Grave Mania: Pandemic Pandemonium is a cute, funny and definitely entertaining Time Management game. Check out this interview with Team Loca from Anino Games to learn more about the development process of the game!
What is your inspiration to create Grave Mania, since the first one?
The idea for Grave Mania came from a random joke of a supposed TM game where you prepare the dead for burial – it was called Funeraria Loca. Of course we couldn’t sell that, this being a casual game, after all, so we added zombies to “soften” it a bit. Many TM games already deal with service-oriented jobs so we decided to do something out of the ordinary for a change.
Aside from the obvious TM games that we played for research (Dash, Mania, Sally), we also turned to other, more hardcore games for inspiration like Left 4 Dead and Red Dead Redemption. RDR inspired us to do western for the first game; even our characters Bonnie and Johnny were a reference to the two great characters from that game (John Marston and Bonnie MacFarlene).
We also knew from the start that we’re doing a humorous TM game so we included tons of visual gags in the game, many of them inspired by cartoons and select zombie movies like Shaun of the Dead. The anvil dropping, the way the zombies move, the puppet shows, everything was intended to make you laugh (and hopefully forget the strangeness of it all).We think the fact that we never took the game seriously helped us a lot when coming up with many ideas for the series.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Fitting our zombie-themed premise and storyline to a time management gameplay was probably one of the biggest challenges we ever faced in Grave Mania. Usually, time management games involve service-oriented tasks inside a café/ restaurant or a salon. Most people know what does a salon or café manager opposed to a zombie mortuary operator. So we really thought about and had a hard time thinking of tasks inside a funeral parlor and not making it too morbid for our audience. Another challenge we needed to overcome was game difficulty. With multiple zombie behaviors and client requests involved per level, you really need to keep track of statistics. We had to make sure that as the game difficulty escalates, it still remained fun and enjoyable until its last levels.
Some of the main challenges were creating a solid but flexible system. Solid in a way that would not break when new things kept on being added in the game but also flexible in a way that changes could easily be implemented by other people. We had to be ready for any adjustment needed to meet the desired difficulty levels. These adjustments include adding clickable items in the game, modifying zombie's behaviors, station positioning, and other timing variables.Some of the main challenges were creating a solid but flexible system. Solid in a way that would not break when new things kept on being added in the game but also flexible in a way that changes could easily be implemented by other people. We had to be ready for any adjustment needed to meet the desired difficulty levels. These adjustments include adding clickable items in the game, modifying zombie's behaviors, station positioning, and other timing variables.
What is 'unique' about Grave Mania that makes it worth playing?
The fact that you’re preparing and burying zombies is definitely a unique selling point amongst a sea of very wholesome TM games. We’re also happy to find out that players responded well to the game’s sense of humorenough that they enjoy (and follow!) our zombie puppet shows between levels.
What do you think is the most important aspect of a Time Management game?
Game pacing is probably the most important aspect of a Time Management game. The number of clients and amount of time left for the level are the two elements that determine the game’s pacing. Both elements should be balanced in order to keep the game as challenging and enjoyable as possible.
Grave Mania has many cute and funny characters; was it difficult to design them?
Designing the characters was difficult and fun at the same time. The hardest part was balancing the cute and gory aspects of the zombies. While we wanted to show clearly the zombie apocalypse situation, we did not want to gross out the players with too much splattering of blood and entrails and brains all over. By sticking to a cartoony cell-shaded style on these zombies, we can show some zombie innards in a goofy way.
Zombie variety depended on each level's location. Obvious archetypes specific to each country were picked out; for instance, the very recognizable hula girl was used for the Hawaiian level. We started with the cute and cartoony image before "infecting" them with the zombie problem. In some cases, we added unique animations for them, like making the Chinese vampire hop to move around instead of merely walking, or making the Parisian mime act out the trapped-in-a-box gag while idle.
The weird approach to the cutscene characters (finger puppets) stemmed from this idea of having a zombie narrator play out the adventures of Johnny and Bonnie in a stage play, reciting the story in poetry form. The storyteller, being a zombie of limited means, was supposed to use paper cutouts for puppets. When one of the game artists made placeholder art for the cutscenes, the resulting assets were so crude they looked like they were actually made by zombies. They were approved right away.
Why did you and your team choose to develop a Time Management game with the Hidden Object games trend that seems to be going on?
Honestly we didn’t think of trends or “what’s hot” when we came up with Grave Mania.All we knew wasit’stoo good to pass up and we were very fortunate that Big Fish Games partnered with us for the project and they supported us all the way. It’s a huge risk to bet on a game in a not-too-popular genre, but hopefully it does well enough to let us continue making it.Besides, we have another team busy doing Hidden Object games for fans of that genre. ;)
Are there any upcoming projects or sequels currently under development that you would like to share with us and the readers?
Grave Mania 3 is still up in the air, but we do have a Hidden Object game to be released later this year. If we’re lucky, we might have a different TM game in the works as well.