Last year we told you about Forerunner, the iOS game designed by a team of five Game Design grads and their friend. Well, this year is barely two months old and already a team of students has taken their mid-term assignment all the way to the App Store.
Students Ryan Cramer, Marc St. Onge, and Ben Kanbour conceived of Gravitilt in their Flash class for an assignment, but mobile devices were on their mind early. All three provided the following answers.
When you started making Gravitilt, did you know you were going to try and get it on the App Store?
Our original goal was to get a game working on the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Uploading Gravitilt to the App Store was a stretch goal of ours as we decided that we would only submit it if we were proud of what we had created, and if we had time to fit it in with our class schedule. Once we completed Gravitilt and received feedback from our classmates, we very quickly decided to try to get it on the App Store.
In simple terms, if you can, lead us through what’s involved in getting a Flash game to play nice with iOS.
Getting Gravitilt onto iOS devices presented our team with some very interesting challenges. In order for us to even test our game on the iPad, we had to pay Apple for a Developer Account and then link specific devices to that account. Then we had to get development keys for our development machines (i.e., school computers) in order for them to run and build our code. Without this, the devices were unable to receive the game.
The biggest hurdle was the optimization of our game for iOS devices. We were using very powerful computers to build our game, so we were unaware of how well it would run. As such, Gravitilt had severe frame rate issues on the iPad, to the point that it was unplayable. To get around this issue we placed a limit on the number of movable blocks in each level. During testing we also saw that laying the device flat on a table, say, to rest your hands, would confuse the accelerometer, so we had to account for that in our design.
Once our game was done and handed in for our class assignment, we began the process of uploading Gravitilt to the App Store. This required us to redo the provisioning of our devices and also get distribution keys to replace the development keys. Once that was done we built a final version on our school PCs but were unable to submit it to the store. Apple requires the use of their machines to upload games. We took our game home and used an iMac to submit it to the store, at which point our status became “Waiting for Review”. We submitted our game on February 24, and it wasn’t reviewed and released by Apple until March 1.We immediately submitted an update to fix an issue, and that update is still “Waiting for Review”.
What was your inspiration for the game? What can players expect?
We wanted to make a game that was fun to play using the mobile device’s unique hardware features such as the accelerometer and touch screen, and we also wanted players to experience the joy of creating their own levels. Players can expect a game with simple mechanics but plenty of depth.
Anything you wish you’d done differently? What was the hardest part? What, if anything, was a pleasant surprise?
Testing. You can never figure out what isn’t working the way you expected without constantly testing it, as well as having people who have never seen it before test it. More testing may have prevented the need for an update immediately after release. We also wanted to have more puzzles for the player. We were pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to expand the quantity of the levels as we originally had only ten in mind, and we were able to double that amount in just a few days.