Interview with Get Set Games, creators of Mega Run and Mega Jump
After releasing two simple games, Toronto based Get Set Games found pay dirt in the critical and commercial smash-hit Mega Jump. Not content to rest on their laurels, they impressed everyone by continuing to add more content years after its release. While Mega Run isn’t exactly a sequel, it is the spiritual successor and includes the same characters and art style. Already loved by media outlets big and small, Mega Run is set to be an even bigger hit. Andy Smith from Get Set Games took some time out of his day to talk about Mega Run, Freemium pay structures, the future of Get Set Games, and their interest in OUYA.
GameWoof: Can you tell me a little bit about Get Set Games and yourself? How did you become interested in game development?
Get Set Games was founded in 2009 by four friends in Toronto Canada. While working together at a software company, the four of them decided to form a team for the (then) brand new Toronto Game Jam (http://tojam.ca). After 4 very successful TOJams (and 4 awesome games), the founders decided to try making games full time together. While I’m not one of the four founders, I met and became friends with each of them at the numerous TOJams over the years. After the initial success of Mega Jump, I joined Get Set Games as the first full-time employee.
GW: How has the journey of getting your start, developing a simple (but interesting) Celebrity to Tweet matching game, to becoming one of the leading independent game developers in the mobile realm, been?
There were actually two games made by Get Set before we found success with Mega Jump – Poptweets and Addicus. Poptweets is the Celebrity to Tweet matching game that you’ve mentioned and Addicus is a math-based action game. Both Poptweets and Addicus were created as games that we thought other people would really like. Oddly enough, we didn’t find our success until we made the type of game that we really wanted to play – Mega Jump.
GW: Mega Run is the sequel to the wildly successful Mega Jump. While the art style and characters have been brought over, the gameplay is significantly different. Can you explain why you went in that direction rather than a more direct, traditional, sequel?
Between the launch of Mega Jump and when we started development on Mega Run, we kept very busy by working on a tonne of updates for Mega Jump. At the time, the idea of creating another Mega Jump seemed entirely unnecessary, people loved the game and downloads for each update were higher than ever. Another thing that many people don’t know about Mega Run is that it began life all the way back in 2011. It was originally intended to be a very simple ‘endless-runner’ type game, but slowly evolved into the massive game that you see today. Now that Mega Jump is 3 years old, we’re starting to entertain the notion of a true sequel…
GW: Speaking of your characters, this is the first time you have carried them over from one game to another. Do you have more plans for Redford and friends? Do you hope for them to become a part of a long running franchise?
I’m certain that Mega Run will not be the last time that you get to see Redford and friends blasting across a screen!
GW: Redford and pals are really cute and full of character, is there anything you would like to tell our readers about them?
People who have been playing Mega Jump over the past 3 years will not be surprised by this, but we absolutely love to dress up and add new characters for holidays, seasons, events, you name it! We’ve had Santa Redford, Ghost Pepper, Pirate Sheldon, a snowman named Bryan, and moustaches on nearly everyone!
GW: What, if any, have been the difficulties of porting games from the iOS platform to Android?
The most difficult part of Android development is adding support for all of the devices that our fans are asking us to support. The strangest bugs will pop up even on the most popular devices. As an example, in the first builds of Mega Run we couldn’t seem to get text to appear on the Galaxy S2. Everything else ran great, but there would be no text anywhere in the game. That was a head-scratcher.
GW: Your games are generally released on iOS before Android, this seems common to a lot of developers. Can you give us any insight on why this is? What are the advantages and disadvantages to each platform?
The reason that both Mega Jump and Mega Run came out on iOS before Android is that we began as iOS developers. It’s what we know and what we’re best at. That being said, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about Android around the Get Set Games office and we are fully intending to ensure that our Android players don’t get updates months later than our iOS players and that the quality of the game is just as high! People playing the Android version of Mega Run will be able to see how serious about this we are.
GW: Can you give us any idea how long you plan to continue to add content to Mega Run? How many of these levels will be free and how many of them will cost money?
Its tough to say how long we’ll keep adding content to Mega Run, but as long as people are asking for it we’ll keep making it! We’ve been adding new content to Mega Jump regularly over the last 3 years, so if that’s any indication, there will always be something new to discover in Mega Run. It’s impossible to say how many of the new levels will be free and how many will be paid, but we always try to keep a good balance between the free content and the paid content. We’ve had great feedback from players on both.
