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August 17, 2019
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Get an Inside Look on Sports Party Co-Development for Nintendo Switch with Ubisoft

by Veronika Chebotareva on 01/30/19 09:20:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

If you ever marveled at Nintendo’s vivid video games and interested in its development process – now you have an opportunity to find it out! Sports Party, the long-awaited highly interactive game developed by Magic Pockets and published by Ubisoft is available since October 30th, exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. The whole Room 8 Studio team is super thankful to Ubisoft for the opportunity to work on this amazing title and be the part of the project! Read on our success story on Sports Party collaboration to find out how external co-development partner can support your project providing multiple solutions and deliver secured game release on time and budget!

To Develop, or Not on Nintendo Switch, That Is Not the Question

The breakaway success of Nintendo Switch is, of course, a big factor. Numbers don’t lie, only in operating profit for the year Nintendo earned $1.62 billion! There’s no reason to believe that hardware sales are going to slow, and new buyers this year and during the holiday season will undoubtedly want to pick up the released titles for the console, too. It is reasonable that massive publishers like Ubisoft want to capture this significant chunk of spendings as well.

When our friends from Ubisoft asked us to help with Sports Party, we realized that there would be challenges when developing a game for the new platform. Despite the fact, we weren’t familiar with the Switch hardware; we were confident we could tackle it and proved it during the test stage on Jet Ski®. Overall we helped to deliver three out of six outdoor sports: basketball (secondary mode), skateboarding (main and secondary modes), and golf (main mode) evolving to cover more needs and co-create both with Ubisoft and Magic Pockets.

Challenges Overcome During the Project

Setting up the camera. It took us several months until we got a playable version. There was a unique challenge to solve – the camera movement, which is essential to make players feel comfortable, e.g. while skateboarding, but not causing nausea side effects. Our development team spent quite a lot of time on polishing and performance optimization based on feedback from the game designer. Next in a row were basketball and golf, where we fully assist in re-shaping the whole Game Design Document contributing creatively and sharing our accumulated expertise.

Not Unity. Technically, Unity is a perfect tool to build games so you won’t spend a lot of time on writing code for stuff that already exists in the engine and can be used outside of the box. So, another yet, particular challenge that Room 8 Studio accepted and successfully handled was about custom engine and tools. Sports Party runs on Magic Pockets Engine. It was pretty challenging, but the overall development process had run smoothly. However, it took some time to make sure the team study all the possible pitfalls of Magic Pockets Engine and get used to it. In addition, Magic Pockets provided our team with a custom tool to create an environment and arrange the props as well as other elements.

Kids are not grown-ups. Ubisoft created Sports Party for everyone and all ages. It is one of the reasons why this experienced games’ developer and publisher playtested it with the specific segment of the target audience – kids aged from 8 to 13 years. It turned out that children did not understand that controllers should be held vertically, e.g. in golf. Based on playtests’ feedback we were able to come up with new ideas on how to reform, e.g. the Help Screen. The opportunity to have real-time playtests is a considerable advantage. It allows to instantly re-prioritize the development scope and polish the ‘physics’ of the game.

Dream Team to Create Thrills and Spills

Leadership and personal contact. The modern agile co-development process heavily relies on pipelines and synchronization. Besides such best practices as weekly calls to review and verify that development is kept to the scope and timing, etc. it is always priceless to meet in person. Even for a short time to provide broader feedback and ensure the external team is on the same page. Such meetings also create opportunities to have team outings for fun activities. On one of the major milestones, Xavier Marot came over to our studio and worked with our team for a while. Things that would otherwise take several days to resolve over e-mails and video calls were handled immediately on the spot. It was extremely beneficial for the final quality of the game!

It was again a real pleasure to work with Room 8. Their support was decisive for the game and they provided high-quality work, not to mention their enthusiasm and dedication to the project. I was also very well welcomed when visiting their studio: the team was open to making changes through direct feedback and it was beneficial for the whole project,” – commented Xavier Marot, Line Producer at Ubisoft.

Communication is king. In the project with more than two parties involved well-established and transparent communication is a must. It means the project manager’s role is strategic because of the volume and complexity of communications doubles. It requires planning, organizing time and resources, management costs to successfully meet all the milestones and deadlines of both the developer and publisher at the same time. Project Manager double checks all the issues that may impact a project result, mitigates the risks, refines the work scope, makes sure only top quality service delivered on time. On top of that, Project Manager builds reliable and transparent communication between all stakeholders and teams involved.

Passion. Aside from working with the latest technologies which help to do great projects, it’s also about amazing people who make them. We at Room 8 Studio are doing much more to not only translate requirements into the clean and efficient code but to be into it as much as possible. We search for the best approaches to development, continuously improve the internal working process, advice on the best references, worldwide development and game design practices. We want the final result to be something on which we could take pride in and say: “Room 8 Studio made it!” Driven by this passion for games, commitment to tight feedback cycles and continuous improvement our professionals always go an extra mile to make suggestions and improve the game. The principle of contributing creatively rather than just controlling the quality upon specifications is the key to delivering extraordinary products.

Overall, when it comes to 100% milestones completion and superior quality of the game as a final product, choose a partner that cherishes long-term co-development collaboration and thinks product success in time/budget restrictions. We are excited about our partners’ products being released celebrating it together to promote the synergy of co-development. It’s still early days for Nintendo Switch, but Room 8 Studio is almost universally positive about the experience with it and found it to be a modern and pleasant platform to work with.

Have a project in mind? As a certified Nintendo Switch developer, Room 8 Studio can help to co-develop or develop it from scratch. Let's discuss how we can leverage our experience to successfully port your game to Nintendo Switch.


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