The Evolution of a Game
One goal of every game developer is to come up with an innovative gameplay concept; something that can make a game feel fresh and unique while being exciting and fun to play. That’s something we have tried to do with our latest game, Nasty Goats.
The evolution of Nasty Goats began when we came up with a mechanic that really took advantage of mobile touch screens. A lot of mobile apps basically use translations of mouse controls (i.e., a tap = click, a swipe = click and drag, etc.) or a traditional d-pad (up, down, left, right). Ours was something we hadn’t seen in a mobile game: Dual-Input Control—that is, using two contact points (fingers) simultaneously to control what happens on the screen.
We decided to create a prototype. We knew that the overall play pattern of the game should be familiar—to paraphrase game theorist Jasper Juul from his book, A Casual Revolution, the conventions of the games you have played tend to influence the types of games you will play. We wanted people to feel comfortable trying it out. So we went with a familiar convention of collecting and avoiding, but used our Dual-Input Control to design a game that was unique.
We were excited by the result, but we weren’t sure how easily other people would pick up this new mechanic, so we tested our prototype with family and friends. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People applied the controls in a variety of ways: two fingers, a finger and a thumb, fingers from different hands (including from different people). They loved having the flexibility to choose the way they wanted to play.
It was then that Nickelodeon approached us to pitch a game for their new television series, Game Shakers, about two 12 years-old girls, Babe and Kenzie who start their own gaming empire in Brooklyn with their best friends Triple G and Hudson. We pitched them our prototype and it was selected for development. This began a six-month stretch of game refinement, including the ultimate title of Nasty Goats.
The game is from the “endless runner” genre—e.g., no levels and no ultimate finish line—so to keep young players engaged, we set up short-, mid-, and long-term objectives to motivate and drive them on. The short-term was to collect junk (which the goats eat as they go); the mid-term was to open a surprise box full of coins and power-ups, which you could earn even if you failed and had to start over; and the long-term goal was to acquire silly outfits and alternate environments in which the goats could play. This deep level of customization proved one of the key satisfactions for players.
The game launched in the Apple, Google and Amazon app stores in the US two weeks ago. It has hit #1 in the free Kids app section of iOS and #1 under free family apps for Google Play. It was a long, complex, evolution—but in the end, we feel we have brought something new and innovative to mobile games.