Developer Interview : AngryMangoGames developers of Mush

AngryMangoGames Team

Mush was finally launched last week and we got the chance to talk to the developers at AngryMangoGames about this cute little Windows Phone exclusive game and figure out why we had to wait so long to see this game on Windows Phone. Big thanks to Henry Hoffman for making this happen

AngryMangoGames Team

AngryMangoGames Team ( Left to right: Kate Killick, Matthew Dennis, Greg O'Brien, Henry Hoffman, Ahmed Zaman )

We will start off with the basics .. tell us a bit about Angry Mango Games – who you guys are? What you guys do other than making awesome games ?

We’re a small group of games graduates who met in Wales at university, and went on to make Mush! There’s five of us here, myself Henry Hoffman, Kate Killick, Ahmed Zaman, Matthew Dennis and Greg O’Brien. We’re divided as two artists and three programmers, which has worked out great for us! It’s often said that programmers and artists don’t get on, but that’s definitely not the case for us.

Why go Windows Phone exclusive ? A game like this could have done quite well on iPhone.

We started off developing before the Windows Phone was released and we really liked the premise. It was clear to us that mobile phone gaming was moving away from dedicated handhelds like the PSP and DS onto mobile phones. We thought Microsoft was ahead of the curve and wanted to jump on the bandwagon as early as possible. With Windows Phone 8 it looks like they’re moving even more in that direction – which is awesome.

Also, every day I see great games released on iOS and Android that make it to ‘Up and Coming’ but then drop off the radar completely. It seems there’s a lot of luck involved, and to stand a good chance you need to either go with a publisher that takes 50% of sales, or to release for free and monetise with advertising. Those two options aren’t appealing, and they’re still a big gamble. For us we wanted piece-of-mind that we’d have a playerbase, even if the Windows Phone isn’t as popular as other platforms. Having 10% of Windows Phone owners play the game is much better for us than 0% of iOS or Android.

Mush on Zune HD

Mush on Zune HD

Some of the Good and Bad things about developing for Windows Phone ?

It’s great being able to use the same tools as those for Windows and Xbox development, as the programmers have dabbled with XNA before. We were also able to create a simultaneous PC build of Mush which allowed us to easily distribute to testers without devices.

I can’t fault developing on the Windows Phone at all. The developments tools and the community are fantastic, and there’s not anything specifically that stands out as being negative. From a marketing perspective we’ve struggled to find journalists at the big games publications who have access to devices. Several have asked us to send them some ourselves!

Mush .. where did the inspiration come from ?

In our second year of University we entered a Microsoft competition called x48. It was basically a 48 hour game jam where people made Windows and Xbox games based around a theme. For this specific contest, Microsoft wanted developers to make games for the Windows Phone using a really early version of the SDK. I think we were the only ones in the end that did!

We created this very rough game about a character that had to keep his ego under control. People would come on screen and shout insults and compliments – the player had to tilt left and right to avoid or catch them, with insults making his head smaller and compliments making it bigger. It was a fun little idea, and that’s where the tilt mechanic appeared, along with the head changing size.

On the way back from x48 I remember we were all really excited and talking about how the mechanic could be taken further. That was when we came up with making a character happy, allowing them to float like a balloon. It was later, when our final team got together that we came up with drawing a smile on screen, and all the other emotions.

Giant Ego, the spiritual successor to Mush

Giant Ego, the spiritual successor to Mush

Mush has managed to grab a few awards even before it was released .. Can you tell us a bit about these ?

The first Mush prototype was the product of the fantastic Dare to be Digital competition. It’s an international student competition where people from all over the world come together to make a game in around 12 weeks. We were lucky enough to get into the competition, and then went on to win! From winning Dare to be Digital we became nominated for the BAFTA ‘Ones to watch’ award, and later won the BAFTA Cymru ‘New Media’ award. Going to the BAFTA’s was a nerve-wracking experience, but was really exciting. It was great to meet heroes such as Peter Molyneux and other games industry veterans.

Angry Mango accepting their certificates after winning Dare to be Digital

Angry Mango accepting their certificates after winning Dare to be Digital

We have taken to calling the world Mush and his buddies call home , Mush-Land .. is there an official name for that world ?

Oh no, don’t ask that question! Back when we first started out, we thought we had to have a name and purpose to everything in the game world. We realised later that it’s more fun to leave it open to the imagination of the player. I’ll tell you a secret though – the world was originally called Movera, but we don’t like that anymore, so don’t tell anyone!

