Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Making of 'Wispin' or The Joys of At-Home iPhone Game Development (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of our blog series about the making of Wispin, our premiere game for iPhone and iPod Touch that recently landed in the Top 100 Overall Apps List.  Click here to check out Wispin on the App Store

Wispin moves thanks to lots of little 1s and 0s.. at least, I think that's how programming works.

Collaboration… Over The Interwebs? (cont.)

     The task of finding a programmer willing to work on a several-month long project for no initial pay (again, that “no budget” problem) seemed daunting at first… but I had a plan.  What if I developed the game on my own, to a point, and was able to show potential programmers what it was going to be like rather than only trying to explain the idea?  And I’m not just talking about concept sketches: I wanted to display polished screenshot mockups complete with User Interface, ready-to-go character animations, and finally a short clip of gameplay (hand-animated, of course).  I wanted to prove to my future partner in crime that I meant business and that, come hell or high water, this wouldn’t be one of those countless projects that never got off the ground or fell apart somewhere along the way.

     The plan seemed sound. After a few weeks of focus (+ lots of coffee and mountain dew… though not usually at the same time) I had a decent sized media package ready to go.  I whipped up a “Call To Arms” website that further described my goals, the game design itself, and how the collaboration could work, and then sent everything out into the wild.  I posted that sucker on any development/collaboration boards I could find.

.GIF example of one of the early animations used to lure in smart programming dudes

     The results definitely came as a surprise.  In less than 24 hours my inbox was full of applications that each declared interest and offered as much blood, sweat, and man-tears necessary to make the game come to life.  Every application included samples of previous game programming projects – some less than impressive (dear world: please stop making farting apps), but a few that stood out.  It almost seems fate that my ad ultimately reached the kind folks at the cocos2D forums and I received a letter from one particular individual: a programmer named Edgar who was close in age and seemed to have a passion for games that matched my own.

And we have liftoff!

     Our creative desires, work ethic, and sense of humor also happened to be perfect matches.  It wasn't long, after a few discussions and legal agreements, before the full-fledged production on Wispin was a go.  That name, by the way, came right around this time as a result of combining the words Wisp (describing our spirit-like hero) and Spin (his primary form of attack).  Our original title, Ethereal, didn’t sound quite as unique or inviting. 

     The name of the game wasn’t the only thing to arrive late in the process.  Although we began with a plan, my detailed design documents, and numerous diagrams and mockups,  the production of Wispin was still a fairly free-form and organic experience where features were continually added (or removed when they didn’t work), and all aspects of the game managed to evolve along the way.  Working with someone else and having another creative mind to bounce ideas off was essential.

     Over the years as an artist I’ve learned first-hand that working in a vacuum will usually produce inferior work.  I don't claim to be an expert by any means, but the one piece of advice I always feel confident sharing with younger artists is to get your stuff out there.  Whether it be in real life teams and studios or through the countless resources the internet offers such as forums and online communities, sharing your work will always improve your results and advance your craft.  Oh, and as far as my creative collaboration went: the fact that my partner was a programmer meant I had someone to tell me which of my wacky ideas were actually… feasible.  Handy, that.

     Gradually the game design was nailed down, production moved forward, and implementation hurdles were overcome.  All of these things weren’t hard, per say… they are just components of the grand work that you’re glad to break your back for.  Time flies when you’re having fun, and a project you’re passionate about provides just that.  The factor that did tend to make things a little ‘hard’, at least in our case, was the reality that we both still had day jobs, significant others, and social lives (well, we wanted to have that last thing). 
     Being a stay-at-home freelance artist, my day job happened to see me sitting at the same desk I occupied during Wispin’s development.  Working from home is an important part of this story, as you may have gleaned from the title, but it isn’t really the most glorious thing in the world.  Wearing pajama pants all day is definitely one of life’s little pleasures (I recommend the fuzzy ones), but the lack of human contact can start to wear on even the most hardened computer geeks.  I most definitely looked forward to the day where I could share a space working directly with other creatives... and I'm very lucky to have had exactly that happen, following Wispin's success.


NOTE: Unfortunately, I never managed to conclude this "Making Of" series for Wispin.  Frankly, I became so busy with additional projects, growing the company, and all the other crazy aspects of my life at the time that I just couldn't find the time to articulate the rest of my thoughts in a satisfactory way.  

I can tell you that the studio has grown immensely since these original articles.  We're no longer working at home, we have a full-fledged team, clients, and many other exciting projects constantly in the works.  And all of it is thanks to a little game called Wispin.  It's been an amazing ride so far, the fulfillment of a dream, and I am so thankful and humbled to be where we're at and making a life doing what we love.

I still hope to share more specifics, advice, and anecdotes on the matter on this blog (and hey, eventually maybe even another entry to this series) when time allows and inspiration strikes.  My sincere apologies to everyone who followed these entries and patiently waited... and waited (and waited).  I hope you are able to enjoy the other area that absorbed all my work and time... our games!  Thanks again for all the kind words and support!


  1. Wispin is the shit. Congrats man!

  2. Looking forward to part 3!

  3. Been following Wispin ever since your post on the cocos2d forum, it has come such a long way since then! Congratulations on a great game!

  4. NooooO! What do you mean I have to wait for part 3! So cruel. :)

  5. I require Part 3 D:

  6. Great game and a cool story. Where's part 3?

  7. Sorry guys, I'm just super behind unfortunately! Very glad to see the high level of interest, though.. please continue to stay tuned and I'll have it up ASAP :)

  8. The benefits of the game, share-out between two?

  9. Hi Chris the game looks great, you could tell me how you manage a very fluid animation. The animations you create them with an external program like flash?, if so how I can export an animation so to cocos2d. Please any help for me.

    Sorry for my bad English

  10. Hey everyone! I have to apologize again for how ridiculously late Part 3 is! We've been hard at work on our next game and it's left little time for anything else (including sunlight). I'm afraid the conclusion of this article won't be finished right away, but I'll definitely get back to it sometime in the near future. Sorry again and thanks for your patience and understanding!!

    Anonymous: Although there was no up-front payment due to the nature of this startup project, the profits of the game were shared.

    Felipe: Thanks for the great question! All artwork for Wispin was created in Photoshop, with animations put together in After Effects and exported as png sequences to be used in spritesheets with cocos2d. Hope that helps a little!