He reveals what it takes to make a successful hyper-casual game and how Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher have become an integral part of his game development workflow.
Monster Evolution has hit over 5 million downloads on the Play Store. How does it feel when a game you develop becomes a success?
It’s a great feeling to know millions of people are playing our game right now, and the success means players are really enjoying it. A lot of work goes into these games, so when one works, it’s nice to have the validation and to keep doing what we love doing.
What makes a good hyper-casual game?
Hyper-casual games are great at distressing and taking your mind off the craziness of life. They should be easy to understand when you pick them up, fun to master, and they should give the player a sense of accomplishment in a short amount of time. Hyper-casual games should let players jump in and out of the game without any effort. We are living in some interesting times, and hyper-casual games are almost zen-like when it comes to taking your mind off of things.
How did you come up with the concept for Monster Evolution?
The concept for Monster Evolution was a collaboration with our Publishing Manager from Homa Games. We saw the emergence of an “evolution” trend in the app store. We bounced a few ideas around to see if we could do something cool and special with this trend. From there, I came up with the final vision for the gameplay and the mechanics that are in the final game.
Talk us through the main stages of creating the game.
Once we have a few ideas that we think are worth pitching, I create game overviews to share with our publishing manager. Once we have a “thumbs up” on one or more of our ideas, we use the overviews as design briefs to refer to throughout the prototyping process.
Next, we build out a playable prototype with a few levels for an initial test in the app stores. Hyper-casual games are very data-driven, so the metrics let us know if the concept is worth pursuing. If not, we move on to the next prototype/concept. That first test had some very good results, so over the course of a couple of months, we made improvements until finding the version of the game that resonated with players.
The game was published end of September, and it has been going strong since.
How long have you been using Affinity apps, and what made you make the switch?
I have been using Affinity apps since early 2019. The monthly memberships of the other software companies (Adobe) were continually increasing in price. After a quick internet search, I found Affinity Photo, Designer and Publisher. I watched some videos of people using the apps, and I was impressed with the quality of work the creatives were making.
After I found out I could open all my current Adobe files, that was a big selling feature. I dove in and haven’t looked back since.
How do Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher fit into your game creation process?
Every concept starts with Affinity Designer. My Designer file contains all the important assets that will be used in the game. I call this file my scratch pad, and it pretty much contains the heart of the game.
“Every concept starts with Affinity Designer. My Designer file contains all the important assets that will be used in the game. I call this file my scratch pad, and it pretty much contains the heart of the game. ”
I’ll mockup 3D scenes in Unity, bring those images into Designer to map out the UI flow and different menus we’ll have in the game. All the UI elements are created in this file and kept in vector format for easy high-quality exports.
A mood board usually shows up in the corner of this file containing inspiration for level design, colour theory and other ideas. For Monster Evolution, I had the monster’s evolutions laid out in this file as well.
I use Affinity Publisher to create mockups and game design briefs. They are really easy to modify as the project develops.
Affinity Photo is key for editing or creating new textures for the many 3D models in the game. The monsters in Monster Evolution have different skins you can unlock throughout the game. Photo made this super easy to recolour the textures for the models. Then throughout the process of creating the game, I’m constantly adding and exporting from my scratch pad Designer file.
Hyper-casual games are built pretty quick, so we are interacting and changing features constantly. This is where Designer and Photo are usually open on a second monitor while working on the game in Unity.
Are there any features that stand out as being particularly useful for your process?
I like the customisable toolbar and tools that go with it. The ability to open any Affinity file with any of the apps really makes it easy to hand off tasks to my team. I come from a graphic design background, so Designer was the first app I got. I picked up on the tools and shortcuts pretty fast, so transitioning was not an issue.
“The ability to open any Affinity file with any of the apps really makes it easy to hand off tasks to my team.”
How long did the game take to create?
We created the prototype in a few weeks. Then we spent two months improving the gameplay and launched/published end of September (2021).
What is the most challenging part of getting a hyper-casual game to release?
The biggest challenge is marketability. Hyper-casual games acquire users through various ad networks with short video clips of the gameplay, and you need to grab the players attention within a few seconds. Finding a game that appeals to the majority of mobile phone users is the biggest challenge.
How do you stand out in such a competitive market?
Hyper-casual is really competitive right now, and it’s not getting any easier to predict what will or will not be a hit game. You need to create something new that can cut through the noise. The gameplay needs to be fun and easily understandable. The level design and game design then need to compliment the gameplay and the mechanics of the game. This is easier said than done. That’s why it takes quite a few prototypes before you find one that works out!
Do you have any tips for game developers who might be thinking of giving Affinity a try?
I’d say, just follow the money! When you compare the value between Affinity and its competitors, there really isn’t much thought needed. Game devs have a lot of tools to choose from these days, which is great. Affinity apps were incredibly easy to integrate into my game dev process, so I’m very happy I made the switch!
“Affinity apps were incredibly easy to integrate into my game dev process, so I’m very happy I made the switch!”
You can see more from BT Studios on their website btstudios.net.
To learn more about Homa Games, visit homagames.com.