Tell us about your game! Grilly The Cheese is the first game that we ever created, and we’re proud to say so. During its first week in the app store, it broke the top 100 in the Action & Adventure categories and is currently sitting at around 50k downloads. We didn’t know what to expect when launching Grilly into the world, but we’re happy with its small success, especially since we didn’t market the game at all. We didn’t have any social media presence at the time. I think the game just took off because of the cute character and familiar gameplay of similar games. The app has been out for quite some time now, but we’re still getting messages from all kinds of people professing their love for Grilly The Cheese’s cute sandwich face.
How is Grilly the Cheese different from similar games? Grilly The Cheese is, at its core, an infinite runner. You play as an adorable grilled cheese sandwich who has escaped from a house where, presumably, he would have been eaten. Your run ends when you trip over an obstacle, fall down a hole, or are defeated by an angry tree or cloud monster. While running through the grassy environment you collect coins that you can spend on powerups or on accessories to customize your sandwich. You can also collect up to 8 fortune cookies per run, and either cash them in for coins or open one up for a chance to get even more coins. The game is different from the other runners out there in a couple ways. The first way is the character and general vibe of the game. We’ve had a lot of players comment on how the music and graphics take them back to Super Nintendo days, and we love to hear that because that’s what we were shooting for. The second way that its different is the fact that you could encounter a boss battle by interacting with your environment. In most of these runner games you get to a boss by going a certain distance in a level. We built our bosses in a way that you can choose whether or not to fight them. If you see an apple
What went into the design and UI? Consumers don’t realize how much time is spent on these two aspects of an app. The icon is almost definitely the first and maybe most important thing a person sees when deciding whether or not to download your app. If the UI isn’t designed well, if it doesn’t feel familiar, or isn’t very learnable, users aren’t going to stay in your app very long. Since this was our first game we took a look at what other popular games were doing and why. We decided that the app icon needed to feature our adorable protagonist in an interesting composition, which ended up being Grilly The Cheese jumping for an apple (Don’t ask me what a grilled cheese sandwich needs with an apple). The UI was kind of the same process. We looked at other games that were similar and took cues from the ones we liked, and put our own spin on it. An important step in getting the UI right was showing it to our friends and anyone else who would try playing the game for a bit before it was released, and gauge how well they were able to navigate through the menus. We got a lot of great feedback this way and were able to made some vital tweaks to make the app’s UI better.
What tools did you use in building the app? For actually coding the game we used Cocos2d and texture packer. The Cocos2d community and tutorials by Ray Wenderlich were invaluable during development. We were able to get answers to loads of questions in these forums.
We created all the graphics and animations inside of Adobe Illustrator because it’s vector based and infinitely scalable. That meant we wouldn’t have to worry if bigger phones with a higher resolution were released. We could just press a button and generate all of our assets for that size. We put our friends, family, and even some willing strangers to work as testers. This allowed us to get feedback about the gameplay itself as well as the general design aesthetic along the way. Dribbble was also a huge help in figuring out Grilly The Cheese’s final look.
The sound effects were created in a free program called CFXR and the music was created in Garageband. You can do a lot of cool stuff with these free programs. We’re a small team and Grilly was our first app so this seemed like the best route to go.
What lessons did you learn during this process? We learned that you’re not going to find an answer to every question on a forum. You’re going to run into some situations where you just have to power through and figure some things out yourself, but as long as you’ve got great support from your team you can get through anything. Also, not every bit of criticism should be taken to heart. User testing is a great way to gain insight to the way others perceive your app, but you shouldn’t compromise your vision just because one or two people don’t agree with it. On the other hand if everybody except you and your team see something as a problem with your app and you don’t address it, then you’re probably in trouble.
What went right and wrong with the release? Since this was our first app and we had pretty much no experience creating games, the entire process was a little rocky.
One thing that we did do right was create a couple different prototypes of slightly different gameplay before we got too deep into any sort of art asset creation. This allowed us to show the game to a few different people and see which direction was the best.
Creating animations inside of Illustrator was definitely a pain point. We’ll probably never do this again. At least not for complicated animations. It was kind of a nightmare to work inside of. Creating animations in a program like Illustrator can be useful when you have very simple animations and not a large number of them. Currently we’re creating all of the art inside of Illustrator and animating with Adobe After Effects, which allows us to have complete control over our animations and quickly switch out parts and tweak something here or there.
The development process hit a few snags here or there because we were so new to creating games. We were doing some pretty complicated stuff and maybe biting off a little more than we could chew at times. A few mistakes early on in development caused us to refactor a lot of the code in the end which was a stressful nightmare, but we got through it and are probably stronger because of it. A note of advice for newcomers to the mobile game scene: Maybe keep it simple for the first couple of games and work your way up to an infinite runner. It’s tougher than you would think to build one from scratch.
The actual release of the game was pretty smooth. Our app was approved in the first try. However we quickly realized we hadn’t caught all the bugs in our beta test, so the next week was all about bug fixing.
Who is on the team and what are your roles? Piasa Games is a small team of three dudes: I (Jake Fleming) do all of the art, animation, and some of the music for all of our games as well as any web design and development.
Corey Warning is our Audio guy and project manager. He’s responsible for all those amazing little noises you hear in the game as well as most of the music. He also keeps us on task and makes sure we’re hitting our deadlines.
Mike Blazek is responsible for all development of our games. He is a mathematical genius and comes up with solutions to all of the crazy pie in the sky ideas Corey and I throw his way.
What were you doing prior to creating Grilly the Cheese ? The three of us were working full time jobs (and still are) when we started creating Grilly The Cheese. Corey and I had the idea to start Piasa Games about a year before we started development on Grilly The Cheese, but our initial attempt didn’t fare so well. We had this grandiose idea for a platformer that we just didn’t see working for mobile. Fast-forward a year or so and Mike and I work at a company called Appiphony out of Chicago, IL where we design and build web applications. Corey used to live in Chicago too, but moved to Portland, OR for a job at Rise Records and also just because Portland is rad. Mike and I started talking about creating games during our lunch breaks and quickly came up with the idea of having a sandwich as our protagonist in our first game. Grilly was originally called Food Man and morphed into a grilled cheese sandwich over time.
What other apps inspire you? Some of the games we’re inspired by are Spaceteam (check out the Stories Behind the Apps feature we ran on Spaceteam here), Ridiculous Fishing, Sword & Sworcery, Device 6, and the new Destiny companion app. The one app that really helps us out that we can’t live without is Asana. It’s great for keeping track of all of our tasks.
Head over to the App Store and download Grilly the Cheese!
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