Ricardo Carretero on Developing Games in Pajamas
What’s it like to work in your pajamas? Ricardo Carretero from Super Mega Team took the stage on the final day of Casual Connect to tell us. Ricardo is part of Super Mega Team who managed to create Super Zombie Soccer as a part time project working from home.
If that doesn’t sound ambitious enough, the team was scattered throughout the world working independently.
The game was started in June, 2009 and released for the iPhone June, 2010. The iPad version of the game hit the market January, 2011.
While not a blockbuster hit, Super Zombie Soccer achieved very respectable sales numbers with over 100,000 units sold and over 700,000 units downloaded and installed. The development team walked away with over 60K US in royalties and gained the attention of such gaming heavyweights as Microsoft, Chillingo, and Electronic Arts.
Ricardo broke down the development process and explained what went into creating this worthy title.
The Development Process
The idea for Super Zombie Soccer was first captured in a few simple templates. Ricardo pointed out that the team had four main criteria they wanted to stick to during the development of the game:
- The idea: Soccer and zombies seem to be universally loved. That’s a good start!
- Stay small: Maintain a small development team and adapt team members to the project. Be aware of each person’s strengths and weaknesses and make decisions accordingly.
- Polish: Tired of rushing at the end of projects. Pro Zombie Soccer would be release when done. Critical to release a polished game. Players are the worst critics ever but can be your best friends if things are done well.
- Storyline: We found many games did not have strong supporting storylines. Even if not necessary, we felt a strong storyline would add value. We also had a great comic artist with loads of experience we wanted to take advantage of.
Super Mega Team was fortunate to have an industry veteran artist signed on for the project. As such, a lot of focus was placed on the art assets that would support the game.
- Very defined art style: We wanted unique zombies. There are a lot of zombie games out there. Our zombies would not be like all the other zombies. We also used a unique distorted perspective background.
- Animation frame by frame: We wanted all the death sequences to be cool. The game is about killing zombies. Players must feel wowed by zombie deaths.
- Iconography: We missed the mark here. People thought it was a soccer game with zombie elements when in fact the game is a zombie game with soccer elements.
- Comic style drives storyline: We also missed the mark here. We wanted to capture as much story as possible in the art, but found much of this to be a waste of time because people skip the cut scenes. That being said, the professional art was a great asset as we were able to use in many places (videos, marketing, screenshots, etc.)
Game design can be a tricky process when everyone is in the same building. Things get more complicated when everyone is scattered across the globe. Ricardo offers some thoughts on maintaining sanity and efficiency in such situations.
- Important Decisions: We made sure to leverage simple controls that never obscured the gameplay area. We also designed variety into the game. Every zombie is killed in a different manner. No Game Design Documents (GDD). We took to utilizing micro GDDs as half of GDDs aren’t read by ANYONE. By limiting each GDD to a specific aspect of gameplay, they become much more valuable.
- The Level Design Process: We wanted to make sure we gave something unique at each level. We also adapted the levels to so as to promote super powers usage. We leveraged a simple but extremely effective level editor so creating great levels was easy.
- The Boss fights: When we had the game play tested, the audience was surprised to find the zombies they thought were bosses were not really bosses. This resulted in us rushing to put together the final bosses (too much time on non-bosses). In our rush to create the final bosses we settled for “good enough”. Guess what? Good enough is NOT good enough. The final bosses are the last thing players see in game. They need to be GREAT!
Working in Pajamas
Ricardo made it clear he did, in fact, do much of the design work in his pajamas (and something not even that!). Here’s how he recommends you keep your team on the same page when everyone is designing from their bedroom.
- Communication: Consistency among team is difficult. Skype is great…most of the time. When communicating over email, be weary of tangents. Often the main focus of the initial email can get lost.
- Files Management: File sharing was initially done via email, but this is limited if file sizes get too large. Furthermore there is no versioning capabilities. Moved to Git which is Dropbox compatible. Also, SDK4 is Git compatible.
- Home Habits: Commit to working serious hours, but be careful not to lose track of life.