Interview with the Groo Gadgets Team, The creators of Spiraloid

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Our interview with the Groo Gadgets Team, The creators of Spiraloid

Are you – just like us – captivated by Spiraloid? A dizzyingly beautiful 3D adventure… If so today we’ve got an interview you simply can’t miss!

If you’d like to check out our review of Spiraloid, you can also do that here.

Today we’d like to share with you our interview with the Groo Gadgets Team, the developer of Spiraloid!

Before we start, we’d like to thank the Groo Gadgets Team for participating in our interview, and for spending some of his valuable time answering our questions. Thanks!

Now without any further ado, our interview begins.

 

The Interview

Ok first up, why did you decide to make Spiraloid?

I’ve been learning the art of game development for over 10 years and have started (and stopped) development on around 10 games. Since I’ve always been a “team of one” I had to whittle down the grandiose ideas into something that I knew I could complete on my own.

In early 2016 I put my foot down and said to myself “I have to FINALLY finish a game!” so I started researching and playing casual games from the likes of Boombit and Ketchapp. I found a game called Spike Dash which was quite fun but ultimately a bit boring.

It’s a 2D game where the player is a cube that rotates around a circle. Spikes start popping up so the player taps the screen to perform a single jump. I started thinking how I could take such a simple concept and put my own “twist” on it.

The eureka moment came when I had the idea to extrude that gameplay idea into 3D and when I thought of a spiral (or more accurately a helix) everything just came together quite quickly. A prototype was playable within 2 days, from then I knew this would be the first game I would finally finish!


Here comes the obvious next question, how on earth did you manage to create such immersive 3D graphics? (To be completely honest, Spiraloid looks so good, it almost looks wrong on a mobile device!)

Thank you so much for your praise! My professional background has been in 3D animation and motion graphics for film and TV so my strength has always been my design skills.

I really admire games like Monument Valley and Chameleon Run for their simple yet beautiful low poly style. The best thing about low poly graphics is that not only do they look amazing if done well but they are also much quicker to produce than more textured 3D games.

My tool of choice is a free 3D software package called Blender. I have used other commercial software packages before but none of them struck a chord with me like Blender has, especially since most other packages cost around $3,000 or more! Almost all of the 3D elements in Spiraloid have no textures at all, the colours are embedded into the 3D models by a technique called “Vertex Colouring”.

To be honest creating the graphics was the easiest aspect of creating Spiraloid. It would take me an average of one and a half days to create a new level from scratch which I did find surprising myself. You will be happy to know I have many more levels planned including an underwater level with giant whales that swim by the spiral and an outer space level where you travel through space stations and asteroids. The best is yet to come! 😃


The next question is a little less obvious.

At first, Spiraloid seems like it is going to turn out to be an impossible game, but as you progress throughout the game, you’ll soon realize that Spiraloid is hard, but still very achievable.

How did you manage difficult levels when developing Spiraloid?

It’s great that you’ve raised this point since balancing the difficulty has been a real challenge. When I watch people play I can see them struggle with the difficulty, they don’t jump quick enough to avoid spikes or they don’t time their double jumps properly. Soon after I got the prototype working I had the idea that the player should jump to the beat of the soundtrack so I designed the game around that mechanic.

You can still play the game without audio but if you can tap your foot to the beat of a song you should be able to tap your screen to the beat of the game! Each music track in Spiraloid has exactly the same tempo: 120 BPM so the speed of the gameplay never changes, even when the whole world starts to spin. I have designed the game so that most spikes and obstacles need to be jumped on the second beat (typically when you hear a snare hit in the music). To help the player I have also made the hitbox of the spikes much smaller than the spikes themselves so there is a slight margin for error when you jump a spike and when you land on the other side.

Even with all the tweaks I made to help the player, I find that most people struggle to get a score of 10 (for the record my wife has an average score of around 500 on each level). As you have pointed out with a little practice and some trial and error you can master the game and play for many minutes if you follow the beat and observe the spike patterns. Once you have mastered the first two levels (Amethyst and Silicon) you will find the challenge ramps up significantly when you first play the Obsidian level (fun fact: Obsidian is my tribute to the brilliant TV show Stranger Things!). Instead of spikes that pop up, you encounter mines that float up and down to the beat. Where spikes are always below you mines can be above or below you and explode on contact. This is where upgrading the shield power-up is vital so you can learn how to navigate mines without exploding!