You folks had a trailer out in 2010 .. why was this title released in mid 2012 ?

The video we released in 2010 was of about 8 weeks into the prototype development. Using video editing wizardry we were able to make it look a lot more finished than it was – mainly for the benefit of the competition we were taking part in. We were at a stage where we just wanted to get as much publicity as possible to help us with winning the competition, and it worked. We got some pretty great coverage from that video, which I think helped us persuade the judges that our game was worth the win.

At that point, we only had the competition in mind. We hadn’t really considered the implications of ongoing development and were trying to take it one step at a time.

After we won the competition we aimed to release independently by Christmas 2010, and worked really hard at getting the game ready for then. It was just as we were about to release that we started having a conversation with Microsoft and realised that releasing as a LIVE title would really benefit the game. The rest of the time has been spent fixing a lot of bugs, refining the levels and making sure that everything feels right. Creating these sprawling, organic levels with heavy layering and unpredictable physics took a lot longer than we had expected! We’re definitely pleased we spent that extra time though, the game has really benefitted from it.

Mush has 4 unlock-able emotions , you guys have 5 team members. Pick one emotion for a team member ( and let us know ) and one is left out .. are we going to see a new emotion via an update so he/she wont be left out ?

Kate one of our artists is angry, definitely angry. When she reads that she’ll be angry at me again, which really just confirms it. Ahmed our programmer is happy! He’s always cheerful and optimistic, even when we’ve got lots of bugs to fix. Matthew is confused, always asking questions and wondering what we’re doing and why. Greg is normal Mush, before he discovers the emotions – quietly, and cooly accepting of the status quo. Lastly I’d say that I am a little sad that I have to continue working with these crazy people.

About updates .. are there any planned for this title ?

We’re looking at continuing to support Mush with free updates. We’ve got a few things in mind for a new game mode, but we’d be really interested in hearing what your readers would like to see. We’re open to all and any ideas!

Are you guys working on any other Windows Phone projects?

We’re taking it one step at a time at the moment with the release of Mush. We want to make sure that everyone’s happy with the game and continue supporting it with great new content. Windows Phone as a platform has been fantastic to work with though, and we’d love to continue developing on it. We’ve got a few ideas bubbling away beneath the surface! Nothing we can confirm yet though.

Any thing you want to share with our readers on the Xbox Live status for you game ? How it managed to get accepted ? etc

I’m not sure how I’m allowed to talk about this – sorry!

According to you what are the Top Five 3rd party Apps and Top 5 Games for Windows Phone ?

That’s a difficult one! There’s so many great third-party games that it’s difficult to choose five of the best. As an artist I’m a big fan of the graphics in MonsterUp – the cute characters are really awesome. Tentacles has always been one of my favourite all-rounders and is a great example of a console-quality Windows Phone exclusive. Ilo Milo is lovely too, the whole atmosphere of that game wins me over.

My top five in no particular order would be: Ilo Milo, Tentacles, MonsterUp, Impossible Shoota and Call of Carlos.

Thoughts on Windows Phone 8 ?

It looks great! I should imagine we’ll be building our next game on it, though with our extended development time perhaps we should be targeting Windows Phone 9! In all seriousness it looks like a great evolution for Windows Phone and I’m really looking forward to it, along with Microsoft Surface.

In particular I can’t wait to see what Gameloft bring to the table, and whether PC developers port some interesting titles with the DirectX and C++ support. I would love to see some of the big name PC games on Windows Phone.

Will we see Mush on Windows 8 / xbox 360 ?

We’re looking at the possibility of moving Mush onto additional platforms. We doubt Xbox 360 will be on the agenda though, as the touch and tilt controls are so important to the game. Some people have mentioned Kinect, which would be fun, but that’s something we’ll consider further down the line. Our priority for the moment is Mush on Windows Phone!

Mush T-shirts , Mugs and Plush Toys are in its way right ?

We’ve made a few select plush toys in the past! They’ve gone down well, so we’d love to make some more merchandise. They do take us a long time to make ourselves though, so maybe we’ll make some for one-off competitions. Kate is currently obsessed with the idea of creating knitted Mush hats!

MUSH plushies

MUSH plushies

How can fans get in touch with you guys ?

Fans can get in touch with me directly at henry@angrymangogames.com or via twitter @angrymango. We’re always happy to hear from players!

There you have it our interview with the amazing team at AngryMangoGames. Go get Mush here. We wish them all the very best with their game which has been steadily climbing the charts.


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