Update: App is now live in the App Store, get it and support a BMX developer!
With Apple seeing record iPhone and iPad sales and showing no signs of slowing down, mobile gaming is giving the console industry a run for its money. iOS games have become big business, and if you’re lucky enough to hit it big with a popular game your world can be turned upside down literally overnight. Searching for “BMX” in the App Store returns few results for games, and those that are there aren’t all that great. Is there room for a better BMX game? One guy thought so and took it into his own hands to make it a reality.
After a year in development, a rider and independent game developer in the UK will launch his first iOS game on August 9th called Pumped: BMX. We’ve been lucky enough to score a pre-release of the game and it seems pretty awesome. We’ve tested it on an iPhone 4 and the new iPad and the thing is addicting as hell.
In the game you play a dirt jumper, and like most good games, it starts off with training tutorial levels to teach the controls. Basically you hold down the “Pump” button to gain speed towards jumps and let it go as you take off from a lip. To pull back (“Boost” in the game) you tilt the device to the left, and to pull forward (“Racer” in the game) you tilt the device to the right. There is a virtual joystick you can move to do different tricks while in the air and combo them together. Finally, there is a “Spin” button to use for flips, which works with tilting the device to spin faster. After some practice it all seems pretty intuitive.
Additional levels and courses are unlocked as you earn stars. Levels are Backyard, The Farm, Desert, and Big City. Each level is made up of many different courses and hundreds of challenges which will keep anyone busy for quite a while.
The graphics are retina display 2D, cleanly designed and appealing, as is the music and sound effects.
I had a chance to chat with the game’s creator Adam Hunt of Yeah Us! Game Studio to find out how the project came to be.
How long have you been riding and who are some guys you ride with in the UK?
I’ve been riding for around 13 years. The first few years were mostly trails, then I got a lot more into street, but since returning to my hometown of Oxford I’ve started moving back towards trails.
Now that I’m back in Oxford I mostly ride with Lima Eltham, Pipe Williams and Poll Pollard – I started riding with them back in the day so it’s awesome that everyone is still active in the scene.
What gave you the idea to make this game?
I had the idea a long time ago actually! Back in my original trails days (around 10 years ago) there was this motocross game called Dirtbike where you could adjust the power of the bike and draw your own levels, so I’d spend all day digging and all evening drawing these digital versions of our jumps. I thought a proper BMX version would be awesome, and I begged the developer to make one. Didn’t happen obviously, and no BMX game has come out that has ever satisfied that itch.
So finally about a year ago I got bored of waiting for someone else to make a ‘proper’ BMX game and decided to just do it myself.
You’re a rider, so this game feels a lot more realistic than other iOS BMX games. What was the process of getting the gameplay to feel like riding a real bike?
It’s been a long process. Everything has been tweaked hundreds of times, from the friction of the wheels, the strength of gravity, the amount of pump on the ground, the amount you can boost – everything!
As the game has developed I’ve been making these small changes and testing them on Lima, Pipe, Poll and their awesome housemates. Some weeks I had a good reaction, other weeks, not so much. Eventually it got to a point where the feel of the bike stopped being a topic of discussion and we moved on to level designs. That’s when I knew it was dialed.
Hugely popular Tiny Wings was developed by a single person, a German by the name of Andreas Illiger, and is in some ways similar to the “pump” action when bombing back into a landing. Did Tiny Wings give you any inspiration?
Yeah, for sure. In fact in one of the early prototypes of Pumped I tried using the exact same mechanic as Tiny Wings, so you’d have to pump down into landings and let go just as you got to flat bottom. I stuck with it for a while, but in the end it just didn’t feel right – in real life you pump up lips just as much as you pump down landings, so I scrapped it and went with a more traditional “hold down to go forward” control scheme.
I don’t know whether I’d have come up with the “pump” action to bomb into landings without Tiny Wings, I’d like to think I would have but who knows? It was definitely one of those “ah-ha” moments when I played Tiny Wings for the first time – like I’d found the missing piece of the puzzle.
I’ve heard the Tiny Wings comparison a few times and I’m definitely taking it as a compliment, that game is rad!
Many of iOS’ most popular games are developed by huge studios. What is it like entering the iOS marketplace as an independent developer?
Scary! It’s my first time doing anything like this, so I have no idea what to expect. Obviously these studios have huge budgets and a lot of weight behind them – it’s easy for them to get featured on the big gaming websites like Kotaku or Joystiq.