Now for some extra geeky questions.
What programming language and or software did you use when making Spiraloid?

Since I have a background in design I had very little experience with programming. I started making games in the early 2000’s with a program called Blitz Basic. While I never completed any games it did give me a good grounding in the basics of programming.

When the first iPhone was released I knew I had to get on board and start developing mobile games. That’s when I discovered Unity 3D and have been using it ever since. At first, it was daunting since I had never used the C# scripting language before and I was determined to create games on my own. I then found a tool which would be the best asset I have ever downloaded for Unity; PlayMaker. PlayMaker is a visual scripting tool that lets you program visually with nodes.

Instead of writing your own code it uses code snippets called “actions”. The actions are simple functions like moving 3D objects, detecting button presses, etc. Since I already had an intermediate understanding of programming the learning curve was very shallow and I had prototypes up and running within days.

If anyone reading this has been dreaming of getting into game development but doesn’t know where to start I would highly recommend a combination of Unity and PlayMaker. I should mention that I wouldn’t have been able to complete the game without the help of assets from the Unity’s Asset Store. When I had the idea to sync the game to the music the first thing I did was search the Asset Store and I found a brilliant tool called Koreographer by Sonic Bloom. Not only did it do exactly what I wanted but it also included PlayMaker actions so I had it running in my game within a couple of hours.


Ok, here is a difficult question. What was the hardest problem you needed to overcome when developing Spiraloid?

Well, I can start by telling you that the easiest part was creating the gameplay itself, once I knew what I needed to do I just did it with next to no real issues. The hardest part was integrating all the systems that needed to be in there to form a fully functional game.

Implementing things like language localization, in-app purchases, leaderboards, etc was a real challenge and completely broke the game a few times. The lesson I have learned is to start implementing those systems soon after a good prototype is working.

There isn’t all that much text in the game but since I added localization after I had all the menus in the game it was very time consuming to set everything up to work with multiple languages. Other than those issues it has been a reasonably smooth experience. I started prototyping around May 2016 in my spare time then I went full time from October to the start of January this year so for just one person it has been a reasonably quick process.


Last question. Where do you get your inspiration or ideas from?

I play a lot of games! I have all the current consoles and I download and play around 3 games every week from the App Store. I do tend to gravitate to obscure indie titles since they usually are in line with the kind of games I like to make.

I am mainly inspired by games that bring new ideas or fresh takes on tried and tested gameplay mechanics; this inspires me to come up with my own ideas that push the boundaries. I knew from the first prototype that Spiraloid would be a visual feast so I started doing research on visuals made for electronic dance music.

One of my inspirations has been the work of Beeple (Mike Winkelmann), the visuals he creates in sync with EDM are amazing. I also have a Pinterest board that contains loads of images I have found on the web that have inspired me to create the visuals in Spiraloid.


A few words to Spiraloid fans on Edamame Reviews.

I have a couple of projects in the works but haven’t locked anything in yet. One thing that I can tell you is that I plan to team up with another developer for my next game, solo game development is REALLY time-consuming since I have to do every single aspect of the game myself.

Before I start anything new I have to prepare the Android version for release which should be out soon. Another thing I have considered with Spiraloid is creating a version for VR. I actually spent a lot of time in the early stages of development creating a version of Spiraloid for Google Daydream and Gear VR. Can you imagine what Spiraloid feels like in VR when the world starts to spin? I can tell you a strong stomach is highly recommended😃


Lastly a few words on how you feel about Edamame Reviews and our service.

I’ve been following Edamame via Twitter for a while now and more often than not click through to read the reviews. I really enjoy the articles and interviews as I always like getting an insight into the minds of fellow developers, I hope your readers find this interview insightful as well!

There are a lot of gaming sites out there but not so many mobile-only gaming sites, this site fills the void very nicely indeed!


Thanks for the incredibly detailed interview!
Want to give Spiraloid a try? The download link is just below😉


Let us know what you thought in the comments section below and as always thanks for following edamame.club

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