An independent game development studio from New Delhi, India, SuperSike Games started in 2010 with nothing but a wish to create games. Now two year later, they have released their first game, Yet Another Bird Game, and have started to work on new projects. Amit Goyal shares their story in this postmortem.
“You know what would make a really cool game,” Arjun said as we both drove back from work, “a game with electrical cables and birds, with the player moving all those birds around.”
But I am getting a little ahead of myself here. I am Amit Goyal from SuperSike Games, and as you read this, our first game, Yet Another Bird Game, is out and about on the App Store vying for attention among millions of games.
This happens to be the story of Yet Another Bird Game, which started with the conversation between Arjun, the Co-Founder of SuperSike Games, and me two years ago.
The First Steps are the Hardest….
This would probably be a good time to mention that before starting SuperSike Games, we worked together for three years in a radio station. Arjun worked with production and programming, and I worked with sales. We both knew precisely squat about game development. So moving ahead from the idea to actual development was proving to be a bit of a roadblock.
In an effort to compensate for our lack of exposure to some extent, we decided to bring someone with experience on board for programming. We were lucky to find Sandesh Jain, who had only recently started up on his own with a development studio, Instafun, after putting some solid time in Digital Chocolate.
The art, however, was proving out to be tricky. We went through portfolio after portfolio in search of an artist we wanted to work with. From the onset, our objective was to achieve a visual design that could stand toe to toe with the best in mobile games, and finding an artist up to the task with our limited contacts was difficult.
A stroke of luck took us to Comic Con, New Delhi at the last minute, where we met Kshiraj Telang – an incredibly talented artist and animator looking for a break into the gaming scene. Kshiraj’s style matched the look we had in mind for our game perfectly. With Orange Byte Studios rounding off the team and after a search that lasted almost six months, our ragtag group was ready to roll out.
For gamers turned game developers, the initial development period is nothing short of a dream. We were involved in shaping a game to our fancy, and ticking off various design choices, brainstorming and approving character design options was like living in a dream world. We eagerly looked forward to our meetings with Kshiraj, who wowed us every day with fantastic character designs and the animations that brought them to life. Kshiraj’s imagination and prowess was the only thing slowing us down, as he often left us with far too many choices and each meriting a place in the game.
We powered on, confident about having the game ready in a few months.
…And the Nightmare That Followed…
It didn’t last forever, though. Experience counts for a lot in any profession, and the gaping holes really started to show as we moved ahead. We had initially imagined a more deliberate pace for Yet Another Bird Game, with emphasis on creating a sort of a ‘game board’ with the available options on screen, and new birds flying in and out of the screen to disrupt the player’s game board.
As build after build rolled in, it became increasingly clear that this approach was flat out boring. We proceeded to speed up the game considerably, with the various strategic elements associated with different birds changing to impact elements.
For example, in the earlier builds, Beanbag’s fart was meant to make the close by birds fly off to other unoccupied spots. This was a disruption technique. With a faster game, the strategy was constantly ignored and players were more concerned with surviving rather than caring about what spots the birds occupied. So we changed Beanbag’s fart to send the adjacent birds off screen. This made Beanbag especially useful against birds like the Spartan and Scarecrow, which the players would ideally not like to have around.
The other major problem we faced can be chalked down to our experience, but it turned out to be a huge pain. Many people have noticed that the birds in Yet Another Bird Game are incredibly detailed in their animation. While it is something that we are proud to show off, it required us to pack an abnormally high number of frames per bird in the game. This led to not only some major performance issue, but we also ended up cutting a bird from the game.
Slowly, but steadily, these issues were resolved as we plodded on towards a finished product, the six months of development period now standing at close to twelve.
What Did We Know And What Did We Learn?
The total development period for Yet Another Bird Game stands at around fifteen months, if a game can ever be considered as “done”.
With zero experience in creating games when we started out, Yet Another Bird Game has been a fantastic learning experience for us. Most importantly, it made us discover what we really love doing, which is probably the most important take-away for us from the experience.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned (rather started to learn) the various aspects of game development. We are still coming to terms with pre-production. We realized that the more games we work on, the more we will learn about all aspects of the development process.
One of our biggest takeaways from the development cycle for us was the importance of upholding timelines. The mobile gaming market has a very quick turnaround time. There are a lot of people working on a lot of ideas; there are new features and new devices coming out in a blink of an eye, and new ideas become old before you know it.
There is always an argument against hard deadlines and how they might curb creativity. At SuperSike Games, we are fast moving to an approach where all team members decide the deadlines associated with their work. But once fixed, we go all out to meet it, sleep be damned!
So the moment Yet Another Bird Game got shortlisted among the Square Enix Game Development Contest, we immediately jumped into the pre-production and resource gathering for our next game, Catcher In The Sky.
The Battle Has Just Begun….
After development, we’ve had to deal with a whole new beast. The game is ready, and now we have to get it noticed. As most developers know, this in itself is no mean task even with substantial marketing budgets. With our meager budgets, we have kicked off our own marketing effort. We also have Joseph Lieberman helping us out with the PR for the game.
Just like the development process, we expect this part of the journey to be a great learning experience, and one from which we will hopefully come out wiser, better prepared and most importantly, with more stories to tell.