Thoopid, a Garden Snail, and Adobe AIR

Snailboy!Updated 10/31/2013. We are always excited to see the fantastic examples of what can be accomplished by our Adobe Game Developer Tools customers.  The creative capacity of Adobe customers is always amazing, but the folks at Thoopid have really garnered my attention with Snailboy, a fun, physics based, puzzle platform game with rich graphics, killer sound and over 45 levels of intoxicating game play.  When I first saw this game, I thought I was watching a movie or a cut scene.  I was wrong; this game is just visually stunning!

RW Liebenberg, Managing Director and Lead Developer at Thoopid, took a few minutes to talk to me about their company, their unconventional hero, Snailboy (yep, he’s a garden snail!), and their experiences with Adobe products in building this breathtaking experience, which, incidentally, is their first iOS game.
 
 

BH: First,  RW, tell me a little bit about Thoopid.  I’m really curious about the name!
 
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RWL: Thoopid is an indie games company based in Cape Town, South Africa.  We are a group of avid gamers, with award winning experience in design, development, digital marketing and emerging media. We are a team of visionaries who are determined to spread our gaming goodness around the globe.

So why’d we call ourselves something as unconventional as Thoopid? Well, when you try to say our name you sound silly, so we’re already one up on you. It keeps us constantly in a state of play!

 

BH: Congratulations on launching Snailboy! It looks great.  Tell me about it.

RWL:  Snailboy is a fun physics based puzzle platform game.  Our unorthodox superhero, Snailboy, is a cheeky garden mollusk, which has been ambushed by the Shadow Gang. They’ve stolen his prized collection of precious shells and he needs your help to rescue them back.

Snailboy has been downloaded in over 66 countries and ranked as one of the Best New Games in  64 countries.  Check out the Snailboy iOS Launch Trailer here:

BH: You used Flash/AIR for this project; Did you evaluate any other technologies for your game development?  If so, what were they?

RWL: We have developed a variety of games over the last 8 years within our various different companies and working environments. Predominantly with AIR/Flash, but also Unity and HTML5.  We did some prototyping for Snailboy in Unity and had some great results. But for many reasons we decided not to use it.

 

BH: Ultimately, why did you choose Flash/AIR?

RWL: We decided to use Flash/Air for the following reasons:

Firstly, it’s what we know. We have used Flash/Air for over 13 years now and we find that the community is solid, the feedback and support is unmatched and above all, the urgency to make the platform succeed lies within each Flash Developer.

Secondly, there is really no other platform out there that can match the time to market capabilities of Flash/Air when it comes to multi device/platform development. The frameworks that are available for us to utilize as Flash developers are amazing. Starling, Citrus, Feathers, Nape, Signals… the list goes on. These tools allow us to build pretty much anything imaginable.

Lastly, performance… What more than a full 60 FPS do you want? :)

 

BH: The community is fantastic – it’s one of the things I love about Flash and AIR as well.  They are very passionate and create fantastic stuff.  For this project, what specific frameworks did you use and why?

RWL: We used Starling, by Gamua, for our rendering engine. What more can I say about this engine, other than it’s spectacular. It’s a must for any and every gamer to use for Air/Mobile projects. Starling is easy to use, very lightweight and is optimized to the bone. The support and community surrounding this engine is superb. It was also very easy to refactor and port some of the libraries and utilities we have built over the last few years, which saved us so much time in the end.

For the animation, worlds and character graphics we used a range of 3D tools available and then used a standard sprite sheet output. Additionally, we used Texture Packer by Code and Web. This allowed us to package the graphical assets in such a way that saved us over 200 MB of disk space.

We then used the Citrus Engine combined with Nape for the physics of the game. Again we found these to be a breeze to work with. We were able to use Adobe Flash CS5.5 to build our levels, as it integrates very seamlessly with Citrus.

For our components we used Feathers. This, in combination with Starling, has to be one of the easiest component engines around. We found that we could build and rebuild our user interface elements with ease.

We then used Flox, also by Gamua, for our player logging and game storage. As you know, Flox has recently been updated with some great new features and functionality.

Native extensions play an important role as well. We used GoViral, Ratebox and GameCenter native extensions from Milkman Games. Alex Liebert and his team have done a great job creating extensions that are nice and easy to use. We also used Fresh Planet’s In-App Purchase native extension to integrate with the Apple app store.

 

BH:  We love those frameworks.  In fact, Adobe includes both Starling and Feathers with the Adobe Gaming SDK, available on the Creative Cloud for free.  Did you use any other Adobe products? If so, what were they and in what capacity were they used?

RWL: We used Adobe Flash Builder 4.7, Adobe Scout (MUST HAVE), Adobe Flash CS5.5, and also Adobe’s ATF tools (found inside of the Adobe Gaming SDK).  Here we used a combination of compressed and Uncompressed ATF textures throughout the game.

 

BH: What challenges did you experience during development? How did you overcome them? 

The biggest challenge was to overcome the file size of the game with having over 45 levels pre rendered. We finally managed to use a combination of texture packer and Adobe ATF tools to squash the game in under 190 MB download size.

Another hurdle was to be able to use one code base for multiple devices/platforms. As we all know, AIR makes this a very achievable goal. I can honestly say that the only split in code we have had, was to cater for the different App Stores, in app purchase systems and game centers for Google Play and the Apple App Store. The rest of the games code is 99% the same.

 

BH: Do you plan to leverage Flash/AIR for any future development? Why or why not? 

RWL: Yes most definitely. The follow up for Snailboy will most likely be in AIR.

The main reason for this is the speed of development with ActionScript and the Adobe tools, as well as the multitude of frameworks and libraries out there that support the Air/Flash platform

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