Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into game development.
Hi, I’m Craig Greenway and I’m from Yorkshire in the UK. I’m married with 2 kids and 2 dogs, and have worked in IT all my life primarily as an applications developer. I’ve always had the urge to learn new skills, and always been keen on understanding the mechanics of games to be able to create my own game. Now that the kids are getting older I have more free time to be creative. I recently started learning Unity and have been concentrating on creating Android mobile games.
You mentioned having a family – how do you balance work, family and making games?
It was difficult at first finding blocks of free time rather than half an hour here and there, as with shorter time slots you just get into the groove and need to break off. We jiggled things around such as dog walking duties, and I switched to 5AM wake-ups rather than 6:30AM and I am now comfortable with the time I can invest. This has been the most significant change, and luckily I don’t need as much sleep as most people!
Why did you choose Unity over other platforms for developing your games?
I tried my hand at the Unreal Development Kit to begin with but found this tricky to get going. I didn’t know C#, I didn’t understand what was needed to create games and was struggling to find free or cheap assets to use. UDK did seem more powerful for larger developments but I needed something I could use quickly and easily, and I also wanted to specialise in Mobile games to begin with at least. Searching for alternate gaming engines brought up Unity and their free version really appealed to me. The biggest pull was the prospect of being able to create Android, iOS, Windows Phone, PC and Linux games all within a single engine. Their Asset Store is fantastic for finding a host of characters, props, music, camera systems etc. Currently I can’t imagine not using Unity as it’s easy to get into yet powerful enough for any game I could imagine coding myself.
What project are you currently working on?
My current project is one which has just been released on the Google Play Store and the Windows Phone 8 store. The game is called “Road Skill” and is an endless runner style game where you need to collect coins while dodging oncoming vehicles! You can squeeze between cars and trucks and can save up coins to use new characters with different abilities such as running faster or flying. It’s an ad-supported free to play game, although the ads are completely discretionary. You can save coins to use characters with powers or watch an ad to use the character without using up saved coins. One of the fun social aspects of the game is “bragging rights” where you can take a screen shot of your stats and share the screen shot with your friends.
Did any particular retro games influence the design of Road Skill?
Initially the plan was to create a Frogger-based game, where you would need to cross the road safely. I used to love the danger side of Frogger, taking unnecessary risks! As research & development began it seemed more fun to run between the traffic rather than a top down approach, and an endless running game just worked well. However, the simplicity of Frogger was definitely something I wanted to implement with Road Skill. In it’s simplest form, all you do is dodge traffic and collect coins, but the replay value is about challenging yourself to run further and collect more coins in a shorter distance. I think due to the graphic capability restrictions, especially in the 80’s era, the game mechanics and simplicity of retro games were paramount to keep the player engaged but they also needed to be challenging enough for players to want to return to play again. To me, most Indie dev’s today focus on the game mechanics; not due to the graphics capability restrictions this time but rather due to the limited budget and time available to invest in the game’s development. Whilst you can never compete with the larger gaming companies, with massive budgets and teams; if you can get a break and get your game noticed and it is playable, challenging and enjoyable, you get such a reward from knowing people out their are playing it, especially when you created it from scratch yourself.
You mention the focus on game mechanics and simplicity for your game.Â How have you made sure players stay engaged with your game and keep coming back to play again?
I think you need to make sure you make the difficulty high enough to make your game more risk-reward based and need to offer longer term achievements. In Road Skill I created a special event so when you collect 100 coins in a single round (not easy!), a rainbow appears and your stats will record the shortest distance you have traveled to earn a rainbow. This is something some players will never achieve but is explained on the stats screen and is something you can really aim to keep on trying to earn, and once you have achieved a rainbow you can try to earn another one in a shorter distance. And sharing the bragging rights includes proof of how quickly you got to the rainbow! The different player abilities really mix up game play as well. Being able to run faster is great for those with less patience and makes the game more dangerous. Being able to stop still is really useful if you want to collect coins in the least distance possible but requires more patience and finally being able to fly above cars is just – well, cool!
You’ve mentioned Android and Windows Phone 8 but not iOS, why is this?
It’s purely down to financial reasons really. I have an Android phone and tablet already to test on, and iPads and iPhones are really expensive. You also need access to a Mac computer to be able to compile the game and I can’t justify the price of these additional devices. Windows Phone 8 was a late addition, I entered a Unity competition in conjunction with Microsoft and even though I didn’t win, I did have a Microsoft rep contact me to discuss bringing Road Skill to the Windows Phone platform. You can pick up a cheap Windows phone to test on for around £70. This also gives me a chance to test another market, and I opted to sell the game ad-free with a £0.79 price tag instead. I will hopefully get a better understanding of the 2 markets and gain some incite into whether free or paid works best for me.
Finally, where can I play Road Skill?
You can download the Android version in the Google Play Store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=zone.MobileGames.RoadSkill
and you can download the Windows 8 version at http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/road-skill/2c74e353-ef02-4248-9878-31a41411c213