Dienstag, 29. Juni 2010

Interview with Studio Liddell, Creators of iPhone hit "Slippy Feet"

Today I offer You dear readers a special treat: I interviewed Pete Caddock from Studio Liddell, the creators of iPhone smash hit "Slippy Feet" (click here to see it on iTunes) !
Lets get behind the scenes...

Hi Pete,please describe Your company, how and when did You start, whats Your position ? Any prior game dev experience ?

The company I work for is Studio Liddell Limited, an independent 360 creative agency based in Manchester and London in the UK. The company started out as an illustration, design and finishing studio, progressing into 3D, animation and interactive areas over the last 10 years. I began working with Studio Liddell whilst running my own company "SmartScreen Digital Media Limited" and in 2004 we teamed up to develop a real-time 3D ship simulation for SS Great Britain. We went on to create a number of visitor attraction installations, culminating with our pride and joy (at the time) "Quantum Sheep and the Wonderful 'Wolds" - a 3D console game, styled into a PC based kiosk. This was a joint production with Stardotstar, and it currently tours the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to encourage kids to visit certain hsitorically interesting places in the Cotswolds. It's about a time travelling biped sheep who has to travel back to the prehistoric time period, the Roman age, the Medieval period, and / or the Victorian period (you can use any of the images on our web site under Interactive "Quantum Sheep") to rescue lambs which have gotten lost in time! My position at Studio Liddell is Head of New Technologies - I get to research new technologies and look for new ways of creating revenue streams, as well as developing some internally as test beds. I have been programming since I was at school in the mid 70's, I started in CESIL and moved onto BASIC, then 6502 and from there into STOS, AMOS, BlitzBasic 2, Flash, Director, Authorware, Scala, Blitz 3D and more recently Unity. My first commercial game was "Astrowarp" which was published by Page 6 on the 8-bit Atari in the mid 1980's. I wrote my first simple multiplayer games in 1989, using MIDI on the Atari ST. Most of my more recent commercial work has been for companies requiring interactive multimedia for visitor centres such as ss Great Britain Museum, the National Space Centre, the Royal Institute, the Science Museum, for whom I design and develop simulations and games both single player and multiplayer.

That's an awesome track record !How was the idea for "Slippy Feet" born ? 

Studio Liddell adopted Unity in 2008, and with the iPhone version began looking into App creation. Slippy Feet was born out of a Flash game I designed when "Happy Feet" the movie came out, we wanted something which was simple and wouldn't take too long to develop from scratch.

How many people worked on it, how long ? Did You use any third party tools/engines, and why ? How did they perform ?

"Slippy Feet" actually underwent three major revisions during development, mainly because we were getting used to new tools and the Apple SDK. There were two people involved, myself (designer, coder, tester) and Lewis (a young 3D artist and animator). We used 3DS Max for the 3D assets, Photoshop for the textures and backgrounds, and Unity iPhone with the Apple SDK. There's a lot to learn with the Apple SDK and at that time it was very new, so newcomers had a bit of a struggle to get up and running from being a PC based developers, to learning a new OS and Apple SDK and Unity too, it caused a few headaches. All good for the soul though! :) The SDK and Engine performed really well together, making iPhone development much easier for 3D games than if you were to start with OpenGL. There's also a lot to consider and re-learning to be done, as the iPhone is a small device with limited power and graphic capabilities. Ligthing was very costly in terms of rendering, large textures had to be reduced greatly, amazingly with little overall quality issues, frame rates were slow to begin with as we found ways of squeezing more out of the little device. We designed 18 levels but only managed to get 12 into the final build, due to memory restrictions and the fact we wanted to make a small download.

What was Your "best moment" during
development ?

Getting the game accepted into the App Store was probably the best moment during the whole development period.

Hehe, I know exactly what You are talking about ;)
How do You like the iPhone as aplatform for game development ?

iPhone is so exciting as a platform to develop for and now as iPad begins to take it's place next to the iPhone and iPod touch the platform will just go from strength to strength. iPhone itself has a few limitations which get less and less with each new generation, but you still have to keep older units 'fed' with Apps so don't neglect them. It is exciting as there are so many different Apps for it, and as many possibilities for Apps as there are grains of sand on a beach.

Any special advice for the fans playing Slippy Feet, like a special gameplay tactic or a hidden gem ?
Yeah, whilst playing the game, stop for a moment and keep the device still. Watch carefully as the camera moves right into Slippy and have a laugh at the amusing, five different idle animations and blinking we programmed into this little chap. Also, whilst playing the game, double tap the screen. Another is tap the screen higher up for a bigger jump and lower down for a little jump.

Any advice for people starting out with game development (no matter what platform) ?

Yes, never give up, always keep going. If you get stuck on an issue, walk away for a few minutes or even come back to it with a fresh mind (after a sleep for example). Also play and test all the way - re-iterate and although you should mainly always keep to your design, never be afraid to ask "why?" am I doing it like that - if it works - it works - if it doesn't then change the design! Oh and Good Luck!

Thanks, Pete, and much success for your next projects !

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