Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. Our seventh game, currently in development, is Pig Eat Ball on which we started working in 2013. This is behind the scenes thoughts about game development and marketing.

Nathan

Monday, February 4, 2019

Mommy's Best Year in Review: 2018

2018.
Finally.
The year we finished Pig Eat Ball!
I started the game in January of 2013, as a game jam project for the Ouya.
And in 2018, after massive design changes, and growth for the game, we finished our biggest game
yet!

Sit back and put yourself one year ago, and let's look at the wacky details of what Mommy's Best Games was up to in 2018.

January 

A secret is brewing!
We are approved to do a Fig crowd-funding campaign! But we couldn't tell anyone yet.

The soda-pop cans could cause you problems, but you could also solve puzzles with them.


We spent most of this month working hard on polishing up World 4 in Pig Eat Ball.
There are 5 GIANT worlds in Pig Eat Ball.
Each world in the game has many necessary parts:
  • 4 Overworlds
  • 40+ action levels
  • Boss
  • Mid-boss
  • 4+ NPCs and their puzzles
  • 4+ Disguises in overworld puzzles
  • Pillbug centerpiece gameplay/puzzle
For this month we were bouncing around, finishing up the NPCs and the bosses. Here's a detailed post I did about how I design each gameplay object to have at least 2 uses/puzzle elements in the game.

February

Work continued on World 4 "Kitchen Chaos".

And the big news internally was us getting everything ready for the Fig campaign to launch.
The Fig campaign had many tiers and rewards

It takes a long time to create all the art and assets for a crowd-funding campaign! I'm sure you've read that before, but if you're in development, believe it! It will hurt your development productivity on the main game. File this under "marketing time". It's a lot of work.
At the end of the month we launched our Fig campaign!

March

While development kept happening, there was a lot of "promotion and marketing" work this month.
The Fig campaign continued, and it was hard work asking for money and getting everyone excited to fund it.

I detail my ideas for a nice difficulty curve. It should not be smooth!


I traveled to GDC was selected to give a talk on Level Design and Difficulty Curves. It was very fun, and I loved getting into the nitty-gritty details about design. It takes a long time to get a talk polished and ready for a big show like GDC though! I think I worked on it off and on for a few months! Here's the full talk on the GDC Vault.

April

Great news this month--the Fig crowd-funding campaign was a success. We hit our goal!
I rested easy for a bit there.

I also showed the game at PAX East in the Indie Megabooth for the first time! That was a good connection to make.
Stylish picture of my PAX East booth

We continue work on World 5.
Turns out we cut a lot from Pig Eat Ball, as it was simply too big already!
There was going to be a World 6! It's about half done. Maybe I'll release it as DLC some day or in a free update.

May

As we finished up World 5 core work, all the details still left to complete come in to focus.
Localization is a huge amount of work, and I find it to be a pain. I tend to develop in a loose style, adding a new hint, or bit of dialog here or there, to improve the game. That won't fly if you're translating the game to multiple languages! You have to translate all those bits. We had thousands of lines of text to translate for Pig Eat Ball.

We spent a good portion of the money from the Fig campaign on localizing to 5 languages! And now thanks for another deal, the game is also available in Chinese.

June

"A level called Dead Space :) one of the challenge levels in World 1"
More details to finish in the game include: cut-scenes, and "challenge" clams. Gold "challenge" Clams are to ensure the game has extra tough levels once you beat the main game. I love that feeling a big, full action-adventure game. You've maxed out all your abilities, and now you want a REAL challenge! This month was spent making extra tough levels, and fitting them into all 5 worlds.

July

We were finishing up Achievements, balancing all level "medal times", and generally playtesting and polishing. Each level has a goal of eating all the balls, but they are also timed, with online leaderboards to give you great replay value. Each level has an amount of time to beat, to get a Silver and Gold medal.
We spent some time balancing all these times this month, and finishing up the challenge levels.

August


Alpha Pig!
We announce the game has officially hit the Alpha stage, meaning all content is in the game, and now only bugs remain.
It's a mad dash to the finish!

September


I travel to PAX West again with the Indie MegaBooth and show the game.
The decision is made to limit the initial release to PC/Mac/Linux, instead of also consoles. Keep in mind, this is the first time we've supported Mac and Linux for a Mommy's Best Games release! It is still 3 platforms and takes extra time to support.
 
Many more bugs were fixed, and on September 28, 2018, we finally release Pig Eat Ball to Steam, itch.io, and Green Man Gaming. Humble Store followed later.

October

Reviews are coming in...


