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Postmortem: Bane Games' Flick Buddies

March 8, 2011 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
[Brisbane-based Bane Games recounts the process of going indie, developing their first iOS title, Flick Buddies -- and learning important lessons about timing.]

After many years working together in mainstream game development, a small group of developers decided it was time to "go indie" and create their own company. Bane Games, based in Brisbane Australia, grew out of this desire to work independently on fun, small games. Our first title, Flick Buddies, recently launched on the iOS App Store, and this is the story of its creation.

What Went Right

1. Rapid Development

With only four developers working part-time, we knew we had to set our sights on a realistic target to make sure we would produce our first game in a few months, rather than years as we were used to from our mainstream days.

We reached our first playable build in the first few hours of development and had prototypes of all 12 levels complete within the first few days. Much of this rapid development was thanks to the use of the Unity game engine. This freed me (our sole programmer) up to work solely on gameplay rather than engine development. The editor also allowed our game designer Simon to rapidly prototype level ideas and tweak values without ever touching script.

This rapid development helped keep team morale high, allowed us to rapidly iterate over gameplay, and kept costs low. Below are the approximate hours spent on each area of development:

  • Programming - ~200 hours
  • Design - ~100 hours
  • Art - ~300 hours
  • Sound - 26 hours
  • Business/Marketing - ~100 hours

We spent a lot of time iterating over the gameplay to keep it as fun and tight as possible. For example, we experimented with different game lengths before deciding 60 second games delivered just the right amount of fun to keep players wanting more. We also spent a lot of time on the flick mechanic to make sure it felt as real and tactile as possible.

2.     The Team

All the members of the team had worked together previously on at least one shipped title. This meant that we all knew each other's strengths and weaknesses going into the project. We'd also all worked under the watchful eye of publishers before, which accentuated the freedom we were now experiencing as we set our own deadlines and had complete freedom in design.

From left to right: Shauno (art), Alistair (code), Simon (design), Mick (audio)

We created the smallest possible team capable of creating a high quality game in a small period of time. We had seen how much money a large team could suck out of a company, and we decided on four core developers. This ended up being the perfect size, filling all the requirements of developing an iOS game. Any smaller would lead to holes in skills and leave the game looking unprofessional. Any larger and the fact we were working remotely would put too much strain on the team.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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Jared Thorbahn
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Good read. Hope everything works out.

Eric Ries
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Interesting info. Thanks for sharing!

raigan burns
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uh... is it just me or does that t-shirt design intentionally play up the fact that the "LICK" looks a lot like "UCK"? Or does the expression "f*ck buddies" not exist in Australia? I'm a bit confused.

Jared Thorbahn
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That's not as bad as when a Banking billboard said "Your banking is just a dick away" because the kerning of c and l was off. I think the dot on the i makes the flick buddies logo fine though.

Christian Nutt
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I don't think so at all, honestly. The dot in the I makes it really obvious it's not. Not to mention the layering effect. *shrug*

Luis Guimaraes
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I think the I in Buddies doesnt even have a dot. So it explains your question.

Alistair Doulin
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We spent a long time coming up for a name for the game. It was only a couple of weeks before release that we finally decided. Christian is correct that once we realised the similarity we changed the font to reduce confusion. Still, we've been surprised by how much people have talked about the name.

Alistair Doulin
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Since writing this article, Flick Buddies V2.0 is now out on the app store. Below are the highlights of what we added:

- Now Open Feint Enabled. Beat your friend's high score or suffer in humiliation as they beat yours!

- Game Center Support! Earn achievements and justify your existence!

- Over a dozen new levels to explore and conquer

- Two new game modes! Say whaaaaat?!

- Three new 'Prison' Buddies and a brand new 'Correctional Institution' environment

Craig Timpany
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I'm loving some of the new technology arriving these days. Shipping a commercial game with only 5 KLOC of code. Amazing!

Alistair Doulin
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I completely agree, that's one of the primary reasons to go with Unity. I can't believe how quickly (and in so few lines of code) I can get a game out now. It's the only way a single programmer can get a fairly well sized game out in a short period of time.

james sadler
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My team and I have been using Unity for awhile. It is a great engine compared to most out there. Thumbs up guys.

james sadler
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Its sad when people are pirating a 99 cent game. This isn't the first postmortem or article I've read mentioning the same thing. Just the time and energy involved in doing the cracking would cost more then simply buying the app.

Alistair Doulin
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Yeah, it's fairly annoying. The biggest issue I have is that they don't even buy the game to crack it, they scam a promo code rather than paying 99c.

Evan Skolnick
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When I wrote for Marvel Comics we weren't allowed to use the word "flick" in dialogue because when hand-lettered with all caps, and printed on newsprint that bled ink a little bit... well, you know. :-)

I just assumed that the game title was playing off that. I'm going to choose to continue to believe that, because I get a tickle out of it. And anyone who doesn't like it can flick off. ;-)

Megan Fox
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What are you seeing in the way of sales? Is it doing well, middling / about to expectations, etc?

Alistair Doulin
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It's been lower than we were hoping, but about what I expected. We had over 100k downloads with Open Feint Free Game of the Day which I highly recommend to other developers. We've had spikes for various reasons but so far it's not enough to live off.

We're planning lots of updates to fix people's complaints and so far we've had great feedback from our first update.

Abhishek Buchvani
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Excellent read Alistair really help to break into it.