Bomb Bots Arena the making of an incredible multiplayer game
In this dev story, we are interviewing the guys from Tiny Roar an Indie game team based in Hamburg who made an incredible multiplayer game. Here is their story and all of the challenges that they had to face during the development of the game.
But let’s go with the interview.
Bomb Bots Arena: The game
Tell us more about your game, what is it about?
Bomb Bots Arena is a bombastic online multiplayer brawler (B.O.M.B.) that lets players blow up frenemies and online players around the globe with bombs.
Players get to customize their very own Bomb Bot and send it into battles in order to level up and unlock new abilities. Punch your enemy to stun them, shield yourself from a fatal explosion or chase after your rivals with the remote controlled bomb – you decide your favorite combo of abilities. It is a modern take on a popular classic that we all love and respect and wanted to give it our own spin.
Which platforms did you target?
All of them. Or at least this is our long term goal. We think nowadays it shouldn’t matter anymore which device you own if you want to play a multiplayer game. That’s why the game launched for Steam and Mobile on the same day and a Switch version is on it’s way as well. We allow crossplay so you can take your progress from PC on the go and if you don’t have enough controllers you can simply let your friends join the game by downloading the game for free on your phones. We knew that if we release for mobile we have the chance to reach a large audience and that’s why we always tried to make the game as mobile friendly as possible, which helped us make the game feel like a modern take on something you might have played in your childhood. Familiar but new and exciting.
How many copies did you sell? The game is available now for a little more than 24 hours and we have over one thousand organic players right now. The game is free and we plan not to change this model. We offer cosmetics that players can purchase to support us so we can continue working on this game long term.
What kind of skills did you already have when you started working on the project?
In the past we released several titles for mobile which helped a lot working on a multiplatform title like BBA. We knew that the UI had to be flexible (just think about the bazillion different screen sizes and notches) and while working on the game’s performance we needed to keep slower mobile devices in mind as well, yet we needed to build it in a way it could be upscaled for PC.
Do you have any past experience in the game dev industries?
My co-founder Rob and I have worked in the industry for over 10 years now and were involved in +/-15 titles for different platforms and very different genres. At the same time most of our team members (we are 10 right now) are “home-grown”, meaning they started out in our company and luckily have been with us ever since. Many of them have a degree in game development but their portfolio of small prototypes and their enthusiasm was what made us hire these people.
Which software tools did you use to make this game?
This is a Unity game and we used PlayFab for player account handling etc. while Exit Games’ Quantum backend is handling all the online multiplayer stuff (it is insanely powerful and the developers are very indie-friendly). For project management, we use Notion and for version controlling Github. The artists worked with Maya, Photoshop and Substance Painter.
Have you found out any plugins or tools absolutely amazing to speed up your workflow?
The game wouldn’t have been possible as an online game without Quantum. No one in our team did online multiplayer coding before and thanks to this technology we were able to pull off a multiplatform/crossplay online multiplayer with a lot of action going on at the same time. We are currently working on the Battle Royale Mode and can already host 50 players at the same time.
Tell us more about your studio, when was founded and how many people are working in the studio?
Rob and I founded Tiny Roar in May 2015 in Hamburg, Germany and were three guys in total. Right now we have five full-time employees and five part timers that work on updates for Bomb Bots Arena, Hellfire our fast-paced online shooter and soon on our single-player game XEL.
When did you start to develop your game?
Basti (one of our coders) worked on the very first offline prototype almost 3 years ago, when we wanted to have an internal multiplayer game that we could play in our downtime. Eventually the German Gouvernement announced to establish a game funding program that would allows us to make a full fledged game out of the prototype. We were the first to apply and actually got in. The budget of the game is 103.752 € and the funding covers 70% of it which was an insane opportunity that we are really grateful for.
How long did it take? We got funding for 8 months. So we started working on the project on the first of October and the launch was on June 1st.
What was the most difficult part you faced during the development time and how did you overcome these difficulties?
a) Making an online multiplayer game for so many devices is “challenging”. There are so freaking many weird things you encounter down the road. I didn’t envy the code team trying to make everything run smoothly. b) Cutting down features to make sure the base game gets enough polish. It is always hard to say goodbye to something you really wanted to see earlier in the game. It is not gone though. We will continue to support the game, so the cut content will be included someday.
Do you receive any external help? If yes, how do you find collaborators and which criteria do you use to find the best ones?
