Game Development Reference
Product Testing: Start with Fellow Designers and then
Ryu found some frustrations with the testing process of Heist, his first game. Initially he gave it out to 20 beta
testers who were basically friends and fans. But many of their reactions were not substantial or constructive
enough to help the iteration process. Instead, Ryu recommends showing your game to fellow designers first, be-
cause they better understand how different game features fit into the larger whole. After fellow designers offer
their feedback and you implement it, you can then bring in the “normal players” to try out your game. Have
them test the game for bugs and glitches.
Remove Abstraction from the User Interface
Seriously! Game for Cats, by Nate Murray, is a highly rated iOS title.
A lot of design thought went into the user interface of Hatch, Ryu's goal being the removal of abstraction. In
other words, he wanted to remove anything like the directional pad control from traditional handheld consoles,
in which, as he puts it by example, there's an “arbitrary onscreen button to push something to move to the right.”
These kinds of controls aren't organic to the iOS's touchscreen experience, which is so intuitive and natural,
even cats can play an iPad game.
With that in mind, Ryu went beyond the finger-petting mechanic; instead of getting info on your pet through
a floating HUD (as would typically happen in most games), game info is contained in a little notebook that you
“drag up” from the bottom of the screen. It's this design philosophy that also informed the connection of the
fugu's energy with the iPhone's battery and the integration of a peek-a-boo game with the iOS camera—a vir-
tual pet experience that's fully merged with the phone.
In future updates, Ryu plans other features that will layer the virtual pet experience with the phone. For in-
stance, these features will reflect the real-life weather (as detected by the iPhone's weather app) in the fugu's
game world and include a “pet walking” feature that will incorporate the game's accelerometer and compass.
Innovation Takes Time, Money, and Managing Good
Although Hatch was conceived as a virtual pet game from the start, Ryu began with a grander vision: in the
original conception, the player's fugu would mirror your real life in instructive ways. If you ate a cheeseburger,
for example, your fugu would start to get fat. In this way, the fugu would illustrate the costs of taking short-term
pleasure versus working toward long-term rewards. At the same time, Ryu was frustrated to see hundreds of
virtual pet games in the iOS store, with only a few that were (to his mind) good or even unique. (Most were
ports or imitations of existing games.)
“No one was putting in that R&D effort,” as he puts it. “My frustration with that was on a low boil for
years.” One reason for that, he learned, is that innovation costs money. To develop Hatch, he first borrowed
$75,000, and all told, development may wind up costing $250,000 total. Much of that money went into creating
high-quality assets (he spent $10,000 for the sound design, by someone who worked on BioShock), legal fees