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.
The developer of OmNomster, Olaf Morelewski, is an architect by trade, has worked as an art director making TV commercials, and since 2013, he’s been a game director making mobile games. This might look as if he can’t decide what to do in life, Olaf admits, but then explains: he always wanted to create or invent new things. A choice of the particular creative field wasn’t that important. Now Olaf runs Made It App, a studio based in Warsaw, Poland. “This is what I decided to do since I found that in making games, all creative fields meet together,” the developer says as he shares the story of OmNomster.
I decided that I’d try to make games on my own. I don’t mind working in a team, but after several years of doing only that, I wanted to make something by myself. The problem was that I had no programming background at all, so I enrolled for a programming methodology course at Stanford University on iTunesU, and after a month of studying a whole semester of lectures, I decided it was time to start making my first game.
As I was a programming noob (I still am BTW), I thought it would be better to start by making a simple text game. That’s how I came up with Censored Files – the game where a player reads crime stories and has to guess the blacked out words. I made the graphics and wrote the code, and my beloved wife wrote the crime stories (OK, so we were a team after all).
Two months later, the game was released on iOS… and didn’t sell at all. As I was doing it mainly to develop my programming skills, I wasn’t disappointed that much.
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„Fail harder”, says Nike’s headline. And so I got up and started making my second game right away. Still simple, yet more complex than the first one. It was OmNomster – a casual arcade game about a hungry monster who eats trash. I came up with an idea of shake-based mechanics. The player needs to shake the phone to bounce the monster on the walls and feed him trash.
I did the game design, UI/UX design, game art, and programming, and this time also decided to record all the SFX. So when you hear OmNomster eating trash — it’s me biting a watermelon mixed with me biting cornflakes. The sound of OmNomster hitting the walls is made of nine mixed tracks with different sounds of metal and wood items which I slammed against each other.
Then I composed the music. “Composed” with a small “c” because it’s more of a 30-seconds quirky melody than real music, but anyway, it fits the game style.
In three months after the first pencil sketch, the game was finally ready and the iOS release day was approaching. The Big Day! The game was published as a freemium one, and on the first day, it had 2k downloads, which I considered not a bad number. But since I didn’t invest in any serious marketing (apart from making a professional website, a game video, and emailing reviewer sites), every following day the download number was cut in half. In a few days, it came down to 10 downloads. Watching OmNomster drown in the Apple AppStore was really sad. He was alone and hungry.
Even though the game didn’t do well on the store, I decided to submit it to some indie game competitions that I found on the Internet. The game was chosen for Indie Prize Showcase Amsterdam 2014, but first, I got selected to participate in Chartboost University (CBU) classes in Fall 2013. This was the game changer! In San Francisco, we were consulted by the top professionals from the game industry on how to design and monetize games in a sustainable way.
Through Chartboost, I met some super cool indie game devs from around the world. I remember a day when I heard about the AppCampus funding program from the devs from Wayward (Canada) and Headnought (Finland). It’s Microsoft and Aalto University joint funding for Windows Phone apps. So after I came back from San Francisco, I decided to submit Feed OmNomster – The Hungry Monster (aka OmNomster 2) with exclusive content and new features that we came up with during CBU sessions.
But I had no answer from AppCampus for several weeks, so I thought that my idea didn’t fit in the program. Though three months later, when I was visiting my newborn son in a hospital, all of a sudden I received an acceptance email! That moment I felt that all my previous work was finally acknowledged, and it gave me hope that what I had been doing for the last year had sense.
Redesigning Controls and Monetization
I started developing new features which I promised to Microsoft right away. The changes were crucial. First of all, to the rather chaotic shaking game mechanics I added a more controllable slow motion mode, where the player can tilt the phone to move OmNomster more accurately. This was due to repeating feedback I got for the first version: shaking is fun, but it’s not skillful. In this new, better version, OmNomster is getting bigger and unlocks new features as the player’s experience grows.
And, finally: OmNomster now has the ability to shoot, and there are five diverse levels instead of just one.
Shaking is fun, but it’s not skillful, the players said.
I also redesigned the monetization mechanics. In OmNomster1, there were several appearance customizations that could be bought, but it didn’t give the player any real benefit. Now the player can buy shields, unlock weapons, and upgrade time warp mode, so everything he/she buys is making the game easier. “Pretty obvious”, many might say. True, but for me, it was a huge progress that I made thanks to the CBU course. Now playing the new game is much more fun.
