Making a game that’s truly unique is a difficult proposition, since most titles tend to promote themselves as being combinations or cross-overs of genre successes. A ‘Call of Duty’ shooter with ‘Fallout’ RPG elements; ‘Grand Theft Auto’ open world with ‘Need for Speed’ driving mechanics; ‘Fruit Ninja’ except with vegetables. The iOS market in particular is filled with derivatives of Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies, in the hopes of capturing some of these games’ market success.
Penny Time, the recently released iOS game by Brisbane developer IV Motion, stands out from the crowd by building off existing gameplay styles while amalgamating them together in a way that feels fresh. The slick 3D visuals drip with humour and style alongside the mesmerising chiptune-inspired soundtrack that’s substantial enough to have been released as a separate downloadable album.
Already climbing up the charts (Penny Time hit #25 in Australia, and featured in ‘New & Noteworthy’), the game was developed for Penny Skateboards, a brand that lends a significant amount of credibility amongst the skateboarding crowd of which is a significant addressable demographic.
Set in a post-retro game world, players guide a skateboarding avatar through frozen-in-time levels as they ollie, hippy jump, and power-slide at the right time to the beat of the music. Precision rewards coins and multiplyers, of which can be cashed in between rounds or be risked for a big payoff.
Gameplanet Australia spoke with Hans van Vliet (better known in the industry as Hunz, the Creative Director at IV Motion to learn how the game came about and what the future holds.
Gameplanet: Where did the idea for Penny Time come from?
Hans “Hunz” van Vliet: Penny Time was heavily based on our belief in skateboarding culture - chilling out, listening to sweet tunes and cruising along on your deck. We’ve incorporated these elements into the game in such a way to heighten that experience.
Gameplanet: How did you come about the collaboration with Penny Skateboards?
Hunz: Penny was introduced to me through another client, who said they were looking to create an iPhone game. They were essentially looking for a way to provide their fanbase with something to do on a rainy day. So we pitched them the idea for Penny Time and they absolutely loved it!
Gameplanet: How much inspiration did you draw from other games? For example, you seem to have influences from rhythm games.
Hunz: We’ve taken inspiration from ‘runners’ such as Robot Unicorn Attack and Mirror’s Edge on iPhone. We’ve fused this idea with rhythm-based mechanics in such a way to provide really hidden but engaging gameplay. You swipe in a particular direction, in time with the music, which results in performing a trick to make it over obstacles. So the gameplay is comparable to Guitar Hero in that way. We also didn’t want the rhythm mechanic to be a focus but something you would discover over time and help you along the way. We have also created a unique method of scoring which people are finding to be a fantastic take on risk versus reward.
Gameplanet: What was the process for tying the music into the level obstacles – did the music come first, or did you have to create the tracks around the levels?
Hunz: It took some figuring out, but I wrote a song while designing a temporary level at the same time. I worked on this for a few weeks at my home studio and started to create rules and templates that everyone had to obey as we rolled out the other levels. I really wanted to create structure and rituals, for example, Length of Points, Multi and Cash-Ins. This allows the game to slow down and speed up and you know every time after a cash-in there is a break so you can get ready again. Originally Level 3 music was on Level 1, and we had to re-create Level 1 again when I did finally completed a more cohesive tune for that world.
Gameplanet: Can you tell me about your process creating the soundtrack for the game?
Hunz: I used Ableton and Renoise to do this project. Once I had put together the template for one level I went about trying to create this really rough and raw sound with some 8bit throw-back into it all. I really wanted to tip back into a post-retro thing where it was modern but old all at the same time, a lot like Penny Boards. Because the Multiplier zone see’s you trigger off the notes in the music, I intentionally took out a lot of the backing tracks when you enter them so you feel extra scared about playing the notes on your own, then in the 2nd half of these I tried to build the player’s confidence by bringing all the background music in and harmonies with your leads to give you that boost of “you can do it!” It is those subtle things that I love about games. You can hear it all here (hunz.bandcamp.com)
Gameplanet: How did you settle on the visual style of the game?
Hunz: The visual style was developed by Pete Foley, who was the Lead Artist on Penny Time. He has been developing this particular flat-shaded style for a very long time and we thought it was really fitting for the game. His work is up on Black Brow and it is fantastic.
Gameplanet: Can we expect to see a version on Android anytime soon?
Hunz: Unfortunately we don’t have any plans to release an Android version of the game at this point in time.
Gameplanet: Can you tell us more about the recently added ‘Competition Play’ mode, where people will get the chance to win one of 15 Penny Original 22” skateboards?
Hunz: Competition Play runs for two weeks and started on 24th of May. You’ll see a new button on the main menu which will take you to play a pre-determined level. It has its own leaderboard, and essentially players are going to compete to get the highest score they can. After the 2 weeks is done, we’re going to contact the top 15 players and send them out a Penny skateboard!
Gameplanet: What were your initial hopes and expectations when Penny Time launched on the iOS?
Hunz: I was scared yet excited about the release, and thought that the game would be met with a lot of criticism. This is probably because I still look at the game and see small flaws in it. Thankfully people are loving it, and that’s really encouraging for the whole team.
Gameplanet: What’s next for you guys?
Hunz: We’re looking to continue with iOS development and start releasing our own games. We’ve got lots of ideas and we’re already starting to prototype a couple of them. If the idea of walking around throwing up candy bars on sleeping animals sounds appealing you should probably stay tuned. The other is 7bit Hero, which has been a long time in the making, but we are hoping to get more games under our belt so it becomes the best it can be. 7bit hero is a mash up of q live band, playing games and having a video game to take home.
Gameplanet: What advice can you give to other small startup iOS developers?
Hunz: If you have an idea that you believe in, you should go for it. Whilst it is a rewarding journey, it is difficult at times and you’ll struggle and wonder why you thought making iOS games was easy (gotta be realistic!). That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it - just be prepared and don’t be discouraged.