The Exit Games team helped us A LOT figuring out how their tech works. We became studio friends over the course of the project and are planning to use their tech for many more games to come (like Hellfire for example).
We also had Gidon create this amazing french touch soundtrack for our game. We already were looking for external sound teams to do the SFX and music for our game but he simply showed up one day in front of our office (we were office neighbors) and asked if he could experiment on our projects. And while “experimenting” he simply blew us away with his work, so we had to hire him. We also want to continue working with him, so please don’t steal him. And this is one of the things I love about this industry: You encounter somebody like Chris from Exit Games at Gamesom, Gidon who works in another office next door and at one point you collaborate. This industry strives on common goals and the willingness to help each other out.
How did you organize your work/daily tasks?
Mid-project Covid-19 hit the streets so we moved to home office very early on to ensure everyone’s family is save. We use Discord for daily stand ups and notion to keep track of the GDD and tasks.
We have bi-weekly sprints that work towards monthly milestones. Each sprint is then reviewed and the timeline is then adjusted. That’s why we moved the Switch version for example. We aimed to have it ready for the June launch, but then the friend feature and custom match system which were more important for the base experience would have been delayed or simply shitty. o we always try to keep things lean and iterative. It is no use to keep pushing for things you planned months ago. Plans change. Also we don’t do crunch. So if something is not possible we simply find a healthy solution.
Did you have other jobs or did you work full time on the game?
We are (luckily) full time game developers. Yet, we worked on two other projects on the side to earn additional cash that we spent on the project to come up with the other 30% of the budget.
Do you have any tools, software, or books you want to recommend?
If you want to do online multiplayer get in touch with Exit Games. They are great to work with and their tech is mind-blowing. For tools I would always recommend to find something that is used by a lot of people and is not too costly (depending on your studio situation). Then you will always have an active community and many people that already ran into problems you are encountering just now and you can get their help.
Which marketing strategy did you use and do you have any special tips to share?
We hired an external agency because at some point we figured we don’t have enough time to do proper marketing on our own. Create a proper brand vision and good marketing assets. This makes everyone’s life easier.
Going back to day one of the development, is there anything you would have done differently?
We could have skipped some trial and error situations but with such a limited budget and time frame, we were bound to waste some time. They all came with learnings which we applied on the project and will apply on future ones as well.
Now you have launched this game, what do you think about the future, would you continue to make games or “you’ve had enough?”
This is the best industry in the world (for me personally). I have to admit it is super stressful and sometimes, especially when running your own studio and when you are trying to provide a secure job for your team, you lose faith for a moment and think “Why am I doing this to me?”.
Then you look at how people react to your team’s game. And this sense of wonder is something that has no price tag to it.
And as David Bowie said: “If you feel safe in the area you are working in, you are not working in the right area. Always go a bit further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in […] and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom you’re just about in right place to do something exciting.”
So when you have to stay vigilante you will always come up with uncomfortable but solution-orientated ideas that push your game and you as an individual over the edge of stagnation.
How did you feel on day one of the launch? Can you briefly describe your emotions?
I woke up every hour, because I thought I overslept our launch time. We were cheering in discord when the game finally went live and we saw people coming in. It was magical.
Feel free to add whatever you think is relevant or important for our readers.
This is the first game where we had sole creative control over every single aspect and the game’s vision has a big hidden meaning to me. Rob and me met in Highschool and bonded over games.
We became best friends and were always dreaming of working on our very own games.
We traveled to the Games Convention in Leipzig each year together and would play games during the train rides and when going to sleep in our tents. One of those games was Bomberman.
A game that is similar to Mario Kart and Smash Bros, a genre of it’s own – timeless and so easy to get into.
So when we brainstormed what kind of game we would like to play as a team at the end of our workdays Rob and I always circled back to the sweet memories of these game sessions.
And we didn’t just want to copy what was there but elevate it and make it feel fresh and interesting to a brand new audience who haven’t even heard of this classic IP. (It broke my heart talking to some teens, that they never even heard of the original.
Making this game is not only a love letter to the games from our past but also a testament to our friendship. Even if the game fails I will always happily look at it as something that two best friends created with the purest intent and with the help of a team of simply amazing people that we are blessed to work with every day. So I can honestly say that I am living my teenage dream. And I think everyone should have the chance to follow experience this feeling.
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