Former THQ veteran and creative director of Cupco Games Lynda Mills spilled the beans on the dev's first launch, Splat Attack, and going indie.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What is Cupco Games, and how did you get into mobile-gaming development?
I'm the co-founder and creative director of Cupco Games, a new mobile-games development studio. Sometime at the end of last year, a small group of us, all veterans of the failing Aussie game industry, were wondering what to do with ourselves now that the jobs in the field had dried up. It’s always sad to lose a major studio, but I guess it felt less like a loss and more like an opportunity at the time. Cupco Games was born shortly after, in our old coffee haunt over a latte. I’ve loved every minute since!
Is Splat Attack your first game? Can you explain it — what is it about and how does the gameplay work?
Yes, Splat Attack is our debut title! There's a common thought amongst start-ups that the first game will always be rubbish, but not one of us liked that attitude. We gave Splat Attack our all, as if it was our 10th game and not our first.
Splat Attack is like a reinvention of a tower defence game, where the user takes control of the Tower to fight off waves of enemies. You play as Anthony the Engineer Ant, left behind by the Queen to protect the treasury from thieves. The Bandit Bees are set on snatching up the gold, so it’s up to Anthony (and the player!) to fight them off. The game uses a sling mechanic to fire missiles at incoming swarms, but the true challenge comes from causing the Bandit Bees to bounce into one another for maximum mayhem and extra points. Unlocking new weapons can help manage the variety in insect types, so collecting the stolen gold coins is a must!
There's massive competition in the mobile-gaming market — what does Splat Attack offer that other games do not?
Massive competition is no exaggeration! Not only must we compete with the legions of other fantastic games saturating the market, but we somehow have to hold our own against products that have had the benefit of multiple updates over their lifespan on the App Store, as well.
Splat Attack may be new, but we intend to stand out with our high degree of passion and polish. We loved our game from the very first design document, and I like to think that care shines through with every cheeky character and spectacular tune of the soundtrack. Splat Attack is about quality, and we made sure everything sparkled on its first day out in the world. Things can only get better with time and updates!
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far? How did you overcome it?
In a lot of ways, we were extremely ambitious. We didn't want to cut corners or settle for second best, so our biggest problem was simply feasibility. Our time and budget was highly limited, so a lot of good ideas had to be set aside to make sure the core game was polished. It took a lot of compromise to overcome our limits, and also a lot of foresight to know what could be spared for updates. Personally, I prefer to be elbow deep in development and building things, so forcing myself to sit in management meetings to discuss our timeline and budget was a real challenge, and at times a massive headache. But I have to grudgingly admit it was worth it.
Splat Attack was built with the future in mind, so everything about it has the potential to grow and expand. That only came from careful planning.
What do you think is the essential ingredient of a truly awesome mobile game?
I think everyone has a personalised view of what makes a great mobile game. For me, what makes a casual game awesome is equal parts addiction and investment. Addiction usually comes from "feedback". The more response a player will get from a game as they play, the more fun and addictive the game will get. Whether it's fireworks or explosions, crazy physics or funky sound effects, if we can reward the player for every little action, they'll want to continue being active.
As for investment, who doesn't want to receive a little something extra for the time they've spent chipping away at a game? It could be a new level or a high score, or maybe an achievement or an unlockable item, but nothing is more satisfying than earning something new for your dedication. If you wrap that formula up with fun art and catchy tunes, then I believe you have a truly awesome game.
What is the best thing about working in mobile-gaming development? What is the worst?
The very best thing about mobile development is the potential. I've come from a background in console games, where it takes years of hard work and a large team to create one product. That's a lot of money and investment, right there! The risk makes it very hard to greenlight an idea, and many potentially fantastic games never see the light of day. In mobile games, a tiny team like ours is fully capable of bringing a flash of inspiration to the App Store in the space of months. That's extremely inspiring to me!
The worst about this market is how easy it is to disappear into it. Despite apps being so affordable, the sheer number of them makes it extraordinarily difficult for one game to get enough exposure or visibility. No one will buy a game they don't know exists, regardless of how good it is, and that battle is a daunting one for a start-up.
Do you have any advice to offer aspiring mobile-game developers?
Release day isn't the final day for a developer in mobile games; it's only the beginning! Have a plan for the future, whether it's updates or new ideas, and don't underestimate the importance of marketing your beloved game. Dedicating time and funds to getting your product visible once it's ready for launch is just as important as building it.
Finally, create what you love! There is joy and freedom to being a developer on such an accessible field, so exercise it!
What's next for Cupco Games?
Next, we nurture Splat Attack! Listening avidly to our gamers, and responding to meet their suggestions, is next on the cards. I'm also looking forward to introducing some of the content that originally ended up on the cutting-room floor due to our constraints, and, beyond that, there are still mountains of game ideas we have that are just waiting for the right moment.
It’s all about building on our newly laid foundation, and I can't wait!
Splat Attack for iOS: (AU$0.99)