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SpongeBob QuestPants: Behind the Scenes

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We’ve been working with the Nickelodeon UK Digital team on a new game for SpongeBob SquarePants. The first episode in the SpongeBob SquarePants: QuestPants series – The Legend Of Dead Eye Gulch has just been launched on Nick.co.uk. This seems like a great time to reveal the thinking and process behind developing a game for one of the world’s best loved and most successful entertainment brands.

Spongebobimage2The Legend of Dead Eye Gulch is the first episode of SpongeBob: QuestPants. Further episodes are in development.

Spongebobimage1Players guide SpongeBob through his adventure in Bikini Bottom. His mission is to save the Krusty Krab.

Spongebobimage3QuestPants features dozens of puzzles and sub-quests for players to engage with. 

Conceptualising QuestPants

The idea was driven by audience research which showed that young fans wanted to know more about the characters around Bikini Bottom. From there the creative process behind QuestPants was all about detail, as Rob Sloan, Product Owner at fish in a bottle recalls, “We watched episodes of the show and hooked into what fans thought was important. Getting the detail right is always important when dealing with an entertainment brand that’s as successful SpongeBob. We developed and scripted the QuestPants story, working closely with Nickelodeon UK’s Digital team to get a great story and narrative that we knew fans would love.”

Spongebobimage4Players can explore locations and interact with characters from the SpongeBob universe. 

Chapter One of the game is set in Bikini Bottom and features 28 characters. Subsequent releases will feature more locations. Players who complete QuestPants will have interacted with over 85 characters from the show by the end of this year.

Development

From the outset it was clear that QuestPants needed to be a truly multiplatform game, giving Nickelodeon options to release across desktop browsers, mobile browsers and as a native mobile app.

David Durham, QuestPants’ Lead Developer explains our technical approach, “We used Flambé, a cross-platform game engine tailored for 2D games. It allows us to produce Flash, HTML5 and native mobile versions of games from a single development source. Performance is also well optimised, allowing us to use hardware acceleration through Stage3D and WebGL. That gives us the best performance possible across all the platforms that the game’s designed to run on.”

QuestPants has been designed without compromise on mobile. The game loads quickly, even over mobile networks, and plays full screen, producing a practically native mobile experience. UX elements are seamlessly switched to mobile versions and players use virtual pads to control SpongeBob.

Spongebobimage6QuestPants has large environments, yet the game’s memory footprint is small.

As well as a powerful game engine, QuestPants needed an efficient approach to its art pipeline. David goes on to say, “We used Flump for taking animations that our art team created in Adobe Flash and converting them into texture atlases and JSON descriptor files that can be easily picked up by Flambé. This meant that the animation parts and the data that describes how they move are separated into two small files, keeping the game’s memory footprint down to a respectable size.”

Spongebob_artistworking

QuestPants uses hundreds of animations cleverly managed through art tools.

Having such an efficient animation system meant we could be more ambitious with our artwork. For example, SpongeBob has 56 different action animations alone. We also used a tried and tested tile based level system which meant we could produce very large environments for players to explore with minimal bandwidth overhead.

While we crack on and put the finishing touches to the game’s next episode, you can play SpongeBob SquarePants: QuestPants – The Legend Of Dead Eye Gulch on desktop and mobile now.