2015 is the year Bari Silvestre from Keybol went back to his roots – Flash game development. “You can’t help but reminisce about the hay days of the browser games, that can be easily distributed and with the right polish and gameplay you can get some hefty sum via sponsorships. Times have changed though, and you have to be not just twice as good in producing quality games, but your creations should have an interesting original gameplay”, Bari recalls. That is hard to come by, so he just made little Flash games with some interesting twist on existing gameplay. They did get some positive feedback with a feature here and there, but Bari felt something is lacking. His fresh creation, Kill The Plumber, brings to life some gamers’ dreams of playing for the villains.
So I posted on FGL.com about my availability for collaboration. Iskander Aminov, a Russian in the US, sent me a personal message. I told him I’m open to his ideas, as I was low at that time. He sent me his notes via Skype, and the idea of playing as the enemies in a platformer game turned out something I wanted to challenge myself with. It was not the first time I was working with this idea: I’ve once made a reverse Angry Birds where you set up block platforms to protect the ‘pigs’ in the game.
Ideas are Nothing
Unless you implement them right, ideas are worthless. To start with, we brainstormed how the idea of playing for the enemies would be possible. Should we retain to a platformer or can it be played with clicks and dragging the enemies? That’s perfect for a mobile game too, right? But this would distract from the idea that you play for the enemies in a platformer. So we stuck with platformer controls. I also believe that good casual platformers should be easy enough for just four arrow keys as controls.
What about the gameplay? Izzy suggested that every level would change, and it immediately reminded me of “this-is-the-only-level” games, including my Pretentious Game, which I thought was an overused gameplay. But he insisted it would keep the gameplay fresh and the player interested. I was still not convinced, so we decided to work on our other games.
YouTube videos as inspiration
I am a sucker for game design articles and videos, especially YouTube features like Egoraptor’s video on Megaman X, so when Izzy sent me a link to Kotaku about the 4 Step Level Design by Mark Brown, I was sure to check it out. It was interesting and fun to watch, and I instantly envisioned our game working on these principles. Introducing new enemy controls and abilities, then developing a new level. For the 3rd level I added a twist, that of a timed survival mission (or else the plumber gets a new ability like fireball). The 4th level for each enemy is the final act, and will test the player’s skills and knowledge of the game. This seemed perfect. For players who wanted additional levels with their favorite playable enemy, I added unlockable bonus levels.
Prototype and marketing
Izzy has already sent me assets to work on. The first levels felt natural to design. The concept here is to let the player know they will be playing as the enemy, so would have no ability to jump and walk really slowly compared to the plumber. I gradually introduced the player to new abilities like short jump, throwing projectiles and playing as a completely different enemy with powerful but limited skills like flying or stomping.
I felt we already had something in our hands, so I developed extra features, like a boss fight where you play as the boss, as well as achievements. We found the perfect soundtrack and asked Zach Striefel for custom sound effects. We now have the best game, and it’s time to bring our creation out to the public. But first I need to do some marketing, which I am really getting the hang of.
I made a forum thread on TouchArcade about the game, showed some videos, and within that same week PocketGamer featured it in their Upcoming Games. I was very happy, it’s proof that what we have is really worth something.
To be honest, I am not surprised with how the game was received. It was featured by many game sites like Newgrounds, Kongregate, JayisGames and GameJolt. The players’ response was very positive, they like how the game is unique and polished, and has great art.
Millions of YouTube Plays
Now this is what I didn’t expect. I’ve had my games played by youtubers but I didn’t pay much attention to that. These videos are interesting to watch though. Kill the Plumber is much different, it is fun to watch. They cursed at AI the Plumber, putting up rage and funny comments. It was hilarious! No wonder youtubers with 2-6 million subscribers also made their own videos. Every day I wake up to 5-10 videos of playing Kill the Plumber, and 1-3 of these are from popular video bloggers with 100,000 subscribers, up to half a million.
One of the best things I am proud of in the game is its alternate ending which foreshadowed the sequel. The game is ripe for expansion with platformer game tropes already available, so we have decided to develop it earlier. In just a month after release we made 48 new levels with 7 new playable enemies.
The new Kill The Plumber game has participated in Indie Showcase at Casual Connect Asia 2015 and was nominated for Most Innovative Game. Meanwhile, Bari invested more time in marketing and sent out demo builds to AppSpy, which they happily made a Hands On preview. The game is now set for multiple platforms including PC via Steam.
Orchid is a content manager at Casual Connect and the developer editor for Gamesauce. Orchid loves kittens and all things super cute.