Jordan Hample from Semag Studios on Hoopity Stick.
Hoop Rolling. An old timey tradition of pushing a wooden hoop with a stick. Excited yet? Well Semag Studios has taken this old school tradition and turned it into a white knuckle gauntlet. Hoopity Stick is based off a children’s game often associated with powdered wigs and horse drawn carriages and turned it into something along the lines of an extreme sports game.
Comically over the top and surprisingly intense Hoopity Stick takes Hoop Rolling to a new level with obstacles that must be overcome using skillful navigation. Failure is common resulting in your humble hoop spontaneously bursting into flames and exploding. The simple controls and challenging nature of the game makes it a perfect pick up and paly mobile game that stands out amongst the crowd of familiar titles. The game caught my eye and I had the chance to talk to Jordan Hample for an interview to find out more.
Who are you? What have you worked on before Hoopity Stick? What got you into game development? Whats the story behind Semag Studios? How many people are working at the studio? How did Semag Studios start?
I am Jordan Hample, owner/programmer/designer at Semag Studio. Semag Studio was started by a group of friends that met while in college in a Game Design program. After graduating we worked together at a small indie studio for a couple years on an unreleased DS turned PC title. After we left that company due to many disagreements with the owners, we started our own company. I had already been making apps on iOS and Android as a side business while in school so I filed all the paperwork to turn it into a real business. So we built a studio in my basement. We started the studio with 6 people some people have come and gone, but we are still generally just 6 people.
We have to other games out. Gigahurts was our first release. It is an operating system simulation game that I though of while completing my degree in Computer Science. You act as the operating system. You delegate programs to using the CPU, keyboard, mouse, printer, etc. If a program gets ignored for too long and cannot complete its task it will crash. Crashing too many programs ends the game. You take a journey through computing history as you go from simple computers with just a CPU to advanced multi-core machines with many input/outputs.
Our next game was You're Fired!. It is an infinite runner starring Jerry Canned, a unstable man who was just fired from his job. He goes a little crazy and decides to burn down the office. The goal is to run along pouring gasoline all over the office to spread the fire and cause as much damage as possible. You also have to pick up gas cans along the way so that you don't run out of fuel.
We also worked on a PC rhythm game called Wubmarine about an intergalactic record producer delivering EDM songs to Earth. He gets hit by an asteroid and loses the songs, scattering the notes all over the solar system. You have to collect the notes back in order to restore the songs and deliver them back to Earth. Sadly Wubmarine has been put on hiatus as we try to figure out budgeting and music licensing and such.
So what is Hoopity Stick? How do you play and what are the core gameplay mechanics?
Hoopity Stick is essentially an infinite runner, but with a few major differences. In a typical runner there is either multiple set lanes that you are locked into or a simple duck/jump mechanic as your player travels along the set path at a slowly increasing speed.
In Hoopity Stick, you are not bound by set lanes, but by physics. You control the speed, angle, etc of the hoop by the direction of your swiping. You then travel along a dangerous road full of crazy obstacles. You go as far as you can without falling over. And if you do fall over or get stuck... you explode. You attempt to not only get the furthest distance you can, but to also pick up hard candies, the game's main currency. Candy may be placed on narrow passages or next to dangerous hazards so it's a risk/reward type deal. Do you get the candy or are you more concerned with getting distance?
You use the candy in the game's store to buy new hoops and sticks. New hoops bring new challenges to the game. They are shaped differently and will behave differently as you roll them. Some are off balanced and pull to a side, some have a tendency to bounce at higher speeds, some are easier to recover from falls with, but tougher to navigate in small areas. The new sticks, as of now, are mostly cosmetic items. Some, such as the flashlight and torch, will give an advantage in our planned upcoming expansion with nighttime levels.
Why did you decide to make a game based on the old fashion Hoop Rolling game? What aspects of the classic game did you implement or change for your title?
Well the game had been a running gag with us for a while. We like to tease one guy on our team for being a whole 4 years older than the rest of us. We always make jokes about him doing some old fashion activity, like rolling hoops.
We originally had plans to make it more of a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater thing where you would launch off ramps and do tricks. We then thought to just return it to the roots of the original game and make it more about balance and steady hands. You would just use the accelerometer to keep the hoop balanced and avoid obstacles.
But that felt too dull, so we took the middle road. You can still get that extreme sport feel from going real fast and launching off air vents jumping over obstacles, but you can also take it a little easier if you just want to carefully navigate through the street.
What where some of the challenges you had while developing the game?
Probably our biggest challenge was mobile optimization. We used Unity as our engine. It is excellent because we can easily get our game on a dozen platforms with very few changes. But unfortunately Unity is not really set up by default to be mobile friendly. After the game was fully functional in the Unity editor we realized we were only getting 10-15 FPS on half of our mobile test devices.
So after a month of optimizing things we were able to get a much smoother frame rate on a much larger range of devices. To help that along we also added a graphics option setting in the game. It is an option you don't see too often in the mobile world even though the PC world could not exist without it. I hope that it becomes slightly more standard in the mobile world since we are seeing a huge range of devices now.
While our iPhone 6S was able to get a steady 60 FPS with high resolution textures and detailed lights and shadows, older phones and tablets (even 2-3 years old) would be stuck in the teens or low 20s at the same settings. Allowing a lower setting that turns off shadows and lowers some resolutions we are able to get nearly the same performance on some older phones.
What is the future for Semag Studios?
We do plan to release a few updates for Hoopity Stick. As mentioned earlier we would like to have a night mode in it where obstacles are harder to see and lighted sticks are needed to safely navigate the streets. We also had a lot of obstacles, hoops, sticks, etc that just were not done in time for the initial release that we would like to add in over time.
We are currently working on 2 new games. One is a digital version of a board game by a local developer called Avignon: A Clash of Popes. Avignon recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign that was 4000% funded. We are working with the developers to bring it to phones and tablets.
We are also working on our own RPG, Eternal Grind. Eternal Grind won't be a typical RPG. It will be very mobile focused. It is an RPG with minimal story and maximum battles. A bit of strategy is needed too. You will be shown the enemy you are about to battle and given a selection of warriors to choose from with varying abilities. It is up to you to choose the optimal team to take out your enemy.
Your battle will be rated based on your time taken, damage dealt, and other special conditions. Higher rated battles will net you better loot and upgrades. One of the main draws to the game will be an endless battle mode where you try to build a well balanced team and see how many fights you can get them through before being defeated. Website: http://semagstudio.com/ IOS Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id994172469 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.semagstudio.HoopityStick