In the first in a series of case studies, we talk to previous Brains Eden participants Twirlbound about its latest mobile game

From game jam to app store in three months: The story of Hexagoal

Dutch indie Twirlbound may have been making games since 2013, but its young team is still keen to learn more and challenge themselves via game jams and other events.

Last year, the team took part in Brains Eden – an annual games festival hosted in Cambridge at Anglia Ruskin University. The event tasks participants with building a game in just 48 hours, with prizes including internships at major games studios and support kickstarting their games development career.

Twirlbound’s team comprised of Matthijs Van de Laar, Martin Stuurworld, Marc Peyré, Bert Ruiter and Timo Van Hugten. In fact, Van Hugten was the big winner of Brains Eden 2015, securing an internship that eventually led to employment at Guerrilla Cambridge.

Together the quintet built Hexagoal, a quirky new take on the time-honoured air hockey formula that was designed to enable two players to battle it out on the same smartphone or tablet. Not only were the team able to build a working prototype by the end of the weekend, they were able to polish and release it for iOS and Android just three months later.

Crucial to this was a clear idea from the beginning of the game jam.

"We immediately arrived at displacement – the theme for Brains Eden 2015 – as the mechanic by applying it on the game’s level or terrain," Van de Laar explained.

"We knew we wanted to make a fun arcade game, preferably multiplayer – hence we were inclined to make a sort of air hockey game with two players who deform the playing field rather than some pawn.

"The result was a hexagonal game field with bubbly buttons that could pop in and out, creating a ripple effect on the terrain that moves the balls in the field."

Work began on Saturday, with a fully playable version of Hexagoal showcased to the other participants on Monday morning. Van de Laar said the feedback from fellow jammers, as well as the industry representatives and mentors that help support Brains Eden, was invaluable.

"It was good feedback and it was fun to see these people blind test the game you made in only a couple of hours," he said. "The final playday was fun too, with people coming back to our location to play some more Hexagoal."

Fortunately, this feedback did not create too much work when it came to bringing Hexagoal to mobile stores. In fact, Twirlbound reports that there was very little to change.

"We had to fix some interface problems to make it fit for all Android and iOS devices, but the main gameplay was very solid and fun," says Van de Laar. "We tweaked about three values only to make it a bit more balanced, based on the onsite playsessions at Brains Eden, and that was about it."

Applications are now open for Brains Eden – both in terms of participants and developers wanting to take part as mentors. The even will run from Friday, June 24th to Monday, June 27th.

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