Donut County: Quick Porting from PC to Nintendo Switch
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Each new platform helps expand the audience and engage new passionate gamers for your title. The well-chosen platform in combination with an accurate and timely porting can turn into a key to success for your game in the long-term perspective. In this article we would like to share some useful tips on how to approach the project of porting your game over to Nintendo Switch based on our experience with Donut County – the fastest turnkey porting we ever did.
Why games like Donut County are best candidates for blitz porting
Donut County, developed by Ben Esposito and published by Annapurna Interactive, is a fascinating and outstanding story-filled puzzle game. The main idea is that you play as a mysterious hole in the ground, that actually is remotely controlled by a raccoon, and try to steal people’s trash along with everything else. The game was highly rated by industry peers and got two nominations in prestigious The Game Awards 2018. In addition, Apple has already named its best apps and games of 2018, and an extremely popular Donut County became the winner in category iPhone Game of the Year.
The decision to port this game to a Nintendo portable console was well backed by the game characteristics. The heart of the game is its exceptional and inspirational story as well as stylish and compelling visual component. At the same time, the game isn’t overly complicated in terms of mechanics and extra graphic details. There was no need to rework models, add LODs or downgrade the graphics at all. All this made it possible to port Donut County to Switch without any compromises and ensure the gamers will be able to enjoy Donut County with the same performance and framerate as on any other platform of their choosing.
The other reason that made the porting process well determined and predictable, was the fact that the Unity engine (with which Donut County was created) is quite compatible with Nintendo Switch. Nintendo Switch is one of the target platforms for Unity and some of the major compatibility and optimization issues that might come up, have been taken into account on the stage of Switch creation. This farsighted collaboration between two giants makes porting Unity-made games to Switch rather smooth in most cases.
How to set up the processes for a short-term porting project
Having different porting projects in our portfolio (check out our recent ABZÛ project), we can definitely say that even short-term projects with highly compatible technologies always have some challenging moments behind the scenes and require solid technical expertise. For publishers like Annapurna Interactive, it is critically important that the external team perfectly meets strict deadlines and ensures a clear delivery process. So, after the main conception of the project was adopted by the stakeholders, both teams distinctly determined and agreed on the key milestones of the project cycle and definitions of done. In Donut County case the terms of the project were rather tight due to the publisher’s decision to release the game on Nintendo Switch together with Xbox in December.
To guarantee the max efficiency of the project execution, Room 8 team applies the agile project management methodology, which is at the core of our collaboration with partners. It is essential to ensure very frequent iterations with valuable increments in each delivery. We were focusing on more critical items first in order to receive feedback early on in the process and make sure that the end result fully meets the expectations. The team appreciates Annapurna’s extremely timely and comprehensive feedback that helped a lot to ensure the expected result. We cherish the culture of co-creation with the partners, that is impossible without transparency, alignment, and accountability in each stage of the process.
The biggest roadblocks on the way
Donut County shows excellent performance on PC/Mac for which it was actually designed, but the possibility to transfer it to another platform in the future wasn’t considered at that time. Therefore, the major efforts of the project team were applied to platform adaptation: profiling and optimizing game shaders in order to improve the performance of the game on Switch and to ensure the smooth and enjoyable gameplay experience with the same dynamic mode as on the original console.
Another challenge was the touch and gamepad controls optimization. At the moment we started the porting process, Donut County already existed on iOS platform and supported the latest version of touch controls. So, to ensure smooth and correct work of both control systems and allow gamers to have the fully natural gameplay experience either with joy-cons or touchscreen on Nintendo Switch, we worked a lot on controls configuration.
Our experienced QA team did multiple tests to check these different controls as standalone components as well as the whole system in general to guarantee the expected senses like vibration and other. In addition, we updated the SDK to support the latest Switch platform features.
Store submission support as the final stage of the project
At Room 8 we provide our partners with qualified full cycle services and support them through all stages of the project. The final milestone in Donut County project was the submission to the Nintendo game store. This process usually takes around a month and requires a detailed description of each game feature for testing purposes. Keeping in mind the release date, we worked closely with Annapurna Interactive team and succeeded in passing the Nintendo Submission on time.
The bottom line: how to make porting a reasonable investment in unlocking new audiences
For those who are targeting to reach new audiences for existing titles, porting to Nintendo Switch is one of the best choices to engage passionate gamers in a short term. If your title is successful on the original platform, has simple mechanics and graphics that will not require lots of downgrades, is made with Unity or Unreal engine – it is possible to port it over to Switch in 2-3 months. Bringing the expertise of an external development team with properly configured processes and pipelines based on industry best practices will help you execute your porting project and turn it to a reasonable investment acquiring new audiences for existing games while securing your in-house team for new exciting titles.
As a certified Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox developer, Room 8 Studio can offer porting to these platforms as well as developing games from scratch. The team can support you on all stages starting with estimating the time and resources required for porting your game over to Nintendo Switch, analyze all spots that can potentially cause operational gaps and delays, actual delivery and store submission.
Have a project in mind? Let's discuss how we can leverage our experience to successfully port your game to Nintendo Switch.