A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games Interview


posted 4/9/2009 by Randy Kalista
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So Sky Babes vs. Fly Boys made the final cut. How did this vision for a frantically-paced cargo-hauling arcade come about?
Sky Babes vs Fly Boys was born from a fusion of two ideas. We had been working on a prototype for another game for PSN, X360 and iPhone that involved detailed 3D planetary rendering. Separately, I had been thinking (for several years now) of a slow paced strategy/adventure game based on running a delivery service. One night the idea came to me to take that game concept, strip away everything that was slow and adventurey, and turn it into a twitch arcade game. That weekend I wrote a 2D mouse-controlled prototype on the PC -- it was ugly (I am not a graphics programmer by any stretch), but it was fun. I brought it in to the office the next day and people liked it. Jesse had the idea of combining its gameplay with the 3D planetary renderer and making a globe-based delivery game. Once we presented the idea to the company, the team built out the rest of the game, adding GUI, characters, airplane designs, level concepts, voice over, etc.

Lightning strikes. Sky Babes employs an admittedly addictive little gaming mechanic of rushing cargo from point A to point B at major airports across the globe. It couldn’t be much simpler, and that’s a fair compliment. What were some ideas that fell to the cutting room floor as you were trimming all the fat?
The game is extremely simple. It's a one-concept idea, which means we have to really nail that one concept. Because we kept that in mind from the beginning, we didn't get too out of scope during development. Our process was to take the game, make sure it was fun, then add as little as possible to stop it from being fun. Examples of non-fun gameplay were: forcing the user to zoom the map, causing the planes to pause as they took off and landed, a mechanic where the game lasted three rounds with the lowest scoring player being eliminated each round, and custom "personalities" to the AI types (which sounds like a good idea on paper, but isn't actually noticeable, and just extends development and tuning time).

Too many companies edit only due to time and money constraints, but it certainly takes more than that. Alien Assault is another iPhone game “coming soon” from you guys. Is Sky Babes something of a prototype for what you want to accomplish in Alien Assault?
As our first game, Sky Babes got our cross-platform technology up and running on the iPhone. What we do with that technology depends on the game.

Alien Assault is the second of the A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games' first crop of four games. Its concept is completely different from Sky Babes, as are our third and fourth games. Where Sky Babes is a twitch and click 3D game with some basic strategy, Alien Assault is a tilt game with a beat-the-clock mechanic and a ton of levels with a fun 2D art style. Our third game is a turn based strategy game, and our fourth game is something so freakin' cool we're keeping it tightly under wraps until it's perfected.

Sure, we could have made all of our games different version of Sky Babes -- it would be a lot easier, but probably a lot less fulfilling. To give you an example, at a larger studio, you can find yourself sequeling the same game year after year. Now at A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. I get to work on a delivery iPhone game one week, a strategy iPhone game the next week, and then put in six months on a brand new downloadable console game. That kind of variety really keeps the creative juices flowing.

In addition, while we think Sky Babes vs. Fly Boys is truly awesome, we don't want to put all of our eggs into one basket. What if the iPhone community has spent all this time waiting for a game exactly like Alien Assault? We'd be foolish not to try to get multiple game types out there, and see what people like.

We must be forgetting something. What’s something you want to tell us that we didn’t ask?
It's very refreshing to hear feedback from our players, and be able to act on it so quickly. Some people thought the gameplay in the first two levels was too simplistic, because your planes can only hold one package at a time. So, we've fixed that, and added a more arcadey scoring method with a combo multiplier that you build up from chaining your deliveries together. That update should be out in early April. Being able to turn around and make the game better after it has shipped is another huge benefit of making small games on iPhone.

I also want to let you know how much fun we had making Sky Babes vs Fly Boys. From the silly conversations about what to call it (other working titles were "Sky Babies", "Crate Expectations", "In Cargo We Trust" and "Sky Babes vs. Air Males"), to our recording session where the staff improvised and voice-acted the quips and taunts that the pilot characters use (you should hear the outtakes!), the whole process was one of the most joyful I've experienced in my 14 years in the games industry.

Thanks again to Daniel “Funky” Swadling, CEO of A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games, for getting us up to speed on this tight, family-oriented team. If their maiden iPhone voyage is any indication, there are more good things to come from them. Look for our review of Sky Babes vs. Fly Boys for the proof in the pudding. Also, special thanks to Eric Walter and Hillary Lyons for setting up the interview.

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