GW: I have enjoyed your payment structure so far, very clean and non-intrusive. So many games these days are full of ads and ask you to install apps on your device that are questionable at best. Your approach is much more nuanced, fair, and unobtrusive. Best of all, it seems completely optional. How has this strategy been working out for you so far?
We’ve always tried to be the absolute best Free game on the Google Play store. We want people to be surprised that our games are free because they are such high quality. Based on the over 50 million people who have played Mega Jump or Mega Run, the strategy seems to be working pretty well!
GW: There was one issue with your payment structure that bothered me. You have offers of 50 dollars for both your in game currency and your pay only currency. Freemium games have been getting a bad rap recently because of stories of children spending thousands of dollars of their parents’ money on in-App purchases, and the practice is now under investigation in the U.K. In Mega Run, as is the case in many games, someone could easily spend hundreds of dollars and still not unlock everything. What options, if any, have you started or plan to start to prevent small children, who do not understand the value of a dollar, from unwittingly paying a small fortune of their parent’s money on your game?
This is an issue that we believe strongly in. We have been working on a number of approaches to prevent this exact thing from happening. The first thing that we’re working on is not letting players purchase currency if they have enough in the bank to buy the most expensive items. If the player tries to purchase the $20 pack twice, we’ll tell them to go spend their currency on the things that they want and to come back when they actually need more.
Through talking with parents we’ve come to realize that most children who rack up these huge bills aren’t actually spending the currency, they are just repeatedly tapping the ‘buy’ button. The second thing that we’re working on is a simple ‘cool-down’ timer on currency purchases. After buying one pack of currency, the player will need to wait a few minutes before they can buy another.
Both of these solutions will be finding their way into Mega Run and Mega Jump this summer.
GW: In a more general sense, what do you feel about this issue? Does the responsibility fall completely on the parents or do the developers and publishers of games have a responsibility as well? Is having the option in your cell phone\device to restrict purchases enough? Should or could developers add another layer of protection for parents?
I think this is an issue that should be solved on all 3 sides – the game makers, the platform developers, and the parents. Platform developers can help through the ‘restrict in-app purchase’ options, game makers can help by paying attention to how children interact with their games, and parents can help by educating themselves. Parents should be aware that in-app purchases exist and that they have the option to disable them.
GW: Almost from the start Mega Run was compared to Sonic, however after playing your game I couldn’t help but feel it was more similar to Donkey Kong Country. When you were in a groove and flying through a level in Donkey Kong Country, it was a similar pace to Mega Run. Can you tell me what games you drew your inspiration from when developing Mega Run?
During the development of Mega Run we were looking at games like Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, New Super Mario Bros., etc. We really wanted to recreate the feeling of weight and speed that you can only find with the best platformers. Surprisingly, we also fell in love with how explosive Kirby’s Return to Dreamland is. You can see that influence in the way that almost everything you touch in-game explodes with fantastic particle effects.
GW: Beyond just the development of Mega Run, can you tell me what games influenced you as a developer? What were some of your favorite games growing up?
There is such a huge variety of game influences for everyone at Get Set Games. We have someone who has spent hundreds of hours in MMOs, a few people who have spent hundreds of hours in Team Fortress 2, someone who thinks gaming peaked with the SNES, guys who play Facebook games, guys who love game stories, guys who only play multiplayer games, etc. I think it’s the different tastes of the team that really makes Get Set Games as great as it is.
GW:What is next for Get Set Games? Do you have anything you are ready to talk about yet? If not, can you give us an idea of the general direction you want to go in?
This year we’re hoping to release 2 brand new games and a surprising number of updates to Mega Jump and Mega Run. 2013 is shaping up to be a very good year for us!
GW: Do you have any plans to release your games onto one of the Android Consoles (OUYA, GameStick, NvidaShield)? On one hand the simple one-button input controls of Mega Run make a physical controller unnecessary, but on the other hand seeing the artwork on a big screen could look really nice.
We have an OUYA in the office and are absolutely planning on getting Mega Run released on it! We’ve been playing with it for a few weeks now and Mega Run looks fantastic!
GW: Finally is there anything I didn’t ask you that you want to tell our readers about?
We put a fridge in Mega Jump and Mega Run. You’re welcome.
Yes, yes they did, as a character. A fridge that runs and jumps. Its insane, check it out. You can find more out about Mega Run and Mega Jump on Get Set Game’s website or by visiting the games’ Google Play page. Make sure to come back to GameWoof for our full review on Mega Run.