Case Study: Pro Arena Table Tennis

Hello Olivier! It is a great pleasure to welcome back one of the ShiVa veterans who have been using our engine pretty much from the beginning. Your latest game “Pro Arena Table Tennis” has just been released on iOS to excellent reviews. It looks great and plays even better - very realistic indeed. You must be a player in real life, or how did you capture the sport so accurately?

After finishing Dinky Ball 2, I decided to make a PingPong game. Everyone likes PingPong! It is a great sport accessible to all ages, it is a lot of fun and - best of all for a game developer - it can be made into a game with very few graphical assets, so it could potentially run on a wide range of mobile devices.
I did a little research on the AppStore and discovered that all available PingPong games were really bad! They neither looked nor played like real PingPong. In the real world, the balls can reach incredible speeds, and no game captured this accurately. So my objective was simple: I wanted to make the best and most realistic PingPong game where the balls would move at their true speeds and behave like their real world counterparts. I wanted to make the Virtua Tennis of PingPong.

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Developing a support system for the paddle was quite a challenge. My system allows you to catch the ball with ease but also applies direction to the ball after the strike. You have three buttons to choose your shot: A defensive chop which cuts the ball long or short, an aggressive Topspin which is connected to a gauge that allows you to trigger a SuperTopspin when it is filled up, and finally, a defensive move which returns the ball even at 3 meters away from the table.

On your website, you list a couple of statistics about your game: 200 opponents to unlock, 15 tables to play, and over 500 days of development... wow! Such a long development time is practically unheard of in the mobile space. How did that happen?

Indeed, the development process was long, mostly due to the fact that I worked alone on this project. I did the code, the gameplay, the HUD, testing, etc all by myself, which is a bit inconvenient. Using a game engine such as Shiva helps a lot here, because everything is brought together in a single tool which allows you to test ideas and new concepts quickly.

I also did a lot of playtesting to balance the game out, since each opponent has about twenty different settings to adjust. Fortunately, Shiva exports your game almost instantly to your mobile device, so you can test each iteration under real-world conditions (framerate, gameplay, handling, etc) without much delay.

I loved your earlier titles like Dinky Ball and Dinky Ball 2 and still play them to this day, even years after their original release. You seem to be having a gift for creating timeless games with high replayability. It is also interesting to me that you are one of the few developers who are not publishing “free” (ad-supported) games - does offering paid-only versions generate enough downloads to support your studio?

I have never published a free game. The game of pingpong could be freemium with advertising, but I have no experience in that area. I have not published a new game since Dinky Ball 2 in August 2013, so it is difficult for me to judge the market accurately. We have sold almost 6000 copies of the first Dinky Ball, but when it was made free temporarily as an experiment, it has been downloaded 100,000 times in one day. We should investigate this option in the future.

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Your game is an iOS exclusive. Over the last few years, the App Store has become an increasingly crowded marketplace with hundreds of thousands of games to choose from. That has made many developers branch out to other platforms like Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and so on - not you. What makes the Apple mobiles so attractive to you?

Pirogue Studio has been developing games for iOS since the very beginning of the mobile games movement, as the AppStore was first viable mobile platform open to developers like us. Other platforms like Android, Windows Phone, etc. needed a lot of time to become credible and viable alternatives. Each platform is different enough that it requires you to invest time and effort to understand the specifics, the environment, the market, and so forth.

It is true that ShiVa allows you to export to almost any platform with ease, that is why we are planning to bring all our games to Android in the coming months.

ShiVa 2.0 is in beta right now and scheduled for release in the not too distant future. We hope you will be as productive with high-quality content in 2.0 as you were with our previous editor! What are you looking forward to the most, and what is your top wishlist feature?

Of course I am looking forward to ShiVa 2.0! I have used the latest beta to build Pro Arena Table Tennis for the AppStore, which worked well. It would have been easier for me though if I could have used the “full” 2.0 package, especially the code editor, during the finalization process. So I am waiting impatiently for the rest of the modules to arrive. The new interface is very promising, I like its openness and the ability to customize it completely.

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And finally, where can we get Pro Arena Table Tennis, how much does it cost, and are you planning on porting the game to other platforms than mobiles?

Pro Arena Table Tennis is on the App Store for over a week now. The reviews are very, very positive. The price is low enough so everyone can access and enjoy it. You can get it directly from Apple through the App Store or iTunes:

itunes.apple.com/us/app/pro-arena-table-tennis

I hope everyone in the community buys a copy, so we at Pirogue Studio can all continue to develop great games with ShiVa!

There is a good chance that we will be porting Pro Arena Table Tennis to Android in the very near future, along with our games Dinky Ball 2 and 7m Handball Contest.

Thank you very much for the interview! We wish you all the best with Pro Arena Table Tennis as well as your future endeavours!

Thank you ShiVa Team for making it possible for small studios such as mine to create the games they imagine!


About Pirogue Studio

Pirogue Studio is an independent video game development studio, located in Montpellier (France) and established in 2007.

The studio is currently managed by its founder Olivier Diaz, who has worked in the video game industry for more than 20 years. He is the creative mind behind many well-known projects and successful games such as Préhistorik (Titus 1991, Atari St/Amiga/SNES/PC/Amstrad). For two years, Olivier worked with Michel Ancel at Ubisoft on titles such as Rayman 2 - The Great Escape, Rayman 3, and Beyond Good and Evil (PC/N64/PS1/PS2). He cofounded the Yéti/Tiwak company to develop Tork Prehistoric Punk for Microsoft. The repurchase of Tiwak by Ubisoft offered him the opportunity to open a new studio, Pirogue Studio.

Follow Pirogue Studio: facebook.com/PirogueStudio