[Note: Kee-Won is the newest Toy Soldier to join our ranks. His first project at Toy Studio (also his first mobile game) was creating the game Battling Ships on the Nook Color. Since it released just a week ago, it has climbed to the top of the top of the Nook Color App Store where it has gotten near universal praise with “fun” being used over and over by the many people who have played the game.

He took some time to reflect on his experience and analyze his process developing the game Battling Ships. Today, he outlines what went right with the process and, in part 2, he talks about the things he’ll do differently on the next mobile title he develops.]

Hello, my name is Kee-Won Hong and I’m a new mobile developer at Toy Studio Games. I’ve just launched my first game with Toy Studio, Battling Ships, on the Barnes and Noble marketplace for the Nook Color. Battling Ships is a tablet optimized, strategic turn based game.

A quick bit of background: I dreamed of making video games as a kid, went to college for computer science, ended up at a mobile marketing startup for 4 years…so the combination of gaming and mobile technology at Toy Studio was a really great fit for me. Interestingly enough, despite having worked in the mobile industry, Battling Ships is the first application I built on a mobile device.

What Went Right

Using the Corona SDK
It’s still an up-and-coming technology, but AnscaMobile’s Corona SDK is really beginning to shine. The simulator and built in libraries provide a lot of great tools for building applications very quickly. All that being said, there are still areas for improvement, some of which will be discussed later. But overall, I think it was a great choice for building Battling Ships.

Utilizing team knowledge
Working with the other more experienced developers at Toy Studio was a big help – there are a lot of common tasks and issues that all the games we are making deal with, and it’s fairly easy to add a snippet of another developers library into your code. For example, building a general “Save/Load” library for the team was useful since all of our games implement a “Save on exit/Load game on resume” feature.

Utilizing Dropbox
I’ll disclaim this by saying I was a big fan of Dropbox before using it for this project, but it again proved very useful. Working with an offsite artist and syncing with our deployment machine (part of the rapid deployment process I described before) were both made much easier by consolidating assets on Dropbox. Don’t forget that Dropbox also has automatic version tracking, something I utilized a couple times to ‘roll back’ to earlier assets.

One additional rule that I found useful: I kept all the original art assets in a Dropbox folder and made any edits I needed to make on a local copy. This way if I ever needed to rollback or reuse existing art assets I could always find the original file.

Innovation on Core Mechanics – Fog of War Mode
Any time you’re creating something new based on a classic, you want to preserve the greatness of the original but find ways to enhance the experience. For Battling Ships, one innovation was Fog of War Mode – a new game mode where fog will randomly roll in for a few turns, obscuring your previous hits and misses and challenging you to rely on your memory to succeed.

It was inspired by a one of my college time-killers where my roommate and I would play 3 dimensional tic-tac-toe on the Chicago L Trains without using paper, relying only on our memories. It was a fun exercise, but limited by the fact that there was no referee to rule whether we had actually remembered our moves correctly. Now with Battling Ships, I can match my memory against my friends and see the cold, hard evidence of the results (I may have over-estimated the capability of memory a bit…). It’s an elegant way to add a whole new mechanic without having to fundementally modify the core gameplay.

A unique art style
I think it’s important, when you are working with an existing concept, that your art differentiates you from the existing style. For Battling Ships our art team went away from the idea of the ‘high tech’ fleet battle to a more ‘steampunk’ theme. Quality of execution is always important here, and I feel like our art team knocked it out of the park; in addition, they were also great in helping us refine the art once it was in game. Overall, I really liked the way this turned out – it not only gave our game a distinct and stylish look but also did a nice job of complementing the feel of the gameplay itself.

[Note: Read the concluding article on Battling Ships from Kee-Won.]