[Interview] Perform Stunts as Animals in this Zany New Game

Animal Drivers

Animal Drivers is a new game that is launching on Android TV this week. I got a chance to talk with the developer of this game, Bard, about his motivations behind this game and why he added support for Android TV. The game is free to download on Google Play. After playing it for a few hours, I can say it’s crazy fun.

This game seems to be a combination of extreme sports and adventure genres. How did those two genres come together? Did you originally think this would work well together?

When setting out to make the game I had an idea of combining a goals and tricks system similar to extreme sports games like the PS2 classics Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Matt Hoffman’s Pro BMX with a free-roaming car game like GTA. Those games were really great fun, and I figured they could work really well.

I made a prototype, and I realized that I was spending 5-10 minutes in every play-test session, getting lost in making the cars do cool tricks and seeing what I could pull off on the jumps I had set up. So I think the idea of melting these two genres together worked, but it remains to be seen if players around the world agree!

BIG DONUTS

I see from your website, Hello Bard, that Animal Drivers is a big up from previous projects. What led you to put so much effort into this game?

I made and released a couple of other games (The Sculptor and Much Memo) right after I started working on Animal Drivers, and they were great testing and learning grounds for me. There were so manythings I had to learn to get Animal Drivers to the level I wanted it. When I started prototyping Animal Drivers three years ago, I didn’t know how to code at all. It was a really steep learning curve, but piece by piece I made it work. The Sculptor is not a particularly good game, but I learned so much from it. Surprisingly, it has been downloaded 100.000 times over all platforms and the revenue from it actually paid for my Unity Pro license!

This seems to be developed by a small team. How long did it take from start to finish?

Yes, the team is REALLY small. It’s actually just me!
I hired a programmer to do one of the really hard scripts for me, and my brother Odin (who is an actual programmer) helped me out whenever I was in a pinch. I also hired the really talented musician LIEKE to do the music for the game. I wanted this to be my project, and to have complete control.

The project took about three years from beginning to start, but I took some time out to make a couple of other games in that period too.
I have a fulltime job as a motion graphics designer and I’m also a father of two, so the game’s been made during the evenings. If I could have worked on this fulltime, I could probably have released a lot sooner, but hey that’s life!

What was the most difficult part of the game development for your team?

Learning how to code and getting the UI right! Art, gameplay and design are pretty easy things for me, but coding took a real effort.
As a professional designer, I consider the UI super important, so I spent a stupid amount of time making that work just right. On my next game I certainly won’t be doing that again 😉

It’s a good thing nobody else is on the road

What led to your decision to target Android TV?

Several reasons, but the main one was just to play my game on a giant TV! It’s so rewarding to see all the work I put into that game come to life on such a large screen. I also wanted to spread the word about my game to as many players as possible, and it seems there aren’t too many games on the platform just yet. I really believe Android TV has an enormous potential, especially with the hardware Nvidia’s been pushing out lately.

How much time was put into optimizing and testing for Android TV?

I’ve spent about a month or so on it. I had some pretty serious problems that needed solving, but once they were done it was all just tuning and improving it for Android TV. This version actually has a lot of stuff that the other platforms don’t have yet, so it’s been exciting to work on.

Have you played the game on Android TV? How does the experience differ compared to playing on a phone?

Yep! A whole lot too! It’s really so much better with a proper game controller, I think this is the ultimate place to play Animal Drivers.
On phones I had to use touch controls, and they’re good but not as excellent as a gamepad.

If you were to create another Android game in the future, would that game also support Android TV?

Absolutely! It’s a relatively small effort to convert a game if it’s been planned correctly, so it’s a no-brainer.

What would you say to game developers who are on the fence about Android TV support?

Hop on the bandwagon! See your game on a huge TV, it’s really worth it!

I can understand that a lot of developers are hesitant, especially when you can’t properly monetize with Android TV supported ads just yet. But with the amount of games out there, I think it’s really worth the effort to get your game on as many platforms as you can. And Android TV is a really great platform.

Can you also do a 180?

How have you integrated Google Play Games features (achievements, leaderboards, cloud saves) into your game?

Every level has leaderboards, so you can climb to the top if you’re seriously good at doing tricks. I also have a bunch of achievements that can extend the gameplay if you’re dedicated enough. I would like to have cloud saves, but it’s a bit complicated to get it working just right and it’s not something I can prioritize at this point. Hopefully I can implement it in the future though!

What’s next for Hello Bard? Any more big projects?

First off I want to make Animal Drivers a lot better, tweak and tune it to perfection with updates that include new cars and levels. So that should be the next few months for me. In terms of new projects for HelloBard, my mind is really in overdrive taking in all the stuff that’s happening with VR, and I am super excited about it. It’s really going to change gaming completely, and I have an idea for a game that I would like to do.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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