Frenetic, high budget and graphically intensive are not the adjectives to describe Riding Rhodri, a platform game for the OUYA. I’m glad because I’m getting tired of eye-candy. I was looking for uniqueness and creativity in the OUYA library. I was intrigued by how developers, Steve and Ross used Rhodri’s wheelchair as a source of strength rather than a mark of weakness. Bravo. It’s not getting a lot of buzz from OUYA but the game’s concept is refreshing and inspiring.
In essence, this is the kind of fresh game concept I want and hope to find on the OUYA; unique, challenging and fun. It’s exciting to see the growing number of independent developers such as Steve and Ross take advantage of the OUYA and the available resources around them. And true to many indie developers, Steve and Ross created Riding Rhodri in their spare time.
Steve was kind enough to appease my curiosity and provided some insights in development, challenges and working with OUYA:
What’s the inspiration behind Riding Rhodri?
Because I started making video games on smartphones the inspiration comes directly from that. I played a lot of platforming games
looking for ideas to make one myself, but I hated playing all of them. I had a small screen and it was difficult for me to tap the “jump” button when needed. I always thought a physical button was better than an icon on a touch screen. It bothered me so much that I came up with this idea where all you would do is move left and right, and the jumping would be controlled by an in-game mechanism. I made a prototype and my friends agreed that if finished, it could make a pretty good game.
What challenges did you encounter in the development process?
Our main problem throughout development was that Ross and I were the only two guys working on the project. Every time we ran into a bug in the code, we would pair program the hell out of it, but if we were stumped, we didn’t have anyone else to lend a hand. We didn’t have an artist or a musician either so nothing in the game looks like it fits thematically. We also didn’t have jobs while working on this project. Even though we had a maximum amount of time to constantly work, it always felt like there wasn’t a good reason to keep working. We thought multiple times that we should just stop and look for real work, but we had already received our development console. At that point there was no turning back.
Why did you choose to develop for the OUYA?
I knew that if I bought a development console, the representatives at Ouya would be willing to promote our game for a year. Because our game didn’t look amazing, but still had a great features, we knew we would need the promotion. Although this game was made primarily to be a platforming game for touch screen devices, it proved to be fun on the console as well.
What kind of support did you get from the OUYA team?
The Ouya team has helped us in so many ways since paying for the console back in August of 2012. Ever since the Kickstarter had ended, the team had emailed me multiple times letting me know about how the evolution of the console was coming along. This was extremely reassuring after reading about how a lot of Kickstarter projects never become finished. Upon developing for the console, there were many representatives helping me with game testing and bug fixing on their personal forums. If anything with the console or its firmware updates seemed wrong, I could post about it on the forums and somebody would take notice of it right away.
What kind of relationship do you have with OUYA?
Right now the relationship I have with Ouya is budding. I got much help from them in developing Riding Rhodri, and they keep in contact with me regarding how they are helping in promoting the game. Because our game doesn’t require a lot of controls to play, it seems like the Ouya team may not favor our game as much as the others, but that is alright.
How much time and money did you invest in developing Riding Rhodri? Do you think it was worth it?
The game took about three months to develop, but it didn’t cost us a dime. The art was taken from opengameart.org and the music was given to us by a friend. The framework we used is an open sourced one called LibGDX. We personally do feel that even though we haven’t seen much profit from the game, it was worth the time and effort to make it. It has given both of us great experience in our field and can be a great inspiration for anyone who wants to make a game but thinks they don’t have the funding to do so.
What would you say to someone trying to break into game development? What advice would you give?
Don’t give up, finishing a project is harder than coming up with ideas for them. Think small, big projects are harder to finish. Implement the features your game needs, and if you have time, focus on additional features. Steal ideas. Take something you like and make it better. Learn whichever programming language you are most comfortable with. Polish your product before you start marketing it. If you can’t afford amazing art, then find decent art at websites like opengameart.org. Our game cost nothing to make and doesn’t look half bad, so don’t assume you need any amount of money to finish the project, you just need ambition.
What’s the most rewarding part in creating the game?
The most rewarding part of creating the game is the recognition. Even though the game hasn’t become widely popular, having friends and co-workers say they’ve beaten the game and want more levels is extremely satisfying. Other great benefits of having finished the game is the experience. Not only has it helped me improve my programing skills, I’m also one of the few who has the right to say that I’ve made a video game.