Developers get game on Google Play

Jonathan Turcotte shows of Hunters and Heroes, a new ad-free role-playing video game he and Matthew Slaughter released on Google Play. Photo by Adam Bramburger.

Adam Bramburger
Beaver Staff

One of the latest role-playing games released for mobile devices on Google Play was created in Lennox and Addington County through the reunion of two NDSS alumni.

On Feb. 13, Tamworth resident Jonathan Turcotte and Bath resident Matthew Slaughter were able to upload their ad-free game Hunters And Heroes for play throughout the world. Thus far, there have been about 30 downloads without the friends spending a single cent on advertising.

Turcotte said he and Slaughter spent time using computers and playing video games when they were growing up in the 1990s, but over time they became disenchanted with the offerings available and considered making their own. The two men went their different ways with Slaughter attending university in British Columbia and Turcotte starting a family. About a year-and-a-half ago, Slaughter moved back home and the idea evolved.

“We ended up deciding that we wanted to make a role-playing game that goes back to our roots of a lot of the game we played when we were younger ourselves,” said Turcotte, who said he had to sell his prospective business partner on their ability to complete the project.

Turcotte is a self-taught programmer and coder, while Slaughter has experience in editing and graphics. They tossed around thousands of ideas before developing their concept.

“The hard thing, I think, coming into it is understanding when you’re making a game, you’ve got to decide on what you want to make and stick to your focus,” Turcotte said. “You don’t try to do everything in one game or in one project.”

Slaughter said the collaborative process involved a lot of phone calls — some at “awkward or inopportune times” and weekly meetings to try to stay on task.

“We like to set goals for each other so we can keep our progress steady,” he said.

Turcotte added that since the developers both work on different aspects of the project, their lack of a shared working environment didn’t hold up the process. He continued to code, while Slaughter could work on graphics for certain screens when necessary while working on a graphic novel they’re also collaborating on.

A few months into designing, they created a web presence under the name Nim Design and Development and built a fan base with web comics and different aspects of game design. In a short time, that community grew to about 75 active followers and even more casual viewers.

Their feedback led to the development of a “turn-based combat” game, which Turcotte says involves following one character who recruits other members to his party that can all develop individual skills as they level up. The fantasy world-based Hunters and Heroes features 18-20 hours of game play, plus side quests and replayable events. The game has unlockable features and involves a number of “classic” game play elements like fishing, farming, crafting, and mining. Four people have played the game in its entirety.

A group of 10 players tested the game before it was formally released. Some concepts were added and others were removed.

The developers set a $1 price for their game. While many new games are released for free, Turcotte said they decided on a priced product because they didn’t want in-game advertising to ruin player immersion. The fee is also low enough, they hope, that some gamers might wish to take a chance on unknown developers.

If successful, they hope to get licensed to release the game onto gaming consoles and personal computers in addition to cellular phones. Though the licensing process is time consuming, the costs for most devices isn’t prohibitive. Google licensing is $50 a year and platforms like Steam or Nintendo are $100. Turcotte said it is unlikely the title will ever make it onto Apple devices as its licensing fees are $1,000 annually. Right now, the project hasn’t been overly costly.

“The total investment we have in the whole project, not including our time of course, is less than $100. That includes everything from the software and basic programs we use, licensing and publication,” Turcotte said.

While both members of the team have other work in order to pay their bills, their goal is to make it a full-time gig. Slaughter notes that while he’d hesitate to say he’s working on the games full time it consumes a lot of his days. Early returns will suggest how long that can continue.

“The first year has been a proof of concept more than anything to see whether or not this is something even worth investing more time into,” he said. “We’re at least positive we can accomplish something,” he said. “We had to do it. Everybody’s doing these things and taking their shot at stuff like this.”

Turcotte said there’s also value in creating and turning other people on to something he finds interesting.

“The goal is to get people to check out the things we make. We want people to play and enjoy the games. It’s crazy to think something you spent time working on and that you labour over is something other people can spend time enjoying,” he said. “Getting a positive review… those are the moments when you can’t help but smile stupidly. It’s that pride. Isn’t that the dream, you get to do what you love doing and make an income on it?”

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