Spongebob: Pirate Pursuit

spongebob-main

Sponge Out Of Water

To help Paramount promote The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, the team at FRWD built a game designed for both desktop and mobile devices. Spongebob: Pirate Pursuit was an immensely fun project and showcases sharp game design, mechanics, and object-oriented programming.

Process

The team began by brainstorming several game ideas. The winning idea focused on the film’s climactic chase scene, where Spongebob and other characters pursue the villain Burger Beard using their newfound superhero powers. This idea offered the mix of simplicity and variety we wanted for the game.

The game was developed with the Haxe library Flambe, which enabled us to publish to both Flash and mobile-friendly HTML5. My experience with ActionScript 3.0 and object-oriented design patterns made Haxe very easy and fun to pick up. I spent the early portions of development building the game’s classes and functions that would all fit together to form the final game. The game features a single, endless level that is pieced from designed segments placed in a random order. Developing this system to be fluid and natural was both challenging and fun.

Physics, even simple ones, are one of the most fun aspects of game development. Spongebob: Pirate Pursuit‘s physics and mechanics were refined over the course of development until the game and controls felt perfect. This was tough to balance on both mobile and desktop, as mobile controls are inherently less fast and precise. Another balance we had to strike was the game’s difficulty. The game needed to be easy enough for kids, but just as engaging for more skilled players. Our approach was to base the player’s success on a timer. Mistakes slow the player down, but the player isn’t outright punished.

Another fun aspect of development was tailoring each of the characters to be balanced, exciting, and unique. Getting Mr. Krabs’s rocket-claws to shoot just right and Spongebob’s bubbles to behave like bubbles was a rewarding experience. Each member of the team had a favorite character.

One requirement of the game was forthe in-game text to be replaceable in the international versions. The resulting system allowed Paramount’s international teams to enter their translations into a text file that would feed into the final game without needing to recompile it. This proved an interesting challenge combined with the bitmap fonts we used, as it wasn’t feasible to include every international character in the font. We ended up creating bitmaps for each international version.

Google Analytics integration was another unseen, but important feature. GA integration allowed Paramount to see how many people won or lost, which characters they chose, and how much time they spent playing.

Spongebob: Pirate Pursuit was a great learning experience that lent itself well to my history with Flash and ActionScript 3.0, and remains a golden example of what can happen with a good team effort and the right passion in the right place.