How SMG Studio fought Animal Crossing and a global pandemic to launch Moving Out | Pocket Gamer.biz
The process of creating a game is difficult, lengthy, and often stressful, but it can yield many rewards while bringing your ideas to life.
No matter how big the game is or how long it ultimately takes, every new title takes a lot of hard work, difficult decisions, and a bit of luck before it even gets on the devices. And in the current mobile and handheld game market, this is only the first step towards the title’s success.
To highlight all the extensive work that is often not seen in the background, PocketGamer.biz is using our ‘Making Of’ series of developers to learn more about the general rigmarole of video game release.
This week we spoke to SMG Studio founder Ashley Ringrose in terms of the evolution of Moving Out and how the game had to take on both Animal Crossing: New Horizons and a global pandemic to get out the door.
PocketGamer.biz: First of all, can you tell us something about the excerpt?
Ashley Ringrose: Well the sales pitch for Moving Out is a ridiculous physics based motion simulator that gives a new meaning to the term couch coop, and I like to refer to it as overcooked, but you move furniture with physics as that is the best point of reference for people to grasp.
We got on board about six months after development started and then spent another 18 to 20 months. Ashley Ringrose
We’re available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch, with the latter being our most popular. The game can be played alone, but best with two to four players in co-op mode.
Where did the original idea for the game come from?
It was Jan Rigerl from DevM Games who came up with the original idea and prototype, which came about after helping a friend move apartments. First, Jan had plans for the best way to move the couch before realizing this was a game and started prototyping.
I think the very first iteration was very simulation-style, slower, and point-based. However, through iteration and collaboration with SMG, we’ve found that the most fun in this game is accepting the chaos, losing points, and just letting people move around however they want.
How long did it take to develop and how many people worked on the game?
We got on board about six months after development started and then spent another 18 to 20 months. At the beginning there was some pitching and elaboration of what the game was, so it didn’t really start up for us until six months after production started.
What was the biggest challenge you faced during development?
Know where energy has to be used. Fortunately, on board T17 gave us a soundboard for ideas and where to focus. We could easily have added a bunch of new game modes and ideas that would have appealed to five percent of the people but would have affected the overall delivery of the game.
Moving Out launched on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC in April 2020.
I know a lot of friends who we showed the game to too early and who at the end of development thought we had made a lot of right decisions about where it could have gone. It’s very easy to think that more is better, but that’s not always the case.
At what stage of development did you feel you had a game that you were happy with?
I feel like I have a good knack for finding the fun in a prototype. When I saw the original prototype, I could see the potential. After showing the game at PAX, all my fears disappeared and I was confident the game would work.
When we saw the art of Jon (Art Lead) on the engine, the game really came to life. I put on a “boss hat” for a second, and from a business standpoint, I was happy knowing the game would be good enough to keep our Melbourne studio and give us the freedom to do new things in the future to try out.
As a studio, you have to be pretty strategic if you put time and team into a few wrong steps, and it can be bad. So we now have a good buffer to be able to continue without pressure.
Why do you think this was the right time to launch on Nintendo Switch?
Well, we were going to launch in March, but this Animal Crossing was blocking our launch window. In the end, I’m glad we started when we did as it was a lot less crowded and has continued to be since August. Every week there are 10 new games that could easily top the charts. We believe the pandemic and the lockdown that followed helped as families got bored and locked up.
Well, we were going to launch in March, but this Animal Crossing was blocking our launch window. Ashley Ringrose
Who do you find the game’s main audience?
Moving Out’s main audience must be parents who have children playing games as well as gamers who enjoy a good couch co-op gaming experience. Whether couples or just friends playing together.
Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected current developments in any way?
Our team started working from home in mid-March. We started in late April when Australia (and around the world) had strict bans so we couldn’t have a party yet. The expectation that all of this work from home will take about 12 to 16 weeks has continued since then and is now reaching week 33.
At first I thought there would be no major impact, but feedback loops and time both become an issue. Fortunately, we are in a position to push these things back and adjust. It’s frustrating that we want to maintain the same rate of productivity as before and I want to meet strategically important deadlines, but at the end of the day we have to be realistic.
For some, working from home is great. For others it is stressful so there needs to be a balance between handling and handling. I think the Melbourne team, which have been strictly banned the longest, are being asked to be very resilient and do well.
How happy are you with the start of the game?
Very happy both commercially and creatively. We are also proud that we were able to deliver the game ahead of the development plan. However, we postponed the deadlines behind the scenes because we didn’t announce an appointment until we were 100 percent sure we could deliver. We got in back then. So this is a win in itself.
How do you approach live surgeries? What can you tell us about your plans for updates?
With Moving Out available on so many platforms, we can add updates a little slower. We’d love to try new things on Steam first as it’s the fastest possible, but it would make our largest audience at Switch miserable. We initially updated the game with a new character, fixes, and platinum times. We are still very busy but have not yet made any concrete announcements.
Can you provide download or financial data? Any DAUs or other statistics?
We can’t reveal any hard data other than to say the game worked well and everyone is happy.
What can you tell us about your future projects?
SMG usually has several projects running at the same time. We’re still working on RISK, which is already running for the fourth year and launched on Steam the previous February. Additionally, we have No Way Home for Apple Arcade that we are still expanding, along with some other projects that are currently in the works as the dust settled when moving out.