A Russian publisher and developer, Herocraft brings games to multiple platforms such as mobile, PC, and social networks. A “Top Developer” on Google Play, they distribute worldwide in 15 different languages. One of their titles is Race illegal: High Speed 3D, which recently hit 10 million downloads. Alexander Petrus, the lead programmer of Race illegal, discusses the game’s development.
You Don’t Need Many to Create a Game
How many people are required to make a 3D game and port it to a variety of mobile platforms? In this case, just two of us! Anton Vankovich, our talented lead artist and 3D modeler, and myself, were the only ones who were working on this project. We met each other on an online forum for mobile games and started from there.
The inspiration for the game came from when I first bought my Nokia 6680. I thought: “Now I’m constantly carrying a small computer with me, why don’t I make something interesting for it?” At first, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what to make and displayed simple text like “Hello World!” I moved on to make graphics, then a small plane flying against this simple background. Eventually, the plane turned into a small car. Before long, these experiments became an arcade racing game. After that, I put the demo version on a gaming forum and I got some nice feedback, with Anton’s opinions amongst them. Anton had just started working with 3D modeling. Our chatting became collaboration, despite the fact we lived in different countries. A year later, we finally met for real when Anton moved from Belarus to Ukraine.
From my point of view, a team of two is good for indie mobile development. One artist and one programmer can form the basis of the game. Things like music, QA, launch, and marketing materials can be realized with the help of a good publisher. A team of two is also enough to exchange ideas, discuss them, and choose the best option while retaining flexibility and creativity during the project.
Dealing with New Technologies
We knew the importance of the technologies we had to learn during the development process. We were constantly learning everything that could lift the quality of our game or speed the development process up. Thus, we explored such platforms as J2Me, Android, WP8, Tizen, iOS, and OS X; programming languages Java, C++, C#, and PHP; and the basic 3D modeling packages like 3Ds Max, Modo, Blender, ZBrush, and Maya. Technology is always moving forward. In order to keep pace with the development, it’s a must to always be learning something new and invest in your own abilities and skills.
The game underwent a host of changes on its way from J2Me to the later Android and WP8 versions. Everything was remade – the 3D world, the cars and their driving physics, and even the game interface. All the textures were renewed, and a great number of special effects, shadows and lighting were added. Even now, every update released has not only minor fixes, but major upgrades as well.
But one of the biggest and best results from this learning process is our own multi-platform 3D engine APT3D. Despite the fact that we created it during the development of only one game, I am sure it will be a solid foundation for our future development projects.
Game Development is Fun!
Game development is comparable to multidiscipline competition in sport, like the decathlon. To make games, you need creative thinking, solid project management, artistry, musicianship, and financial resources to boot, and this list is far from exhaustive. But don’t worry – it’s also fun! No other type of programming can compare with making games. While you’re coding, every change you make is easily seen on screen. As a result, funny stuff is always happening. In the beta versions of Race illegal: High Speed 3D, it was even possible to drive a bus and cars could be driven backwards!
Creating the career mode was a very interesting process, especially in terms of characters and dialogue. My closest friends were the models for the characters, even leading to one or two of them being recognized on the street! You have to work with the resources you have. It doesn’t matter how many people are in your team, or even their skill levels or experience. If you have the desire to learn, to try, and even to make mistakes, to open up to new things and develop yourself, and, of course, embody your ideas into games, you have everything you need! The rest will come with the help of persistence and time.
A Publisher’s Help and Life After Release
After working on the game for a year, we had already defined the game format and the basic concept, but we didn’t have the foggiest idea what to do with it next. At that time, HeroCraft stepped in to help, and very soon, the initial game went live. I appreciated the significance of cooperation with a publisher during this phase of polishing and preparation for launch, technical support, marketing activities, and preparing updates. Thanks to the team at HeroCraft, we managed to raise the game quality to the highest level we could.
Releasing the game was only half the job. No matter how much time is spent in QA and collecting focus group’s opinions, releasing the game to the mass market will always throw up a number of complaints. During the development cycle, especially a long, drawn-out one, developers get used to the visuals, controls, navigation, etc., and stop noticing them – this is a huge and frequent mistake of inexperienced developers. No matter how well you know your interface or gameplay, if someone from your QA team or one of your friends doesn’t like or understand something, change it at once! Your game will be played by thousands or even millions of people, and this means that 1 in 10 of the focus group becomes tens of thousands of users who will notice these flaws in your released game. That’s why it’s very important to read user reviews and listen to customer opinions. Moreover, it’s great to talk to people who play your game more often than you do. Find time for it! Development is now a two-way process: users that can contact the dev team directly will become the most dedicated fans.
A Bit of Advice
Also find a good publisher. The publisher’s role is to share experience, help you, lift the game quality, present it to the world, and support it long term. Moreover, if you’re an indie developer, you will feel like a part of a team that is ready to help at any moment.
Currently, we’re busy making a few new game prototypes and experimenting with different game mechanics. They will become small puzzle games. Thanks to the porting of Race illegal: High Speed 3D to various platforms, we now have the groundwork for a cross-platform engine. That’s why we’re planning to continue working with Android, WP8, iOS and Tizen and will go on with new platforms as they appear.