[In Ryan Rigney's new book Buttonless: Incredible iPhone And iPad Games, he looks at the genesis behind more than 65 titles for Apple's iOS platform, such as Canabalt, Angry Birds, Words With Friends and more. In this excerpt Gamasutra presents a look at the unusual story of Nimble Strong, a game inspired by Cooking Mama, Phoenix Wright, and New York City cocktail culture.]
Platform: iPhone/iPod Touch
Developer: Nimble Strong LLC
Released: July 10, 2010
So here's the story: you're a total screw-up. You've lost both your wife and your best friend, and you have no job. Somehow you manage to land your sorry self a position as a bartender at a local pub. The only problem is, you have no idea how to mix drinks -- ANY drinks. Fortunately, outside knowledge of cocktail mixing isn't required because your patrons will happily teach you how to make them.
During the game your customers will saunter up, tell their stories (which are usually pretty interesting, surprisingly enough), and order drinks. There are over 70 drinks in the game, and the ingredients are all at your disposal. In order to make the requested drink you'll have to know the actual recipe, and that's where your patrons come in handy.
The rest of your challenge is pouring the correct amount of each ingredient into a glass, which you do by holding anywhere on the screen. The goal is to pour just the right amount in one try, and that can sometimes be pretty difficult. Nimble Strong: Bartender in Training is educational and entertaining, since it's essentially a bartending class wrapped up in a fun, Phoenix Wright-style puzzle game.
Adam Ghahramani had just launched his big new site (theOtaku.com), and he was exhausted. Ghahramani decided to allow himself a one-month vacation in Vancouver, where he spent time exploring the sights and thinking about what he should do next.
Ghahramani had heard that gaming legend Will Wright (creator of The Sims, Sim City, and Spore) was giving a lecture at a local university, so he wangled his way in by getting a press pass. Wright, who is known for his eloquence, delivered a powerful speech that Ghahramani called inspiring.
"I left it amped up with the confidence that maybe my web experience and wealth of game industry/gaming expertise could translate into actually making a game," he says.
As he walked back, Ghahramani thought about what sort of game he'd like to make. He knew that he wanted it to be for the iPhone because the development cost would be low, he'd have control over the distribution, and the App Store was beginning to take off.
He also knew that he wanted to do something in an anime/Japanese style. That wouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone -- Ghahramani's recently launched theOtaku.com later grew into one of the web's most popular sites for Japanese anime.
Ghahramani had already been thinking a lot about educational games like Cooking Mama and Wii Fit. He was inspired by those games' ability to entertain while teaching, but says that the games are too dumbed-down to be counted as truly valuable educational tools.
"All these thoughts were circling in my head," says Ghahramani. "Suddenly, I was struck by inspiration when I saw a sign outside a building advertising a bartending class for a few hundred dollars. The spark of an idea set in and it became a possibility."
Ghahramani came up with other game ideas, but says that an educational bartending game was the idea he kept coming back to. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it. He decided that the best way to make the game interesting and educational would be to add in story elements. "I wanted to make a darker game, something that retained the quirkiness of a Japanese-style game but with the dark neo-noir feeling of a more Western title," Ghahramani says.