We catch up with Mandy and Blake of Black Hive Media. Their latest game Count Crunch’s Candy Curse has just been released! Check out the YouTube teaser. They were kind enough to answer a few questions for us!
- Tell us where you came up with the idea for this game. What were your inspirations?
Four years ago we made a game called Arcade Jumper. We had a blast making it, and it did okay for us; we learned a lot. Initially we were going to reskin it for a Halloween-themed platformer, because we love Halloween so so much. After going back and re-evaluating, we changed our minds. The only thing in common with that game is that they are side-scrollers. We re-did just about everything from the ground up. Arcade Jumper was randomized with difficulty progression and pixel art. It was old-school in that it was unlikely you could finish (although there was an ending scene). It was also “freemium”. This game is made to be completed, by almost anyone, and you can’t buy your way through. It has fully designed levels with small mini quests, no randomization. Internally we’re coining it as a bite-sized casual-core platformer(!!!) It’s a bite-sized adventure that will challenge you, but we wanted it to be approachable and within reach for everyone.
- What version of cocos2d-x did you use?
We started with v3.6 and knowing the added Windows support in version 3.8, we plan on updating.
- How did you decide to use cocos2d-x instead of Unity, Unreal Engine or SDL?
We started developing games for iOS and knowing Obj-C, I originally started with Cocos2d. It was free, open source, a great community and had what we needed and wanted in a 2d Engine. Once we decided to support Android as well, Cocos2d-X was a natural transition, it provided us a way to port over the existing code base for our existing games, and would be an easy transition for me.
- What features did the engine offer you that made development easy? What do you wish the engine did better?
The first draw is definitely the support for different platforms. Also having different options for physics (Box2d or CP), so many useful UI elements, and support from so many useful tools (like Particle Designer, TexturePacker,
PhysicsEditor, etc.) makes development so easy, otherwise we’d have to take time to write these things ourselves. Also having such an active online community helps, because if I ever run in to an issue or bug.
- What tools did you use besides the engine?
Photoshop, Spine, Gleed2d, Premiere, Audacity, FL Studio, ‘PhysicsEditor’ for setting up all of the bodies and parameters for the built in Cocos Physics, TexturePacker, BitBucket and Sourcetree for version control, and numerous IDE’s.
- Did you create the art yourself? What tools?
Yes! All assets are created in-house. For hardware, we use a Wacom Pro hooked up to a Surface Pro and external monitor. All the characters are created in Photoshop. Each character and item is then rigged and animated in Spine and exported for use in-engine.
- Did you create the music yourself? What tools?
Yes! All the music is also created in-house. We use a combination of FL Studio and Audacity for all sound.
- The YouTube trailer was awesome. What tools did you use? How long did it take you to create such a polished trailer?
The teaser trailer was created in the better part of a day (and a half if you include capture time). We used Windows 10’s baked-in Xbox game capture software to get video of gameplay. This was much easier than in the past where we had to either Airplay and capture or capture from an iOS simulator. Both resulted in
hiccups in the capture that had to be edited around. For video editing, we use Adobe Premiere.
- You support a number of platforms with your games. How do you manage the workload of releasing for multiple platforms?
We are supporting Windows/Windows Phone, iOS, Android, and Mac at release. We have had experience juggling multiple platforms in the past, although this is more than we’ve ever done. For the most part, Cocos2D-x makes all that possible. We do have test devices for all platforms that we continually deploy on during development. We’re not fans of developing games on simulators. Since we come from iOS development backgrounds, we tend to develop and deploy to iOS devices to test daily. In way, you could say it is our lead development platform (we originally used Cocos2D in the past).
- After the release of the new game, what is a typical Black Hive celebration entail?
Beer. Lots and lots of beer. And BBQ. We have some of the best craft breweries and BBQ here in Austin and we’ll take any excuse to indulge. We’ll also likely hit up some local places and market our game.
- Will you continue to make games in the future?
“Is, like, Schwarzenegger hard to spell?” (I had to look it up) This is our passion. We both left game and app development jobs in late July to go back independent. We put a lot of work into this game, easy 12 hour days, to get it out in time. We love it though. This is what we want to do. We already have our next game ideas in the chamber.
- Blackhive Media is your full-time job now?
Since we quit our jobs at a gaming/fitness company back in early August, our schedule has changed drastically. We went from spending 50+ hours a week working for someone else at a ‘9 to 5’ office, to 70+ hours a week working for our selves. So staying up until 1am and waking up at 8am, has almost become the norm for us. Working through the night is definitely off-limits for us though, creativity needs its rest!
- What are your educational backgrounds?
Blake (artist, designer, sound engineer) completed a 2-year degree in Graphic Art/Animation to get into this field. He’s worked at various game studios and has gained so much experience in almost every role of game development. Mandy (programmer), started out in finance working with numbers and math-stuffs. As Blake continued his career creating fun IPs, she was quickly inspired by Blake to get into game development to start creating fun things together. Once game development became more accessible through mobile in 2009, she picked up a Mac, downloaded some code samples and started learning.
- Are you happy you chose this path?
We have worked so hard to get to this point and it is fun most of the time, then stressful at other times. It’s not easy, but (same as playing a game) it wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t a challenge! This is our first game, since we’ve returned to being an independent studio after working for other game/software companies for a few years. Even though we created an almost unrealistic release date, we were able to tackle it! Working in a two month development cycle acclimated us quickly back into the indie dev life, but it’s been worthwhile! We will continue down this path with more exciting game ideas and beautiful designs. We can’t wait to get reactions on this game and we hope people enjoy what we’ve created!
- Lastly, any advice for those also making games on how to get to a release point?
Motivation! In our case, we love to take a break and throw in some eye-candy or get it running on a different platform …or see it run on a big monitor. We’ll show friends and family and get their reaction. Even if it’s bad reactions, it’s fuel to make it better. Also, pick a style of game YOU want to make. Nothing is more demotivating than trying to clone success.