Game Dev Hotseat: ‘Hopeless 2: The Dark Cave’

by Chief Tin | December 14, 2015 | ,

Minutes to Read: 4:00

Featured in the Best New Games category of the iOS store, 4th best game in the app store, 2nd best arcade game and 3rd best action game, the blobs come back fighting in Hopeless 2: Dark Cave.

Niv Touboul, CEO and co-founder of Upopa Games, talks about Hopeless 2, moving blobs, fan art, and the creative process behind the hit sequel.


In an interview with icel.me you mentioned going for contrast in Hopeless, hence the yellow blobs and huge red monsters. Where did you get the inspiration for the character of the yellow blob/red monsters? Were they always supposed to look like that?

Both the blobs and the monsters started out very similar to the final game’s version.

We wanted the protagonists to be the source of light in an otherwise very dark environment. They had to be cute and relatable. Their death is supposed to be somewhat sad but also funny and not too tragic. Lots of blobs are going to die, some by their own hands, and it can’t be too emotionally taxing on the player. All of these concepts gave form to the blobs as they are now: a simple overall shape, cute but kind of dumb looking, with some humanoid features but definitely not human.

As for the monsters, they really just had to contrast the blobs. Dark vs. light, hairy vs. smooth, big vs. small, scary and powerful vs. cute and powerless. Like the blobs being ‘not too cute’, the monsters had to be ‘not too scary’. The monsters are intimidating in the context of the game, but they’re probably closer to evil muppets with sharp teeth than to classic horror game monsters.

From Hopeless: The Dark Cave, how did you formulate the idea for Hopeless 2? Tell us about the work and creative process for the sequel. How was it different from your processes on Hopeless: The Dark Cave?

Hopeless 2 is a direct sequel from Hopeless, meaning the first game was the inspiration for the sequel. It was important to keep the creepy atmosphere and light vs. dark theme, and especially the feeling of disempowerment: The small bright blobs are always lost and scared, and no matter how many monsters you kill, you keep feeling anxious. We wanted to take the core design elements that Hopeless had and deploy them in a way that breathed new life into the franchise.

In the sequel, we wanted to create a sense of movement and progression which we felt was lacking in the first game. The setting is a haunted mine and the blobs are huddled in a small mine cart. Players don’t control the movement of the cart, but can shoot in all directions. In later stages and more complex levels in the game, it’s sometimes possible to alter the route by shooting pieces of terrain to block a lane or open a tunnel.

We decided on a level-based game (in contrast to Hopeless: The Dark Cave which was endless) for several reasons, but mainly, it was to give the players a sense of progression and purpose to make the game more engaging and fun. This also enabled us to add more content such as different types of monsters, varied settings and worlds, and a better difficulty and interest curve.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while creating the sequel?

The biggest challenge in developing Hopeless 2 was the tight schedule. As we got closer to the initial release we had to drop several unfinished features and cut down on the number of levels. That’s a key part in every game’s development, but it’s never easy.

Earlier in the development process we also had to tackle several questions regarding the spirit of the game: It took some trial and error before we reached the right setting (a haunted mine), figured out how to balance increasingly powerful guns and still retain the feeling of hopelessness, and make sure that even experienced players will mistakenly shoot an innocent blob instead of a monster every now and then.

Are there any mechanics or visuals in Hopeless 2 that came from fan suggestions?

We did get lots of comments on Hopeless: The Dark Cave from fans asking for more monsters, more guns, and more levels or modes. The first Hopeless has a somewhat limited design space, but in Hopeless 2 we had much more freedom to add new features while still keeping the game balanced.

For example, we had a Facebook campaign during the making of the sequel which reached out to our fans and launched a design competition for the sequel’s new weapons. Weapons are a big part of our game and it was important for us to get our fan’s perspectives. It was great to get some feedback – we had people privately message us their designs and we took those as inspiration for our new weapon offerings in the sequel.

Let’s talk about your community. What were the initial reactions of the Hopeless fans?

We have an incredible community of Hopeless fans all over the world. It’s very much “the little game that could” – a simple game by a small gaming studio that won the audience over and we’re extremely proud of it. The fans were thrilled and the day we announced it, we got a lot of feedback and messages of excitement from fans asking when it will be released and guessing what new features will be offered.

How were you able to spread word about Hopeless 2? Which social media campaign has proven the most effective for the game so far?

Hopeless 2 owes much of its immediate success to the large fanbase of Hopeless: The Dark Cave. Also, a big part of our social campaign was that during the week of the game’s iOS release, Hopeless 2 was featured in the iTunes Store as #4 Best Overall Game, #3 Best Action Game, #2 Best Arcade Game, and #27 Best Overall App! The game being featured as one of the best new games in the app store was a huge driving force for downloads on iOS (it jumpstarted word of mouth and virality) and every mobile developer actively strives to get featured.

Our Hopeless Facebook page is a big part of our social media campaign, as is our Twitter.

Any future plans for everyone’s favorite yellow blobs?

Our future plans are to keep making great games. So stay tuned, the blobs have a bright – or rather, hopeless – future 🙂

Check out the trailer for Hopeless 2: The Dark Cave below!

Get Hopeless 2: The Dark Cave on:

 

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Chief Tin

Chieftin likes beaches. All kinds of beaches. She loves the rogue-class and doesn't understand why anyone would want to control a moving boulder a.k.a anything in warrior-class. She is currently pursuing further studies in creative writing and pursuing even more vigorously what to do with creative writing.

All views and opinions are strictly that of the author's.

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