmer told me he couldn't work with me any more due to a rise in his work commitments elsewhere.  It was a crisis situation, and I had to act quickly.

I knew there was no way I could learn Objective C and Java in time for both platforms, so I looked into alternate middleware solutions.  I found ShiVa, but research showed it to be rather complicated, especially for 2D games, and I began to get nervous.  Another solution presented itself in the form of CoronaSDK.  This used the Lua language, which looked very easy – and after just two weeks with tutorials from a book I bought, I was ready to get started on developing the game.  As for the artwork … well, there was no way around it, I'd have to do that myself.

 

First Build

As I didn't have a Mac to work on, I bought an Android phone for testing, and set to work.  After a couple weeks, I had the prototype up and running on the phone, identical to the PC version.  The publisher was pleased to, and started offering a lot of feedback.  I refined the idea considerably, but was able to retain the core mechanics that had made the prototype so much fun.

Trouble In Paradise

Unfortunately, I wasn't happy with the feedback I was getting from the publisher.  It was getting to the point that it would become a different game from the one I had set out to make, and to make matters worse, they were still dragging their feet trying to come up with a proper contract.  I was becoming increasingly impatient and uncomfortable with the pressure they were putting on me.

Prototype3 

Playtesting

In order to get some more direct feedback, I started getting people I knew to play the game.  This proved to be an invaluable source of feedback.  I quickly found that I needed more interaction in the game during the jumping sequence.  Seeing people play the game in front of me really opened my eyes to a lot of the problems the game had, and I realised everything that needed done before release.

No More Publisher

As good as the experience of discussing the game with a professional publisher was, I felt they were asking for too many changes, and it would become a different game if I made the game the publisher wanted.  I appreciated everything the publisher was offering me, but I decided to part ways with them– it just wasn't the right time.

Roger 320

Release

The game was ready to publish by this point, though, so I just went through the Android and Apple Store formalities myself.  It was really exciting, and before long my game was submitted, and then published!

Conclusion

Overall, this was a great experience for me.  It really helped me expand my design skills, and gave me an understanding of developing and self-publishing mobile titles.  I've decided to carry this forward and keep working at it.  Despite the occasional pitfalls and troubles, it was a great overall experience!

I can attest to Maciej's game being really fun, and can confirm that he's already hard at work preparing for another title.  If you want to reach him, he can be emailed at [email protected], or you can view his profile at linkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/mczekala.

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