No one can move house at the moment, and the property market is in freefall, so it’s a little ironic that there are not one but two moving games coming out this year.
One of those is Coatsink’s Get Packed, which is handily using Google’s cloud-based development kits to help elude some of the impact of coronavirus.
Get Packed is a couch co-op title, developed by the Cornwall-based Moonshine Studios. The physics-based title in which players compete to load a removal van (while avoiding destroying everything in the process) is the developer’s first title, with the studio being founded by four Master’s students.
The game began life as a Tetris-based packing removal game, inspired by the experiences of a team member who was currently moving house. However, as development progressed, more and more physics elements were introduced, ultimately resulting in the madcap destruction seen in the final product – The game could perhaps be best compared to Overcooked, with players attempting to work towards a common goal but ultimately undermined by ludicrous level design and their own communication failures.
For a group of young graduates building up a game company, it can be difficult to attract the attention of the public, press and influencers – especially given that, unfortunately, the game is in direct competition with the similar-looking Moving Out from Team17. Thankfully, the Moonshine team has some backup – the marketing clout of a giant like Google.
The game is one of Stadia’s ‘first on Stadia’ titles, a six-month exclusivity partnership that came about early in the platform’s life, as Coatsink PR manager Jack Sanderson explains.
“The partnership actually started through a mutual friend, who introduced Eddie Beardsmore our COO, and Tom Beardsmore, our CEO, to the Stadia team. Honestly, it was mostly just driven by curiosity about the Stadia platform. We knew Google was doing something, and wanted to know exactly what that was.
“That obviously led to lots of conversations – and at that time, we had recently taken on Get Packed as one of our publishing titles, we pitched a couple of games to them, and they instantly fell in love with Get Packed.”
This Stadia exclusivity proved to be a benefit to the game’s development. Without being limited to current-generation hardware, the team were free to take advantage of the Stadia’s processing power without worrying about having to limit their vision for the game.
“When we were building the game,” says Marcus Gardner, co-founder of Moonshine studios, “Stadia offered a load of unique stuff which a lot of the current platforms would struggle with. Primarily because our game is mostly focused around a lot of physics, which needs a lot of processing power. And not everyone has access to that kind of stuff on their own hardware.
“With Stadia, because they’ve got big, powerful systems already – we can push the physics and the lighting effects without making it unplayable.
Developing exclusively for Stadia also offers benefits beyond raw processing power. While dev kits for the Stadia are available, developers also have the option to upload builds directly to the Stadia’s cloud-based environment, enabling the team to more easily test the experience.
“We did have the [physical] Stadia dev kit,” notes gameplay programmer Lukas Donkers, “but what we found is that because players themselves are also going to be playing on the cloud instances, we found that using cloud instances ourselves turned out to be the best way to test the game.
“As far as the development cycle goes, it’s very easy. We have access to a developer platform, or we can just upload builds and test them in the same way that the player would, which is getting the game streamed to you.”
And what is usually a handy difference for a cloud-first gaming platform, is now much increased in its importance – given the COVID-19 pandemic forcing most businesses to work from home.
“Working on Get Packed from home during COVID-19 has been business as usual, thanks to Stadia” notes Donkers. “You can upload builds from anywhere, and play builds anywhere, that’s the magic of the cloud.
“Also, with a number of features that Stadia is introducing, it makes it very easy for people to stream the game, to get people watching and playing with it. From the first concept of the game, we wanted to make sure it was fun to watch as well as to play.”
We expect the game will benefit greatly from Stadia’s upcoming State Share feature too – which will allow game states to be shared via link, allowing players to jump directly to a specific point in a game. Get Packed’s anarchic co-op gameplay seems a perfect fit for influencers, and the ability to share specific levels and situations directly with their audience will be an incredible marketing opportunity.
But that isn’t the only marketing boost the game will receive from its association with Stadia. For Moonshine Studio’s debut title to receive the full backing of Google has been a morale boost too.
“From a marketing standpoint, any support from first parties is always great,” says Sanderson. “Just showing that they’ve given you their seal of approval, it’s almost like the Nintendo Gold seal on cartridges. Having that, as well as any marketing support, is just far better than a small team of five or six can do. Just having their support alone is great.
“It’s all thanks to that mutual friend who started it all, and Stadia have been nothing but amazing. Just the level of support we’ve seen is fantastic – they’re providing support to the team to make sure the game runs as smoothly as possible. And so on that front that they’ve been great.”
This support links back to Stadia’s ‘Stadia Makers’ program. The program, which Google announced at the Google for Games Developer Summit, is intended to expand Stadia’s self-publishing opportunities for independent developers.
While Stadia’s deal for Get Packed pre-dates Stadia Makers, it is nonetheless emblematic of their commitment to encouraging indie developers to bring their titles to the Stadia – something it’ll need in order to hit its target of 120 titles for the platform in 2020.
Time will tell if Stadia can encourage more independent developers over to their platform, and promote more partnerships such as their involvement with Coatsink and Moonshine on Get Packed – though with the ability to offer development hardware in the cloud, the speed of potential growth at least isn’t limited by its ability to deliver development kits during these already testing times.