Today I would like to introduce a new feature to our site, that will become a regular feature on Day of the OUYA.
One of our goals with this site is to bring game developers and gamers closer together. On the one hand we’d like you to be able to get in contact with the persons behind a game and also for the developers to have direct feedback.
This first interview is with Eric Froemling, who created the awesome game BombSquad. We’ll talk a bit about the development of BombSquad, what it’s like to develop for the OUYA and also Eric gives us a nice insight into the monetary benefits of creating a game for the OUYA. Here we go!
Day of the OUYA: First of all, congrats on BombSquad. It is an amazing game and currently ranks #1 in our Team Charts. Apart from that, whenever we ask someone “What’s your favorite game on OUYA?” in 99% of the time BombSquad is included. Before we dive into the game itself, could you give us a brief introduction of yourself and how you came to be a game developer? We’d also like to know how that relates to your day job at Pixar.
Eric:Thanks!I was a child of the 80s who grew up building wooden block forts for my G.I. Joes, blowing things up with firecrackers, and spending too much time on the NES. I think BombSquad is an amalgamation of all those experiences.
My passion has always been art and animation and computers and I love expressing that in any way that I can. One of the ways I do that is my ‘real’ job doing visual effects for animated films, and another is my game hobby. I find that doing one benefits the other since they are so different but similar at the same time. In movies we can spend 6 hours rendering a frame and in games we get one sixtieth of a second, but the goal is still the same; putting something appealing up on the screen.
Ever since I was learning to code in high school I would dabble in making games, though BombSquad is the first time I’ve ever really ‘finished’ one of them. In my college years my roommates and I would host big Halo parties, and I started writing BombSquad as a simple little game my friends and I could all play in between rounds of Halo, alongside games like Fusion Frenzy, Mario Kart, and Bomberman. I wanted to capture the essence of what made all those games fun to play in large groups: the cheering, the shouting matches, the public humiliation; all that.
Due to my apparently terrible eBay skills I believe I still hold the record for the most money spent on a secondhand OUYA
DotO: What is it like developing games for the OUYA? How was the support, during the process from the team at OUYA? What were your biggest hurdles that are unique to the OUYA?
Eric: My biggest OUYA-specific hurdle was getting myself an OUYA to test on. After getting the game as far as I could on my Nexus 7 (see here) I eventually resorted to snagging an early-backer’s console on eBay. Due to my apparently terrible eBay skills I believe I still hold the record for the most money spent on a secondhand OUYA. Ironically, the next day the OUYA folks contacted me after seeing a test .apk of BombSquad and asked if they could help in any way such as hooking me up with hardware. Oh well.. 🙂
In all honesty though, the OUYA folks have been great to work with. I wound up causing a bit of a ruckus when I wrote the JoyStickTest app to demonstrate the dead-zone issues I was seeing with the controller, but shortly thereafter their lead controller engineer contacted me to talk about the issues, hooked me up with hardware running test firmware addressing the problem, etc. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride but I’ve seen firsthand that they’re working to smooth everything over, and that’s encouraging.
DotO: Did you expect that kind of success, when you produced BombSquad? BombSquad was out on other platforms before it came to the OUYA. Was the success on these platforms comparable?
Eric: The success I saw when I first decided to clean up BombSquad and release it on the Mac App Store was definitely surprising to me. I had written the game as something to play with my friends and didn’t know how other people would react to it, especially since you don’t really think of the Mac as a system for ‘couch multiplayer’ games. However the game wound up getting featured by Apple and it briefly hit #1 paid in several markets, and though it didn’t stay there too long it really inspired me to keep improving the game and to bring it to other platforms. The OUYA experience has been even more rewarding because now more people can play the game as its meant to be played; on a couch with controllers and some friends.
I made a conscious decision to redo all the visuals with a more unique approach: by creating everything in real life.
DotO: The level design of BombSquad is beyond most of what I’ve ever seen. The level of detail is breathtaking!
I’ve seen a few posts over on your site (froemling.net – highly recommended to read after the interview) where you talk a little bit about the process. How was the process in detail? You built the levels with real objects such as clay, took pictures of them and then transformed that into 3D levels right?
Eric: Early levels I made were done in a more traditional fashion, with everything modeled on the computer and textures painted by hand, but when I decided to release the game I made a conscious decision to redo all the visuals with a more unique approach: by creating everything in real life.
I find there’s a certain warmth and charm in stop-motion animation that stems from the fact that everything is real: the fact that you can see smudges and imperfections and fingerprints and little flecks of fuzz gives it a certain tangible appeal, and that’s I wanted to capture in BombSquad. Plus, from a pragmatic perspective, I had to keep the amount of time I spent on each level manageable and this allowed me to ‘cheat’ instead of spending all my time painting detailed textures. I think this is one of the reason that so many indie games go down stylized routes such as retro pixel-art; styles like that can be appealing while still being somewhat of a timesaver.
So in the case of BombSquad, most all of the levels and characters in the game began their life on my kitchen counter (see here).
I’d take some photos, reconstruct the model in 3d on the computer, and then texture it using those photos. It sounds simple but it’s actually tricky to get everything to line up well. A lot of times I’d have to change the level a bit after the fact for gameplay reasons which requires some creative photoshopping.
I just ran some numbers and it looks like so far 13.1% of people who have played BombSquad have wound up buying it, which I’m very happy with.
Doto: Let’s talk “financials”. Has the portation from PC/Mac to the OUYA been worth your time, in terms of financial return? The OUYA wants to attract more indie game designers, could they make a living from having a great game such as yours, in the OUYA store? Or are people only downloading your game, playing the first free hour without paying afterwards?
Eric: The OUYA has definitely been worth my time at this point, both financially and also in terms of exposure it’s gotten for my game. The time/hardware investment has already paid for itself many times over. I just ran some numbers and it looks like so far 13.1% of people who have played BombSquad have wound up buying it, which I’m very happy with.As far as the viability of making a living solely from OUYA games: it’s hard to say at this point. If my numbers stay close to where they currently are for any length of time I’d say yes, but who knows what will happen.It’s been exciting watching the numbers with the platform being so new; on an established platform like OSX or iOS a popular game might get a huge initial spike and then depressingly drop a little every day after that, but with OUYA it’s been a slow but steady climb as more consoles make their way into the world. It’ll be interesting to see where it winds up.
At the end of the day I think writing for OUYA is a pretty low-risk endeavor, especially with all the other android consoles on the horizon. I’m rooting for OUYA but the simple truth is that once you’re on Android its a pretty small jump between any of them.
Network play is definitely near the top of the list, but another thing I want to focus on is customization.
DotO: Last question is “What is Eric Froemling, the genius and mastermind, going to do in the future?” Are you developing BombSquad further, to add things such as maybe an Online Multiplayer or are you working on a new project?
Eric: I’ve got 2 or 3 other game ideas I’d love to take a swing at eventually, but there’s still a lot I want to add to BombSquad, so that will be keeping me busy for a while.Network play is definitely near the top of the list, but another thing I want to focus on is customization. I think it’d be great if folks could easily create and share their own characters, levels, and mini-games. All of the game logic is contained in little python scripts, so someone with a little scripting knowledge can completely rework the game if they want, which I think goes well with the spirit of OUYA in general. I just need to start releasing some tutorials.. stay tuned 🙂
DotO: Thank you for your time Eric. Again much appreciated and I’m very much to seeing more of you.
Eric: Thanks for asking. It’s great to hear people are enjoying playing the game as much as I am enjoying making it.
Note: If you haven’t played BombSquad yet, go to the OUYA store and do so! Afterwards … buy it! Worth every Cent.
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