Clay Jam: Zynga goes claymation, with help from new partner

Fat Pebble, one of five developers teaming up with the struggling social-gaming company on the mobile front, releases a quirky claymation game.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
3 min read
Fat Pebble

Clay Jam -- the latest game to come out of Zynga's recent push for mobile -- launches today, bringing a new type of game to the social-gaming platform.

Update, 10:38 a.m. PT: The game shows up in the Google Play store, but isn't ready for download, which is why some people may be seeing a "This item cannot be installed in your device's country" message. The creators said this should change any minute now. Android devices need to be on 2.3.1 (Gingerbread) or greater to play.

The claymation-based game, filmed in stop motion animation, features silly clay monsters and a little clay ball that rolls along squashing little beasts and dodging big ones. Its creator, UK indie game developer Fat Pebble, is one of five developers that signed on to create mobile games for the struggling gaming company. The bet on mobile is part of Zynga's attempt to branch out from its dependence on Facebook and become a gaming platform of its own.

Fat Pebble

Clay Jam is Zynga's first foray into the uncrowded space of claymation video games. The game, Fat Pebble's first original product, is a quirky one. Players swipe the screen to help the clay ball navigate the course and dodge obstacles. As the ball rolls along, the monsters it squishes helps the ball grow bigger and roll faster until it's big enough to defeat the really big monsters down the line.

Clay is the perfect complement for a touch screen game, Fat Pebble Creative Director Michael Movel said. "We wanted to make it tactile -- feel like you're really touching things in the game."

It's definitely not your typical mobile game and it didn't have a typical development schedule. While mobile games usually take a few months to develop, Clay Jam has been in production for about a year. Fat Pebble Art Director Chris Roe used 44 pounds of clay and 400 toothpicks to hand-make every model of the 25 different monsters featured in the game.

Fat Pebble

Roe said it would have been much easier to create a 3-D model using a computer, but the creators found that the images lacked the texture of clay. "It makes loads of mess," he said. "It's not the kind of thing that every studio would do, but it's about time to get claymation out there."

The new game lets Zynga diversify its fledging gaming platform, something that is important to gaining new players. Zynga's other mobile partners, announced in June, cover a variety of genres -- midcore game Horn, action-arcade game Super Bunny Breakout, arcade game Twist Pilot and puzzle game Rubber Tacos.

Movel said partnering with Zynga allowed the company to focus on the creative aspects of the game and get advice for the business decisions --like how to promote the game and how to make money off it -- and gave Fat Pebble access to Zynga's 3 million players. While that number has nothing on Facebook's massive social gaming platform, a platform Zynga helped build, Movel said he was grateful for Zynga's help.

"It's given us everything we've lacked," he said. Despite Zynga's recent spat of bad news -- that includes top executives leaving, layoffs and a dropping stock price -- Movel said the only thing Fat Pebble has ever been afraid of was losing creative control in exchange for the bottom line, something Zynga has stayed clear of.

Will Zynga's recent push for mobile games pay off? It's too early to tell, and Zynga is not saying how many people are playing the games so far. But, the company seems to be doing one thing right and that's keeping its partner developers happy.