It can be a bit hard to imagine, but when Apple launched its App Store 10 years ago, on July 10, 2008, there were only 500 apps available then. These days, it would take months to sift through over 2.2 million apps, which have earned iOS app developers over US$100 billion.
One of them is Singaporean Chin Yong Kian, who has been developing games for the last few years, and recently launched his latest, Serious Scramblers, exclusively on the App Store.
Like the title suggests, the game is a fast-paced puzzle game that has players control the movements of a character through dungeons. That’s the scrambling part. How serious is it? Well, the game is a top-down scroller where players have to guide their character to ascending platforms, avoid or kill creatures, and defeat a boss king. Rinse, and then repeat.
So what inspired the frenetic gameplay? Would you believe… reservist post-national service full time?
Explains Yong Kian, “While awaiting training during reservist, I ended up playing some old-school games on my ancient phone to kill time. I found myself rather enjoying this game called Rapid Roll, where you play as a ball rolling down platforms and avoiding spikes. I thought right then that I could make a crazier game inspired by it, with various quirky characters and enemies!”
Oh, he was serious about it, but the scrambling for this game took over 18 months.
“Serious Scramblers started off extremely simple and was just an endless high-score game like Rapid Roll. Mid-way through development, I started working on more characters. Finally, to make the game even more interesting, I developed the boss fight, which took ages to get just right!,” he recalls.
“For much of its development, I worked on the game during the weekends. This carried on until about 6 months before the launch of the game, when I started putting in more time to finish the game. I started work on Serious Scramblers last year in March, so it’s been quite a while.”
Having worked on about a dozen games, the 30-year-old, who is currently lecturing part-time with Republic Polytechnic, knew he wanted something that appealed to more people, instead of attracting a niche audience. Previous games by him include simple ones where players run around in a cabin and shoot at hellspawns, to more extensive ones such as Spacejacked, a tower-defense game made together with his buddies at Rotten Mage, and released on Steam, PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation Vita portable console.
“I wanted Serious Scramblers to be a game that anyone can understand from just a 3-second video.”
Eventually, what proved to be the most difficult to execute wasn’t the gameplay, but the level bosses.
“I wanted a boss fight that gels seamlessly with the rest of the gameplay. Everything that the players have learnt about the game until this point should be thoroughly tested by the boss fight. It took quite a while before I was comfortable enough with the way platforms spawn around the boss – if I mess that up, the boss fight would feel completely unfair.”
And to go with the old school boss fight style of playing, he opted for the retro 8-bit look as well.
“There is also a more practical reason however – choosing the pixel art style allows me to work faster, since it’s the style I’m more comfortable with. Since I worked on this game mostly by myself, it was essential I chose a style that would allow me to finish the game in a timely fashion.”
One thing he didn’t have to worry about was the game music though, as he worked with his long-time collaborator, a Spanish composer, on it.
“The composer is named Dmitry, and he first approached me on Twitter a few years ago asking if I needed any composers for my web game, Death Cabin. Since then he’s been my go-to person for awesome chip-tune music.”
While the game is finally out, Yong Kian is still updating it, so he hasn’t had much time to think about what’s next. But chances are that he will stay with the mobile platform for the forseeable future.
“The appeal of mobile games is just how accessible they are! Almost everyone has a phone these days! If I want to make a game that my parents would play, a mobile game would most certainly be it.”
And when he’s not busy with making new games, or teaching, Yong Kian is a self-professed Nintendo Switch fan.
“I’m a fan of Nintendo games and love how they make games that are so wonderfully unique! Mario Odyssey, Zelda, Metroid, Splatoon… you name it! I like how their games feel so intuitive – they’re usually able to communicate teach players how to play without resorting to a wall of text.”
But what about his current favourite mobile game?
He says, “Some of my students would disapprove, but I’d go with Fortnite. I’ve never actually played PUBG, but Fortnite‘s faster pace appeals more to me.