As part of the Dare to be Digital student game development competition being held at University of Abertay Dundee, we hooked up with those teams working on games for portable devices.
One such was Angry Mango Games, the team from University of Wales, Newport, which decided to create a quirky emotionally-driven platformer called Mush for Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Phone 7 platform.Pocket Gamer: What was the inspiration behind Mush?
Coming from a university that advocates an alternative attitude to games design, our approach is to consider the game design as a whole rather than to just focus on the immediate playability. We wanted to create a game which wasn't solely about a quirky play mechanic, but gave players something more to take away.
To bring a greater depth to the game we spent time researching Eastern religious concepts of emotion and also contemporary psychological theories. The final concept was very subtly influenced by these ideas in a way that is engaging and accessible to a wide audience.
With the limitations of a small screen we needed a visual style that could effectively communicate emotions, so we looked for inspiration from graphic and illustrative based artists such as Bob Staake and Matheus Muniz.Why did you choose to develop for Windows Phone 7?
During a previous competition in which members of Angry Mango took part, a Microsoft representative encouraged the developers to work on Windows Phone 7.
As the only team to take up the challenge, we wanted to use our experience to our advantage. The opportunity to work on and release a game for an upcoming device with an unsaturated marketplace was too good to miss. And the technology available on the platform was ideal for our game concept.How did it affect your choices in terms of type of game and gameplay?
A key aspect to consider when making a game for mobile phones has to be keeping it immediate; we don't have long to engage the player's attention and to capture their imagination, so we needed to create something that would be immediately intuitive and enticing.
We also wanted to utilise the technology available on the Windows Phone 7 to its fullest extent to give the player a more tactile experience, and using input methods like the touchscreen and accelerometer allowed us to push innovative controls.
The major drawback of our chosen device was, of course, because it's not yet released so it wasn't available to test on during development. Having to use less powerful hardware to test on affected our game in some significant ways. For example, we discovered in week two that we couldn't integrate a squishy main character, which was a blow. However, it has been advantageous in other ways as it helped us realise our limitations and work creatively within them.What's been the most difficult part of the development process?
There have been some very difficult technical aspects of the development process, and for students it's a steep learning curve. However, the biggest challenge has to be organisation and planning. In such a short time frame it's very difficult to make a solid timetable. A task that takes even half a day longer than expected throws everything else into disarray when the schedule is so tight.
Keeping up the cohesion of a team has its challenges too, and no doubt every team will have experienced some moments of tension. It's more difficult than normal in a situation like Dare to be Digital, where you are living and socialising with your colleagues. You inevitably end up discussing work, and having nowhere to escape to and relax at the end of the day can be draining.What aspect of Mush are you most proud of?
One of our primary aims when we first began to develop the concept was to bring something new to mobile gaming. Whilst there are a lot of technically innovative games being produced, there aren't many offering more substantial content, or even much artistic innovation.
We feel this is something we've achieved by weaving in subtle themes and sub-narratives, and creating a visual style that was new to both mobile games and ourselves.Will you be releasing Mush commercially?
We plan to launch the game commercially for the Windows Phone 7 around the time the device is released. We are also considering other potential platforms.What are your future plans in the games industry?
Four out of five of us are still finishing our undergraduate degrees so it's difficult to predict what the future holds for Angry Mango as a team.
After Dare to be Digital we plan to finish the game and the avenues we will take are very much dependent on its reception. We all have varying long-term aspirations; some of us want to go into independent development, whilst others are more interested in finding employment in the industry.Thanks to Angry Mango for their time.
You can find out more via their website, or check out the video to see Mush in action.