When German game developer Yacine Salmi joins Nordic Game 2016 next Wendesday, his talk “Teaching Players without Words” will take its inspiration from his iOS sleeper hit Ellipsis – a minimalist action puzzler with retro-styled visuals and absolutely no text – to explore the presentation of gameplay concepts without explicit tutorials.
With the game’s recent launch for Apple TV, Nordic Game took the opportunity to speak to Yacine Salmi on the challenges involved with bringing Ellipsis to the Apple TV platform.
NG: What made you decide to release Ellipsis on Apple TV?
YS: We view the Apple TV as a great opportunity. It has a smaller user base, but there are also much fewer games available (let alone quality games). We see this as an opportunity to stand out and to grow our fan base in an organic manner.
Since we made Ellipsis a universal app, our current iOS players essentially get a free gift and our new Apple TV players get an experience they can enjoy on the couch at home or on the go on their phones and tablets.
Also, the game looks just so cool on a big screen TV. We simply couldn’t resist.
Check out the Ellipsis trailer:
NG: What challenges did a version for Apple TV present to the development team?
YS: It’s a young platform, which means it has a few bugs and some growing pains. Sometimes you can work around them, sometimes you can’t. We use Unity, which only recently came out of beta on Apple TV. There were some issues there too. Luckily the Unity engineering team is very responsive and helped us quickly resolve all the major issues we encountered.
Perhaps the biggest challenge was the input controls. Ellipsis was designed for touch surfaces. This maps onto the Apple TV remote but the reduced surface area presented a real challenge. We had to iterate and playtest endlessly to get an experience that felt just “right”. We also made sure to support gamepads. This opened up an interesting alternate control scheme which is quite fun – and which we can hopefully bring to other console or PC-like platforms.
Just like the iOS versions, we also encountered quite a challenge teaching the player without using any text. We were committed to keeping Ellipsis as accessible as possible and foregoing the use of text. This meant that we had to playtest our opening sequences again and again until it just felt right. We went through three or four different control scheme for the map until we hit on one that felt intuitive to all players.
Yacine Salmi has four important pieces of advice for Apple TV game developers:
• Create a high quality experience. It’s quite powerful hardware in a small box. You can accomplish quite a bit if you do it correctly.
• Get your input system right. You have to support the remote, so design a game that leverages its strengths instead of limiting yourself to its constraints.
• Make sure you follow Apple’s style and design guide. There is a consistent experience expected from Apps and Games on the system. Consider these from early on, so that you do not have a difficult time during the submission process.
• Make use of TestFlight extensively for beta testing. It is also a way of getting your game “pre-approved” by Apple without having to go through the whole submission process. They will test your game for bugs and usability. This was invaluable for us.
Ready to tune in? Yacine Salmi – game developer extraordinaire – another great reason to join us for Nordic Game 2016, 18-20 May in Malmö, Sweden. Register today!