Feed OmNomster has been exclusively released for the Windows Phone Store, and the first game of OmNomster can be found at Made It App’s website. Meanwhile, Olaf has submitted the game to some more competitions and believes that the furry monster character design gives an opportunity to make physical merchandize toys. But he’s first going to focus on marketing Feed OmNomster in Windows Phone Store properly.
In this month’s Game Audio Artistry column, video game industry veteran Nick Thomas, CEO and co-founder of SomaTone, Inc., discusses the importance of a creative audit and what it can do for a game.
Our Creative Audit process was spawned through our involvement with Chartboost University, which brings in eight of the most talented Indie developers from across the globe, with the philanthropic goal of helping these devs learn and grown in a mentorship environment.
SomaTone’s role was to serve as the creative auditor of the audio in these games, and to provide an expert perspective on the tech, creative, and overall experience of the audio within these games—and to do so with zero bias. The response from the indie community at CBU was a combination of gratitude, excitement, and relief that there were creative experts, with hundreds of games to their credit, who could evaluate and constructively critique the quality of this aspect of their games. Questions were answered and the end result was a clear understanding of the “temperatures” of their current audio, with a clear road map on what could and should be done to bring their game from passable to excellent.
Not Only For Indies
It turns out that it is not just the indie community who finds this service useful. In fact, indies arguably have a more advanced sense of how to approach audio in games and what sounds good, what tech to use, and how to make their game sound like an excellent product. Established mobile game developers and publishers have also found that the Creative Audit provides them with an invaluable opportunity to gain a critical, objective perspective on the relatively subjective world of game creativity (including design, art, and audio).
While it’s always helpful to get feedback and fresh eyes and ears on any project at various stages of development, gathering input, insights, and ideas from experts and specialists can make a big difference toward enhancing a game. So here are five key reasons why all game makers should seek out a Creative Audit for their games at some point along the way:
5 Reasons for a Creative Audit
We’re in an age when specialists, not generalists, are key players in the fine-tuning process.
1. The Creative Audit leverages the experience of experts. No single game designer or producer can be an expert an all aspects of game production. While some experience may lean more towards visual design, others have an audio background, and some specialize in analytics. We’re in an age when specialists, not generalists, are key players in the fine-tuning process. Experts often have a highly focused set of expertise, so there is wisdom and benefit derived from seeking creative assessments from a range of seasoned and skilled industry pros representing different disciplines.
2. It’s all in the polish, and a Creative Audit takes you there.Candy Crush is one of the most polished games I have ever seen in the mobile games space. All aspects of the art, programming, design, and even audio have been scrutinized with granular precision. In today’s crowded and highly competitive gaming ecosystem, there is no room for a marginal or even just good product. It must be excellent. The Creative Audit offers an opportunity to bring a product to the next level by offering qualitative assessments that spring from solid experience and expertise, coupled with actionable recommendations for improving and further polishing a game.
Different minds see things differently, and these kinds of divergent viewpoints can really enhance the creative levels of a game, often in unexpected ways.
3. Even experts need an outside perspective. Even if you have hired the most talented art director, composer, artists, level designer, (whatever), there is simply a human limitation to what comes with an inside-only perspective. After 6-12 months of looking at only one product, and doing so intensively, it is practically impossible to avoid tunnel vision. By giving fresh perspective, a creative audit can do a lot to re-inspire and re-invigorate a game and identify key opportunities that may have been missed by those so intimately (and exhaustively) familiar with the game. Different minds see things differently, and these kinds of divergent viewpoints can really enhance the creative levels of a game, often in unexpected ways.
4. Asking the right questions leads to interesting answers. It takes a level of humility to admit that we cannot know what we don’t know. It can be vexing to attempt to evaluate a game’s creativity level without knowing the essential questions to pose in this analytical process. When the right questions are asked, some interesting answers and realizations can be unearthed that will amp up the degree of originality and excellence in a game.
5. No harm, no foul. A Creative Audit is a free, or at most, a very inexpensive way to benefit from an outside perspective from a team of experts. This process can serve as the catalyst for key tweaks, improvements, and embellishments to correct aspects of a game that need some work and catapult good games to a higher level of creative excellence.
Asking questions is widely considered to be the single most important habit of innovative thinkers, so naturally the Creative Audit process is bound to lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation within a game. What do you think?
Check back next month for the next Game Audio Artistry article!