Lessons learned moving from movies to mobile games

Lessons learned moving from movies to mobile games
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

October 5th 2015 at 3:25PM

Former Hollywood specialist Karolis Mikalauskas reflects on his first experience of video game development

Back in January, we spoke to Karolis Mikalauskas about his first venture into games development.

Previously a graphics specialist in Hollywood working on multiple blockbusters – including some of the Marvel films – he launched a successful Kickstarter for his debut title, Dream Dodger. This endless runner puts players in the role of an old man dreaming of escaping from his retirement home.

Last time, we spoke about how he was gathering a team and preparing for full development. With Dream Dodger now available, we caught up with Mikalauskas to find out what he has learned from the experience.

What has been the biggest development since we last spoke?
Putting all the ideas and art assets together. We literally went from a prototype to a fully finished triple-A mobile game where you can unlock various characters like rollerskater girl, skateboarder boy, superhero girl, zombie and robot. Each character has five to six different skins to pick from and all of their in-game animations are unique to their character.

We added a pawn shop to the main menu, which is run by the Green Witch. A player can sell their collected canisters to her in return for gold which can be used to buy gorillas that you can ride on for protection, for example. We also integrated Facebook so players can compete against their friends in one of the leaderboards.

 

What has been the most important thing you’ve learned about games development?
Planning things in advance is crucial. When we first started we had an overall idea of how we want the game to look and feel but we never took the time to put it all on paper in detail. That caused us a lot of issues down the road so we had to redo a huge amount of work. I definitely won't forget that.

Another thing worth mentioning is quality. To be able to have a chance at breaking into this over saturated market everything in your game has to be world class.

 

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Making the game endless and incorporating third-party assets such as in-app purchases, leaderboards and Facebook. Overcoming them wasn’t fun and games at all but I do like a challenge. Long hours spent researching – followed by sleepless nights, headaches and talking to myself in code out loud – cracked the case. I could only compare it to solving ten Einstein’s riddles at once. Me being the only developer on the team didn’t make things easier either.

We had an overall idea of how we want the game to look and feel but we never took the time to put it all on paper in detail. That caused us a lot of issues down the road so we had to redo a huge amount of work.

What would you have done differently if you were to start over? What will you do differently if you develop another game?
If I was to start over I would gather all my colleagues and brainstorm for days or even weeks if need be, until we have a clear and detailed plan ahead of us. Next I would use that information to create a game design document and pay more attention to character concept art by making sure that we have all angles drawn out before moving on to 3D modeling.

 

Do you have plans to develop more games? What have you got planned?
I definitely have plans to create more games. Currently we are focused on getting Dream Dodger off its feet and providing frequent updates to keep players interested but once we will be comfortable with starting a new project, I won’t hesitate. I have some ideas but nothing too concrete yet. However, for our next game I would like to make something very interactive and allow players to explore a beautifully crafted world.

This digital journey has been absolutely unbelievable. It has opened my eyes to so many different aspects of game production. I learned a lot over the last two and a half years, possibly more than I have ever before. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without my artists though. I would like to thank my entire team. Special thanks to Andrew Phillips.