Crossing platforms and boundaries with mobile applications
Soma Games and Code-Monkeys change the application game
70%: Do what makes your heart come alive.
30%: Go where it takes you.
Is this utopia, or the business plan of two thriving development companies?
Read on and spend time in the alternate, but very real, universe of Soma Games and Code-Monkeys.
Nuts & Bolts
Entering the Game
Games depend on a compelling storyline and split-second decisions at each unanticipated fork in the road. Great play draws upon uncertainty, risk, an intuitive analysis of multiple variables, and resolute action. All of this describes the innovative creations and pioneering outlook of the founders of Soma Games and Code-Monkeys, sibling companies that have found the sweet spot in development for mobile platforms and are definitely enjoying every step of the ride.
"Making a game is an architectural work, not an individual sport."
— John Bergquist
"We are going to be able to blend the virtual with the real world in ways never conceived before."
— Chris Skaggs
Soma expected to jump into video game development for consoles, such as PlayStation* and Xbox*, but the barrier to entry—a development process too slow, cumbersome, and costly to keep up with creative potential and market demand—was a catalyst to explore other options. A move to applications for mobile platforms that could be designed, developed, and brought to market faster was a natural step. Cross-platform game development brought its own learning curve, one that also inspired Soma's sibling company, Code-Monkeys. Its developers collaborate with application creators at any and every level of the process, from building out application concepts to fine-tuning complex code.
The Story of Soma's Success
CTO of Soma Games and Code-Monkeys, Chris Skaggs, entered the industry because he wanted to tell compelling stories. He started with the broad strokes of multiple stories, but some of the most interesting turns of plot, character, and levels have come about through the process of development, and the exchange with active—and expressive— player communities. Says Skaggs, "Each story builds a life of its own that you discover while making it."
Another creative route has been the fabrication of a story world around an existing character. This is the origin of Bok Choy Boy*, which taps into an established consumer culture of ready-made symbols with exciting effect. Soma had to convince the toy company to convert to the virtual space, then deliver results through effective cross-vending and marketing.
Being both technically and marketing savvy comes naturally to the staff of Soma and Code-Monkeys, where curiosity and passion, rather than resumés, drive business growth. This cultivation of open- ended possibility and willingness to jump into untried areas has helped them to take advantage of a relatively new market for mobile game applications, do work that inspires them, and be profitable.
A team-based development approach is a natural outgrowth of this philosophy. Communications Director John Bergquist emphasizes the importance of forming a team with diverse talents, whether technical or artistic, "Making a game is an architectural work, not an individual sport." Soma has found creative people eager to use their talents and contribute to the whole.
Connecting with Community
Bergquist sees a direct link between interesting, surprising story content and building community, "Content is king. The storyline creates endless things to share and talk about with players."
Bergquist makes full use of digital communications, from Facebook* and blogs to YouTube* and the Internet, to build and sustain community. He places a high value on direct interaction with the full demographic of players. Gamers have responded to this personal approach, and are even enthusiastically engaged in game-related content creation, such as sending G*-like LEGO* ships to Soma.
Multi-Platform as the Standard
Soma and Code-Monkeys have embraced multi-platform development from the start. Their foresight is paying off as the market is rapidly positioning cross-platform play as a requirement. They favor tools that allow them to efficiently create and publish an engine on multiple platforms, such as Unity 3D*, HTML 5*, and Adobe Air*. The knowledge base is out there for novices. Says Skaggs, "Any developer with passion and drive can make a multi-platform game." Visibility can be immediate, Skaggs continues, "Distribution is the magic bullet. Tens of millions of people can access your application overnight."
Cross-platform design impacts technical decisions along the way. New technologies can spark retooling of game logic; for example, the introduction of Microsoft Kinnect* allowed for story interactions on the gameplay level.
Soma developers also take advantage of the Web for a relatively low-tech solution to the complexity of providing a multilayered game experience that extends past game boundaries. The Web potential is tapped for games such as G to support slick interactions between applications, cohesion across games, and tracking of "career" scores and level states.
For Soma, the capabilities and limitations of mobile platforms are waiting to be exploited for gameplay. The Finger-Twister* game was designed to turn multi-touch into a game experience. Accelerometers, which tilt and shift screens automatically based on user motion, allow devices to be used like "fishing rods." Location-based GPS services offer yet more creative possibilities. Skaggs sees more opportunity for innovation ahead, "We are going to be able to blend the virtual with the real world in ways never conceived before."
Bergquist values the opportunity to participate in thought leadership in technology innovation and mobile device usage, as well as in game development. As the mobile space explodes, he finds room for innovation and ample freedom to experiment. Skagg echoes this, seeing mobile as a profound change which is altering daily consumer behavior and expectations on a wide scale. Simply being able to bring games outside or use smartphones to manipulate a virtual reality expands a gamer's universe from the home console to the multi-player universe of a mobile world.
Collaborating with the Intel AppUp® center
Soma Games and Code-Monkeys find the Intel AppUp center engineers share their passion for creating quality applications, and value this commitment. Bergquist explains, "The Intel AppUp team cares who we are as developers, and is supportive of our work and the communities we're building."
Code-Monkeys has also been instrumental in helping other developers and game creators get their applications built, validated, and deployed on the Intel AppUp® center. Because Code-Monkey's staff understands cross-platform development best practices, they can help streamline the process from creation to troubleshooting.
Digital distribution is evolving, the device market is rapidly increasing, and there are tremendous opportunities along the compute continuum to participate. Skaggs advises developers to take hold of the mobile market potential, "If developers are not paying attention to this, they're not paying attention." The process does not have to be perfect. At Soma, ideas are tested, tried, and adjustments made. At Code-Monkeys, developers stand ready to make it work for their wide customer base. "There are so many people to learn from in this business," says Bergquist, summing up the open attitude of these engaged inventors.
Join the Intel AppUp® center today
Exchanging ideas with innovators like Chris Skaggs and John Bergquist, or taking advantage of Code-Monkeys to bring your application to market are just a few of the unique opportunities available through the Intel AppUp center.
Access free tools, resources, and a vibrant community to help you develop and sell applications across devices, OSs, and runtimes.
Join today at: http://software.intel.com/en-us/appup/join.
To learn more about Soma Games and Code-Monkeys, visit www.somagames.com and www.code-monkeys.com.