Let’s start off by having you tell us a little about the team. How many members work behind the Mojo Bones logo, and are you all gaming industry veterans or will Tongue Tied be your first step into the industry?
Mojo Bones is a new venture that was started at the beginning of September 2011. There are three of us: Andrew Jones (code), Mark Norman (art) and myself, Stuart Ryall (design/music). Although Mojo Bones is our first stab at running our own company, we’ve all been working in the industry for the past 10 years or so. “Industry veteran” is a weird term though, as not only does it make us feel old, but it also implies that we know exactly what we’re doing. Truth is: we’re always learning.
How’s the indie life treating everyone so far? Have you guys been able to work on Tongue Tied full-time, or is game development something you’ve had to squeeze in after-hours? For that matter, what’s the team doing for office space – looks like you might have the occasional chicken walk in?
Tongue Tied is very much our life at the moment. We all gave up full-time jobs in order to pursue Mojo Bones, so we’ve been eating, sleeping and drinking nothing but Tongue Tied since the company began. In regards to Mojo HQ, we run the company from a small office in Mark’s house. Not only is it cost effective, but it also makes for a really relaxed working environment. Oh, and about the chickens, those are our resident hens (Peggy and Betty) who supply breakfast every morning.
So how did Mick and Ralph get tongue-tied exactly, and where did the inspiration for such a game idea come from? The game’s title is brilliantly high concept, but did you have to go through a long brainstorming process before coming up with it, or was it immediately obvious when you figured out what the central gameplay mechanic would be?
Funny you should ask about Mick & Ralph’s predicament. We actually released a teaser trailer a few weeks into the project that hopefully sheds some light on their “situation.” In regards to actual development, our ideas always start out with a core game mechanic. The working title for Tongue Tied was initially “Bungee Bros” and it was visualized as a retro game with two characters tethered by a rope. Part of our vision when we set out to create Mojo Bones was to try and build strong brands and characters that work in conjunction with our games, and once we sat down to actually design “Bungee Bros” from a visual standpoint, we knew we had to do something a little more fun. We had many different ideas for characters – ranging from various different animals, to a boy and girl holding hands – but once we hit on the idea of having them tethered by their tongues it all fell into place – including the name. It was one of those “eureka” moments.
From a design perspective, controls are always a challenge, especially when dealing with a touch screen device. It’s about getting the balance right in creating something that’s accessible for the casual audience, but also having a control system with some depth. On the surface, Tongue Tied has a very simple control setup: tap either Mick or Ralph to make them drop from the platform they’re walking on, or drag them if you prefer. Then you pull down, aim and release to fling. Simple. Whilst being held, a dog can also be swiped towards the right, which creates the loop effect that you see in the trailer.
Those are the basics, but players will soon realize extra possibilities. For example: you can simply fling from one platform to another in order to leap over a gap, but more daring players might want to try swinging across for an extra bonus. It’s also worth pointing out that Mick & Ralph automatically walk, so it’s simply up to the player to control their actions in order to help them continue their journey.
What game engine is the team using for Tongue Tied, and how long did it take to get the game’s physics just right? Were there any technical accomplishments the team has been really proud of, but players might not pick up on right away?
We’re using Box2D for our physics engine, which is in control of the tongue. From a technical standpoint, the tongue has definitely been the most challenging aspect of the project. There are so many values to adjust and it’s taken Andy and myself some time in order to get the feel and balance right. Truth is, we’re always tweaking things, and as new elements get added to the game, other things have to change as a consequence.
I think we’re most proud of how everything has come together. The visuals combined with the physics and sound have a satisfying quality about them. And that’s really something that you can’t always plan for – sometimes things just fall into place and work better than expected.