Interview With Jujubee Games’ Mike Stępień

Jujubee Games Studio is on the verge of releasing Suspect in Sight, a tilt-controlled action game that takes the “cops ‘n’ robbers” theme to new heights. Literally. Here’s our chat with studio president Mike Stępień to find out more.

It looks like Jujubee Games has an all-star team! How many members work for your studio, and what are some of the videogames they’ve worked on previously?

At the moment we are a small studio — around 10 people work on our games but the core team consists of six members. We are, however, a very young company as we launched in February, and after our initial projects we plan to work on a much bigger game for iOS, Mac and Android. If everything goes according to plan, we will hire around 10 new crew members by the end of this year. As for the second part of the question, in the past we worked for such companies as Traveller’s Tales, CD Project Red and Infinite Dreams and we participated in the creation of, among others, LEGO Indiana Jones, LEGO Batman, The Witcher 2, Jelly Defense, and Let’s Create Pottery. We wanted to join our forces and bring our experience to the table to create more console-like games for smartphones, as we believe that there are too many clones of Angry Birds out there.

It looks like Suspect in Sight will be the first Jujubee release, but you’ve also completed substantial work on Flashout 3D of course. Was there a decision point where you had to choose one project to go first, and did you have to shift any resources away from Flashout to put the finishing touches on Suspect?

From the beginning we knew that Flashout 3D will be a bigger project and we believe that it is better when each game is developed by a different team. This is why we didn’t shift any resources from Flashout — the game has been in constant development since February and actually we plan to release a gameplay trailer in June. Many things changed since the teaser so there’s a lot of new stuff to show!

Where did the team’s inspiration for Suspect come from – what drew you to the idea of a game about police spotlight helicopters?

Sincerely, I came up with this idea two or three years ago and I don’t remember exactly where it came from. When we were forming our studio, we were discussing some ideas for the games we want to make and we felt that this concept gives us the possibility to create something not only fun but also completely fresh and new, something that’s not present on the market. Besides, we love to watch police chases, so that’s probably it.

Additionally, there are not many 3D games with helicopters on the App Store and that’s quite surprising, as a game with a helicopter has one cool advantage: you can play with the accelerometer so you don’t need to keep your fingers on the display of your smartphone. As a result you see the entire screen while playing and that’s really enjoyable, especially on Retinas. This is a really relaxing, easy to pick up and fun game that should appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers. Suspect in Sight represents exactly what we want to do — games with cool, console-like 3D graphics but at the same time easy to play and profiting from all the advantages of mobile devices.

Who’s the comic artist for Suspect’s story panels, and how did you know you had the right artist for the game’s mood?

Our comic artist is Michal “Sledziu” Sledzinski, one of the best comic creators in Europe and probably the best in Poland, where he is very well known among gamers for the Bears of War series as well as for many works published in gaming magazines over the years. He is a very skilled artist and can draw comics in any style, so he had no problem adapting to our game concept. We are already working with him on another title, a freemium and unannounced game called “Car Wash Paradise,” that we will release this summer.

When designing the environments for Miami, New York City and Los Angeles, what references did the team use for the in-game architecture? In your quest to capture the spirit of each city, did you focus primarily on portraying recognizable landmarks or did the team try to capture the city layouts in any way?

We wanted the game to be fast-paced and filled with arcade action, so we knew that cities should not be big, but entertaining. This is why we didn’t capture exact layouts but you will find many known landmarks, especially in New York and Los Angeles. For example, in New York there are variations of Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. However, as our space was limited, the layout of the city is not the same as in reality.

We will see how the game performs on the market, but if it becomes popular we will probably develop a sequel in which we plan to bring only one city, but much bigger and similar to the real one with respect to layout. Gameplay would be a little different — more focused on tasks, with missions, something like GTA in the air. But it all depends on if the players will like the general concept of Suspect in Sight.

How complex is the AI system Jujubee developed for handling all of Suspect’s traffic?

For us, the most important part was the AI of the suspects. The traffic works like it does in the real world: cars stop at red lights, they honk when something blocks them, etc. Suspects act differently. As soon as you try to catch them, they drive faster, they try to avoid traffic, they try to turn around at the most unexpected moments, etc. We also had to manage the police. Police cars try to catch suspects as quick as they can, they are constantly looking for the shortest way to stop them, and there’s a little bit of strategy in it too, as you can save some time by trying to focus on suspects driving close to police stations.

There are also bonuses you can use to your advantage, such as better speed, better helicopter rotation, extra time, etc. Taking all this into consideration, we think that the game is pretty well balanced and all cities offer a different experience due to their different layouts, sizes and time bonuses for catching suspects.

What are your plans now that Suspect is ready for the App Store? Any updates in the works?

Yes of course, we are planning some updates. The biggest one will be introduced in June or early July – it will add the third city, Los Angeles, as well as new unlockables, new achievements, comic images and maybe other extras. Additional updates are possible as well. We will listen to the feedback of the players to meet their expectations. In the forthcoming weeks we also plan to begin the development of our big iOS project and who knows, maybe we will also think about a sequel to Suspect in Sight!

Big thanks to Mike for taking the time out to answer our questions about Jujubee Games Studio and Suspect in Sight. The game should hit the App Store any day now, so keep an eye on the Jujubee website, Facebook page and Twitter account for the latest news.