Postmortem

Super Saw Bros.: Inspired By A Math Teacher’s “Segment…AB!”

April 9, 2015 — by Industry Contributions

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Postmortem

Super Saw Bros.: Inspired By A Math Teacher’s “Segment…AB!”

April 9, 2015 — by Industry Contributions

When describing their game Super Saw Bros., the developers Fouad Tabsh and George Habr simply summarized it as “an indie game by a few dudes from Beirut. Take control of two lumberjacks and their two-man saw as they rush through the forest.” Wanting to share the insights they gained from conceptualizing Super Saw Bros. to producing a final award-winning project, Tabsh was kind enough to provide Gamesauce with a unique look into the creation of Super Saw Bros. and their studio, Groovy Antoid.


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Super Saw Bros.: Inspired By A Phrase Of An Old Grumpy Math Teacher

George and I have been friends since primary school, but after graduating from high school we went to different colleges.  We remained friends, and on our summer break after three boring college years we stumbled upon a poster for a game development competition that was going to take place in our hometown of Beirut, Lebanon. Wanting a personal project that we could share, George and I decided to go for it.




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Fouad and George at the Netherlands Game Award competition.

We managed to register for the Netherlands Game Award competition in Beirut on the day of the deadline.  After fully committing to this competition, George and I then began brainstorming ideas for a game. Our first idea involved a complex plot in which a neglected, old, dusty game cartridge transforms the world into a pixelated nightmare.  We quickly realized that this idea would be too complicated for our first game.

A neglected, old, dusty game cartridge transforms the world into a pixelated nightmare… This idea would be too complicated for a first game.

One summer afternoon I was reminiscing of old school days.  In particular, I was echoing a phrase our old grumpy math teacher used to orcishly repeat as the default example for almost anything he taught, “Segment…AB!”  That was when I got the idea of making a game that simply involved two points and a segment.  This quickly evolved into lumberjacks running with a saw through a forest.  This would be the start of Super Saw Bros.




Growing a Forest to Chop it Down: Prototype and Controls

With a realistic concept for our game I picked up an Android game development book and George began studying basic pixel art tutorials, and we both dove head-first into our very first real-world project.

Prior to this I had done some programming, but had never written applications or games for mobile devices before.  But after George drew a basic pixel art cube, I programmed the first prototype for the game, with just that cube for the graphics.  George would go on to draw a tree and a pair of lumberjacks, and I developed a second prototype which greatly resembled what we had in mind.  This prototype featured a grassy green background, two lumberjacks, some trees, and a  simple line segment for the saw.

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This pixel art cube has been later programmed for the first prototype of the game

The controls for the game were designed through a lot of trial and error.  We used tilting to control the lumberjacks but changed this when decided that touch controls felt more intuitive.  With the basic mechanics and controls agreed upon, we dove into creating our alpha version of the game.

Feedback Opens Eyes To The Things Taken For Granted

We were pleased that after demoing our alpha version we received praise for the game’s originality and creativity from our game development community.  However, before we began working on the beta version of the game, we had colleagues at our respective universities try out Super Saw Bros.  This feedback proved to be invaluable to our development.

EarlyPrototype
“Segment…AB!” – said the Maths teacher at school, and inspired young devs to make a game about a segment and two points.

Opening our eyes to issues we had taken for granted, the second round of feedback highlighted that the player’s fingers completely covered the lumberjacks on the screen. In addition to solving this problem, the beta version had the graphics overhauled by Habr, we originally had a one-hit knockout system but changed this because it seemed too harsh towards players, and included a timing to encourage and reward people for streaks.

First Competition, Third Place – Confidence Boost and Open Door

Meanwhile, in the competition we started it all for, the beta version of Super Saw Bros. earned the third place out of almost a dozen other submissions.  Considering that this was our first attempt and that we were competing against teams with experience in making games, Habr and I are proud of this accomplishment. Third place was not only a huge boost for our egos, it also won us a trip to the Netherlands and an opportunity to showcase Super Saw Bros. at Casual Connect’s 2014 conference in Amsterdam.

An artist named Samir Kazah was also a participant in the Netherlands Game Awards, and we met him during the competition. He joined us shortly after the event ended. Since then, he completely upgraded the game’s graphics. You can find the latest screenshots (as well as a couple other photos) on my blog.
More importantly, George and I look back at this experience and are not only proud of the fact that we’ve created our own videogame but also excited that we have finally made a project of our own and found a career path that we can be passionate about.

Sadly, Fouad got caught in college work and George in “normal” work, so they had to put the project on hold for quite a long time, leaving it in beta status. However, Fouad graduated and George quit his job, so they’re about to get back on the wagon and see Super Saw Bros through until its release.




The team is also having workshops in game development to give back to the awesome game dev community. “We gave the first workshop on Feb. 27 at AltCity, the guys who hosted the Netherlands Game Award and took us to Casual Connect. We might be giving one next month at the American University of Beirut, the college I graduated from”, Fouad shares.

They have also attended the 2015 Arabic Game Jam, a 30-hour game development hackathon that took place at AltCity in March 2015. This time they didn’t get in the top 3, but got honorable mentions! More importantly, they’re going to polish their entry, a game called Brane, and release it very soon on Android and iOS.

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