This week for our look into the world of our dedicated Evil Genius Online team, I (Matt Hughes, Design Minion) decided to throw a few questions toward one of our super-talented coders (Bill Spooner, Coder Minion) to hopefully paint a picture of the various elements that have to come together during the creation of a game like EGO. Whilst my instalments have usually concentrated on design considerations of various elements, it goes without saying that a designer without talented production, code, art and QA teams is a designer who won’t get very far.
Matt: Describe what you do on the EGO team?
Bill: Well, I am primarily a gameplay programmer but I do dip in and out of the various elements of gameplay, UI, mobile compatibility and even engine work from time to time. I have even been involved in writing native extensions in other languages as part of the process of porting to iPad and iPhone.
Matt: Cool! With so much of a range of tasks you must have found some tasks or challenges throughout the development process?
Bill: The game’s framework is large and there are a lot of interwoven systems at play. My biggest challenges have probably been coming to terms with the scope of the project – it’s very ambitious - and perhaps brushing up on my maths... but to be honest I have learnt more than I have struggled with.
Matt: You mentioned earlier that the transition to iPad and iPhone was something you’ve been very involved with. Give us an insight into how that process was tackled.
Bill: The main task was mostly optimisation; the game has plenty of content and features as well as being graphically advanced so it's already a challenge getting this much geometry to run smoothly in flash in the first place. There has been a lot of work on the engine to get it running up to speed on mobile devices and we’re really pleased with the results – it looks great. Getting everything running in 64bit has helped significantly.
Matt: What do you think is the most important element when working as part of a development team? What has helped the most?
Bill: Communication. This is easily the greatest change from some of my previous jobs, because the team is so communicative, everyone is right there with you and problems and ideas can be shared in the time it takes to turn around and open my mouth! I think this aspect over all others has helped us achieve so much with the project.
Matt: The mobile gaming scene is still expanding quite quickly – is it a particularly interesting area to develop for?
Bill: Mobile development is a challenge to get right. A lot of people want pick up and play, and with so many apps on offer the attention span afforded to each is smaller. You have to make a quick impact. In console and web games I think people are much more invested in the experience, they're more willing to spend time getting into a game but on mobile you really have to grab them. There used to be the hardware restrictions to consider but now iPads and iPhones are capable of so much I don’t think that’s an excuse that can be used. I think mobile games are just getting started and I'm excited to see where the industry will go from here.
Matt: Overall, now the game is out on Apple devices as well as Facebook, is there one thing you think back to as something you’re particularly proud of?
Bill: There is probably no single piece, it always feels good to get something working and to finally defeat a particularly stubborn bug. The highlight for me working here is the people I am surrounded with. We've got a team of great people and I'm just learning from everyone all the time and enjoying the creative process. I really like that.