Tiki Rush: Escape from Lava Island

Client: Sony via Mercury Active
Role: Game Design, Game Development, Server Development

 

Technologies:

 
 

The Challenge

Mercury Active approached Karman with a special opportunity. Using Mercury's own IP develop an addictive, infinite side scrolling game for Sony's PlayStation Mobile app store. The catch, PlayStation Mobile games aren't created using familiar frameworks like Unity and Cocos2Dx but a specialized tool set and SDK. Unfamiliar frameworks and technologies? Sounds like Karman's specialty!

Beyond the inherit platform challenges, Karman was asked to collaborate on the game design outlining gameplay balance, player economy, and  fleshing out the core mechanics. We were also tasked with developing a sound QA strategy and recommending device purchases based on Sony's list of PlayStation Mobile Certified devices.

Finally, to supplement the game, Mercury wanted a new way to rapidly tweak the game after launch by running in game promotions and modifying gameplay values without needing to submit an updated app to the store. An easy to understand analytics system was also required to enable Mercury to monitor the effect their changes made as well as the overall success of Tiki Rush.

 

What We Delivered

Given the unfamiliarity of PSM platform, Karman rapidly completed a preliminary evaluation of the platform and documented any potential risks before the pitch phase was complete. This initial research allowed Karman to provide early game design feedback and an accurate quote.

Once in production we really sunk our teeth into the game design. We defined new achievements, in app purchase strategies and a system to generate game item values independent of how a round of the game actually played. One of our key focuses in this phase was making sure the financial balancing of the application could be tweaked independent on how the gameplay resulted so that we could focus on balancing the economy on one end, while ensuring the in game experience was as fun as possible.

To allow Mercury to rapidly change game parameters, Karman developed a custom CMS like solution which allowed their team to modify everything from player jump height to the cost of the diamond mask without requiring users to update the app through the store. Changes to parameters could be made permanent (game balancing) or any value could be changed for a temporary period of time (promotions). This system allowed Mercury to setup the next 6 months of promotions in a day, click publish, then sit back and watch the analytics come pouring in. We call it community engagement on auto pilot.

As projects relying on new technologies go there were many challenges. From low runtime memory limits (just 96mb!) to vastly different performance profiles between devices. Throughout the whole process Karman worked hard with the teams at Mercury to maintain expectations, schedule and product quality. Karman delivered on time and budget. We even heard word from our contact at Sony that Tiki Rush was one of the most polished games on the store to date. Not bad for our first project on PlayStation Mobile!