Irish Dev Week: Atom Split Interview

Irish Dev Week 

Studio Atom Split

Interviewee James Daly

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Seeing as you’re new to the Bone-Idle Community, can you tell us more about the studio and how it started out?

Atom Split Games started out as James Daly was in his final year of college and was too lazy to write a CV so he started the company. Really there was an LIT Company of the Future Competition and we submitted for the contest with the concept of Atom Split Games being a new Irish based studio focused on creating mobile games for a wide audience. We managed to get some really great people inspired by the concept that were not programmers but were greatly needed to run a studio (Artist, Business Dude and Storywriter)

You’re not only a game development studio, but also app developers, web designers, consultants, graphic designers, and a host of other services. 

How do you manage to juggle all of these services while providing great quality in your products?

This has Been one of the most Challenging tasks, we always ensure that we have someone working on games at all times, other than that we only take on projects that we know we can currently handle. Obviously projects overrun and we have to accommodate that but that all comes with running a business. 

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AtomSplit have numerous games in production, including Tipperz, Cryptic Lyrics, Jaxon and Feo, and now, most recently released, “The Power Game”.

Give us a brief idea of what the games are about, and how they are doing, development wise?

Tipperz was done in collaboration with another company for the launch of their product to help build their brand identity. We created the characters “Tipper” and “Pippa” to associate with the product (a touch pen attachment for a pen or pencil). Tipperz production and continued growth is closely tied to the success of that product. 

Cryptic Lyrics spawned from a game we came up with last summer. We work from the TCEC (Tipperary Community Enterprise Center) on LIT Thurles Campus, with all the students gone from the summer we had to entertain ourselves so we came up with a game where you give cryptic song lyrics for songs and you have to come up with the title. The Game logic itself was quite quick to make, we are concentrating on making it look nice and as fun to play as possible. 

Jaxon and Feo is the first project we started on. It is a 2D Platformer set in the Kingdom of Madorey where you have to defeat wizard who has broken the seal from the Black Gem and wants to use it for pretty evil purposes (rumors have it that he doesn’t even like kittens).We want to get to the stage where we have enough resources built up from other projects to create a montage of us frantically typing on keyboards to finish creating the game (that’s how they work…right?).

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After watching the trailers for your upcoming games on YouTube, Jaxon and Feo looks particularly interesting (I’m a sucker for quests!) – like something from a story book. Can you tell us more about it?

Jaxon and Feo has two parts:

A 2D Platformer in which you can choose to play as either Jaxon Stonesmith or Feo Fireborne who must rescue the Kingdom of Madorey from the Dark Wizard and his nasty Scappers (evil steampunk minons). Jaxon and Feo are on a quest to collect 7 Coloured Gems to seal the one Black Gem, each time they collect a Gem they gain access to a cool new power. They are also joined by their two animal companions: Nutty the squirrel and Poppy the Rabbit who help out Jaxon and Feo in times of need. 

With this there will also be an Interactive storybook app that allows you to follow the adventures of Jaxon and Feo while solving puzzles and playing some fun mini-games along the way.

The Power Game is a remake of a popular board game by the same name, converted into digital format. Even though it’s been rejuvenated digitally for the younger generation to experience, do you think it will appeal to players used to the more traditional way of playing?

In The Power Game we wanted to stay true to the original game, we believe in Brian’s (Brian McCarthy is the original inventor) vision for the game and how it should be played. We had the chance to do a lot of things that Brian wasn’t able to do with the original version. For example Brian originally wanted the physical game to use a wooden board and gears for the playing field, we were able to add this in as one of the custom skins in the Game. We believe that original players will enjoy the experience of having this unique game available on their mobile phone or tablet. 

We are in the process of re-releasing The Power Game in conjunction with LITE games where we have made the interface a lot simpler to use when playing the game, look out for that in the coming months.

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A strategy game similar to chess, the Power Game relies on a player to be able to exercise both quick wit and patience, to be played against human or AI. How much tweaking did it take to get the mechanics and AI of the game just right?

The Power Game had to have AI custom made for it as a digital version had not existed before. This was a bit of a challenge as the early AI was actually too good so we scaled it back and included three difficulty levels, there was a lot of feedback from testers and people at events that we were showing the game at which really helped us to fine tune the single player experience. In-house we have nicknamed the AI, Brian in honour of the original creator.

You’ve mostly concentrated on iOS, Android and Windows devices for your games – is it a difficult market to break in to and be noticed in, what with the App Store and Google Play flooded with apps and games every day?

This has been the biggest learning curve for us, it’s like shouting in a crowded room “Hey look at this cool thing!” and everyone else is doing the same thing. This is one of the main reasons why we always want to be on as many platforms as possible, we are starting to look at html games as well as the mobile platforms. What that means for the player is they get the convenience of playing our games in whatever way suits them.

So, aside from game developing and the various other services you provide, what kinds of activities has AtomSplit been up to? Has the schedule been too crammed to fit much else in, or are there a few surprises in store for us?

–          Currently on the games side we have in progress:

–          The Power Game (funky new stuff for UI in conjunction with LITE Games)

–          Witches & Wizards (Pong battle arena game with cool power ups in a fantasy setting)

–          Secret project (Nothing to see here, but we can’t wait to talk about it!)

–          Cryptic Lyrics (Fixing up UI and creating as many levels as possible)

The web stuff is boring but we are doing a new website for Atom Split Games with our funky new web development skills. 

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You all have your specific job titles for a game, like programming, art, music, character design, etc., but do other skill sets you’ve acquired give you any advantages in your current roles?

–          Well some of the team have brought in other skills from previous backgrounds. For example:

–           David Kelly brought in a lot of editing and script writing skills which really helps when getting a story for a game together or creating digital content for our games. 

–          Michael Murphy worked in a fast paced business environment which really helps keep our focus when we have a lot of projects on the go.

–          Leo Flaherty has played so many different styles of games that he always has a frame of reference when we are coming up with a new feature or mechanic in a game.

–          Also one of the main things that we have found is that just by being in business as Atom Split Games for three years we have picked up a lot of knowledge along the way that is indescribable and invaluable. 

It’s fantastic to be able to play and support home grown games like The Power Game (and your future projects!) Where can we find you hanging out on the interwebs most often?

You can check us out on:

–          Twitter @atomsplitgames  (we are probably most active here)

–          Facebook facebook.com/atomsplitgames

–          Website for info atomsplitgames.com (new website coming soon!)

Bonus Question for each member – all time favourite game?

Thought you would never ask!!

James Daly  – Front Mission 3 (Don’t ask he’s weird…)

David Kelly – Broken Sword: Shadow of Templars (Point and click FTW!)

Eugene Clooney – Boulder Dash (Got some old school right here)

Michael Murphy – Not available for comment but its’ probably Football Manager

Leo Flaherty – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (This took Leo way too long to answer…)

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