I’m working on a new game. The game won’t be out for awhile and besides saying a new game does, in fact, exist I have nothing else to say about it at this time. That being said, instead of leaving my blog section a barren wasteland of 2013 posts about how awesome Boom Boat 2 is I figured I’d bore what readers I have left with the tale of how Boom Boat 1 and 2 came to be. Where did the ideas come from? What went right? What went wrong? You’ll find out over this three part series starting with where it all begin…
On a hot summer day while mindlessly sweeping, blowing and pushing leaves off the roof of my house I came up with an idea for a mobile game. A boat, some bombs and oil gushers that needed plugging. The oil gusher inspiration came from the media blitz that was the 2010 Deep Horizon oil spill crisis so it already seemed interesting and topical to a mainstream audience. Couple that with my battery draining addiction to physics puzzle games on my iPhone and I was prototyping gusher bombing within the week.
Boom Boat was originally called Oil Crisis 2012. The core design for OC2012 was 30 levels of explosive mayhem using tilt based controls to drop bombs, level-altering concrete blocks and various other items that may or may not explode. Simple vector graphics and a UI inspired by newspapers round out the original vision.
As the game reached a more finished state the more incomplete it started to feel. The levels lacked replayability, the ‘enemy’ lacked personality and the graphics looked like a programmer drew them (imagine that).
To fix the problem of replayability I looked to Super Mario Galaxy for inspiration. In Galaxy, even when you beat a level you could go back for additional challenges for more accolades. Some of these challenges could be skill based so there’s additional objectives rather than simply besting the level. Others could show you a better or different way to progress which you would use on future or even past levels. I fused this with the typical 3-star challenge system that scads of mobile games use to make it more digestible for the mobile gaming audience.
For more personality I needed a better villain. Did God cause the oil crisis? Did Satan crawl out of hell with the intention of drowning the world in a hot, brown liquid death? I finally settled on the most logical choice, the garden gnome.
With the new villain, the game needed a new name. Oil Crisis 2012 was bland, boring and forgettable. The original design document had a long list of names ranging from Petroleboom to Gusher Bomber to Boomer the Tugboat. After several minutes of rearranging various boat and bomb related words in my head and on paper I finally settled onBoom Boat. Those two words told the audience exactly what to expect and did so in a playful manner. Perfect.
The final issue that needed addressing was graphics. I didn’t have the time, budget nor talent to pull off what I was picturing in my head so I did the best I could with the skills I had. I had no choice but to polish the art myself and release as is.
Leaving the Port
After the name change, the level redesigns, graphics polishing and a few weeks of forcing my wife to play test the game for bugs, game play quirks, achievement issues and more, Boom Boat was unleashed upon the unsuspecting world on January 21, 2011 for iPhone and iPod Touch. Eight months of development time starting from the initial inspiration while chasing leaves off my roof, to designing the game engine, drawing the graphics, play testing the game and finally marketing the title with a homemade website and launch trailer. Total development cost was around $200 which included the Apple Developer’s License, sound effects, theme song and beer consumed while programming.