August 4, 2011 by ZombieEye
Once school broke for summer, our house was a pretty popular spot for my two girls and their friends. It’s hot here in Tucson, so Dahlia (age 10) and Daisy (age 9) typically spend the day submerged in the pool. This year, I noticed they spent most of their time on dry land passing around their iPods giggling about the latest hilarious YouTube video from Parry Gripp; Baby Monkey (riding backwards on a pig). It seemed every time a new friend came over, the video was shown and laughter ensued. I had a feeling I was witnessing a viral phenomenon unfold right before my eyes, so I had to see what it was all about.
After watching the video for the 4th or 5th time (kids never play the thing just once btw), I knew it was something special. The next day, as I was singing the song in the shower (and in the car, and on the phone), I decided I had to share this with the team. If they felt the same way then maybe there was a game in there somewhere.
Fast forward 2 weeks and the video had spread through each of our family and friends lists. The video is hilarious, the song is catchy. We had to make this into a game. Mark reached out to Parry and before you know it, we had an agreement to use his song and make the official Baby Monkey iPhone game. We were chest deep in a few other game ideas, as well as perfecting our new toolset. We decided to drop everything and get Baby Monkey to market as fast as possible, utilizing the core of our new tools to accelerate development. The goal was to complete design, production and development within 3-4 weeks.
The games I design tend to be a bit more complicated. I am an avid strategy gamer and my design tendencies lean towards that genre, which is not always conducive to making games that I can play with my kids. With Baby Monkey we are catering to a younger, more casual audience, so we wanted to design a cute little game that was easy to play and hopefully captured that same special something that we all saw in Parry Gripp’s video. I was really looking forward to finally making a game that my kids would enjoy and share with their friends. Little did I know they would become even more involved in the process than I expected.
When I told my kids we were making the Baby Monkey game, they could not have been more excited. Both Dahlia and Daisy would spend a few hours in my office every day helping to build the levels and test the game. What better way to see how your target demographic experiences your game than by watching them play it. Better yet, get them to help us make the game. If I saw they were consistently blocked by a certain combination of obstacles, I adjusted it a bit until it was less of a challenge. We did not want to make this game difficult initially, but allow for a slow steady increase in speed and tempo so the challenge increases the farther you get. It enables the youngest of players to jump right in and enjoy themselves, but leaves room for us competitive adults to compete for the high score on GameCenter. Daisy actually become so good at the game that for a few weeks she had the score that none of us could beat. We even decided to add an achievement (Stomping Daisies) for when a player passes her once in-surmountable score. It really was a fantastic time in working with my girls on the game. We spent some quality time working on Baby Monkey together. They learned to appreciate the art of game development and they both have shown an aptitude for design and identifying fun gameplay experiences. As we continue to build our library of iOS games I look forward to seeing how I can involve them even more into our process.