The process of creating a game is difficult, long, and stressful.
No matter the size of the game or how long it ultimately takes to make, each new title involves a lot of hard work, tough decisions, and a little bit of luck before it even gets out the door and onto devices.
And that's only the first step to making the title succeed.
To highlight the extensive work that goes unseen in the background, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to developers to learn more about the process of releasing a video game, with our 'Making Of' series.
This week, we spoke with Game Doctor’s founder and CEO Carla Brown about the development of Remedy Quest, and how the game aims to spread positivity and awareness, reduce anxiety, and improve COVID prevention behaviours.
PocketGamer.biz: Where did the initial idea for Remedy Quest come from?
Carla Brown: At Game Doctor, we develop mobile games that inform players on health. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a real need for educational materials for young people.
We received Innovate UK funding to make a game for this purpose. To understand what this should look like, we carried out research with this demographic.
Our survey data (March 2020) showed that teenagers and young people felt invincible towards the virus as only 17 per cent thought they would catch it.
However, 80 per cent expressed anxiety about when a "cure" would be developed.
Young people felt invincible towards the virus as only 17 per cent thought they would catch itCarla Brown
As a data-driven studio, we wanted to make a game that would address these issues and provide a positive experience where players could create their own cure and learn about how the virus works. This was the beginning of Remedy Quest.
We were inspired by the lungs for our game world but wanted to detach the game from death. To achieve this we created a fantastical world and personified our remedies and vaccine characters to create a positive and powerful environment.
We picked the casual gaming genre as it aligned with the budget and timelines we were working with and wanted a game that could be picked up and mastered quickly.
We were inspired by games like Worms, Pikmin for the mechanics, and Botanical and Etherborn influenced the art style.
How long did development take, and how many people worked on the game?
We have a core team of four (developer, artist, designer/producer, and marketing/business development) with support from an audio producer and animator.
In addition to the core team, we had consultancy support from a psychologist and COVID-19 researchers from across the UK. We also worked with three schools from Scotland and England, who tested our prototypes throughout the build.
We started the project on June 1st, 2020, and released our beta on Google Play on November 1st.
Everything was done remotely over Slack and Zoom which was interesting.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during development?
The biggest challenge was publication. Apple was very strict about publishing COVID-19 related content which meant our game was knocked back until very recently after receiving Apple approvals in August 2021.
This meant we could only publish on Google Play for the first 8 months which limited the number of users and players we could reach in Q1 and Q2.
We made it work though and still managed to reach our target user base for the beta.
It was more important for us to get real-time feedback from playersCarla Brown
Other challenges included testing the game remotely and working to a very tight budget and deadline.
As the project was funded by Innovate UK it meant we had to stick to specific timelines and milestones. It was challenging but kept us focused.
At what stage in development did you feel you had a game that you were happy with?
We took a lean start-up approach to this project and decided to release the game before we were 100 per cent happy with it.
It was more important for us to get real-time feedback from players and get our educational content to the community than develop a perfect product.
It was a big risk but overall it has worked in our favour as we established a small user base, gathered invaluable feedback and really insightful data from our analytics.
This data is informing our next update, and helping us improve our analytics to support health organisations with COVID strategies.
Who is the intended audience for Remedy Quest and why?
Our target audience for the game ages between 8 to 16. We wanted to create a game that would spread positivity and awareness, reduce anxiety and also improve COVID prevention behaviours.
We wanted to create a game that would spread positivity and awareness, reduce anxiety and also improve COVID prevention behavioursCarla Brown
Interestingly, during our Google Play pilot we also attracted lots of adult players. This has highlighted the potential for Remedy Quest to be expanded into a product for a wider audience in the casual gaming market.
What can you tell us about your plans in terms of updates (if any)?
We are currently updating the game to improve gameplay, storyline and experience for our players. The game will be far less 'COVID' and more general around vaccines and infections.
The biggest feature update is that we are changing the gameplay and storyline to include more characters to help players have an emotional connection with the game and vaccine development.
We have created two species of characters for this:
The first is The Guardians who are God-like characters that provide powers (remedies) to the players to fight the infectious agents (obviously the vaccine guardian is our favourite!).
Secondly, there are The Ornals, Inhabitants of our mystical world that must be protected from the infectious invaders.
We are also updating the analytics to help us measure learning and attitudes towards vaccines.
We are releasing the second update in late autumn.
What can you tell us about your future mobile projects?
Our biggest goal is to expand Remedy Quest into a gaming platform to improve health engagement and literacy. We aim to use our world and characters to engage players with mental health and other health conditions.
Our second goal is to use the data generated from our gaming platform for good, and help organisations better understand the health of populations.
We recently completed a gaming contract with The Babraham Institute where we made them a pandemic simulator game based on the research data of their scientists.
Find out more about Game Doctor via its website.