The Australian games development scene has seen a huge shift in recent years, with many large studios closing the doors of their Aussie operations. Not to be daunted, a lot of local development has shifted to mobile gaming, with notable successes from studios such as Firemint. But what do you do when you move from such a successful mobile developer? This is the story of Tramampoline, the work of two ex-Firemint devs now working as Wizzle Wazzle.
Mobile games development can be done with small crews, and Wizzle Wazzle only has two employees; Stu Lloyd handles the art duties, while Ben Boersch handles the programming. The two met while working at Firemint and then worked together at EA before setting out to make their own games.
Stu's path into games art work starts with nothing more humble than the ordinary flip art book. "I've always been interested in animation since I can remember. I used to turn my homework into flip books, which I think we all did at some stage." He's a country kid; "I grew up in the country town of Corinella (about half an hour from Phillip Island), so moving to Melbourne to study was a no brainer." From there he worked up a demo reel "along side the necessary, grotty jobs that remind you that you're still human. This, plus my love of games landed me a job as an animator at Firemint."
That's where he met Ben, whose path to Firemint was via game modding. "The countless hours that I spent modding Baldur's Gate, Diablo and creating custom maps for Warcraft II and Starcraft as a kid convinced me that working in games was my calling. I did my time at Uni and then was lucky enough to be hired on as a junior programmer at Firemint straight afterwards."
As employees the pair worked on a number of notable mobile games, such as Real Racing and Mass Effect: Infiltrator.
Wizzle Wazzle's current project is Tramampoline, a cute and quirky bouncing action game for iOS (Stu states that they have "plans for Android and Windows Phone") that recently made it into the "New And Noteworthy" section of the Australian and New Zealand app stores; that kind of promotion can be real gold for any app in the competitive app store environment. Stu nearly didn't make it to that stage stating that when leaving Firemint he "wanted to pursue a film career", but stuck with games, developing Tramampoline as well as doing some freelance work on the side. Not so for Ben, who's rather solidly determined to stick with being his own boss.
"My early modding days planted the seed; my dream has always been to work on my own ideas for myself. My time at Firemint gave me the skills, experience, contacts and savings account to finally have the opportunity to make that dream a reality. I have no plans to get back into a big, traditional studio in the future; the people that are doing interesting things in this industry are by and large working solo or in small teams. Well, they tend to start off that way, before being snapped up by a big publisher."
Building your app is one thing, but getting people to snap it up is another. Stu puts Tramampoline's success down to a number of factors. "It looks and feels a lot different to what currently dominates the market. It's wacky and has the "one more go" factor. Perhaps this was key in helping us stand out from the crowd, as well as destiny. Having a solid, polished game and contacts certainly helps too."
I've got to admit that when I first heard about the game, my first response was to recall a certain Simpsons moment, but, despite Fox's oft-litigious nature, Wizzle Wazzle isn't fussed about potential legal issues. "I'm not worried about Fox at all no, it's just a word and there's no references to The Simpsons at all in the game." says Stu.
Wizzle Wazzle certainly isn't thinking small for the future, either; according to Stu
"In addition to continuing to pimp out Tramampoline with updates and brainstorm our next crazy idea for IGF 2014. Ben also plans on fulfilling his destiny in the near future: that is using video games as a medium to achieve world domination via mind control."
Sucesss in games development is never assured, but just in case, I, for one, welcome our new bouncy overlords. [Tramampoline]