Crafting Two Mobile Games Into Individual Gems

At PAX East this year I had the pleasure of running into Tom Eastman from Trinket Studios. The studios' two games, Color Sheep and Orion's Forge, were on display and both showed that not all mobile games are created equally. I had the opportunity to interview Tom about the two games and what it's like working in the mobile game market.

Trinket studios has a couple of games out at the moment, Color Sheep and Orion’s Forge, tell me a little about them.

Color Sheep is a fast-paced arcade game where Sir Woolson fires lasers to hold off waves of attacking wolves. The player mixes colors in a unique way to match the lasers to the incoming wolves. Orion's Forge, on the other hand, is a more relaxed physics-based puzzle game where each puzzle adds to a new constellation. Each constellation represents a charming alien fable.

The first thing that pops out about either game is the art. Both games have unique visual styles and are really refreshing for tablet games, what was the process in finding an artist and finding the right style?

We couldn't have founded Trinket without our tremendously talented artist, Eric Huang. Even though we push ourselves to make games really quickly, he makes sure to concept and really think through each aspect of the art. The goal we set for ourselves was to make small games with big personality and Eric is the one who really brings that life.

Just from the look of them alone both games are extremely different. Let’s talk about Color Sheep first; what was the inspiration behind the game?

Color Sheep came from the simple idea of a "Mage Sheep". From there, Eric came up with color-based elemental attacks and we soon realized that color-mixing is a really interesting and unique mechanic for an arcade game. We loved the juxtaposition of a cute sheep and his deadly lasers.

There’s also Orion’s Forge which also looks fantastic but plays completely differently, can you explain where that difference in play style emerged from?

Whereas Color Sheep came from a simple concept, Orion's Forge grew more organically. I was playing around with a magnet simulation and kept adding pieces to the system on a whim. Turning the simulation into a game was a natural step since so many elements lent themselves to clean puzzles. Adding in Orion and the fables was a much more difficult process.

We started with an epic story that would be told after each puzzle but play testing made it obvious that remembering a complex narrative between puzzles was too difficult. The 'Aesop's fables with aliens' idea not only fit the pacing better but was also a ton of fun to develop.

Both games came out relatively close together, was the small team at Trinket Studios co-developing these games at the same time? If so, what’s that process like?

We didn't want to start our new company out with one big bet on a single concept, so we aimed to make three small mobile games. We had to cancel one idea when the prototype wasn't as fun as we'd hoped, but the remaining two gave us opportunities to switch back and forth. It was great to put down puzzle design for a couple weeks and focus on new Color Sheep items, for instance. We definitely want to do that again, though releasing two games near each other was not so fun. We'll stagger the releases a lot more next time!

Color Sheep was at PAX East this year beside Orion’s Forge, how did the two games show and how often did people compliment those hand-made sheep?

Both games showed really well, which is a testament to Eric's art. The trailers, logos, and crocheted sheep really attracted people to the booths.  Our friend made all the Sir Woolson plushies and proved that the Knight of Light is just as cute outside the game!

Was this Trinket Studios first PAX event? If so what’s that experience like?

This was Trinket's first event whatsoever, so we were overwhelmed by how exhausting and fun it was. Meeting fans was great, especially since our games attract all kinds of people. Little kids, gruff gamers, and even casual parents enjoyed Color Sheep and Orion's Forge.

How did you guys prepare for PAX East and what was the feeling like of having your two games out in the open for people to play?

Although I should have spent some time preparing his voice for talking all day, our days were consumed with making promotional art and building cardboard iPad stands! We put in some long nights making our mini arcade cabinets just so we wouldn't have to buy expensive iPad locks or stands. We knew that folks liked our games, but it was so gratifying to see everyone's faces light up the first time they fired a rainbow beam!

The Indie Showcase this year focused around tablet and mobile games, do you see that as a growing market, not just in terms of size but in quality as well?

The tablet and mobile market is definitely growing fast. We had our doubts about being able to reach that huge audience, though, because there are so many high-quality games backed by real marketing efforts. There's a lot of room for improvement in the market, both for press coverage and new game ideas. That said, the mobile market allows us to make small games, which means we can focus on high-quality games with exciting characters without spending years on a single game.

What did you think about the other games at the indie showcase?

We were honored to be chosen alongside such great games and developers. We were particularly struck by how unique each indie team was. Teams come from all sorts of backgrounds and are building their games and companies in lots of different ways. We feel like part of a big crazy experiment to move the games industry forward as rapidly as possible.

Where can people go to buy Color Sheep and Orion’s Forge and what’s next for you guys?

ColorSheep and Orion'sForge are available on the iOS App Store and Google Play for 99 cents. ColorSheep is also available on Samsung Apps through their 100% Indie Program. As for what's next, more games! Some lucky people got to play a platformer prototype that we're thinking about bringing to Ouya and PC, but we definitely want to work on two games at once, so we'll have more to talk about soon!