Golden Monkey Media Interview
Sean Henry of Golden Monkey Media has shared with App Apes some insightful information on the indie game developer’s history, the process of developing the iOS app Noodles Now, a game with a lot of planning and complexity involved behind the scenes, as well as some tips for other indie game developers, and an idea of what the future hopefully holds for his media company.
Sean Henry doesn’t have a lot of experience with game development, per se, but he could fool many players with his first game, Noodles Now, a unique and well developed endless runner with a three layer, 3-D, delivery driver twist. Though Sean doesn’t have a lot of experience in game development, he has extensive experience in doing transactional entertainment distribution for movies and sporting events. He also has decades of experience in programming, much of it apparently involving artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, Sean states that the traffic routes in the game were based on some work he did as a graduate student at John Hopkins University. “The original work,” Sean explains, “was published as ‘Using Hierarchies of Macro Cells to Linearize Search Costs for Real Time Route Planning'” So, how did this lead to creating a fun, visually appealing game? Sean finally decided he wanted to create–to make something wholly his own–rather than promote someone else’s projects, and the result of that is the well received Noodles Now for iOS, in which he spent a year developing. Sean expands that he “thought that [the route system] would be more accessible to the public by using flying scooters and noodle delivery!” This illustrates Sean’s talent in knowing his audience, which in the case of Noodles Now is the layman gamer. He asserts that the game is really a causal but challenging form of fun for everyone. With no violence, intuitive controls, challenging game play, as well as a unique twist on the genre, we at App Apes can agree.The game certainly does provide a challenge, which many people crave. Sean says it best when he ambitiously states, “The game is the hardest conceivable puzzle a human can imagine: you are zooming around in 3-D space, dodging flying traffic and tackling an unsolvable artificial intelligence puzzle (the traveling salesman problem). The interesting thing is that after people play it for an hour or so, their brains adapt and they start putting together complex patterns going above and below cars, around corners and making U-turns to reach their delivery points.”
As for inspiration, Sean Henry cites Plants vs. Zombies 2, Monument Valley, and Infinity Blade, for various reasons. He likes Plants vs. Zombies 2 because it has elements of humor, a clean, appealing design, and is “a nice improvement on the original,” which he admits is a good game in and of itself. He admires the minimalist aspect of Monument Valley, and the way it manages to maintain a unique personality at the same time. Finally, he believes that Infinity Blade was a “good demonstration of the Unreal Engine on mobile devices,” a gaming engine that has been around since 1988 with the game Unreal, and has gone through several versions. This is the engine Sean used for part of Noodles Now. He explains, “the core of the game was the Unreal Engine, but I had to create my own editor and routing software to handle the hundreds of vehicles that I have flying around and dodging each other in the ‘Noodles’ worlds.”
Sean Henry is no stranger to facing obstacles. He claims that in his year developing Noodles Now, the biggest of these challenges lay in creating the visually engaging environments. He also struggled but finally created the game play he was hoping to achieve. A final challenge that he mentions is that of file size for cell phone compatibility. He found it difficult to fit such a large city and hundreds of flying cars into the strict file size required by the iOS market, but he succeeded in bringing Noodles Now to Apple.
Sean describes his recent creation, Noodles Now, as an “offshoot of endless runners,” and suggests it be called a “mission-based runner.” The game has the feel of an endless runner, but also provides achievable end points in each mission. Sean states that “Unlike the randomly-generated environments in endless runners, [Noodles Now has] delivery areas of about one-hundred city blocks each that the player can explore and learn. The deliveries for each mission are different, but [players] get to use the same area for sixteen missions so that [they] can learn and explore each region.” Most of all, Sean wanted to avoid the pitfall of endless runners. That being that the player always loses eventually. In Noodles Now, players still have to try and stay alive, picking up sky lanterns and dodging hovering cars, but they also have to make a certain number of noodle delivers, and if they do this, they progress, ultimately winning the game. Sean gives a final nod, in relation of his game, to science fiction fans, in saying ” you get to zoom around on a flying scooter in a futuristic city! What more could a player want?”
As for tips for other indie Developers, Sean responds in a way that we at App Apes stand behind fully, “Don’t clone an existing game.” You aren’t really creating if what you make is simply a copy. People don’t respect those that simply trace the Mona Lisa, and they don’t respect those that slap a pixel bird over some Mario plumber tubes and call it Flappy Bird 2.0. Sean suggests that while developers should strive to create new and fresh games, they should be careful not to bite off more than they can chew. He wisely suggests that you “don’t attempt make something so ambitious that you cannot complete it,” and to “carefully pick the scope of the game you want to make.” As for Sean, he is making the exact type of game that interests him the most, and hopes this is reflected in the gaming experience. In a way, this is advice he gives through practice rather than mere words, and it seems to have served him well.
Finally, when asked about the future of Golden Monkey Media and Noodles Now, Sean says that he would love it if Noodles Now became popular enough to help support him as he develops additional mission-based runners, using his experience of programming and knowledge of audience desires to make the future projects as unique and challenging as his first, no doubt. So, gamers, try your hand at making futuristic deliveries in the Game Noodles Now for iOS, and check out our App Apes review of the game by clicking the link below. Find out more about Noodles Now and Golden Monkey Media on their website.