Runner up entrants for the Unity Flash in Flash Creation Contest is a two man team consisting of Brendan Watts (Programmer) and Shawn Eustace (Artist). While the Grand Master prize of $20,000 went to fellow Brisbane developer, Cameron Owen, the team achieved the next best placement as runner ups with their highly addictive game, Ski Safari. For their efforts, Brendan and Shawn receive $1,000, full licenses for Unity Pro with iOS Pro worth $3,000 (USD), and an iPad 2.
If you haven't tried out Ski Safari yet, you're doing yourself a real disservice as it is one of those simple yet insanely fun games that's simply hard to put down because you just want to have "just one more go". Check it out here to try it out and be prepared to lose a few hours.
We wanted to know what plans the developers had for Ski Safari so I was lucky enough to get some questions answered by their programmer Brendan Watts...
Congratulations on making the runner up list for the Unity Flash in a Flash Creation Contest with Ski Safari! How long did it take you guys to develop it, and what would you say was the most challenging part of designing and developing a game like this?
Brendan Watts: Ski Safari started as a tech prototype back in October last year, one of several I was poking around with. But it was the one that caught Shawn's eye and made him spend half an hour coasting down an infinite ski slope with a "programmer art" skier. It had no gameplay to speak of besides trying to angle the skier just right to match the next slope.
So I spent some hobby time developing the tech demo into a game over the next couple of months with the help of Shawn for the prop and character art. Once we had a penguin you could use for skis we knew the tone of the game was cranked up to "crazy". The yeti soon followed, and was originally going to eat the player but ended up being too lovable in a whacky kind of way. We pushed on and added challenges and levelling up in a vain attempt to get it released for the holiday rush. Shawn has an eye for quality (and a knack for feature creep) that helped to push the release date into this year.
You worked with the Unity 3.5 beta release and its new Flash feature to export as a Flash project. How did you find this procedure? Were there any limitations or anything you had to do drastically differently than your typical Unity project to make this work?
Brendan: We've been working with Unity for a couple of years, so prototyping new features has a pretty quick turnaround. The biggest challenge has been tweaking all the dials for the camera zooming, terrain curves, animal and hazard spawning, and the speed of the relentless avalanche to get it to feel just right. The terrain needed custom physics too to work at the crazy speeds the player can travel.
The Flash in a Flash Creation Contest popped up and it seemed like our game, with the one-button gameplay, would work nicely enough in a browser too. We had been on a break for a few weeks so it was a good kickstart to the new year. There were some bumps in the porting process due to some early beta ActionScript conversion strangeness, some audio glitches, and some performance problems related to generating dynamic mesh. The conversion problems and audio glitches appear to have been addressed in later versions of Unity 3.5.
There were some pretty slick entries into the contest but we were glad to see a fellow Brisbanite, Cameron Owen, take the first place.
Ski Safari is coming soon for both the iPhone App Store and Android marketplace. Can you give us a rough estimate on a release date, and what new features or parts of the game you're planning to expand on, polish, or change before final release? Are you grabbing more people on board to help finish this game?
Brendan: We've already added a bunch of new stuff since the contest including underground caves, updated graphics, new challenges, and game center leaderboards for the iOS version. There's been a lot of testing by friends and family to help iron out the kinks too, and some rivalry for the best scores. We're applying the finishing touches to the game now and hoping for a release very soon.
I've got to say, I absolutely enjoyed playing Ski Safari and I can't wait for it to come out. It's a whole lot of fun, and the achievements and levelling system allows for a whole lot of replayability. What's your own personal record for distance and score? What hints and tips can you offer to get the maximum score or the furthest distance?
Brendan: For the flash preview version of Ski Safari, I've received a report of a whopping 797,000 top score from an employee at Unity. He said, "Man, I can see the snowmobile doing backflips with the whole gang on board when I close my eyes now." That's the trick to getting the big scores - try and ride as many animals as possible until you find a snowmobile, or level up so you start on one, and keep gliding and backflipping to maintain the boost!