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 Poopocalypse. A solid arcade experience with great visuals and lots of poop (no really). 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 Poopocalypse to your download queue!First, the trailer:
First, tell the readers a bit about yourself, who you are and how/why you decided to start getting involved in making games?
I am Sebastian Bender, founder of Wolpertinger Games. Our team currently consists of three people, Timo Hanisch, our artist, Andreas Ackermann, our programmer, and me.
We always wanted to create our own games. When we met at university, we did our first projects together and afterwards we decided to found our own indie game studio.
Tell us about your history as a game developer, previous efforts, etc.
Like I said, we met at university where we formed the team for our final assignment project, Phobos, a first-person puzzle platformer. We tried to publish the game but it was too big a project for us to start so we did Quizocalypse to gain more experience. We did some Flash work-for-hire and helped another indie team, Piece of Pie Studios, with their development of Swimming Under Clouds for PS3 and Xbox 360. Our second own release is Poopocalypse now.
If you had to pick one specific game to describe as your inspiration (for this game or in general), what would it be?
Poopocalypse was inspired by these catapult games, where you kick something in the air and try to get as far as possible. We just wanted to twist the mechanics so that you have to keep something floating in the air instead of bouncing on the ground.
We tried it and it was fun but not “enough” yet. So we brainstormed and got the idea of a pooping fat pigeon, the hero of Poopocalypse.
In general we are inspired a lot by other indie titles. There are so many incredible games out there which experiment and innovate a lot. That’s something I really believe in indies should keep doing.
When it comes to AAA games, my personal favorite developer is Valve. Their games are fantastic, even more if you look at them from a designer’s perspective.
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?
We’re just about to start development of a multi-platform game for iOS, PC and Mac, maybe even other platforms. We want to try many different platforms as long as we can to find the ones we would like to develop for in the long run.
XBLIG was the #1 opportunity for us to get into Xbox development. With Phobos in mind we wanted to gain development experience on the Xbox to try and bring the game to PC and Xbox. So we did Quizocalypse first and then Poopocalypse. It’s a tough platform to survive on but a great opportunity to build your track record.
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?
Poopocalypse took roughly three months to develop but it took way longer to release the game. Since we developed on GameStudio 3.1 we had to port the game to 4.0 to release it because we had two major bugs to fix and therefore missed the deadline.
We believe that game developers, indies in particular, should develop games, not technology. So we mainly use existing tools and middleware, like the great swf2XNA for Poopocalypse. But with middleware you sometimes have compatibility issues. We did our own port of swf2XNA to GameStudio 4.0 at first. But as we were already working full-time on a new project, porting the game and fixing minor bugs took us very long.
A game’s soundtrack can make or break a game, tell us how you selected yours. Did you produce in house, team up with a music producer or simply purchase royalty free music?
Bastian Kieslinger worked with us from the start. He does a great job at composing music, designing and creating sound effects and setting the right mood within our games. He did the awesome metal theme for Quizocalypse all by himself and also did all the sound and music for Poopocalypse.
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?
Reserve more time for the polishing. You can improve your game so much when getting the last 20% right. But it costs a lot of time as you need to conduct test sessions, iterate on designs, tweak parameters and polish the graphics. But other than that we are very happy with how the development of Poopocalypse went.
How much do reviews, ratings and other feedback of your games affect the development process for future releases?
We try to read or listen to every feedback we get. It’s important to find out what you did right and where you went in the wrong direction. Quizocalypse was rated rather bad but it was very entertaining when we watched our testers play it. It’s a trivia game for internet geeks and trash culture nerds which is best enjoyed in multiplayer. The singleplayer part was not good enough and we had to learn the hard way that on XBLIG, players play mostly alone for rather short sessions.
That’s just one example but we did use the insights with Poopocalpyse and out came a game with an average 4/5 rating and better sales numbers.
How did you go about deciding on the name for your game and why did you end up with the title you have? Were there any rejected titles that didn’t make the cut?
We didn’t really think a lot about the name of Quizocalypse. It’s a quiz game set in a zombie apocalypse. So we had the name. Poopocalypse got its name as it is basically another part in a series of deviant game concepts. We had other names for it at first like “Splat!” or “Spritzkrieg” but especially the latter one spawned some weird associations so we sticked with Poopocalypse :)
Bastian also designed the box art. We wanted to show the actual style of the game and set the mood with the vengeful, fat pigeon. We also picked it since it’s standing out slightly from the crowd with the sharp contrasts.
Many gamers dream of making their own games, what advice would you give someone hoping to make the jump from gamer to developer?
First, create games, not technology. If you want to progress, get one of the many great free frameworks or SDKs and start building your game.
Second, start small. If you have no experience, don’t start with an MMO. Create a Tetris, Space Invaders or Pong clone and add a twist to it. It’s way more satisfying if you actually finish a project. Once you did this, dare to create more complex games.
My third advice, don’t sell your first game. You can do it but people judge way harder on paid games. Rather publish the game for free on portals like Kongregate. You’ll receive some feedback and that’s what you need in the beginning.
Oh, and do something innovative. Even if it’s just a small twist in the gameplay it still makes your game unique. And you want to create something people recognize.
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 guess it would help a lot if Microsoft allowed us to use the official Leaderboards and put 10-50 Gamerscore in a game. It would draw more attention to the channel and mainly help the players to enjoy your game more.
