By February 6, 2014

Five Questions With Samuel Coster From Butterscotch Shenanigans

crashlands logo
I recently wrote about Crashlands, the new game coming out from Butterscotch Shenanigans, makers of Quadropus Rampage. I emailed Sam Coster — he’s the designer half of the two brothers over at Butterscotch Shenanigans. He was kind enough to answer my questions:
– Will the game come to iOS or other platforms (someone asked for Windows, for example)?
We will be doing a rolling launch, starting with Android and moving to iOS a month or so later, and then to PC if the game gets enough traction in the mobile market.
– Are there particular reasons you chose Android first? <- this is of particular interest to me personally; when I worked as the lead UX guy for [big box store’s] Android app they almost always had a “iPad, iPhone, Android” order for everything, and the last startup I worked for was iPad only šŸ™
Yes. Quadropus actually was meant to launch simultaneously on iOS and Android, but we got rejected from iTunes for a questionable reason and ended up having to delay for iOS. This turned out to be a boon for us, as Android allows for rapid iteration in response to player feedback – we can launch a new build in about 30 minutes to fix something, versus 10+ days on iTunes. We fine tuned the game and actually delayed the iOS launch further to really polish it up, using the larger Android player base as a sort of crazy beta tester pool. It worked extremely well so we’re going to do it again, but on purpose!
This guy. Coming to Android first.

This guy. Coming to Android first.

Ā I watched some of your time-lapse videos for making the visual assets. They were very cool. Are there any examples in your prior games where you designed something and then you had to redo the concept once development hit? Again, selfishly, I wireframe stuff all the time that winds up not “feeling” right once it hits design and/or gets into people’s hands. It would be super awesome if you could share the reasons why a concept didn’t work, and any iterations you went through.
I would say 99% of the art that goes into the games is a one-and-done sort of thing. This stems from my background as a non-artist – I’m not actually all that skilled when it comes to content creation, so taking the time to redo something is often times actually out of the question. We develop and do the art simultaneously, so any changes that need to be made are actually rolled into the process. For example, if you look at the Pete boss fights in Quadropus, we actually added him, his dialogue, and the fights themselves about 5 days before launch in response to some quality feedback. We sat down, I got to drawing the first keyframe of Pete (some sort of screaming face) and Seth used a red square to begin programming his interaction. Once the first keyframe was done, Seth imported it, we talked what we needed to make it feel juicy and good, I then completed the next 3 keyframes for his various states and then started in on weapons we thought would be fun to deal with. Once the laser orbs were done Seth programmed them and we decided we needed a BIGGER LASER as well, so I whipped that up and Seth implemented it just as fast. The whole thing took about 8 hours to make, and then another 8 to get balanced and juiced properly so it was actually fun.
The thing we tend to iterate on is the design around a particular in-game element. Design is very difficult to do right when only done on paperĀ – it’s a lived experience and has to be played through before you can call it good. We don’t use game design documents, as a lot of studios do. We build, play, tweak, and repeat until we get the outcome we want.

One of Sam’s time lapse design videos.
Ā Speaking of iterations, is there a particular product development method that you and Seth go through, like cards, or scrum, or spin around and point at stuff?
We typically start with a little idea for a mechanic and just spin out from it, adding only things that inject more awesome into the original experience. Crashlands is a little different, since it started more from a personal need than anything else. In this case we’re starting from the other end – we’re building a world and then happily discovering all the ways we can play in it. If one of us feels like something should be possible, we make it so.
For example, we added seeds a few weeks back and found that the planting and harvesting of a large scale farm operation was a little repetitive and slow. We were joking about how you should be able to harvest things with an explosion and then realized that would actually be amazing. About 20 minutes later we had a craftable Harvest Bomb and two seed-planting bombs to boot.
Our development process is about building stuff quickly and being completely open for discovery, and I think that’s how we find the fun. We have a vision of where we’re going, but at some point the game itself takes over and becomes its own creator. We’re just there to listen, discover, and not muck things up.
– Did you conduct any user research with Quadropus Rampage, or just rely on anecdotal / market research like surveys, forum opinions, etc?
We actually made QR for a 7-day Roguelike contest and decided the concept was fun enough to take all the way. People liked the idea of the swaggerful octopus beating things up in the ocean, so we just ran with it and integrated it into the Butterscotch universe by pulling in Grubby from Towelfight 2 and making Pete into a similar boss-entity. Once we got to the testing stage we had a few friends play it and, after rounds of clean-up, sent it out to a small batch of people who had given us great feedback on Towelfight 2. We work really closely with our testers and, now, larger community to make sure things are polished and shiny before they hit, but for the most part that user research happens at the end of the process. We tend to be quiet about things until they’re cooked enough that people can smell the possibilities.
Big thanks to Sam, and I hope he and his brother Seth the best success on Crashlands.
Please subscribe to their subredditĀ and to their YouTube channel. Check out the Butterscotch Shenanigans Web site for more information about the brothers and their projects.
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