Every week we shine the spotlight on an exceptional XBLIG and the developers behind them in what we like to call the XBLIG Spotlight. This week we take a look at Kindling Games’ Bumblepig, a colorful, family friendly twist on the classic top-down shooter. Check out the trailer below, our conversation with the developers behind the game, and as always, my perspective. As usual on CBR, reading has rewards as you may even get a chance to win a copy of the game. Add Bumblepig to your download queue!First, the Bumblepig trailer:
First, tell the readers a bit about yourself, who you are and how/why you decided to start getting involved in making games?
Bumblepig was actually started before the Kindling team came together. A little over four years ago, my wife Andrea and I had entry level game testing jobs at Nintendo, and we would have conversations daily with all sorts of people there about how cool it would be one day to make a game of our own. After a couple of months, we realized — what are we waiting for? Of course, we didn’t know the first thing about how to actually build a game, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? So we went out and bought “C# for Dummies”, downloaded XNA, and got to work learning about “variables” and “sprite sheets” and stuff.
Tell us about your history as a game developer, previous efforts, etc.
Professionally, we’ve moved into more and more fun jobs in the game industry, and along the way, we met like-minded co-workers who were excited about spending their free time working on little games with us. In 2008, we formed Kindling Games with some friends from work. Andrea and I set Bumblepig aside, and we worked together with the Kindling team to make Hieronymus Bash for XBLIG — a Smash Bros style party game of apocalyptic dodgeball. Since then, we’ve kept Kindling going strong after work and on weekends (when we’re not crunching on a real work game), and in between other Kindling projects, Andrea and I wrapped up work on Bumblepig.
If you had to pick one specific game to describe as your inspiration, what would it be?
For Bumblepig? To be honest, while Bumblepig clearly draws from classic arcade top-down shooters, our real inspiration was a bumblebee piggy bank we got from a flea market. He’s our house mascot, and we felt like he deserved an adventure.
The game has obviously been released as a XBLIG, but have you in the past, or do you currently have plans to work in any other platform? What made you decide to develop for XBLIG?
XNA made it really easy for us to learn. We love the Xbox 360 and play most of our games there, so somehow it felt like a cooler accomplishment to publish a game on the 360. With the framework we’ve built up in XNA, we’re going to try our hand at a Windows Phone 7 game before switching over to start experimenting with web and/or iPhone/Android. Web games have the potential to reach more people, and we care more about that than actually making money off our games. There are tighter design restrictions, but that will be a fun challenge for a while at least. It’s good to get put in a box sometimes.
How long did you spend on development? Can you explain, roughly, how the development process worked for you? What tools and programs did you work with?
From cracking open “C# for Dummies” to shipping, Bumblepig lasted about four and a half years. If you broke down our time spent into a 40 hr work week, it was probably around four to five months. Typically we’d get all inspired and spend a few nights in a row making great progress, then get distracted and ignore it for a few months… and then a three-day weekend, or Christmas break, or some other time off from work would show up and we’d do it again. Tools wise, we did the art in aging student editions of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, the music and sound in an aging student edition of Cubase, and the level design in a sweet little Excel sheet Andrea formatted to be a level editor. (She’d export the data out as a text file, and then I wrote the code to read in the characters in each cell and interpret them as flowers or enemy bugs or level endings).
If you had to pick one thing that you would improve or simply do differently in regards the game’s development what would it be?
Better tutorials. We made a decision to do some basic help screens the first few levels you play, rather than an elaborate interactive tutorial. I think Bumblepig’s core mechanic is slightly unexpected, and interactive tutorials could have gone a long way to smoothing out the initial experience. Even when people like the game and give us positive reviews, they still occasionally misunderstand the scoring and combo system.
Many gamers dream of starting to make their own games, and it is obviously easier than ever for them to do so. What advice would you give someone hoping to make the jump from gamer to designer?
Learn a valuable skill. And when I say “valuable skill”, I mean you get to choose between art and code. Pick one of those (in addition to being a good designer, not instead of), or you’ll never get anything done.
Start small. As you learn one of those valuable skills, you should say to yourself “what’s the smallest possible game I can create that will still make me proud when I’m done?” — then cut that idea in half. Don’t worry, you’ll still be happy when you’re done.
Have you found the XBLIG process to be a particularly easy or difficult one?
The review and publishing process for XBLIG is actually pretty smooth. There are some tricky Xbox-specific requirements, like around gamer profiles and controller indexes, but we could always find help in the XBLIG developer forums. The developer community is very open and collaborative — it’s a supportive place to learn how to make games.
XBLIG have had a mixed result so far, what is one aspect/idea/change you think would better solidify the platform as a contender in the gaming industry? What one thing do you think would improve the service as a whole, from designer to consumer?
I think more thoughtfully curated sections like “Kotaku’s Favorites” could go a long way. The top rated/top downloaded lists can get pretty stagnant, and it would be great to see more prominent placement for the best of the best on the service through a more professional critical filter. [Author’s note: you can all start telling Microsoft you want a “CBR Favorites” channel right about now.]
What can fans of your game(s) expect in the not too distant future?
We’re currently making great progress on a game that will likely appear on both the Windows Phone 7 and XBLIG marketplaces if the Rapture doesn’t happen first… We’ll post progress on our website as it develops, along with other tidbits of our development process and thoughts. Check it out at www.kindling–games.com.
