May 09

The making of StoneLoops!

The making of StoneLoops! of JurassicaWe came up with the idea of StoneLoops! less than 3 years ago when Luxor and Luxor Amun Rising were topping the charts. At the root of the idea there was a very simple (yet powerful) twist on the usual marble popping mechanics. We would try to blend the mechanics of Luxor with the pull and push gameplay of Astropop. We knew that what we came up with would work the moment we completed the prototype. Making it took us about 3 hours with one of the early versions of our in-house game engine CUG Framework.

On the screenshot to the right you can see how the prototype looked. If you’re interested you can even give it a try! Anyway, we had this great idea but we didn’t have the time to implement it. This was because after completing Magic Match and witnessing its success, we (me and Konrad) decided to StoneLoops! early prototypefinish our master studies. Then we would be setting up an office and gathering a team of developers. But that’s another story.

In the end we decided to outsource the development of StoneLoops! to a second party developer – The Farm 51, also from Poland. Everything looked good up till this point. We had a solid initial design, a working prototype and a company run by retail industry veterans to develop the game. What more would you want? A lot, in fact. According to the development contract StoneLoops! was to be completed over a period of 4 months and launched before December 2006. Yes, this is not a typo. The game was finally launched in March 2008, which gives a 16 month delay to the original schedule. Interested what the hell happened? Read on!

The basic mistake was on our side. We shouldn’t have outsourced the game’s development to a company that had no prior experience in creating casual games. But then again Farm 51 knew how to advertise itself and knew exactly what we wanted to hear. We were sure that they knew what they were doing. That is until we saw the first milestone deliverable which looked like this.

StoneLoops! first milestone

As you probably know, Codeminion’s quality bar is set very high, so receiving such crap made us immediately consider dropping the project. Later such considerations would become a recurring motive of every delivery. Anyway, from today’s perspective we know that dropping the project at this early milestone would probably be a good choice, but back then nothing was so obvious. Following Farm 51 assurances we decided to give them another chance. Then again, again and again. Yes, we fell victim to the sunk cost bias. Dropping a project is like giving up and making a conscious decision to lose all the potential profits. The more time and money you invest in a project, the harder it is for you to abandon it. You always think that it will be easier to finish the project against all odds than to start it from the scratch…

To cut the long story short, we knew that Farm 51 was not able to deliver us a game of the requested quality and in the proposed deadlines so we decided to break StoneLoops! into two parts. Farm 51 would finish what we called the “functional part” and we would add the “quality part” in-house. Our cooperation with Farm 51 ended in July 2007. During the next 7 months we focused on polishing, balancing and bug-fixing the game. Below you can see some visual changes that we implemented between the functional and the quality version. You may guess which ones are final…

  • The splash screen

StoneLoops! first milestone

  • Main Menu

StoneLoops! first milestone

  • Progress Screen

StoneLoops! first milestone

  • Tutorial Screen

StoneLoops! first milestone

  • Congratulations screen for completing the game

StoneLoops! first milestone

But that is not all. Jarek Socha, our programmer worked hard on bug fixing and improving the game and Tomasz Grochowiak, our designer introduced countless changes to the game’s balance. We even added major features such as the trophy system (with graphics by Pawel Jaruga) and voiced combos to the game, to make it worthy of the Codeminion Games logo. The only thing that Farm 51 done right is music and sounds. What is funny is that they have outsourced it!

StoneLoops! first milestone

As you can see we’ve never gave up and completed the game against all odds. But was this worth the effort? It is hard to tell at this moment, but one thing is sure – the golden days of marble poppers are now a thing of the past. Portal audiences are now crazy about hidden object games and reimbursing the development costs of StoneLoops! will take much longer than expected. Anyway, it’s definatley too early to make a postmortem of the game, as the project is not dead. In fact we still have a lot wof work ahead of us and a big chance on making a serious profit with the coming launch of StoneLoops! on various distribution channels, dedicated version for Apple Mac computers, flash webgame, retail distribution and many localized versions. And even if all of those versions fail to gain significant success we still have our secret weapon



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4 Responses to “The making of StoneLoops!”

  1. Apple » The making of StoneLoops! says:

    […] Casual Games Harmony wrote an interesting post today on The making of StoneLoops!Here’s a quick excerpt … on various distribution channels, dedicated version for Apple Mac computers, flash webgame, retail distribution and many localized versions…. […]

  2. Roman says:

    “Nice” story. 4 months project is very optimistic, but even I tend to give such time lines.

    I wish you luck with monetizing the game. It’s a great game, you just need to change your strategy of selling it.

    BTW. You need to post smaller images so the text doesn’t go under side bar. And the trackback above is spam. Do not feed spamers 😀

  3. someone says:

    It’s more than a little unprofessional to bad mouth a contractor in a public forum, regardless of what you say they did.

  4. Maciek says:

    I totally agree with you, but on the other hand staying quiet does not solve anything. You can treat this post as a warning – if you decided to contract out a game after seeing StoneLoops! you probably would be very surprised because you would most likely get something of unacceptable quality just like we did.

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