The Origins Of Rumblers Part 3
Written by Omar Aroudaki
The Team evolves
Working as a Team in your private time strengthens your bond with your colleagues and also helps you as an individual to grow. What can you wish for more, other than learning from friends and motivating each other to keep going.
I have a question for you my dear friend: how do you know that you are in the right Team and with the right friends?
It is when you have some private issues and there is a team that manages your workload in the meanwhile. Some of us lost our second half in that time, some of us had more children, and some of us had to focus on their studies to graduate. However, we all kept going and propping each other up. Why were we able to do that? Because we honestly communicated with each other. If someone had a problem, we would say it to each other and not hide it or suddenly disappear.
And for these past 2 years it was a hell of a ride, which only got more challenging when Angelo went to the WWDC in California. There he made a new friend Klemens Strasser, who is a developer and made awesome games such as Subwords and most importantly for us is an organizer of the GDDG (Game Dev Days Graz). He suggested that we do a presentation of our game at the GDDG, so that we get some feedback and see if the direction we are going is right or not.
So of course we signed up and after a short while an invitation to attend came back. This provided us with a moral boost and butterflies in the stomach. To not look like total amateurs (which we were) we started to put way more effort into the development. With “way more” effort I mean double and triple the amount of time, no more weekends and no more partner time. We did a small research on what to bring and came up with a list, where each one of us took what he thought he could provide or purchase. We wanted to present ourselves professionally, so we actually took with us some disinfection material (clean each controller after use), sweets as a thank you for trying our game, a table cloth to make the table more presentable, cables for each possible device we could connect and even some stickers with the company logo for folks to take away.
With regards to the game, there were 3 main aspects which we put most of our effort into:
- Presentation: So far the game was always in the development environment and has never been deployed before to any other Operating System. A huge chunk of our time went into getting the game ready for deployment on Apple tvOS, our first OS target (now it is the Nintendo Switch). We had an Apple TV 4K Kit and a monitor, so even more effort went into making the game presentable. Furthermore, many features which we started to develop were not fully done and had to be hidden so that the game presentation would not be affected.
- Playable: Since Rumbler’s genre is a multiplayer couch game, it was important for us to try and give the visitors the aimed for experience. Therefore we had to ensure that enough controllers could be connected and that the controls are actually working. But of course, we hit a wall. There was a problem between the Unreal Engine in combination with tvOS, as it was not possible to connect more than 3 controllers. Therefore we decided one week before Graz to focus on just 3 MFi controllers (ex. Nimubs controllers). However bad luck and good luck go hand in hand, and through a small update we were able to connect PS4 or XboX One Pads.
- Game mechanics: Like most couch games, a round has a specific timer and certain calculations, which in our case needed quite a few adjustments. Furthermore, it should be possible to ram into other players, as the main aim is to get the players out of the Arena. The Physics were always a challenge during the development and during the fine tuning they proved to be even worse than we expected. Even though we worked on the physics quite a lot, it never felt like enough and we noticed that we have to invest more time into it later on.
The Road to Graz
The days ticked by one after another until it was D-Day. Since I lived in Aachen and the guys lived in Cologne, we had to find a suitable transportation method to get us to Graz which was in Austria and around 1009km (627 miles) away from us. Taking a plane would have been the cheapest and most time efficient transportation method, however climate change is real, unlike what some other folks are claiming, and therefore we decided to take the train to help our poor Earth suffer less. It was a long 10 hour train drive with two train swaps. We read books, talked and played Heroes of Might and Magic II. After a long journey we finally arrived and went straight to our Airbnb stay. Late at night we went around Graz and saw some landmarks such as the Graz Clock Tower.
Game Dev Days Graz
The next day we gathered all of our electronics and went to the Graz University of Technology, which was just a 20min walk from our location. After setting up our stand and listening to some talks it was finally time for the games and testers to come.
I would like to stop here for one second and just give you guys a little insight to our feelings. We were scared shitless. For almost 2 years we were sitting in our little tower/cave and developing a game, which by the way was in our own eyes awsome and fun to play, and for the first time ever we are letting some real people and gamers have a go at it. We were prepared for people not even wanting to play the game or people giving zero constructive feedback.
This assumption was changed within seconds. Once the first people started to play and laughing while enjoying our work, we felt like butterflies were in our bellies. Watching a person enjoy a game which you have spent nights, weekends, holidays and sacrificed time with your family and loved ones on to develop, is such a beautiful thing and a memory to cherish.
The gamers came in waves and since we were only able to let 3 people play at once, we had to keep the ones watching occupied by conversing with them and offering them candy and stickers (yes we had Kindred stickers for the laptops). Once the group was done and if one of us was available, we would quickly try to get them to fill out an optional questionnaire to gather “User Feedback”.
We gathered their Feedback, wrote down how many people mentioned that feedback, the trigger for their feedback and any suggestion they had to their feedback. When a group of players were done, we immediately let the next group join and repeat… On the first day, after around ten hours, we got the feedback of around 110 gamers and at the end of the day we felt like champs once we returned to our residence. However, the night just started for us, I started compiling all the Feedback we got into an online version and clustering the feedback together. On the other side, Angelo started integrating certain feedback with Marcel’s help.
We woke up early the next day and went through the same experience as the day before. Even though we were literally repeating the same tasks, we were even more motivated than the day before. This was all due to the great pleasure we felt, every time a person played our game and had a big laugh.
My biggest highlight of the second day was during the time an 8 year old boy was playing with his brother. As we still only implemented “core” features and released an “MVP” (Minimal Viable Product), we did not have the player selection fully implemented. All a player had to do was to press any button and the player will randomly be given a car, varying in colour from red, blue, green and of course our favourite pink! Now back to the young boy who was playing the game. He got the blue car and kept the whole time saying: “My car is not responding to my controls!”. We asked him to point out which car he was driving and he kept pointing to his brother’s car. His brother told him that is mine and you are the other one. He kept refusing to accept that, as he said in the player selection he got that car. His father popped up from behind him and told us: “He is colour blind.” Therefore he is unable to differentiate between blue and green, which is the lesser common colour blindness.
It stumped us and we were really upset that we were unable to let this boy enjoy our game, but at the same time we realised, that not every edge case can be taken into consideration during development. The only thing we could do at that moment was to let one of us sit down to get 3 players and give him the red car. Furthermore we wrote down on our “Feature Lists: Colour Blind mode”.
Slowly the day came to a close and we started returning to our residence. Later on that night they held a small “After party” / “Networking Event”, where the organisers played some of the most iconic game’s songs including pieces from “The Legend of Zelda”.
This was a unique learning experience which I can only recommend to anyone who is also in our position, to take their game / product in the early stages of development and display it at an exhibition. There you can acquire valuable feedback and ensure that your product is being developed in the right direction. Furthermore, being there and exchanging information with other people of your own mindset, can help you gain new knowledge.
For us, it was a journey which aided us in stabilising our idea and providing us with the much needed motivation to keep moving forward. After the exhibition we acquired a Nintendo licence, which enables us now to develop and release Rumblers upon the Nintendo Switch. Now the game also includes many improvements which we implemented due to the great feedback we got from our testers in Graz.
I hope you all liked the short description of our long journey. Please subscribe to our newsletter to show your support.