Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Catalin Zima-Zegreanu, Lead Developer at Amused Sloth. At CES 2012, Microsoft announced their new promotion for Windows Phone games, called Must Have Games. Amused Sloth developed Chickens Can’t Fly to be part of it. As one of the few programmers developing exclusively for the Windows 7 platform, we needed to find out more about this big move.
NGN: You’ve announced that you will be developing exclusively for the Windows Phone platform. What do you feel Windows Phone 7 offers over iOS and Android platforms?
CZZ: We love Windows Phone 7. For a developer, the tools that you get to use while developing games on WP7 are simply the best. Visual Studio and XNA together offer a really nice experience, making it a real pleasure to work on your game.
Chickens Can’t Fly is exclusive to Windows Phone, but for future games we are considering other platforms too, besides Windows Phone and Windows 8. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible, and if this means we have to adapt and use less than stellar tools for development, it’s ok, because the players are all that matter.
NGN: With the addition of Chickens Can’t Fly do you have plans to stop developing for the previous title in the series Chickens Can Dream?
CZZ: No, we won’t develop Chickens Can Dream further, as we have our hands full with Chickens Can’t Fly. We have some great stuff we’re working on for our first update to Chickens Can’t Fly, and it’s pretty big, including two new laboratories, Avatar Awards, and a few other awesome things. This update should be coming in just a few weeks after launch, so stay tuned
NGN: What challenges did you experience while developing Chickens Can’t Fly? How did you overcome those obstacles?
CZZ: The biggest challenges were with finding just the right difficulty and the best input method. We always felt the game was too easy, but all the time, when we gave the game to someone else to play they said it was too hard. Especially once we launched Chickens Can Dream, we got lots of feedback that the game was too difficult.
And this tore us apart, because we didn’t want the game to be boring for experiences players, and at the same time we didn’t want it to frustrate new players. Playtesting with people outside our team, getting some suggestions from folks at Microsoft and getting feedback from CCD was really helpful in getting the game to its current level of balanced (we hope) difficulty.
Final polishing took a lot of effort, and there are still things that we would want to improve, but you have to just stop at some point and launch the game.
NGN: What can gamers expect from Chickens Can’t Fly?
CZZ: In four words, it can be described as a ‘chicken falling simulation game’. In more words, the goal of the game is to guide the chicken down a pit filled with obstacles and try to avoid anything dangerous. There are power-ups to help you out, but also power-downs!
When we started working on the game waaaay back, our goal was to create an experience based on continuously falling through an endless vertical tunnel. The initial vision was around a more rhythm-based sequence of commands like “short jump in the air”, “stick to wall”, “long jump to the other wall”, “open parachute”, but it was very soon clear this was not a good fit for mobile devices with tilt and touch controls, so the game slowly evolved to the more dynamic experience it is now.
You can expect 5 themed laboratories, with various obstacles and Experiments to perform in each laboratory. These are Hatchery, Butchery, Cemetery, Military and Physics.
Experiments are the actual levels inside a laboratory, with different objectives like “Paint 300 meters of walls” or “Nuke 100 obstacles” or “Finish the level with at least 1 point”, and many others. To spice things up, the layout and obstacles in each experiment is randomly generated each time you play it. These should keep you busy throughout the ‘campaign’ mode for a good while, especially if you’re after all the Gold medals. And when you’re done with the experiments, you can play the Survival mode in each laboratory and compare your scores with those of your friends. So if you look at it this way, since Chickens Can Dream was what we now call the Survival Mode for a single laboratory, Chickens Can’t Fly is at least 10 times larger than Chickens Can Dream.
Humor is a very important part of our team’s culture, so if you enjoyed and laughed a bit (or at least smiled) at the content in Chickens Can Dream, you can expect more of the same, including funny references and wacky obstacles or power-ups.
NGN: Are there any plans to modify and release this game on Xbox Live? Or will this title be available exclusively on Windows Phone?
CZZ: The game was built with mobile devices in mind, and it was designed to use the tilt controls. We did test some of our early prototypes using an Xbox 360 Controller, and the controls felt really nice and it seemed like they had potential, but we don’t have any plans for an Xbox version at the moment.
Besides, the game is running in Portrait orientation, and that would look pretty odd on a big TV
NGN: What has the response been like for Chickens Can Dream? Do you feel it got gamers excited for Chickens Can’t Fly?
CZZ: The response for Chickens Can Dream has been fantastic, exceeding our expectations.
So far we have a rating of 4.5 stars, and globally we have 415 five star ratings out of 579. Reading the reviews has been a blast. Also, since we let the players send messages to us directly from the game, we received lots of good wishes, and even some funny negative thoughts directed to us. But all in all, we love the response and it was a real morale boost to see the reactions.
NGN: Did any user feedback come in that had an impact on the development of Chickens Can’t Fly? Do you have any specific examples?
CZZ: Definitely! We took a lot of feedback into consideration to make Chickens Can’t Fly even better than Chickens Can Dream.
For example, people kept complaining that the Rocket Launcher was too difficult in CCD, and it was too accurate. Because of this we moved it to later stages in the game, and made the rocket go in a straight line instead of always following you. It’s still challenging, but it’s not so frustrating anymore.
Another example is the Stamina bar on the right side of the screen. Its purpose was confusing to some people, and others were annoyed that you only had a limited amount of stamina. So we got rid of it altogether. Now you can slow down as long as you want, but you’ll always have a minimum speed.
We also got lots of feedback that validated that what we already had on our lists of ‘To do’ for Chickens Can’t Fly, such as:
- A more dynamic Chicken (speeds up and slows down faster)
- Nukes, spider webs, frozen chicken, zombies, popcorn
- Different backgrounds, themes and music
- Levels with limited length
- Unlocking new levels as you play
- Making CCF an Xbox LIVE game, such as “Get this on Xbox Live. It is great. I want achievements and it is worthy of being on live!” Of course, we couldn’t have done this step on our own, and we thank Microsoft Studios for having faith in the game.
But some of the feedback we just couldn’t follow, like:
- “Maybe put in levels, or spots in levels, where the phone has to be horizontal. And side-scroll, with a gun and bad guys”
- “add extreme gore”
- “add marijuana, and the effect could be hallucinations”
- “I hate this **** game ********!”
We simply love reading everything we got from the players. Every feedback we received; be it positive or negative was of great help in developing CCF, and we’re glad we had the opportunity to engage with our audience. We hope in the future we’ll be able to involve people earlier and show some alpha versions as early as possible.
NGN: For this question I will open the floor to you. Is there anything you’d like to say to our audience?
CZZ: Thanks for showing interest in Chickens Can’t Fly. We hope you enjoy it, and if there’s any aspect you don’t like or would like to see improved, tell us though the in-game form, or just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to hear all your feedback!
And on February 15, please download the game’s trial and give it a look, just to see if you like it. Pretty please!