Founded in 2011 by twin brothers Pim and Jos Bouman, Gamious was originally created to become a traditional game publishing company, but soon turned into a game developer. Selecting specific people for each game project, they aim to create accessible games with pure and original gameplay. Producer Roy van Bijsterveldt talks about their recent project, iO, a physics platformer that has just been released on Steam and other major digital PC platforms.
The story of iO began with the symbol of Ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail. That was the theme for the Global Game Jam 2012, where people have to create a game within 48 hours. Four programmers (Sander Verbeek, Jeroen Matser, Pim Rutten, and Roel van Heeswijk), who had never met before, formed Team Xtra. They created a prototype called Size Matters. The concept? Just as if Ouroboros continued to devour itself, you control a ball that can become smaller and – let’s not think about what the snake would be doing then – bigger to navigate hazards and gaps in the puzzle platformer. Gamious Founder Pim, one of the judges who saw Size Matters win the local Game Jam, invited the team to the Gamious office where they all decided to continue development together.
At its core, iO is all about level design and gameplay, especially because it is a physics platformer where you cannot jump. It’s all about velocity and, well, size. Through an accessible, custom-built level editor, various designers created a large amount of levels, each with their own unique character and level of difficulty. This level editor was a necessity for Gamious, due to their way of working: collaborative game development. Through this method, they had several people working on the game from their own home. The quality and variety of iO hinges on the creativity of the levels, so it was quite helpful to have various designers creating them from their own unique perspectives.
While it was perfectly manageable to do level design from home, tackling other parts of the development process remotely was difficult. As a result, the development of the game took up more time than anticipated, even though using Skype and Trello helped the team communicate better. Making decisions together over a distance turned out to be hard. This became easier when Gamious got the chance to put me as a full-time producer on the project. The game got back on track and was nearing its first release.
The Ball Starts Rolling
Before the game’s release, there was still one tiny problem: its name. We felt Size Matters wasn’t the most suitable name, so we decided to host a #NameTheGame contest. Using Twitter and the smartly chosen hashtag, we were able to get over 300 people submitting their name suggestions within 10 days. In the end, the name iO was chosen. We picked it as the winning name due to its minimalistic, abstract, and easy-to-remember character. Since it closely symbolizes the growing and shrinking of the ball, we thought it was (and still is) a great match with the game.
With this last piece of the puzzle in place, and after days of optimization, iO was released on OUYA. We started with an OUYA release because it’s a very accessible platform, especially for starting developers. It’s the perfect place for a first release and to see how players will respond to the game. Collaborating with OUYA turned out to be a rewarding experience. They have great people over there who are very helpful and know the games industry well.
The launch didn’t only get us a myriad of positive feedback and great ratings, but also put us on the radar of some big companies and publishers. It also was a clear starting point; the game was finally out there. This is an essential milestone, since, for most developers, it can be very tempting to keep polishing a game. Our experience with OUYA was in fact so good that we decided to bring the first big update of iO to the platform as well. OUYA users can now experience the game with a new UI, tutorial levels, an upgraded visual style, and the new IMPOSSIBALL levels. This DLC – 25 grueling, extra-tough challenges – comes free with the full game and will be available exclusively on the OUYA for the time being. The IMPOSSIBALL levels and even more content will be available to Steam and PC users at a later stage.
On to the Future
So what’s next for iO? We just returned from a wonderful festival called IndieCade in sunny California. IndieCade is the largest festival for independent video games in the world (the Sundance of games), and iO had the honor of being one of the finalists this year. We met up with other developers, interesting companies (including OUYA, who where actually the ones recommending submitting the game to the festival), and talked to representatives from Sony and Nintendo. We believe our game would be a great fit for platforms like PSN, PS Vita, XBLA, and the Nintendo eShop, so we hope that these platforms are part of iO’s future. First, it is time for the PC/Mac/Linux release to introduce iO to loads of new players. This version is totally revamped, includes a new in-game tutorial and will be available in several different languages. A mobile release is also in the works. Size still matters in iO, and the journey is far from over.