What can fans of your game(s) expect in the not too distant future?
Like I said, we are now developing a new game for various platforms, our first bigger commercial project. We’ll most likely do something for XBLIG again, as we need at least one more o-calyptic game in the series. But we haven’t decided on anything yet.
Anything else you would like to say?
Thanks to all our supporters so far. I would like to ask everyone who has played Quizocalypse or Poopocalypse to send us their feedback so we can further improve on our games. You can find us on Twitter and Facebook, of course.
“Okay…” I said to myself, “Just because the game has the word “poop” (1) in the title doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to be bad.” Not entirely convinced, I still stared at the listing for Poopocalypse on the XBLIG Marketplace, scrolling through the screenshots displaying an interesting art style that seemed to completely contradict the title. Eventually, as in a couple of seconds later, I gave in and downloaded the demo. Figuring the worst-case scenario would be that the game wasn’t very good and I would have only wasted a few minutes, I gave it a shot and found myself talking to the developers shortly after.
What’s in a name anyways?
Don’t let that fool you though, there is plenty of poop (2) in Poopocalypse; where you play as an angry obese pigeon striking back at a city who has decided to make feeding the birds in the park illegal. As an overweight pigeon you’ve really only one weapon in your repertoire, poop (3) from above. And so we have the premise for Poopocalypse, you poop (4) on everything worth pooping (5) on. The gameplay is a classic arcade formula, where rather than levels or a story based set of missions your goal is to simply get as far as you can and achieve the highest score possible; only in this case score is achieved by pooping (6) on targets as quickly as possible while avoiding obstacles. Your score multiplier increases with the frequency you hit your targets with bird poop (7) as does the difficulty of the objects you must avoid.
The premise is really quite simple, and if anything Poopocalypse is most likely to upset you not because of it being bad or faults in the game itself, but by the fact it is such a solid, well made game with fantastic aesthetics; that is all about pooping (8). In earnest, these are the types of titles we are supposed to hate on the XBLIG Marketplace right? Games that have the words “fart” or “poop” (9) in the title cheapen the service and bring all the other games down… or so many would often claim (and I would often agree). So what exactly makes Poopocalypse the exception?
First and foremost it is the art style. Using one of my personal favorite color contrasts, the entire game (except for a few seconds of opening animation) is in red, black and white. Stylistically it reminds me of the “rage” levels in the game Wet. The entire time you are playing the game you can’t help but think that a game about poop (10) shouldn’t look this damn good; but it does. Just about everything visually with the game is of a superb quality, from the opening animations that makes an obese pigeon with plans to poop (11) on everything seem totally epic, to the destruction of famous landmarks obliterated in a mountain of white poop (12), the game just simply looks fantastic.
Amazingly Poopocalypse doesn’t just stop there. From the minute you load the game and hear the heavy metal track burst to life you’re a little taken back; then the singer screams “Poo-Pocalypse!” for the first time and you find yourself cracking a smile. Our fat feathered friend dispenses one-liners in the midst of his massive pooping (13) and the core game is also backed with a solid soundtrack (although I had wish the heavier track had been used, or simply a heavier track than what was used) In the back of your mind your saying, “Don’t laugh at the poop (14) jokes, don’t laugh at the poop (15) jokes…” but in the end you kind of can’t help it. Not so much because bird poop (16) is funny, (and it sort of is, I mean who has white poop (17)?) but because the developers made everything so over the top and out-there that the sophomoric humor actually manages to work.
Poopocalypse is also built on a framework of solid gameplay. You can float on for just about ever if you never speed up, but your score will be… well poop (18). The real key is to move fast, and just carpet bomb the area. Of course the faster you go the more likely you are to miss larger objects that require more poop (19) for total destruction while simultaneously increasing your odds of smacking directly into an obstacle. Maneuvering can be a little difficult, but this feels intentional rather than poor design; it makes it that much harder to avoid a helicopter at top speed. Wolpertinger Games also worked under a very simple understanding when it comes to XBLIG gameplay: most people only play for short periods at a time. So what we have here is short, punctuated gameplay that is intended to be played only one or two rounds at a time. While this was a solid choice, the lack of variety caused by this decision is probably the main fault I could find with the game.
In short, Poopocalypse manages to do something noteworthy, be an XBLIG about poop (20) that is actually fun to play. The art style is fantastic and combined with the solid gameplay makes for a surprisingly fun all-be-it sophomoric experience. Obviously if you are offended by the idea of playing as an obese pigeon pooping (21) on everything than you simply will not enjoy this game despite its successes, but for those able to look past the poop (22) there is something to really be enjoyed in Poopocalypse. Poop (23).
Final Rating: 8/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360 – XBLIG
Approximate Time to Completion: N/A
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy furnished by Wolpertinger Games
Current Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
Recommend Purchase Price: Literally doesn’t get cheaper.
Add Poopocalypse to your download queue!
That’s right, Wolpertinger Games has been kind enough to give us an extra download token (code) so that we can one of you your very own angry pooping pigeon, err… copy of Poopocalypse! You can gain up to three entries, please read the details on how to enter below:
First entry: Tell us your favorite “sophomoric humor” game in the comments below and you’ll have your first entry! That’s it!
Second entry: Follow us on twitter and send the following tweet:
@ClearanceBinRev is giving away the #XBLIG Poopocalypse! #Xbox, Find out how you could win by going to: http://bit.ly/qhEKIE
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.