Big Fish Games on the iPhone
With so much buzz around mobile gaming on the Apple iPhone, it was only a matter of time before a Big Fish Games title made its way to this capable and exciting platform. Following on the heels of the successful development and release of Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir for the Nintendo DS, Hidden Expedition: Everest was targeted as the first release for the iPhone. Learn more about this great title and other Big Fish Games for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Shawn Wood (Lead Artist) and Tyson Chihaya (Lead Programmer) were tasked with transitioning Everest from the PC to the iPhone. A downloadable gaming hit, the Hidden Expedition series of games have established themselves as a well known brand among casual gamers. This resulted in the redesign of Hidden Expedition: Everest carrying with it certain expectations. “We wanted to make sure we kept the core integrity of the game intact, however, our #1 goal was to make sure it remained a good game. Also, this was our first game for the iPhone so we felt a bit of pressure to get it right,” said Shawn Wood.
The Development Process
To begin the process, the development team took the time to play through the original PC version of Hidden Expedition: Everest. During this phase, they assessed what was going to work on the iPhone, what needed to be pulled out of the game, what needed to be changed, and what could be improved. According to the Wood, “We wanted to take the time not only to make the game available for the iPhone, but to improve the gaming experience.”
Since both platforms use different programming languages, when the team was ready to begin development, they had to start by deconstructing the code and translating its core elements. “The games we make at Big Fish are made with Flash, Director, etc. iPhone games use a language called ‘Objective C’ so we had to look at the original code and then translate it to this new language,” said Shawn.
While this may sound like a daunting task, Shawn pointed out most of the game design was already done. “In game design, the ideas behind game play generally stay the same regardless of the programming language. All we had to do was take an already good game and figure out how to make it a great experience on a new device.”
While the code governing the game play mechanics was able to be translated, the iPhone presented other challenges that forced changes to the original version of the game. The unique screen dimensions of the iPhone (320 pixels x 480 pixels) forced the team to rethink the Everest hidden object scenes. Of course, a smaller screen size means less viewing area.
“All the buttons in the game needed to be redesigned to fit the smaller iPhone screen. Also, there were many hidden objects that were just too small to see and had to be removed. The same was true for the mini-games you’ll find on the PC version of the game,” said Shawn.
The iPhone also lacks the mouse input standard on PCs. Instead, it makes use of a touch screen for user interface. According to Shawn, “Obviously, there is no mouse so all the user inputs needed to be changed. However, the iPhone offers other unique controls like pinch zoom, finger touch, scroll, etc. So, while we lost the mouse, we gained other cool options we feel are better suited for mobile gaming.”
By leveraging the iPhone touch controls, the development team was able to use scenes large enough for quality game play. “Since you can use finger touch to move objects, we were able to let each scene overlap the actual iPhone screen. Users can then drag the scenes around to see everything.”
“You can also zoom in / zoom out and play the game in either landscape or portrait mode – some cool feature the iPhone offers we took advantage of.”
These new options fit naturally with the style of game play common to most hidden object games. “We were really happy with the way the iPhone lets users interact with the game in a more hands-on way,” commented Shawn Wood.
Upon release, Hidden Expedition: Everest shot to the top of the iPhone games sales charts. The game has received high marks from over 600 users garnering a four star rating on iTunes (out of five stars). According to Shawn Seavers, “Big Fish Games is very happy with the sales of Hidden Expedition: Everest. We really wanted to show iPhone users what Big Fish Games Studios is capable of. The fact that we were able to share a great game like Everest with the iPhone gaming community makes it that much better.”
As this was the first iPhone release from Big Fish Games, Shawn was anxious to see the results. “The success of Everest definitely grabbed everyone’s attention. We knew it was a good PC game and we were really happy with the job Tyson and Shawn did bringing it to the iPhone.”
Given the success of Everest, what does the future of Big Fish Games on the iPhone look like? “We are looking into creating new games as well as leveraging the capabilities of the iPhone to add new content to older games. We have a lot of games we think are perfect for the iPhone!”