Contributions

Making My First iPhone Game From Scratch Part. 1 – by Pepwuper’s Brandon Wu

February 3, 2011 — by Mariia Lototska

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Contributions

Making My First iPhone Game From Scratch Part. 1 – by Pepwuper’s Brandon Wu

February 3, 2011 — by Mariia Lototska

Brandon Wu is the founder and CEO of Studio Pepwuper. Brandon’s previous career includes strategic consulting at Sony and leading a testing team at Electronic Arts. In a previous life, he was an MBA, a economics major, and an owner of an office supply company. Now he spends his time making games, writing blog posts, and dreaming of a world where everybody loves games. In his first contribution for Gamesauce, he will talk about how he learned his way to building his first iPhone game, Megan and the Giant, without prior knowledge of programming and art-making.

A little more than a year ago, I was working in the strategy division at the Sony headquarters in Tokyo, busy making financial forecasts for new ventures and evaluating business deals. I had a typical MBA job, working with spreadsheets, writing feasibility studies and business plans, and meeting with executives to discuss high level strategies for one of the largest consumer electronics company in the world. My job couldn’t be further away from what I am doing today.

Armed with an education only in Economics and Business, I had no experience with programming a game, creating 2D and 3D art assets, or making sound effects and music for games. Not to mention my lack of proper game design experience. In the beginning of 2010, when I quit my corporate job, I had nothing but a desire to make games, and an idea for the first title. Insane? Maybe, but at that point, I had already decided that, no matter what it took, that game had to be made. Here is the series of events that led to the birth of “Megan and the Giant.”




Conceptualization

Early sketch of the stealth gameplay. Tools used: imagination, pencil, notebook.

In December 2009, I went to England for the first time to visit my in-laws for Christmas. My wife and I went on the Duck Tour – an amphibious bus that takes you around the city, and transforms into a boat that goes into the River Thames. While on the Duck Tour, I saw a road sign near the River Thames that resembled a giant creature, with a red line crossing through it. We couldn’t figure out what the sign meant, and I had the idea that perhaps there are giant creatures living in the river, and that the sign is saying “No Giants Allowed”.




I decided it would make a pretty interesting story, and spent the next few days sketching out ideas of how the story would unfold. I imagined England at war with another country, and these giants were thought to be secret weapons from the enemy, but eventually they became friends with a little girl and helped defending London from an invasion at the end.

The story was modified over time, and eventually I decided to stay away from a war-themed game to keep the game family-friendly.

I kept having this idea where in one scene, Megan would have to help the Giant escape from the police. Eventually I decided that that is what the game would be about, a simplified stealth game with elements from Metal Gear Solid and Pac-Man.

After I had a rough idea of what the story was about, I started thinking about gameplay. Initially I imagined a game similar to Professor Layton, where puzzle game is the main gameplay with stories in-between play sessions. But I kept having this idea where in one scene, Megan would have to help the Giant escape from the police. Eventually I decided that that is what the game would be about, a simplified stealth game with elements from Metal Gear Solid and Pac-Man.

Concept Art

One of the early concept art made by Yu Chen Wang. Tools used: Facebook (messages, contact)

After the basic concept was in place. I decided it would be great to have some concept art for development, and to help explain to people what the game is about. I asked Shawn Yu from Yu’s Art Adventure to help me with the concept art. This is when I finalized the look of the Giant and his personality.

Design Doc: DEMO

I plotted out the main story timeline on Keynote (simply because I am more familiar with presentation tools than anything else). This is when the story was still about the war, with an epic scene at the end where hundreds of giants show up to fight against the enemy. EPIC! Tools used: iWork'09 - Pages, Keynote, Game Design Document Outline

I decided to make a short demo for the game first so I could get some early feedback on the game. I used to write business plans, and I thought having a design doc, even though this is a small project, would help me think through the design and find details that I’d missed. So I wrote a design document that described the story, the gameplay, the visual, the target audience, and the purpose of the demo.

Outsourcing…?

After the design document for the demo was done, I wanted to outsource the development to a third party since I didn’t have the skills (programming, art, sound, etc.) to make it. I talked to many studios around the world, and found several talented studios interested in the project. However the development cost was too high, and I also decided that having the knowledge of how a game is made is crucial for me if I want to lead Studio Pepwuper to success. After one month of business development activities, I put my head down and started learning how to make a game from scratch.

Game Engine

After a few weeks of intense studying and experimenting I was able to set up a scene in Unity 2.6 that contained the basic gameplay.

Fortunately there are some great game engines available on the market. I had been paying attention to these middleware since 2009 and knew what my options were when it came to developing an iPhone game without having to do all the ground work. Among the choices were: Torque, Unity, ShiVa, and Cocos2D, and I eventually decided on Unity 3D for it’s ability to publish to multiple platforms and it’s supportive community. I bought the only Unity book available at the time (Will Goldstone’s Unity Game Development Essentials) and spent one month studying it day and night. The book does a good job of introducing the engine to beginners, but due to my lack of programming knowledge, I had to supplement my study with lots of reading online to learn programming and scripting with Javascript. I had a new found respect for all the programmers after that intense month.

What’s Next?

It took me three months from the moment I had the idea of making a game to actually seeing the prototype on screen, with the majority of the time spent on learning how to program and finding my way around Unity. It was great to finally see the idea come alive, and to know that maybe, just maybe, I can actually make games!

It was great to finally see the idea come alive, and to know that maybe, just maybe, I can actually make games!

A prototype is not a game, and the game was still 7 months from completion. Armed with my new-found confidence in self-studying, I continued my journey into more topics involved in game development. In the next part, I will talk about 2D and 3D art, sound/music, level design/boss fights, play-testing, getting the game onto an iPhone (Xcode), and the final crunch to the finish – the much juicier – and rewarding -parts of game making.

Stay Tuned!

Brandon can be reached at brandon.wu@gamesauce.org

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Mariia Lototska

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