Last time we talked about how we first got to see the game and the things that factored into our decision to try to produce it. After making our minds up, we quickly negotiated contract terms and then immediately started to work on the game. So this week we´d like to discuss the development phase and the final steps to publication.
Step Three: Development
Development for Coconuts began around August 2012. We had many things to consider about the game:
– We needed to define the setting of the game more clearly.
Even going for a generic monkey theme, someone has to define what the monkeys will look like: Are they looking cute and friendly or weird and funny? Are they playing on an island or in a forest ? These kinds of details sound trivial to decide but they are a huge factor when it comes to the success of a game in the mass market, so we didn´t dare to take this lightly.
– We wanted to look for ways to improve the gameplay itself
The game in its original state was a lot of fun but we wanted to at least try to make the gameplay a little more varied.
– As mentioned in part I of this article, we had to make a transition from the original material to something that could be mass-produced, without losing too much of the original charm.
Monkey King Rising:
We spent around three months working on the gameplay and theme of the game.We were thinking about a big variety of monkey/ape-style settings and finally found the “Monkey King”. The Monkey King (or Sun Wukong, Son Ogong, Son Goku) is a famous character from Chinese mythology, that is very well known and beloved in all of Asia. He is a powerful demon spirit that gets imprisoned by Buddha for his arrogance and finally gets freed to accompany a buddhist monk on an important voyage to the west.
In the beginning we were not sure whether we could make this theme work well (because the Monkey King never actually had any business throwing coconuts) but it is such a familiar and well known story in our market that we could not resist trying to paste it on.
At the same time we were trying to improve on the mechanics of the game, constantly playing around with the author´s prototype and testing all kinds of little changes. We introduced a different type of basket, that would grant an additional shot when you hit it, in order to give players something to “fight” for. At the same time we were looking for ways to make the shooting more interesting. The catapults of the original prototype were almost perfectly controllable, so we wanted to give players the possibility to show off their skill with special shots.
At this point, we realized that our greedily chosen popular theme was actually a perfect fit: The Monkey King is able to work powerful magic, that allows him to influence people´s mind, duplicate any kind of object and move quickly over big distances. This lends itself perfectly to be mirrored in the game by special cards that force other players to do the special shots or give the active player additional powers.
That kind of matching story and mechanics is not really usual for a mass-market children´s game and we are quite proud of the result.
Monkey Material :
It quickly became clear that we would have to move away from the original launcher structure completely, so instead of relying on a “bending” catapult, we decided to go for a classic spring-based one. This change had a huge impact on the feeling of the game…
We found that our first spring based launchers were just as precise as the original ones, so we were quite happy with continuing to develop those.
However, there was one problem that we underestimated: It proved to be extremely hard to find a fitting replacement for the coconuts themselves. We continued to change the material until extremely late in the development process, which made the testing process a lot harder than it needed to be.
Step Four: Implementation & Production
Finally, it should be stressed, that the most important part actually comes after the creative work is already done. Printable artwork needs to be created as well as models and actual molds. A manual needs to be written, tested and proofread. Packaging and promotional material must be designed as well.
So when we finished our work on the game and left everything in the hands of the factory, we were extremely happy, but anxious at the same time.
Step Five: Review
It is too early to know whether Coconuts will be a lasting success from a financial perspective. It has certainly been a great learning experience for us. The process was not perfect and we had to make some compromises to be able to realize the game, but overall we are quite proud of our little monkey game.We´d like to finish the article with a short video of the game in action, played by some of the many of the people who helped to create it: