Hey everyone, MasterAbbott sat down with the 99Games Online the developers of Jim and Frank Mysteries on the Apple iPhone to ask them some questions about their game. Check out the interview below. I have to say, this game looks great and is a bargain for only $2.99 on the App store.
Enjoy the interview.
What inspired you to produce Jim and Frank and where was your starting point?
The puzzle-based genre is perhaps the most populated genre on the App Store. Despite that, we never saw a game like The Jim & Frank Mysteries and wanted to fill in that gap. We knew we wanted a game that contained a variety of puzzles wrapped around an enthralling story. Prof. Layton was definitely an inspiration for us and we wanted to design a game that was on par with this title.
When did you realise you wanted to make Jim and Frank hand drawn and was it difficult to do so?
By the time we decided on the story line and the puzzles to go with it, we were certain that hand-drawn art would fit in perfectly with the game. We contemplated on going with a more contemporary theme but then decided against it. We also had thoughts on designing the game in black & white but then eventually when the colors were put in, there was no looking back. The art looked stunning on the iDevices and was just perfect.
We spent a hell of a lot of time in first sketching the concepts, transferring them to a digital form, coloring and shading them etc. It was a year long ordeal but was well worth it!
Did you have any inspiration for character design? e.g: personality and design?
Honestly speaking, this was our first attempt at designing something this big. We were new to character designing and we were nervous about it. Having said this, designing all the supporting characters was a piece of cake. However, we really sweated over the main characters-Jim and Frank. First of all, we had to finalize on the traits of both Frank and Jim. We really did our study on this one. Understanding popular game characters like Flo from the Dash games really helped in designing the behavioral traits of Jim and Frank. Our next task was to have a face to go with these features. We must have had umpteen designs before we finalized on these faces. It might be really funny, but we were inspired by Harry and Ronald of the Harry Potter series in finalizing them.
How many people worked on the game?
We had a team of 12 people working on this game. This includes the game designers, developers, testers and the graphic artists and of course a whole lot of beta testers J
Was it difficult to think of an original story? [The story is very original and well done!]
This was another big task. We spent a great amount of time in finalizing the plot, which went through a lot of iterations, and eventually a lot of the story was cut-short. We are happy the way it turned out though!
Was it easy coming up with puzzles and how did you find out about them or create them?
We’re really happy that people everywhere are loving the puzzles. Most of the puzzles included in the game are classic puzzles with a fresh new twist. There are some not-so-well-known ones as well, but all of them are sure to give you ‘aha’ moment. We wanted players to not just sit back and solve puzzles but wanted them to go through the experience of solving them. That is why we had a variety of puzzles and not simply data entry kind of puzzles. The accelerometer and multi-touch features of the iDevices helped us in achieving this.
Were there puzzles that didn’t make it into the game for any reason?
Quite a few of the puzzles didn’t make it into the game actually! When we were beta-testing the game, a lot of users reported that a couple of puzzles were either too easy or too hard. They were replaced by puzzles that made a better fit. Also, as the story changed, some puzzles no longer seemed to suit the storyline. They were replaced as well.
Was it hard to grade games by difficulty, and do you wish that you made Eurekas less available? (Maybe 1 in each scene instead of 2 total?)
Balancing the difficulty level sure was tough and our Beta testers helped us quite a bit in this. The game has 8 tasks, some of which are time-bound. Though the puzzles can be skipped, these tasks have to be completed in order to move forward. We had to make sure that skilled players finish it in just about enough time; while others should be able to complete it in a couple of tries. The purpose of Eurekas was to give hints to players and help players skip a puzzle which he or she cannot solve even after multiple tries as well as to add a hidden-object element to the game. After a lot of testing and collecting feedback from beta testers, we concluded that 2 Eurekas per scene would be good enough for an average player to complete the game.
Was it difficult to get voice actors and do you think the game could have been improved if all content had voice actors or would it of been massively time consuming?
We had an adventure with finalizing the voice actors for the game. Voice Acting is dearer both in terms of cost as well as file size. We finalized on 3 actors who have lent their voices to our characters. It definitely was a challenge since the game characters span from the age of 15-60.
It would definitely boost the game further if we had Voice Overs (VOs) throughout, but our graphics were already pressing on the file size and adding VO throughout the game would have increased the game size to an alarming rate making it difficult for the player to download the game. So we decided to compromise on this one.
How long did you want Jim and Frank to be and did you try and make it to the length you wanted? Did it turn out longer or shorter?
The entire game should take an average user about 20 hours of playtime. This is how we intended it to be. Extending it beyond that might have caused the players to lose interest in the plot.
Did you decide on a puzzle based game due to it’s recent presence in the gaming industry with games such as Brain Training and the Professor Layton series showing huge success?
Yes, the presence of such path-breaking games definitely was an inspiration to make a puzzle-based game; besides the fact that the App Store was in dire need of such a game. The game offers an engrossing storyline combined with classic puzzles and beautiful hand-drawn art, a combination that the App Store had not seen before.
What was your favourite part about producing Jim and Frank and what would you have changed if you had the chance?
The entire experience of producing this game was thoroughly enjoyable. We had a lot of first timers with this title. It was quite an ambitious title for us, we were new to character designing, story writing etc. We had a lot of homework to do before we finalized on the plot, the design and the programming of this game. Also, it was our first experience in working with an external publisher and Chillingo made it very easy for us. Guess the best part is now, when we are getting positive reviews for the effort we have spent in the past 8 months
We are really thrilled to see the game take off so well and we are constantly working on improving the game based on the feedback we’ve been receiving.
Capsule Computers would like to thank the team over at 99 Games Online and wish them well with their future titles. If you haven’t already check out our review of Jim & Frank Mysteries do so here.