...and they're loving it!
I'm so happy and excited.
Reviewers are coming into the game cold and loving it. This is amazing!
I continue marketing and outreach for the game.

Some players are getting through the game, and asking for some balance changes.
Early in October we release the first major update, complete with a new Disguise to reward expert players!

November

We finally end up with an incredible 83% on Metacritic!


I continue to promote the game, but now we switch over the console development.
John Meister and his team at Super Soul, in nearby Lexington Kentucky, work hard to get the framerate up and the load times down for the PS4 and Xbox One versions.

Meanwhile... a secret, new game starts development.

December

Most of this month was spent to continue optimizing the game.
It takes a lot of work and focus to optimize the game for consoles.
For instance, when the game launched on for home computers, the framerate was generally rock-solid for everyone, 60fps and better.
But for consoles, we had to work hard to get 60fps.

One type of optimization was with the breakable crates, of which some levels have hundreds.
Originally the crates would draw their shadow, then draw the crate. This was found to be slow. So I reworked the art for the crates so they now have the "shadow" built into a single sprite. This allows them to be drawn with one call to the process/graphics card, which is great!
Dozens of optimizations like this, allowed for the good framerate we now have on consoles.

2018 Wrapped


Thank you so much for the support! I'm thrilled to have finally released this massive game.
Stay with me, and please do continue to help cheer us on in 2019, when we'll be bringing Pig Eat Ball to consoles. PS4, Xbox One.. and maybe one more console!


Monday, January 28, 2019

Speed Runners Update for Pig Eat Ball

Click to enlarge, and then download this new art!
Perfect for a new desktop

Update Details

A new update for Pig Eat Ball is live in which plenty of "RNG / Random number generator" gameplay has been REMOVED, to ensure better replays of levels.

* For anyone just wanting to enjoy the game - regular gameplay is still great (there is still tons of variety).

* But ALSO now, for those wishing to climb the Leaderboards, and just trying to improve their fastest times on their favorite levels, things are much better now!

* Lots of enemies and events have had the "RNG/Random" elements made to be "deterministic". It means the levels are still crazy and chaotic, BUT when you reset the level and try again, balls, enemies, and hazards will all react the same.

* (Exceptions to this rule include: flying "Bot" bugs, bosses, and a few spots here and there still have some randomness to them, to ensure the max fun, and twitch skill requirements.)

* Hundreds of levels were slightly modified to ensure they are still super fun, but also easier to replay and get the same outcome, to make them more exciting to go for the fastest time.

* Note: Leaderboards have been reset. This is because the levels are now different from a speed-running perspective, they've been rebalanced and players will now get different times. So to make it fair, they've all been reset. I do not plan to reset them again. They should be ready now for serious speed-running.

*(Why did I have RNG in the first place? To require twitch-based skills in wild, chaotic levels. I see now though that it was *too* much randomness, AND I've found ways to ensure chaos, but with repeatability--the best of both worlds!)


50 Steam Reviews???

** Please make sure to LEAVE A STEAM REVIEW! (Positive or Negative, however you feel about the game).
Help us hit 50 Steam Reviews!
When we do, more of the systems on Steam will open up, and the game will be recommended to more people, which helps us make money on the game, to improve it, and make more games. Thank you!

 33% Off Sale

And for the next few weeks, Pig Eat Ball is on sale on Steam!
Grab it here for $10!
https://store.steampowered.com/app/339090/Pig_Eat_Ball/
A recent review said "there’s an astounding set of ideas on display" and loved Pig Eat Ball!

Make sure to leave a Steam review after you purchase. Thank you for your support!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Debug Mystery Theater

Thank you to all that have played it on Steam!

We are busy porting Pig Eat Ball to consoles.

In the process, we found a tricky crash, and a PS4 tester recorded this video.
Watch to the end, and see if you can decide what caused the crash.



Ready for some hints? 

Hint 1: The objects that cause the crash are on-screen (something off-screen didn't do it).

Hint 2: It's not just one object.

Hint 3: The player is indirectly involved.

Hint 4: The text that displays over the Toilets is not the cause.
(That's the fun credits level from the end of the game! Spoiler! Don't worry, it's super fun to play even if you know about it.)

Hint 5: The Pillbugs are mischievous, but they aren't responsible for this one.

Answer: 

Okay, it is a bit of a trick question. It involves 3 objects, not just one.

The Bomb, the Cigar, and the Pinata. When you spit a Bomb at the Pinata, it works fine. The Bomb explodes, and hurts the Pinata. If you spit a Cigar at a Bomb, that works fine. The Cigar lights the Bomb on fire and the Bomb explodes. When you combine all three, there was a crash.

