SoftSource Consulting and MetaArcade Travel Through Time Together
How do you take a pen and paper dice game from the 1970s and translate it into a modern digital medium without losing the integrity of the game?
This was the challenge presented to the SoftSource Consulting development team by David Reid, CEO of MetaArcade, a gaming development company. Reid had a vision to bring new life to one of the beloved dice rulebook games of the past, Tunnels & Trolls. He wanted to digitally remaster Tunnels & Trolls and develop an online gaming platform that allowed gamers to enjoy role-playing adventures on mobile devices and other platforms, anytime and anywhere.
When selecting a software development team for this venture, Reid looked to SoftSource’s expertise with the Unity game development platform and proven success with adapting to clients’ needs. When he spoke with Steven Gray, SoftSource Consulting CEO, he liked Gray’s philosophy for managing development projects and focus on the client relationship.
“It struck me from the beginning that SoftSource was looking to establish a partnership,” says Reid. “That, more than anything, made it easy for me to choose them from the group of vendors we approached.”
Reviving the Past
Thus, the MetaArcade Adventures Platform was born, and Naked Doom became the first adventure for the Tunnels & Trolls digital game. Now players of all ages have the chance to experience the legendary solo-adventure game while enjoying new benefits, like playing the game on mobile devices. Players create characters, roll virtual dice, and choose from multiple adventure storylines, playable on a variety of platforms.
Transforming a 40-year-old pen and paper dice game into a digital medium was certainly a challenge. But the SoftSource team, including software architect Chad Riddle and art director Adam Womble, figured out a way to do just that in only 10 weeks, while staying true to the spirit of the original role-playing game.
“We’re time travelers,” says Womble. “Without ruining it,” adds Gray.
To create the new gaming platform, SoftSource software architect Chad Riddle leveraged their own Simple Bind Unity tool, a data binding component. Riddle used Simple Bind to rapidly build a sophisticated, data-driven user interface for the Naked Doom adventure.
Game Development as a Business Application
The team took a unique business application approach to the game’s development. Reid envisions the game evolving into a content management system, more in line with a typical business application.
Extending the MetaArcade Adventures Platform to become a content creation platform enables players to write their own interactive stories and sell them on a marketplace for other players to share. To enable this, the SoftSource team developed Tunnels & Trolls on the Unity game platform leveraging all the design patterns and best practices that their consultants typically use while building out enterprise software solutions for other clients.
“Even though this happens to be a game, we developed it quickly because we treated it as a data-intensive business application that just happens to show game content,” says Gray. “We knew rapid time-to-market was important to our client.”
The team committed to an impressive 10-week turnaround for the game’s development, and they delivered on time. The project had a hard deadline so Reid could demonstrate the game to potential players at a national game conference. SoftSource failing to deliver on time was not an option.
Staying on Track with Proven Methods
The team attributes their delivery success to an adherence to their standard Agile software development methodology. Like any development project, challenges presented themselves, including changing requirements, third-party sound integration, and the constant challenge of converting the original game model to an online format while preserving the spirit of the game. Steady, regular communication was key to keeping the project on time.
“Communication was an absolute requirement in this project,” says Riddle. “Lines of communication stayed open very well throughout the project.”
Because of the short timeframe for product delivery, the team chose quick, single-week development sprints. The SoftSource team provided MetaArcade with weekly build deliveries, and all the calls via Skype, phone, or email would be formalized into Jira, maintaining accountability throughout the process.
“The team did a great job of taking all of those channels, formalizing them into a point of responsibility, and then maintaining and tracking it,” says Womble.
Distributed physical location of the teams proved to be a non-issue. With the SoftSource team located in Portland, Oregon and MetaArcade in Seattle, Washington, the two groups found that multiple communication mediums offered ample opportunities for both parties to effectively connect whenever necessary.
Indeed, the results speak for themselves. The prototype that Reid brought to a recent gaming convention held up without crashing for more than 500 demonstrations over four days. In addition to the Android tablets used at the convention, the game runs smoothly on iOS, PC, and Mac platforms.
“It’s a testament to good clean code that a project which came together so quickly is able to run this well across a range of devices and platforms,” says Reid. “It’s been a terrific partnership from my perspective.”
And the game industry is taking notice of the results as well — the game won the Best of Show Award for Mobile MMO or RPG at the recent PAX West game conference. In addition to being fun to play, MMORPG.com described the game as “well-made” with players looking forward to extending game-play with their own adventures.
Unity Development Made Easier with Simple Bind
Simple Bind from SoftSource Consulting provides a MVVM-style binding experience for Unity applications. Simple Bind lets Unity developers easily implement powerful binding functionality similar to WPF, AngularJS, and other MV* frameworks.
Simple Bind provides a simple pattern for implementing data templates within Unity using the Core Components and the concept of Unity Prefabs.
- Property binding
- Event binding to Unity Events
- Inheritable BindingContext (data context)
- Editor for easy configuration of bindings
- Value Converters/Multi-Value Converters
- Built-in Value Converters (int to string, double to string, etc.)
- Built-in Multi-Value Converters (doubles to string, RGB to color)
- Data bound controls (Items Control, List Box, Tooltip)
- Easily create data bound Item Templates
- Compatible with Android and iOS