After we had spent some time on the initial development work, I started to think about graphics and applying a style to the game, so I hired my friend Phil to do the artwork. The initial idea was that the game was going to be based around serving people; they were going to have dynamically generated faces to give it a bit of variety, but after some initial sketches I felt it would still have looked a bit plain.
I wanted it to look a little out of the ordinary, and take advantage of Phil's illustration style, so at some point (I can't remember where the idea came from) the decision was made to replace the people with monsters and the "regular" ingredients with the kinds of things I would expect those monsters to eat. The name Beastie Burgers followed shortly afterwards.
After trying to explain the game to Phil, it was also clear that we needed to define the game in a bit more detail, so I wrote out our first game design document.
This was an invaluable exercise as it meant we always had something to refer back to with our stop/start development, and it meant that we could actually assess what was still left to do, rather than guessing.
Once we had the graphics in and the main gameplay in place, we did some user testing using the First Impressions service from Flash Game License.
When I read the initial feedback, I was very disappointed. I wasn't expecting amazing feedback because at that time, the version we submitted had no audio and no tutorial. I just wasn't expecting the feedback to be as bad as it was.
At that stage it also didn't have the story mode; it was just you in the kitchen, cooking burgers for monsters. People loved the graphics, but hated the game. The problem was, nobody could figure out what was going on, got frustrated and dismissed it as rubbish. With hindsight, I am not surprised people didn't like it, but at the time I was a little gutted.
However, I went through the various reviews we had received and reading between the lines realized that the reason people didn't like it was not only that they couldn't figure out what to do, but they had no sense of purpose as to why they were doing it. It was clear to me that as well as adding the missing audio and tutorial, we would need to add a back story to tie everything together.
With my newfound, enlightenment I went through everything and rewrote the game design document from start to finish. I thought up a back story for the main character Raoul and got to work devising the tutorial steps to teach people how to play the game.
When I sat down and really thought the story through, it became obvious what should be in the game and what wasn't relevant. However, I did get a bit carried away and in the process of writing down all of my thoughts. When I was done writing what the game should be, I'd managed to triple the scope of the whole game.
After discussing all my "amazing new plans" with Emma and Phil, they were a little skeptical. Emma thought we should keep the game down to a minimum, whereas I wanted to add all the features I thought it needed to be "complete".
In the end, I realized if we built everything I had thought of, it would actually take forever. So I compromised, removed some features and settled on adding the tutorial, the intro animation (so players knew why they were cooking the burgers), the story mode (with a map to navigate to each of the locations) and the achievements system.
So on that basis, we continued with development and eventually got the game to where it is today. I submitted the game back to the First Impressions service for more feedback and this time round the results were much better. The reviews that came back were very positive overall and I felt much better about having gone through the whole process.
All in all, because we had developed the game in small chunks (a little here and there when we had the time) the total build time was 18 months from start to finish. If we had built it in one chunk (and planned it properly), it would have been much, much less.
As I mentioned previously, when we began building the game it was intended as a portfolio piece. At the time I didn't realize that there were Flash game developers out there making real money by building games and getting them sponsored, but as development progressed I realized that the prospect of selling a Flash game was a very real one. I got quite excited about the thought that maybe we could operate as a company, just building our own Flash games -- how awesome would that be?
When we finally submitted it to Flash Game License for sponsorship at the beginning of October 2008, it had had good reviews from the community there. As that was backed up by the recent First Impressions ratings, I was hopeful for a good deal.
In the end, when we did agree to a deal, I was a bit disappointed by the process. I was told by one of the FGL team that they had expected the game to sell for more than it did, but I guess sponsors just weren't that into it. Maybe the timing was wrong, maybe sponsors were nervous about us being a "new" developer, maybe they just thought it was crap. Now all we had to do was release it, and see if they were right.