Few games have made the kind of waves this year that Table Tennis Touch has. The game is winning rave reviews around the world (well, we did call it The Best Mobile Sports Game…Ever in our own review) for its design, interface and incredibly realistic gameplay. And it was made by just two people – Jordan Kirk and James Gratton, known together as Yakuto. How on earth did they do it? Well, that is what we attempted to find out in a little Q&A session.
Q: We will be begin at the beginning. Who are you guys and what got you into game development?
A: We are Yakuto! (Jordan Kirk and James Gratton). This is our first game and also the first time we have worked together. Prior to Table Tennis Touch, Jordan worked in visual effects for films and James worked as a programmer in finance. Games need designers and coders but strangely the skills from film and finance don’t directly translate! Films are obviously much higher detail but don’t have to render at 60 frames per second and finance, well that’s mostly numbers and a lot fewer pixels! We met via James’ wife (who also works in film) and Jordan recounted his three year old dream to make a mobile table tennis game. We started a few days later and after two years we’ve made it.
Q: Table Tennis Touch has received some staggering reviews. To what do you attribute the success of the game – which feature do you think REALLY struck a chord with the audience?
Thank you! Hopefully it’s the love and attention to detail we’ve poured into the game that people have noticed the most. From the visual perspective, Jordan’s eye for detail is plain to see. Just look at the bats (best done on an iPad). You can see the individual layers of plywood with the name of the bat etched onto it. Less visually obvious but quite still apparent is the hours we’ve spent coding the opponents, the way the camera moves when you’re chasing the ball… but most of all it’s probably the mini-games! They’ve been really popular.
Q: We are hearing so much of this – why no Android version?
Ah, the old Android question. Soon! You have to remember that there’s only two of us. We’re receiving lots of requests (multiplayer, Chinese, Russian, Android, Windows …) and we want to do it all, but we also have to sleep.
Q: How did you go about putting a game like Table Tennis Touch together, and ah yes, just how good are you at playing the game?(darned good, if the game is any indication)
How good are we at the real-life game? Well, James is very much a struggling amateur. Jordan, on the other hand, was Scottish youth champion and has represented his country … so he’s alright! As for the virtual game, you’ll have to wait for online multiplayer to find out.
Q: Get into Guru mode please – someone wants to get into mobile app development. What advice do you give them?
Allow a lot of time! There are several disciplines you can learn. If you’re going to work for a company you could specialise in design, coding, production (management) … but if you’re going alone (which is very popular) then unless you have someone to complement your skills, you may need to be both artistic and technical. Regardless, it’s great if a coder has an appreciation for the design and vice versa. It just makes things run more smoothly. As for how to get started – we’d recommend looking at Unity 3D. It’s a powerful games engine that’s available as a free edition. It has an active developer community where you can get a lot of help and there are tons of tutorials online. If you buy the additional licences you can distribute the same game to multiple platforms and it’s royalty free. We’re not on commission from Unity … we just think it’s pretty good.
Q: Stick to Guru mode, where do you see the mobile app business heading in the coming year or so (that’s a lifetime in tech, that is)?
We’re excited about VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). We would also like to see mobile and consoles integrating further – but this could be in the hands of the big studios since indie developers like us may find the staffing challenges too great. But we’re up for the challenge!
Q: Right, exit Guru mode: when not developing games and amazing apps,what do you guys do?
For the last two years? Not much!
Q: Confession time: which is your favourite game, one in which you were NOT involved!
James – Geometry Wars, Halo 1 and Wipeout 1 (I’m a bit behind the times!).
Jordan – Real Racing, plus I loved Rolando, that was the game that made me interested in indie development.
Q: Lastly, what can we expect from you in the coming days? More Touch?
As you know, we’re getting a lot of requests for Android, multiplayer and to support more languages … so in the next few months expect a lot of that! We’ve got a few ideas for our next title but we’ll have to tell you about that nearer the time.