Sugar Monster is an indie mobile game developed by the Lebanese game developer and designer, Elie Rahhal. The game follows "a little mutant bouncy creature that loves to hop, eat luscious sweets, and play," through 128 levels split over 4 different worlds: Candy, Chocolate, Cookies, and Doughnut.
The game is free of charge and does not involve in- app purchases either. Power ups can be purchased using the the virtual coins collected in the main game or the mini in-app games available.
The latter are a series of Atari like mini games that follow the theme of the Sugar Monster. So instead of shooting space monsters like you do in Space Invaders, you would be fighting doughnuts, swirl lollipops and cookies that shoot laser beams right back at you. Other games included are tile matching and car racing.
"As for the mini games, most of them come from a flashback of childhood, inspired by old NES/Atari games that went missing, and also from "kermess" (fun lands) games that we used to play when we were kids and wait in line to have our turn (especially the electric ring game)," explains Elie.
Elie is a 25 years old Electrical Engineer who's always had a passion for video games, cartoons, and animated movies. "(...) Two years into my career, I felt I needed to be more creative and actually to put a stamp of my own in the software business and especially in Video Games, so I decided to pursue what I like and dive into the world of mobile video games," he adds.
His endeavor started off with Dare to Deal, a PC application modeled after a game show that he developed at college. Later, after getting a grasp of the Android framework and the publishing process he dived into the world of 2D OpenGL games and made two games: "Balloon Flee" and "X Challenge."
The game is available for Android on Google Play. Make sure that your phone or tablet is set into Arabic to get the Arabic version of the game.
For more, check out the full interview below:
The character itself is more like a reflection of myself, the monster mutates into several shapes to fit the needs of the game (bouncy ball, then as a jet engine, shooting invaders, driving a car etc), which actually what I am doing in my projects! Whenever I need something, I flex my knowledge into learning it, whether it is coding, drawing, composing the music, etc.
- Designing the idea and the game in a way to be be able to reach all types of players. The game must be easy for the rookies to play and be a hard brain/puzzle game for the advanced player ( The latter appears starting level 20 in the games, and when the power-ups are needed).
- The marketing area. This was the toughest part. You either have to be backed up by a big marketer, and when marketing budgets aren't as big as the big companies, you have to take the long road of contacting all the tech bloggers, android review websites, and forums. And since the game is available in Arabic, English, French the most common languages in Lebanon and the Arab world, it helped a bit.
- Something that I always had in mind and stressed on more in gaming is to respect the user. This is reflected by keeping the permission to minimum in the game, and designing the game's algorithms for lower CPU consumption and making it also available for the widest range of Android devices. Also by listening, reading, and replying to every single comment coming from a user; be it from that little kid having problem with his device, to the experience developer criticizing the game.
- Crackers, Chinese markets and copyrights. Those are the toughest. Whatever techniques the developers are using the crackers will always find a way to decompile it. Some of them are even decompiling and changing the graphics and publishing the games as completely new ones. As for the Chinese markets, there are many crackers that modify your package and publish it as their own, and when you try to contact the market, the communication is in Chinese.
- Graphic design. I never had a previous experience in drawing software, and color mixing etc...
- Technical difficulties due to the fact that the market is filled with low end android devices, which stresses the performance aspect of android gaming.
- Social networking aspect of the business. I am personally not active on the social networks, but it is the best way to reach the users, so this area needs a lot of improvements in the future, which helps spread the word.
- Monetizing the games is still a limited area. Lebanon is not currently listed as valid for a google merchant account so I rely mostly on ads to monetize the application. And ads on mobile devices still have low eCPM, especially in the middle east, where bulk or my user base is. This is critical for future games/updates, as currently all the games are personally funded.