Lessons from Fruit Ninja Developer Dojo by Dony Sukardi

Developers gather at Sauce Bar for Day 1 of Fruit Ninja Dev Dojo

Day 1 of Fruit Ninja #DevDojo proved to be a great evening with so much interaction amongst the participants, sharing their their passion on game development. Everybody, including me, was looking forward to getting to know the success story of Halfbrick and its famous game with more than 300 million downloads – Fruit Ninja.

 

Registration began at 6pm.

Phil Larsen, CMO of Halfbrick greeted the audience and introduced Fruit Ninja Dev Dojo.

A great crowd of game developers and enthusiastic learners!

Day 2 of Fruit Ninja Dev Dojo started with a great lunch. Participants were seen busy engaged in conversation with each other while enjoying their food.

 

 

 

At Microsoft Singapore Auditorium, Shainiel Deo, Chief Executive Officer of Halfbrick, took the stage stage to give an opening speech. He apologized that he couldn’t be at Day 1 event the night before as he had some issue with his passport which had him renew the passport within 3 hours. In his speech, he shared two main points on how to be successful in the industry. First of which is to nail what you’re trying to do. You ought to try to be the best and carefully pick your team. Second point is to make sure that with every product that you build, you learn something from it.

 

Fruit Ninja might be the game that make Halfbrick known to the world by breaking the million number. However, it wasn’t at all the first game of theirs. In fact, it was the 15th ever since the company was established in 2001. There is progression and refinement from one product to the next one.

 

Halfbrick recognized the big opportunity iOS had got to offer when it was first released. Despite joining the game late, i.e. 4 months later, Fruit Ninja was still a big hit because of its nature. It can be played by people of all ages.

 

The opportunity is here again, even bigger than ever, with the release of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. They are very excited with this new platform. With the very same base code (with very minimum tweaks for WP8), you can now target tablets, laptops, desktops and mobile phones. So make sure you are early to the game and don’t miss golden opportunity.

 

Shainiel then passed the baton to Phil Larsen, Chief Marketing Officer of Halfbrick, to present some of Halfbrick’s marketing strategies. The best game marketing starts with the game. Believe in your game when you try to market it to the public.

 

He also stressed that we needn’t be 100% innovative. Many times, developers crack their heads trying to come up with something totally new. That is not to say that new innovation is not important. We could also build on existing concepts and add fresh twists to them.

 

Highlighting the necessity of getting universal, he advises to try to reach out to as many players as possible, hence targeting different platforms. Such can also be achieved by getting partnership with other companies but still staying true to the gameplay. One example given was the collaboration between Halfbrick and DreamWorks in producing Fruit Ninja Puss In Boots, in which the initial proposal was to change fruits to meats. However Halfbrick didn’t want to compromise the very core element of Fruit Ninja, which is the fruits.

 

Several marketing techniques that contribute to the success of Fruit Ninja are game trailers posted on YouTube that generate millions of views and taglines such as “Ninjas hate Fruits”, and bringing the game to people by organizing Fruit Ninja Master, a competition to find the best Fruit Ninja in Australia. Phil asked the participants present what if Halfbrick is to bring Fruit Ninja Master to Singapore and everybody was excited. Would you be excited too?

 

He also brought to attention on branding on games to increase relevancy. Recognizing the effort that Microsoft has put into marketing Kinect for Xbox360, Halfbrick decided to name the Fruit Ninja’s title for Xbox360 as Fruit Ninja Kinect. These things might seem insignificant. However, without knowing it, we buy into them and they contribute to the overall success of a product.

 

Marketing is a very popular word amongst developers today. People use it but not many knows its functions. The importance of marketing and branding was not immediately apparent to Halfbrick. Only after releasing three titles did they realise it.

 

For developers who are releasing a title and dont know what to do, he advised to try finding a mentor, which has proven to be beneficial to him.
Phil summed up his presentation by reminding us that huge successes are possible. We ought to make every single point of contacts count and there is no secret magic to be successful.

 

After a short break, it was time for technology talk by Richard McKinny, Chief Technology Officer of Halfbrick. Richard demoed Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride on Windows 8. He praised the features that Windows 8 has got to offer, starting with Snapped View. It is not immediately apparent on what to do with snapped view for games. Many developers would do nothing more than just placing a splash screen or some screen saver on that space, waiting for the user to come back to the game, if ever.
Thinking that Microsoft has added Snapped View not for nothing, the team thought of what I think a brilliant idea. Realizing that players of Fruit Ninja love fruits, the team decided to give unlimited supply of fruits on a conveyor belt. So, if you’re half way working on your Word document and feel bored or stressed, you can slash the fruits on the side of the screen.

 

And there are Live Tiles. They might be regarded as normal icon on your Start screen. Halfbrick also did not know what they were for at first, but soon fell in love with them. Live Tiles provide re-engagement with users. Halfbrick implemented them on their Windows 8 games, Fruit Ninja by showing stats on a vertically rotating tile, and Jetpack Joyride by showing current game missions.

 

Social is built into the very core of Windows 8. Game developers could code what they want the user to share on different part of the games by using the default share functionality. In Jetpack Joyride for example, players could share their points or screenshots of the game.

 

After elaborating on the awesome features of Windows 8, Richard moved on to discuss on some of game development technologies. With so many platforms to target these days, game developers should try to create their own game engine and avoid platform specific implementations for things that can be done in a cross platform way. Why would you want your own engine? It helps you to be ahead of the curve, instead of playing catch up. Imagine you using one of the proprietary game engines in the market, such as Unity 3D, and one day a new platform appears and the engine has not added support for it, you’ll end up waiting and missing opportunity to be early in the game.

 

Regardless of the target platforms of the project that Halfbrick does, the developers always start with a Visual Studio project and the primary workstation is a PC with keyboard and mouse. C++ might have been neglected in the past few versions of Visual Studio. However, with Visual Studio 2012 and its great support of C++ 11, the IDE is back to the game again.
Richard then went on saying that “Visual Studio 2012 + Windows 8 tablets == LOVE“. With that combination, developers are now able to develop and deploy on the same device itself. You can now pass your tablet to tester and fix any found minor bug straight, hence increasing productivity and efficiency.
Another remarkable feature addition to Visual Studio 2012 is the graphic debugger. Developers had to settle for proprietary third party in the past. However, this has now been added to the Visual Studio itself.

 

Richard ended the presentation by reiterating how excited Halfbrick is with the upcoming Windows 8 and the opportunities that it’ll bring to them and fellow game developers.

 

Natalie, gamification consultant from Hummingbird Interactive and the guys from Halfbrick!

With just slightly more than one month away from the release date of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Store now open for apps and games submission, what are you waiting for? Go get coding!

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2 Responses to “Lessons from Fruit Ninja Developer Dojo”

  1. | Windows 8 - Not to be Missed

    [...] for you to get started and submit your first Windows 8 app/game to the store. In my previous post -Lessons from Fruit Ninja Developer Dojo, Halfbrick mentioned that they’re excited about the launch of the new platforms, Windows 8 [...]

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