Mech Mocha Game Studios is a videogame startup based in India. Founded by Mohit Rangaraju (Chief Mech) and Arpita Kapoor (Chief Mocha), Mech Mocha was part of iAccelerator 2013 batch. They are also proud alums of Chartboost University. Mech Mocha’s co-founder Arpita was awarded “Most prominent Female Indie” by Casual Games Association and both founders are past IGDA Scholars. Mohit shares the story of their freshly released game, Puppet Punch.
We launched Puppet Punch worldwide on the App Store on Jan 29, 2015. We took a long time in making it and went through some interesting highs and lows. So, we thought why not talk about the whole journey!
Goal: A Competitive High-Quality Game Made In India
Arpita and I were students when we started working on Puppet Punch in our final year of college. The inclination to do something on our own started after attending GDC in 2013 as IGDA scholars. The quality of games created outside of India was far better than of those being made in India. So, we got this raw motivation to make one of the most high-quality games from India that would be able to compete with titles from all around the world.
Driven by a lot of energy, we made the first prototype, and it sucked. We wanted to do so much that the controls got pretty complex. After various flunked trials and some trashing, we understood the constraints and started prototyping new concepts.
We were sticking to the idea of making a game that would have all the fun elements like power-ups, action, enemies and bosses, but won’t be a platformer; and at the same time would be damn easy to understand and play. Once the to-do and to-avoid checklists of the game were done, we found a radically different approach!
Inspired By HalfBrick’s Games
We were big fans of HalfBrick Studios and most of our time was spent playing JetPack and Fruit Ninja. So, both of these games were major inspirations for Puppet Punch (or Pablo & The Puppet Punch as we called it then). We came out with a prototype where objects are falling and the player would have to tap to collect/hit them (more like vertically inverted Fruit Ninja). But, we wanted more than one type of controls in the game (like in JetPack Joyride when Vehicles come).
The idea was to keep the basic controls simple for anyone to pick up easily, and then we would gradually introduce various new controls through power-ups (in our case – Helmets/Head Gear). Once we got to a decent build and play-tested on a couple of folks; we started forming the team. With the help of the startup incubator at our Institute along with some talented people who were as crazy as us to do something new, we started working on it.
Why We Preferred Remote And How Rev-share Helps
As Jason Fried once said “The most talented people in the world, don’t all live under one roof”. For us, forming a remote team was a necessity, because we were in a part of the world where the gamedev scene is not as matured as in the rest. So, we formed a truly international team – the sound designer was from Canada, artists came from Bangalore & Brazil, the animator was from Ahmedabad and VFX studio from Mumbai. Game design and tech was something we took care of in-house.
The next hurdle was about payment options. All of these people were wonderfully talented ones with a lot of projects in-hand, and were paid well for their services. And we also didn’t want an “outsourcing” work model with them. We wanted them to feel part of the team. So, we all agreed to work on a part-payment, part-revenue model. We estimated the approximate total cost of the project (by calculating man-hours from everyone’s end and infra costs) and everyone’s contribution towards the whole project. The latter was compensated with part-cash (around 20-30% of their contribution) and rest in the form of rev-share. The marketing costs would be recouped by whoever spends it (any publisher we associate with or us). Remote working is a wonderful experience and has it’s pros and cons. You can see our SWOT analysis here.
The Accelerator Program And Raising Funds
When we started developing Puppet Punch, we were students and were working on it part-time. After we graduated, we got selected for one of the most reputed acceleration programs in India – iAccelerator. Then, we took it full-time and started thinking about scaling up Mech Mocha.
Making one game and building a company are two very different things, and the 3-month acceleration helped us think more about the company and how to scale it. Games being a risky market, we assumed that investment would be difficult for us; but during the program we had a couple of investors who liked what we are doing and were ready to be part of our company. In early 2014 we could raise our accelerator round and expanded our tech team to 4.
Chartboost University And What Kind Of Publishers To Avoid
After the investment, things started moving a little faster. With the game being in a really good shape and early testers liking it a lot; the only thing we lacked was some help in marketing and publishing.
That’s when we came across Chartboost University (CBU) – a two-week mentorship program in SFO, where the selected teams can have one-on-ones with top publishers, UA experts and game monetization experts. On top of that, they were sponsoring travel and accommodation and giving GDC passes! Chartboost is one hell of a company, isn’t it?
The program did exactly what we expected; it answered a lot of questions and gave us a sneak-peek into the “obvious-facts” of the valley that devs from other parts of the world are pretty confused about. The mentors and Chartboost guys were of great help even after the program.
After CBU, one thing became clear – we needed to partner with a publisher who had their skin in the game. There were too many “distributors” who were calling themselves “publishers”. They practically did nothing and would be there to exploit if the game is successful on it’s own. After talking to lots of publishers, we seemed to have connected well with guys at Kedoo Entertainment. They were a startup like us, but with more money and experience 🙂
Kedoo was willing to invest in development and also real-cash into marketing, which is very rare in mobile game publishing today. The guys at Kedoo are awesome and we had a fun-time working with them. They were involved in major parts of development and were quite committed. It was almost like having two full-time experienced project managers in your team. Who wouldn’t want that! After iterating through the game and practically changing the whole progression loop; we could get to the launch stage!
Soft-Launch: Analytics Tools Do Work
We soft-launched Puppet Punch in 4 countries and closely monitored player actions. Using and understanding analytics tools took time; but they came in very handy. Tools like Parse, Localytics, Leanplum helped us push changes and small updates without going through the App Store reviews (which is very tedious btw!)
After soft-launch, we understood how we still missed some basic points in the game. We worked a lot on the tutorial and what the player would see during their first gameplay. The difficulty balancing of the game changed a lot! We also added more social features and daily rewards after getting a lot of feedback from more than 8000 awesome beta users.
“Phew! After all this, Puppet Punch is now out on the App Store! We are just waiting to see how it goes”, the excited developers say. They add they’re always looking forward for feedback from their players. You can contact the Mech Mocha team through their website or Puppet Punch page.