Anything else you would like to say?
Please, email us, tweet us, Facebook us, whatever. The best part of finishing a game is getting to hear from random people around the world who played it.
At first glance Bumblepig seems like a way too “cutesy” children’s game. The main character is a pig with the body of a bumblebee, the main goal is to pollinate flowers and all of this looks like something out of a children’s book. Underneath the bright and colorful yet simple design though is a game about timing and coordination. Ultimately the game’s main goal is to collect coins by pollinating flowers. You do this by carrying up to two colors of pollen at a time and releasing them with the left and right trigger respectively. Successfully combining the same color pollen with the same color flower (such as yellow pollen with a yellow flower or even yellow pollen with a blue flower) five times in a row builds up a chain, and as you build chains the amount of coins dropped increases till you hit a quarter. After that you just pollinate like crazy, collecting coins as fast as you can. The object is to perform well enough so that you collect enough cash to reach certain levels, or ribbons. There essentially is no way to not finish a level, but your performance can radically vary based on your ability to properly build combos quickly and pollinate as many flowers as possible. As you progress, the game adds more and more challenging flower arrangements (that’s a sentence you never expect to write) and more obstacles to get in your way, such as bugs which knock you back down a whole currency set (i.e. if you were at a dime you go back to a nickel). In the later levels reaching higher ribbons does become significantly more challenging, while passing the levels at all remains fairly simple. The game is incredibly easy to just pick up and play though, and bound to appeal to younger gamers itching for a chance at the controller. As I stated previously, the best way to describe Bumblepig’s graphics is to imagine a child’s book in motion meets a top down arcade shooter. Everything is very clearly defined and the colors simply pop off the screen as the Bumblepig makes his way through the various gardens. The music accompanies the visuals superbly with a simple soundtrack that just says light, easy summer day. The cuteness continues as you unlock hats for your Bumblepig to wear, everything from a jester hat to some Einstein hair. Of course most of these aren’t very visible in the top-down view of the game, but some of them were quite funny. Additionally you unlock several new gardens as you move on, all of which offer their own unique style. Bumblepig may be “too cute” for some gamers, but if you put aside your testosterone for a moment and just enjoy the colorful world you are likely to be pleased with the aesthetics. At its’ heart, and the game has a fair amount of heart, Bumblepig is quite possibly the definition of a casual game. There simply isn’t much to it. The overall experience is certainly enjoyable, but it fails to draw you in enough that you are forcing yourself to not play through every level in one sitting. It simply doesn’t have the “just one more” effect that a really strong casual game possesses. Furthermore, while the addition to the amount and style of obstacles as well as the increasingly difficult flower layouts add some much needed difficulty to the game, it is ultimately just too easy. After several levels I just found myself flying back and forth and pressing the triggers as fast as I could to just pollinate everything in sight, abandoning much strategy. For those out there that need to get the top ribbon every time will find some challenge in doing so, but most gamers are going to just coast through the levels, taking whatever they get. Bumblepig just doesn’t have enough variety or that addictive quality to push gamers who normally don’t care about what ribbon they get to replay the levels again and again. In the end Bumblepig is a fantastic looking and sounding indie game, with a core concept that is fun to play in small bursts. Longer play-throughs will start to drag on and some of the game’s charm will start to wear off quickly, which was really too bad; I wanted to like this game more than I ultimately did. It is a fantastic choice if you are looking for something very laid-back to play every once in a while, or simply for a change of pace; not so great if you are looking for something to fill your entire night with gaming. A little more work on gameplay and Bumblepig would have been terrific. In some ways, Kindling Games comes so close to nailing it that it just makes the game’s faults stand out that much more.
Final Rating: 7.8/10
CBR Break Down: Console Played On: Xbox 360 – XBLIG Approximate Time to Completion: ~2 Hours Gamer Score Earned: N/A Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy furnished by Kindling Studios Current Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1) Recommend Purchase Price: Literally doesn’t get cheaper. Add Bumblepig to your download queue! We know how this works by now. Kindling Studios has been kind enough to give us a couple extra download tokens (codes) so that we can give two of you a Bumblepig of your very own! You can gain up to three entries, please read the details on how to enter below: First entry: I talk about how cute this game is and how some gamer’s can’t get past games like that, so I want to know; What is your favorite “cute” game? Tell us in the comments below and you will have your first entry into the contest. Second entry: Follow us on twitter and send the following tweet: @ClearanceBinRev is having a #contest for the #XBLIG Bumblepig! #Xbox, #XboxLive More Details: http://bit.ly/l3wUtg Remember that you have to follow us; any winner we attempt to DM via Twitter who isn’t, automatically forfeits their win. If you enter via Twitter include your twitter name in your post below, winners who have their twitter listed will receive their codes immediately after winning. Third Entry: Like our Facebook page and then simply like the post on our wall for this article. Simple as that. (Keep in mind the article may be lower on the Facebook page towards the end of the contest and it may take a minute or two to post on FB) Contest will go until Wednesday at 8pm CST. A pool of all eligible entries will then be randomly selected from and the winners will be notified. CBR reserves the right to disqualify any entry we feel either violated the rules or spirit of the contest, including attempts at duplicate entries. Winner selected with no twitter name provided will be notified by email and have 24 hours to respond. We do not announce the names of contest winners, but do encourage them to post about their win.