Irish indie developer Sumting Sumting Software made their App Store debut this week with Muchos Mineros (out now, free), a fun and frantic 3D platformer based on the internationally infamous 2010 Chilean mining incident. To find out more about this unique game’s conception and development, I recently caught up with Sumting Sumting’s Freddie Honohan for a chat. Check out what he had to say below!
Thanks for joining me for this chat, Freddie. To begin with, could you please introduce yourself and talk about how you got into game development?
That’s absolutely no problem Ruan, thank you very much for this opportunity. My name is Freddie Honohan and I began my journey into game development by entering into a general Engineering degree course in University. Initially I thought I would go down either the Mechanical or Structural Engineering routes however we were taught the basics of programming in the C++ programming language from Day #1 and all the preconceived ideas I had of my career path were disrupted immediately.
Computer programming is a profoundly useful tool for design and problem solving and I was hooked after realising just how powerful it is. It seemed to me that with enough time, patience and a will to learn, anything could be achieved and almost every problem could be overcome.
So after that Engineering degree, I took the Masters in Computer Science also in Trinity College Dublin, specifically the Interactive Entertainment Technology (IET) thread. It was the perfect course to take if you wanted to get into 3D Computer Graphics, Animation or game development. By the time I had it completed, smart phones were really taking off and I knew that these handheld devices were the gaming consoles of the future. So I decided to try make a game for them!
Your studio’s first game, Muchos Mineros, is inspired by the 2010 Copiapó mining accident / miracle. Why did you decide to base the game on this astounding true life event?
I was taking a module during my Engineering degree in Computer Graphics and we were tasked with creating a 3D game for our final submission project. It was given to us just as the the Chilean mining incident had the whole world gripped on the edge of their seats. Much jubilation occurred when they were found alive and subsequently rescued and since I had no better ideas with which to base my game submission on; Muchos Mineros was born!
At the time it seemed like a funny and almost bottomless theme one could play around with. A Chilean protagonist with a pickaxe, TNT, mine-carts, canaries etc. A theme that might have universal appeal I thought. So I completed the project anyway and thought “Wow, game development is really fun!” That thought then propelled me into the Masters course to see if I could gain the skillset to take the game to the next level.
How long was Muchos Mineros in development for and how many people worked on it?
Haha! Believe it or not, Muchos Mineros (this tiny mobile game) took 5 years to make! Mostly because I completed all the programming, modelling, animation and level design myself. Someway through the project I attempted to rope in a few old classmates but everybody was too busy unfortunately. Although I did get great help with the audio and heaps of good feedback and ideas from from a long list of friends who helped me test it along the way.
But yes, five years! Between several jobs and some distinct setbacks towards the end of 2016, working weekends, evenings and regularly through the night I managed to get it to a neat & polished enough stage where I was happy enough to release it.
In hindsight it was an enormous task attempting to bring back the glory days of old school 3D platformers to these newfangled touch controlled devices. Nobody likes on-screen joysticks you see, or at least, I certainly don’t and haven’t met anybody who does yet. I did enjoy Battle Bears at the time mind you but that was a shooter. Temple Run was on rails, and while that was certainly fun I really wanted to experiment with potential control systems to see if I could get a Crash Bandicoot type full turning arc onto touchscreen devices whilst leaving the joysticks out of it.
Those experiments took a long time. The polishing took even longer!
How would you describe the gameplay of Muchos Mineros?
It’s a bit hectic really! It really looks like a casual title from the outside I think (and indeed the first couple of levels might be to experienced gamers). However there is a significant difficulty curve throughout the game. Not only is there a new surprise or obstacle in each level, but time constrictions and a general increase in mania becomes readily apparent quite quickly. From the bouncing barrels and rolling boulders, the heli-axe aerial sections and momentum based mine-cart sections it should be a decent enough challenge and I hope it will leave the players wanting more while simultaneously offering good value for money.
Muchos Mineros is free to play with a single in-app purchase necessary to unlock the full game in order to save your progress passed level three. This of course means that people could complete it in one sitting free of charge (a challenge you might say) but I really cannot see that happening. I have completed it 100% on both iOS and Android platforms myself, but certainly not in a single sitting!
Are you planning on supporting the game post-launch with new content and features?
Yes actually, I plan to add leaderboards for an added sense of accomplishment so that people can compare their achievements. I am also planning on releasing a couple of cheats for the game. I have some ideas about what I might do, and I might set up some Twitter polls to see what sort of cheats people would like. I am approaching this game very much like it is a Playstation 1 title — the cheats were the best part sometimes. The beauty of game development is that nothing is outside the realm of possibility. I might give Pablo a rocket launcher for example, just because I can.
There could also be more levels in the pipeline for him or maybe even some mini-games. It is all possible.
Now you have your first release under your belt, is there any advice offer to others who may be trying to break into the mobile games industry?
I could answer this in one sentence but I won’t. That sentence would be; don’t do what I did.
Currently the state of the market makes it a tough one to break into. Companies look into experience before they hire people, but if you have to make your own game to get that experience (because nobody will hire you without any) it really makes it into a sort of chicken and egg scenario doesn’t it?
So to get around that, if you have to release your own title, basically don’t do it alone. Find some help in the form of a team first and foremost. Working alone has some minor benefits but really if I had a team or even just a single extra set of hands from the outset this game would have been completed long ago.
I remember watching Indie Game: The Movie and noting the trend of despondence and even glancing depression those developers went through at times and thought nothing of it. It is a real side effect of indie game development though so it should not be taken lightly. Of course that could all be avoided by finding some investors to fund your game but realistically there’s a fat chance of that happening in this saturated mobile market.
I guess the phrase “start small” also really applies here, and don’t try and bend the context of it to mean “small handheld devices” like I did!
What’s next for Sumting Sumting Software? Any upcoming projects in the works you can tell me about?
I’m unsure really, only time will tell. I think I’ll step back from games for a while after I am finished supporting Muchos but I am not ruling out anything just yet. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how this one goes down first…
I wish you the very best of luck with the game, Freddie. And thanks for such a great interview!