Turns out, deep inside the code, I had a problem. I was not setting the "instigator" for each attack. If the player spat the Bomb, he was the Instigator. But when the Player spits the Cigar, which then lights the Bomb, the "instigator" was not being set in the Cigar. And when the Bomb asks "who lit me" the Cigar didn't tell it. So when the Bomb blows up the Pinata, and the Pinata checks for an instigator, it was "null" (empty) and it crashes!
NullExceptionCheck

The end of the mystery!
I've since fixed this crash (update soon for Steam!) and it will be fixed in the console release.

Make sure to get the game on Steam if you've not already!
https://store.steampowered.com/app/339090/Pig_Eat_Ball

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Pig Eat Ball out now on PC/Mac/Linux

After 5 and half long years, Pig Eat Ball, our 8th indie game, is out now on computers!
You can get it on Steam, Humble Store, Green Man Gaming, and itch.iohttps://mommysbestgames.itch.io/pig-eat-ball.
Please do buy a copy, if you'd like to support our crazy games! Every sale really helps. And thank you!

Check out this launch trailer, which is basically just 60 seconds of gaming insanity :)



Reviews

The critics have been loving it!
 
We've had two Metacritic-rated sites that really enjoyed it.
PC Invasion game it a whopping 90/100!
Calling it "easily one of the best games I’ve played this year."


Hardcore Gamer gave it a 4/5 saying it was "incredibly playable".


And Tech-Gaming, a great all-around site, loved it as well!

Updates

We've also been fortunate to have some really dedicated players. On the Steam forums, some players have played through every nook and cranny in the game. While this definitely my biggest game, it's led to a few missed bugs. And not just Pillbugs, actual bugs :)
Thankfully I've been able to fix up all the little, tricky issues for certain Achievements and powerups, and on update #5, only a few days after launch, I think all new (and old) players are really getting a great experience.

Release Relief

Pig Eat Ball is out in all it's barfy, puzzle-solving glory. Grab a copy, tell some friends, and thank you for all the support!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Why Only Steam?

This Thursday, September 27th, after 5 and a half years in development, we'll finally be releasing
our newest, biggest game Pig Eat Ball!
You can Wishlist and Follow the game on Steam:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/339090/Pig_Eat_Ball

But it's only coming to Steam this week.
Why?



For starters, it will be on 3 different platforms: PC, Mac, and Linux. That's no small undertaking to support multiple platforms. In addition to Steam, we're releasing to the popular "Green Man Gaming" store, and we plan to release a DRM-free version on a smaller digital store called itch.io.

But it is true the game will only be available for personal computers this week, and not yet for consoles.

The PS4 and Xbox One versions of Pig Eat Ball are working great!
The trouble is tied up in some red tape and timing. When I made the decision to delay the console releases of the game here's why.








Certification and The Fall

I had to make the decision to "split the launch" months ago. I was pretty sure that we would not get through the "certification" process for each console with much time to spare to hit a release date in September. And it was possible that if we had submitted to review for consoles it could have forced the launch later than September.

This Fall 2018 for games is going to be big. Really Big. One reason is Red Dead Redemption 2 coming out in October. But there are other big games from here on to the end of the year that will take up players' and the press's time and attention.

We're releasing now on Steam in an attempt to come out before all the upcoming bigger titles (even though some big ones such as Spiderman on PS4 has already hit).
Pig Eat Ball does not have millions of dollars to spend on marketing, so it could be very easy to get lost in the noise if we're not careful. By coming out on Steam in the early Fall, and levering the great story-player combined with an easy-to-use level editor we hope to build up the community of players leading up to the console launch.


Time to Market

The other big reason was to ensure that both Sony and Microsoft's internal teams had some time to promote Pig Eat Ball for PS4 and Xbox One. Even if we did manage to squeeze Pig Eat Ball through certification quickly, the console holders like to have some time to promote a title.

If the game had finished certification and then come out within weeks later, it's unlikely that Sony or Microsoft would have been able to move and plan fast enough to promote the game properly. There are many games in development for consoles and one way each MS and Sony *know* a game is serious is when the game is actually finished the review process for each console.

My hope is to get Pig Eat Ball through the review process in the Fall giving the promotional teams time to incorporate the game into upcoming promotions.


Console Me

So when it's actually coming to console? Well I don't have a firm date yet, but I'm shooting for very early 2019. 
In the meantime be sure to grab a copy this week on Steam so you can play the single-player and start to dig into the awesome level editor!