ContributionsDevelopmentIndiePostmortem

Cyto’s Puzzle Adventure – Breaking Out and Evolving Ideas

October 31, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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ContributionsDevelopmentIndiePostmortem

Cyto’s Puzzle Adventure – Breaking Out and Evolving Ideas

October 31, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

Ukraine-based Room 8 Studio‘s mission is to break ground in the mobile games space. With the big sense of purpose and effort, they created their first game, Cyto’s Puzzle Adventure. The Room 8 team tells the story.

For about a year, the Room 8 team has been working on Cyto’s Puzzle Adventure, but the development process turned out to be longer and harder than we expected. Still, our whole team looks back on that time in a positive light, and we received invaluable experience.

A Sticky Start

The story of our game begins in late 2011. None of our team had experience in developing for iOS, or game development, for that matter. What we did have was a great desire to make a really high-quality product that we could be proud of. We came up with a great idea about a cute little creature with tentacles that could cling to different objects. Without thinking twice, we started to develop this game we called Sticky. The plan was to make it in a couple of months to be just in time for the Christmas sales, but in the end, the process was somewhat delayed.




demo
The first demo we sent to Chillingo looked like this.

By creating the first working demo, we immediately sent it to Chillingo, our prospective publisher. There were no levels or design, just the bare prototype with a brief description and some concept art. This is a very useful practice. The mistake of many developers is that they give publishers an almost complete, or even completely finished game, when publishers can also be beneficial to noticing a promising project at an early stage. The sooner they join in on the development process, even if it is at the level of general council as to which direction to go, the better it is for everyone.

However, we were disappointed. After looking at the concept, Chillingo said that the mechanics of the game was not new or original, and forwarded us several variants of such games. Although these examples had little resemblance to our concept, we started to think about alternatives. Looking back now, we realize that the publishers helped us a lot. If development of Sticky was not delayed, it’d be lost among the other similar games, many of which have become quite successful.

pic_4
If development of Sticky was not delayed, it’d be lost among the other similar games, many of which have become quite successful.

Just a couple of months after freezing the project Sticky, Chillingo released the game Munch Time, and in October 2012, Microsoft introduced Tentacles: Enter the Dolphin. The appearance of these two games blew away the novelty effect we would have liked to achieve with Sticky. Then a new game Tupsu was released, which included some features we had planned to implement, not to mention the gameplay itself.




This happens all the time in the App Store: as long as you think through and develop some “brilliant” idea, someone has already started to implement it. Or, even worse, you can see a clone of your game in the Store just when you have done about 80 percent. You have to be ready for this and not delay the development of applications for iOS.

Character
The main character Tentacles is almost the exact opposite of Sticky

Changes in the Concept of the Game

At the close of the Sticky project, we had approved the concept art and character, and had finished the physical model. We didn’t want to start from scratch, so as a basis, it was decided to take the ready developments and modify them qualitatively. On one hand, this limited us in making some decisions, but on the other, it saved time and, although in a different form, helped us realize what we originally intended. After several days of stubborn brainstorms, we prepared a new concept. Among the sketches of the Sticky character, we liked this one the most:

Sticky

The idea is that the character itself is inside the gelatinous envelope. We can see an expressive little face with different emotions, surrounded by a deformed envelope from which the tentacles can be drawn out. Such a character perfectly suited our new concept: we don`t pull the tentacles from the outside, but rather, the character itself deforms the envelope in which he lives.

At first, it was assumed that the character would stick its shell to multiple objects and move around in this way. But after some thought, we abandoned this option because there were no interesting mechanics with it. After observing the behavior of the different elastic objects (don`t get it wrong, haha), we came to the conclusion that the best thing would be to make the skin more elastic, like a rubber band, so the character could run itself like a slingshot. Such game mechanics have already become clear and familiar to many people, but with our approach to the game, it does not look like a clone of Angry Birds. With this in mind, and with enthusiasm, we started to develop.

Microscopic World

As for the setting of the game, it was decided to put the character into the microscopic world. Its shell could stick to organic objects (cells), and float around different crystals, viruses, and other poultry. Of course, we had to abandon the backgrounds that were drawn for Sticky.

The first concept art, collected from real macro-photos
The first concept art, collected from real macro-photos

In some sense, the nature of the game world dictated the design requirements. It was supposed to be rich, “juicy”, and minimalist at the same time. So we thought to make the whole design monotonous, almost monochrome, and play with only a few shades of the base color. Also, it was planned to present levels in the form of macro photography with a deep background and a set of realistic small details. However, these locations poorly suited the cartoon character, and so it was decided to simplify them, too.

Our approved version of the concept art
Our approved version of the concept art

Naming the Game

When we came up with the name of the game, we wanted to convey the microscopic nature of the game world, make it unique, like a biological term, but short and well-remembered. A perfect example is the term Osmos: it has all of the above, plus, in some way, a description of gameplay. There were not so many options, but among them was Cyto. This is not an independent word; it is a prefix meaning cell and is used in compound terms, such as cytoplasm.

It was a good idea for the working title of the project, so we went with it. More than once, we tried to come up with a new title, but in the process of development we got so used to Cyto that we could not imagine it being called something else. We even decided to name the main character Cyto, even though we had assumed that it would have its own name.

Revealing Cyto’s Puzzle Adventure

CytoIn the end, after many revisions and improvements, Cyto Puzzle Adventure finally came into existence. In this regard, we would like to advise novice developers to assess their strength and timing realistically. We planned to make the game in a couple of months, but spent much more time on it. We were lucky, and were able to complete the project. For most startups, unfortunately, the overestimation of the forces is equivalent to failure.




Optional, but very desirable, attributes of high-quality games are the little details, like sailing bubbles and particles on the background, beautifully appearing buttons, and all sorts of invisible (at first glance) animations and effects. For example, has anyone tried “to tap” on Cyto’s face? 🙂 Start your fabulous journey in microcosm now by downloading the puzzle!

Cyto’s Puzzle Adventure took part in Casual Connect Kyiv 2013‘s Indie Prize Showcase. To stay up to date on the workings of Room 8, like them on Facebook.




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