Developed by UK-based ElitApps, Hero Panda Bomber, as its name suggests, is a mobile action game that casts players as a cartoon panda bear with a penchant for blowing things up.
In an exclusive interview, game designer Martin Uherko discusses the launch of Hero Panda Bomber and how the development team at ElitApps specifically enhanced the game’s visuals and gameplay for Tegra K1-powered devices like the NVIDIA SHIELD tablet.
How did the idea to create a video game centered on a panda with a penchant for blowing things up originally emerge?
The team was experimenting with different ideas for quite some time. And after ditching several prototypes (which included a shooter, a puzzle game and even a 3D platformer) the last prototype left on the table was about a worm who is trying to navigate through the bark (crust) of an old tree in an attempt to find some tasty fruits. But we found out that playing as a worm wasn’t really appealing, so we ditched the worm and replaced it with of a more likable animal—the Panda. The second major change was arming the panda so that it doesn’t have to endlessly evade any hazards. And suddenly the team realized we made a Bomberman clone. But after checking the app stores at the time we couldn’t find any well-made remake of the Bomberman games, so we decided to stick to it and create our take on the bombing genre.
What is it like to be able to bring Hero Panda Bomber to a large audience of gamers including NVIDIA SHIELD tablet owners?
It’s absolutely amazing! I was among the early adopters of the SHIELD tablet and I was completely blown away when I saw games like Half-Life 2, Portal, Modern Combat 5 or even Trine 2 offering console-style full HD experiences on a tablet. We’re a very small team so at first we didn’t even try to get our game onto the SHIELD tablet because we thought that our game couldn’t measure up to those legendary games.
But in time we started seeing games of all genres and sizes popping up on the SHIELD Hub. For us this was a clear sign that the SHIELD family of devices offers not only high-end gaming experience but also a fast growing diverse gaming eco-system where our game can co-exist with the other games, no matter how big or small. So we started by adding support for the SHIELD controller, and after a few attempts NVIDIA got back to us. Imagine our astonishment when we found out that the folks at NVIDIA are actually friendly and talkative—offering us lots of tips and insights on how to improve our game even further. Thanks to NVIDIA’s support we managed to push Hero Panda Bomber beyond our humble expectations and create a game that can be enjoyed by kids and veteran gamers alike. The whole publishing experience was unbelievably friendly and I highly recommend the SHIELD tablet to all game developers who are currently working on Android.
How does the experience benefit from the addition of full controller support on NVIDIA SHIELD?
The core concept of our game is a fast paced arcade-action game that benefits greatly from responsive and tactile controls. But for a long time we thought that we had to stick to the touchscreen as the necessary evil of mobile gaming. Of course, there are third-party controllers out there but it’s hard to pick which ones to support, since it’s very unclear how many gamepads of each type/brand are actually out there.
But the SHIELD tablet offered a high-quality gamepad that works reliably out of the box. So we decided to go for it and we never looked back. Implementing the SHIELD wireless controller was surprisingly easy; the only real problem we faced was actually the navigation through menus.This was due to the unique nature of our level selector screen. We’re not using a standard 2D screen but an actual 3D landscape of the entire game world you use for navigation between levels. And it’s filled with 3D objects and all sorts of eye candy.
What kinds of graphical effects in the game take advantage of the SHIELD tablet’s Tegra K1 processor?
We’re using a combination of soft and hard shadows to add a sense of depth to the scene. It doesn’t sound like much, but the difference is HUGE once you see it—these are the type of effects you see in everyday life without noticing them, but once they are missing everything feels awkward.
We’re also using a very complex set of effects on the explosions themselves. You see, the original Bomberman used simple cross shaped flame sprites and in terms of functionality that’s perfectly fine. But once we added the realistic explosions on top of it, it all suddenly felt a lot more exciting. I mean blasting your enemies in ridiculously huge explosions is just way more fun than seeing them colliding with some 2D flame sprites.
And since our game is fully rendered in 3D in real-time, we even added weather effects. We’re talking rain, falling leaves, lens flare from water surfaces, pillars of light shining through the clouds—all these effects enabled us not only to leverage the game’s 3D environment—by adding a sense of perspective that you would have in real life—but also we were able to add a distinctive feel for each game world (each island). Previously our levels used to look different, but now they actually feel different. That helps us to create an immersive experience, especially when playing on a SHIELD tablet in console mode using big screen TV.
With development officially wrapped up on Hero Panda Bomber, what are you most proud of achieving with the new game?
We’re not officially wrapping up yet. We’re still planning on expanding the game further, but we don’t want to spoil the surprise just yet
And we’re proud of almost everything regarding Hero Panda Bomber. We’re a very small team and we never would have dreamed of seeing our first game featured by NVIDIA as a showcase game for their flagship Tegra K1 chip or being featured on their SHIELD tablets.
Over the course of development we were often thinking that we did many things wrong, but once we discovered the SHIELD tablet, every piece of the game started to fall in place—the performance, the immersive 3D world, the responsive gamepad controls, gaming on a TV and everything. When looking back we can see the long and troublesome development process, and that’s why we are so very happy of the end result. And we hope that gamers will share our passion for Hero Panda Bomber, too.