Swedish Coffee Stain Studio released their enormously popular Goat Simulator game on iOS and Android just a week ago. In 6 days, the paid game has already been downloaded over 150,000 times at $4.99.
For quite some time now, it has been a clear tendency that many of the most successful mobile games from the Nordic use some variation of the free-to-play business model. Once in a while, however, we see a game that does so well as a paid app, that we have to ask ourselves: what did they do right?
Of course, it is always an advantage to have built up a brand on another platform before entering the mobile market. This is what Mojang did with Minecraft, and it is what Coffee Stain Studio is currently doing with Goat Simulator as well. But taking a game from the PC platform and stuffing all its features into a mobile version, isn’t always easy. And even though you figure out a nice way to make the game touchscreen-friendly, you still have to deal with the limited ram, CPU and power of a smartphones.
We had a talk Armin Ibrisagic, game designer and PR manager at Coffee Stain Studio, about taking Goat Simulator from the PC to mobile, and the issues this has involved. You can read the full interview below, where Armin Ibrisagic among other things elaborate on his advice to other Nordic game developers who consider porting a PC game to mobile.
Why did you decide to develop a mobile version of Goat Simulator, and did you consult your community of players about the possible mobile version before you started actually developing it?
At the core, we just really wanted more people to be able to be goats. We’ve had a lot of requests to make a mobile version, so we slowly started developing it. However, we still have a part of our studio that’s dedicated to providing free updates for the game on Steam, which we are doing with the 1.2 free expansion patch that’s in the works.
You mention that controls and performance has been the biggest issues for you, but can you digg just a tad deeper and reveal what the largest issue has been in regards to user-interface, and how you solved the issues you ran into?
Naturally performance was the biggest challenge, but since mobile screens are smaller, we’ve been able to solve things through doing stuff like lowering the draw distance of objects and through remaking a lot of the content to better fit on mobile devices. It’s been really important for us that the game is still Goat Simulator, and is as similar to the PC version as possible. We decided early on that we didn’t want to make a watered-down version, but that it needs to feel and play like the game does on PC.
When it comes to user-interface, we’ve been iterating through the controls pretty much since we started the port, and we’ve also added controller support for some, but not yet all controllers. Luckily, Goat Simulator isn’t a game where you need to react fast or do super-precise movements, so we’re pretty happy as it is, but we’re of course open for feedback and how we can improve it even further.
Has there been any features that you did not succeed in porting for mobile?
All in all we feel like we’ve kept the mobile version pretty true to the original! But I suppose that the most noticeable thing that isn’t in the mobile version of Goat Simulator is the Low Gravity Testing Facility – that was something that we couldn’t include in mobile versions due to performance issues.
That and the alien spaceship, that one didn’t work on mobile at all either.
In recent years, some of the most popular mobile games has been casual games. But you still see a market for Goat Simulator on the mobile platforms?
We definitely see a market for Goat Simulator on mobile platforms! In fact, it seems to be selling even better than the PC version. So far we’ve sold 150 000 copies on iOS and Android since the release 6 days ago.
What is the next device you will develop for? Are you considering Windows Phone, or do you want to move into the world of consoles?
Right now we just want to focus on fixing crash bugs for iOS and Android, and making it run more smoothly on the existing devices we have. But after that we’ll see how it goats!
We do have an Xbox port in the works, but we’ve outsourced the port to Double Eleven since we want our own studio to be able to continue working on supporting Goat Simulator on existing platforms. It’s really important for us not to turn our back on our existing fans just to get the game out on new platforms.
Wrapping up, what have you learned – as a studio / artist / developer – from porting the game to mobile? And is there anything you would advice other game developers in the Nordic to keep in mind if they consider taking the same route as you?
Hm, let’s see here:
– You will have to rework a lot of the art assets
– Texture memory is the devil
– Memory in general is the devil
– You will have to work very, very hard to include as much as possible from the original game. Certain parts of a game are just impossible to port to mobile
– There are a couple of different iPhones in the world, and there are about a million different Android devices
– People will email bug reports to your contact mail, support mail, personal Facebook page, and Twitter. Bug reports are usually “my game crashes please fix”, with no more information.
– It’s totally worth it in the end. Goats for everyone!
Do you have any experience porting a PC game to mobile, or even just with working with the paid-app business model? Let us know in the comments below!