Making something original tends to bring unique challenges. Making Roogoo was no exception. One of the strategies we used to ease some of the challenges was to try and establish a workflow that allowed for as much iteration as possible. Quick iteration makes trying new things easier, and throwing away work easier when you find out that what you tried didn’t work out so hot.
The mindset of prototyping quickly had to be strong on multiple layers, like an onion, like an ogre.
When work on Roogoo began, there was only a very general idea of what the game would actually be, but just like the XBLA version of the game, it all started in space. The very first designs of the Roogoo characters featured alien bodies with eye stalks coming right out of the torso. This was before the whole Roogoo mythology came into existence, but I’ll get around to that a little later.
Those first drawings of mine are a bit too embarrassing for me to post here, but in the image to the right you can see some of the earlier designs that were still very much inspired by the space setting.
Eventually a general body shape was settled on, but at that point it was more a design for a species and not any specific character. It can be very frustrating trying to design characters from a blank slate, and a falling blocks puzzle game doesn’t offer a lot of inspiration in that regard. However, that inspiration that I needed actually came out of the frustration. Instead of coming up with a good idea, I went with something that was totally ludicrous.
The page of designs to the left was the result of some over-the-top story brainstorming. I knew that no one would care about the story in a puzzle game, so I decided to come up with a convoluted, melodramatic epic full of supporting characters that had no bearing on the gameplay. Scott loved the designs that came out of this and many of the characters ended up appearing in the game’s cutscenes with almost no explanation.
I shouldn’t go too far without mentioning what was happening with the gameplay prototypes while all of the character design work was being done. The game went through several different visual styles while in development. On the right you can see the cardboard cut-out style that we experimented with for a while. Everyone liked the idea, but given the resources that we had, we wouldn’t have been able to give it the polish that it deserved.
So far, though, I’ve just been talking about design. The game as it looks now was made possible by Shaun Healey, who started working for SpiderMonk worryingly close to the deadline for the project, but ended up doing all of the final illustrations anyway.
Shaun is great at making entertaining characters and although he was too late to influence the character designs much, he was responsible for all of their personalities. The drawings to the left are a sampling of what he did to get used to drawing in the Roogoo style.
The cutscenes that appeared in Roogoo are only a portion of what Shaun has been doing with these characters. We’ll be posting a lot more artwork on this blog, both from future Roogoo games and from whatever other projects SpiderMonk is able to find time for.
“Roogoo, the adorable little puzzle game that’s available on Xbox LIVE Arcade, and one that has garnered muchlove from That VideoGame Blog, is spreading its wings. Besides moving to the PC, we’ll also have the choice of picking it up for the Wii and the DS later this year. The Wii version will naturally let players use motion controls, while the DS version has some stylus action going for it.”
IGN: Why We Picked It. “While Roogoo might look like a standard falling-block puzzler when you first lay your eyes on it, after taking it out for a spin for about an hour or so, its fun factor becomes apparent. It does a good job of keeping the gameplay fresh and increasingly challenging throughout the 45 stages. Couple that with the multiplayer content and Roogoo’s package is enough to justify the 800 Microsoft Point expenditure.” – Nate Ahearn