Interview: ‘Wawa Land’ Creator, Yann Fripp

It’s really cool to see another videogame industry veteran strike out on his own as an indie. Tell us a little about your game development history before founding Play Fripp. What was the very first game you created, and what are some of the highlights of your PC and console work?

First, I want to thank you for this interview, and for your support for indies.

Well, I don’t call myself a “veteran” because I am quite new in the professional game industry. But I’ve been making games since 1999, when I started on RPG Maker 95+/2K. During my game design studies three years ago, at Gamagora, I made a 2D platformer called Reflection that had a little success and introduced me to professionals. I then worked as a game designer at Pixelux in Geneva, where we were working on AAA Xbox 360 games for LucasArts and on Xbox Live Arcade games too. Then I worked on different projects, especially on Facebook and other social networks, for different companies as a freelancer. And after that, I was the art director and co-game designer for Togezzer, a social/mobile gaming company, but I decided I wanted to make my own things with total freedom. That’s why I founded Play Fripp in 2010: to make games I always wanted to make and play.

It looks like you started out developing quite a few utility apps before embarking on the huge project that became Wawa Land. What motivated this strategy – getting development practice with smaller projects, giving back to the iOS community, or maybe a little of both? Did you develop any skills or best practices during this early period that you later brought to the production of Wawa Land?

The thing is, I had experience as a game/level/graphic designer, but when I founded Play Fripp I hadn’t written any serious code yet! With the exception of a little website coding, I was a total newbie, so the few apps that were made two years ago were a kind of exercise for me. Then, I thought: “Okay, you can make little things, you can code alone, you may go for something bigger now!” So, yes, I definitely learned a lot at this time and also during the development of Wawa Land. When I started programming Wawa in early January 2011, I had only been writing object-oriented code for three months! And at that time, I wasn’t able to see how huge this project would become!

You blogged about cocos2d early on – did you stick with it as the framework for Wawa Land? If so, did you add any major modifications to implement Wawa’s gameplay features?

Yes, cocos2d seemed very promising at that time, and I am still really happy with it. It is a great 2D engine, made by a fantastic community that gave me a lot of great advice, especially at the beginning of the project. And yes, during the development of the game I made some modifications to improve its speed for Wawa Land, which is quite heavy for a 2D game! By the way, I want to say thanks again to all the cocos2d community, and Ricardo Quesada of course.

Why did you go for a platformer as your first project, and what do you feel Wawa Land brings to the genre that may have been missing before Play Fripp entered the iOS scene?

There are three reasons. The first one is that I’ve always loved platformers since my childhood, and it is a personal dream to make one! The second is that making an entire platformer alone is a real risk and I love those big challenges. The last is more strategic. I first wanted to make a puzzle game but it is quite complicated to handle those kinds of games.

So I looked at the App Store and tested a lot of games, and I was very frustrated with every platformer available at the time. You got only three kinds of them back then: the old platformer, just as it was in the 80s but with a virtual D-pad; the new shiny/glossy/3D power platformer from a big studio that was beautiful but without much gameplay; and the indie platformer with super gameplay, but too visually plain to draw attention from casual gamers. And none of them gave me the same feeling as our beloved console platformers. So it became logical to try to fix that with a new game including good graphics and gameplay, a cheap price, and a good playing duration too. This idea was the core of my Wawa Land project.

So was Wawa a mammoth one-man effort – everything from programming to spriting to music composition – or did you contract with artists to help out with Wawa’s in-game assets?

Wawa was a mammoth one-man effort! Everything: the gameplay, the graphics, the music, the animation, the code, all of this comes from me. I am quite happy with the result, but tired. I hope people will like the game!

A good preview video is a developer’s best friend on launch day. How did yours come together – did you create it all on your own or did you contract with a marketing or media firm that specializes in these?

The trailer was also home made, and it took me a week to make!