The trick to creating great app game sequels

Aug 19, 2011
Games

Creating sequels to hit properties is not a new process for the gaming industry. In fact, sequels like the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64 and the Xbox 360’s Halo 3 breathed new life into their properties and helped propel their respective systems to new heights. But you rarely see sequels with changes on the level […]

Creating sequels to hit properties is not a new process for the gaming industry. In fact, sequels like the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64 and the Xbox 360’s Halo 3 breathed new life into their properties and helped propel their respective systems to new heights.

But you rarely see sequels with changes on the level of a Super Mario 64, which brought the plump plumber’s mushroom kingdom into 3D after years of side scrolling adventure, exist on the same platform that the previous game was on. Usually, same-system sequels are more on the level of Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Sunshine 2 – games that expand upon their previous iteration in scope or challenge, but don’t exactly alter a proven formula for success.

Which brings us to the iPhone. A hardware device that receives updates yearly and sequels to hit games just as often. But as good as the numerous Angry Birds apps are, they’re all basically the same game with new levels. It’s a difficult dilemma app developers face, as they try to draw new interest to sequels to their hit games, without the benefit of a large technology-related gimmick like a wireless controller or dual analog sticks or anything of the sort.

Developer Neon Play is taking that in their stride though as they prepare to launch sequels to two of their biggest hits: Golf Putt Pro and Paper Glider Crazy Copter.

Because these sequels can’t rely on motion controls or another fancy trick, Neon Play is recreating their popular brands with a graphical update. While both the original Golf Putt Pro and Paper Glider were 2D sprite-based games, Golf Putt Pro 3D (releasing near the end of September) and Paper Glider Crazy Copter 3D (due out shortly afterwards in early October) will use 3D polygon shapes to give the gamer a more immersive experience.

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Now to clarify, that doesn’t mean you’ll need special glasses to play Golf Putt Pro 3D and that blades of grass will fly at you. This is “classic” 3D, like the kind you enjoy every day on the PS3 or Xbox 360, with polygon shapes trying their best to recreate what the human eye sees. Still, turning a 2D game into a 3D game is a lot more difficult than just tapping out the Konami code.

As Paul West from Neon Play explained to me, there’s an entire animation process that must be changed in the 2D to 3D conversion.

“Generally speaking a 3D game is more complex than a 2D game,” West explained. “So we did have to change our development process to cater for this. In a 2D game all the things you see on screen are nothing more than bitmaps. If it animates, then that is simply a set of bitmaps that get played one after the other on the screen. Bitmaps are simple to create and easy to understand and build into a development process.

“3D is a different beast entirely. You need to have someone build the object out of triangles using modeling software. Then you wrap a bitmap around the model to give it detail. And if you want to animate a 3D model, then that becomes even more complex. So simply going from 2D to 3D requires several new tools and processes.”

But the idea to convert the game didn’t emerge overnight. It was inspired way back when the original Paper Glider Crazy Copter was first released.

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“When we first played Crazy Copter we instantly imagined flying the copter through a 3D world,” West said. “The idea of having to weave past vicious falling spikes as you race through heavy closing copters was an exhilarating thought.”

West has also enjoyed another benefit of bringing Neon Play’s games to life in 3D – adding physics.

“To improve the quality of our games even more, we are also using real physics calculations to make the world seem more realistic,” West said. “So if you knock into a box, instead of simply stopping up against it, you’ll see the box get knocked, maybe wobble a bit and then settle back to where it was.”

We’ll find out soon enough whether Neon Play was able to accomplish what they set out to achieve when they decided to give their popular games a graphical upgrade. But regardless of any upcoming success or failure, it’s always refreshing to see a developer attempt to achieve something greater with their game instead of simply adding a new level pack.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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