Over winter break, I put together a small game for the iPhone and iPad called Bird Bounce. It’s an infinite runner game of the Temple Run variety that replaces running with flight, which I’ve conveniently dubbed an ‘infinite flyer’ for lack of a better name. You fly through 3D worlds as a penguin, jumping across platforms, collecting coins, and unlocking levels. If you’d like to try it, here’s the link to Bird Bounce and a short promo video.
I thought I might briefly describe the process of developing and releasing a small game. It was definitely different from what I expected.
The idea started when I realized everyone around me seemed to be talking about 3D games. From our school’s computer science club to an English professor who wanted to make one, 3D games were the thing. I’d always thought that 3D games were impossible to make quickly, but I’d heard recently that there were some new tools that simplified things a lot. So I realized that after years of dabbling in 3D design I should finally bite the bullet and try to learn how to develop a game. After hours spent trying to make a simple prototype, I came up with what seemed like an utter failure. I had a strange black and white bird that bounced instead of flew… infinitely.
I showed it to a few testers for fun and they immediately thought I’d made some sort of infinite penguin flying game. I couldn’t argue with that, so I began developing it further until I had a passable penguin and some working flight controls. Things were coming together serendipitously from the seeds of what I thought was a mockery of a mockup. Then came…
It was then that it dawned on me what I had really gotten myself into. I should have seen from the start that 3D design might require some artistic ability, but it hit me a few weeks in that most of this process would require artistic skill. And if there’s one thing I can do, it isn’t visual art.
But I got over this hurdle somehow with the help of software that makes art possible even for those truly not inclined. My brother saved the day, too, by making my game icon and several of the scenic elements, and he is, in contrast, artistically inclined. Thanks, Steve, for saving the day!
I was finally back in my comfort zone when it came to composing the game music… music’s something I’m at least familiar with. After a few hours of culling together and orchestrating loose ends of songs I’d tinkered with and liked but never been able to package into anything, and composing a few new pieces as well, I had a basic score ready for all the game levels.
And Settling Score
Of course, when it comes down to the deadline, it’s the little things that you don’t anticipate. My goal was to finish the app by the end of winter break since I’d be on to new projects after that. Making mountains, snow, programming movement all paled in comparison to the amount of work involved in formatting the score text so that it was just close enough to the edge of the screen without being slightly out of view, or diagnosing a bizarre new bug that hadn’t existed moments before that made penguins fly backward. As the clocked ticked toward my final deadline, I eventually had to make a few compromises (that’s not a bug, it’s a feature!), but I had something that I could call final. Better than that, I had built a 3D game, and now I could respond to those wanting to build their own 3D games knowing a little bit more than I did before.
While you’re at it, you can check out Bird Bounce and my other iPhone app, Circle Draw at my site