I’m really lucky that as a rider making a riding game the BMX community has given me loads of support, from articles like this to pros sharing the trailer on Facebook. You can’t buy publicity like that, which is lucky because I couldn’t afford it.
Making an iOS game is no easy task. Are you a programmer by trade? How did you learn Objective-C, Apple’s programming language.
No, I’m not. I actually learnt to program solely to make Pumped, so I’ve been learning on the job. A consequence of learning on the go is that I’m still working with code I wrote a year ago, which is pretty painful. I’ve been told that programmers often feel like that at the end of projects though, so I’m not going to worry too much. I guess it’s the same as riding – progression is key!
In terms of learning to do it all, I just kept my goals really small and let it develop naturally. My first goal was a way of drawing levels, so I learnt what I needed to for that. Next was turning those levels into physics objects, so I learnt that. Then the controls, then the tricks, then the scoring etc. I’ve still got so much to learn, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface! In terms of game design one of my oldest friends Mark Kevern is a professional game designer as well as a rider, so he provided some awesome advice when I was struggling.
What were the stages you went through in creating the game?
Well, because I’d had it in my mind for such a long time I already knew the game inside out, so really it was just a case of getting it all written down, sketching out how the controls would work, things like that. Then I pretty much just sat down and got to work, reading books and tutorials whenever I got stuck, which was pretty much constantly to start with!
How did you decide on the graphics and look of the game?
I toyed with a few different styles for the game – originally I was planning on doing something a bit more ‘extreme’, but I decided that there was no point alienating potential customers so I went for something a bit more accessible. I tried to do all the art myself but it looked pretty terrible, so I commissioned some illustrations from the awesome Eva Galesloot. I’m really happy I did too, she’s been wicked to work with.
How long did the development process take from initial concept to finished product?
All in all it’s been almost exactly a year, but that’s been whilst holding down a full time job and trying not to piss off my girlfriend too much! Thankfully she’s been really understanding – nice one Sara!
As you were working on the game, did you have any rider friends test it as things moved along? What did you find that worked and didn’t work.
Yeah I did – Lima, Pipe and Poll all live together so I was round their house every week with the latest build. The sessions with them were essential to how Pumped has turned out, we spent hours tweaking everything possible, and I hope it shows. The first big thing that didn’t work out was the Tiny Wings style controls. I guess almost everything else has been more a case of tweaking things rather than scrapping them entirely, it’s a pretty simple concept really so there’s not much to get rid of.
The overall difficulty is something that’s been tweaked a hell of a lot, all the realism makes the game pretty hard to get started with, but at the same time I hope it gives it a huge amount of replayability. If I hear everyone telling me it’s impossible I may have to rethink that!
The game will cost $1.99 when released on August 9th. How did you settle on the price point, and what are you expectations for sales?
It was a toss up between the $1.99 and $0.99 price points, and I went for the higher one mostly to try and cover the money I spent on art!
I read a statistic somewhere that the median amount of money a first time developer makes is $500, so if I crack that I’m happy. Of course I’d love to make my million, but with such a niche game it’s pretty unlikely.
Any updates planned in the future to improve or expand the game?
Yep, I’m definitely planning on doing some extra levels, and I have a few other ideas that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet. A lot of it will depend on how successful it is, developing a game whilst holding down a full time job is difficult to sustain.
You know you’re gonna get slammed with this question, so here goes. What about an Android version?
Ha! Yeah I’ve heard that a fair few times. I would love to do an Android version, I’ll just have to see how the iOS version gets on.
Thanks Adam. Any final words before your game goes live?
Yeah, cheers for this interview! I hope everyone enjoys the game, that’s about it!
Pumped: BMX is a universal iPhone & iPad app launching August 9th in the iOS App Store. Get it and check it out!
From the developer:
Hit the trails and ride your way to glory in this brand new trails-style BMX game!
Made by a BMXer for fans of BMX, Pumped: BMX is a challenging, true-to-life, insanely fun BMX game created by someone who actually rides!
From huge jumps to technical lines, from insane stunts to stylish flow, Pumped lets you ride the way you want to ride.
– Totally unique gameplay
– 36 levels in 5 locations – ride everything from tabletops to mid-set manual pads!
– Over 100 challenges
– Real tricks, 1000s of combos
– Universal App – buy once, play everywhere!
– Outstanding physics simulation – true to life trails riding!
– Innovative controls to keep you smooth and in control
– Rock your own tunes while you ride
– Full Game Center support with online leaderboards and achievements