Interview

Sticky snowballs and shifting genres: The making of Tap My Katamari

Sticky snowballs and shifting genres: The making of Tap My Katamari

While the Katamari series is best known for giving you control of a giant sticky ball which lets you roll up the entire world, Tap My Katamari  takes the rolling action into clicker territory.

We've already spoken to Bandai Namco about the game's soft launch, but with the game now available worldwide, we wanted to find out more about its backstory.

So we spoke to Jon Chew, Product Owner at BANDAI NAMCO Studios Vancouver, to find out more about the game's development and the series transition to an idle game.

PocketGamer.biz: With the Katamari games practically being a genre in themselves, what made you decide to bring the series to the clicker/idle genre for Tap My Katamari?

Jon Chew: Many of us in the studio are fans of both of the Katamari franchise and many of the notable clicker games on mobile.

The fun in Katamari for me was always to just get bigger, bigger, and bigger, just to see how far I could get (and roll over the next object).

The snowball simulation just felt natural in clicker games, where the whole goal is also to get bigger, bigger, and bigger. Clicker games, in a sense, are snowball simulators.

With this game, we really wanted to marry our love for Katamari’s quirkiness with what we considered the "mobile-friendly snowball simulator".

Given that idle games rely more on short term retention than monetisation, what was your approach to boosting retention?

I’m personally not a big fan of hard monetization.

In Tap My Katamari, we actually give out a generous amount of premium currency in the hopes that new players and old fans will continue to play and enjoy the game without feeling put off by purchases. Honestly, with idle games, the reward for reaching high stages is all intrinsic.

The game itself motivates the retention and our goal has always been trying to keep the goal interesting.

Our challenge was understanding if a player would 'get it' in the first 5 minutes.
Jon Chew

This mindset led to introducing variable Cousin Mojos, permanent Special Cousins, Mushroom Powers, and Stages that change based on how large the Katamari became.

How long did development take, and did you use any notable tools or technologies?

Development after preproduction took around 6 months. We’re also big fans of Unity.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during development?

The biggest challenge that we had to overcome was how to explain Katamari and all of its lore to new players while creating a strong first-time user experience.

There’s a lot to digest for someone who’s never heard of Katamari, so we had challenges trying to understand if a player would "get it" in the first 5 minutes of the game.

We’ve made really good progress so far, but there’s lots more we can do.

What was your approach to soft launch, and what did you learn from it?

For the soft launch, we chose 4 primary countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

The goal was to get a representative sample size on an organic player level, to confirm if we'd hit our target KPIs (mainly retention rate and ARPDAU).

We’ve always been careful to make changes based on player feedback rather than monetary goals.
Jon Chew

As a result, our main focus was to improve monetization during soft launch.

During soft launch, you changed the monetisation focus considerably. What brought about these changes?

From the beginning, we’ve always been careful to make changes based on player feedback rather than monetary goals.

There were a few key negative experiences with in-app purchases that our team was keen on resolving to create a more zen, more relaxed experience enjoying the game.

So we made changes, particularly to how premium currency is used in the game, in order to craft a positive experience for our players.

At what stage of development did you consider you had a game that you were happy with?

I’d say once we put art into the game and I could roll up a small kid and chicken with the Katamari, I was pretty happy; it was those little moments where we could say "haha, did that just happen?"

But as creators, I don’t know if we’ll ever want to stop tweaking and improving our games.

Once we put art into the game and I could roll up a small kid and chicken with the Katamari, I was pretty happy.
Jon Chew

We’re always keen on updating the experience with our players through our community channels.

How happy are you with the game's launch so far?

We’re pretty happy with the launch so far. We kind of understood that not everyone was going to like this spin-off of Katamari because, well, it’s definitely different!

Our goal was to refresh the experience for mobile and expand the idea of what it means to be the strangest and quirkiest snowball simulator.

Many idle game players and people new to Katamari have been leaving many positive reviews in the store which reassures me we’re on the right track.

What can you tell us about your plans for the game?

I can’t say too much right now, but we definitely have plans to add more late-game content based on feedback we’ve been getting on our game’s subreddit board.

Stay tuned!

Former Editor

Ric was formerly the Editor of Pocket Gamer and the Deputy Editor of PocketGamer.biz. He still pops up time to time to review games.

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