Depth in Simplicity: The Making of Jetpack Joyride (GDC 2012)

By Colin // Games, Off-Topic


Back in 2012, Halfbrick Studios, known for their hit titles “Jetpack Joyride” and “Fruit Ninja”, gave a talk on game design called “Depth in Simplicity: The Making of Jetpack Joyride.” The lecture is now available for free in the GDC Vault (direct link available here.)

I would highly recommend anyone interested in game design, particularly mobile design, watch the video. The game designer, Luke Muscat, has some very intelligent remarks on how to make a game truly fun, how to keep a player involved and motivated, and offers some great insight in the development process from prototype to completion.

Listed below are some of the topics that I found most interesting:

  • (7:52) The Interval System and Procedural Level Generation: Making sure your procedural level generation is not totally “random”, and making sure your player encounters intervals at just the right rate to feel challenged but not overwhelmed.
  • (16:21) Restart Friction: How quickly, easily, and intuitively can a player try again?
  • (30:27) How Many?: Why are there 6 different vehicles in Jetpack Joyride? Why not 20? As Luke explains it, with 6 vehicles the player can get their favorite vehicle just enough times to make it both special (infrequent) but not repetitive. Essentially, Luke believes that 6 is the goldilocks zone of random upgrades / power-ups.
  • (20:10) Playtesting Ninja Style: Doing frequent in-office playtests and treating playtests like releases rather than daily builds. Additionally, they would go into the street and have random strangers play their game. It seems like an excellent way to get fresh, unsuspecting eyes on a title in development.

Again, a fantastic lecture worth watching. Congratulations to Halfbrick and all their success.

Related links: