Have you ever dreamed of building a mega-metropolis in the Arabian desert? Play Desert Tycoon and become a business tycoon by building your dream city in the thriving Arabian emirate of Abu Lumba!
This is the goal that Lumba (a San Francisco based mobile gaming startup) founders had in mind when they came to Polidea. They had a simple prototype implemented for iOS with basic server code running on Google's App Engine without game logic implementation. It showed some basic animations working, on a plain game map. But Lumba needed to have the whole logic implemented and to release the game within three months with two more subsequent releases afterwards to bring three different phases of the game into life shortly thereafter. Polidea took on the challenge and so Desert Tycoon was born: a beautiful and addictive game targeting the Arabic-speaking market. The game - سلطان الصحراء in Arabic - immerses the user into a melting pot of Arab culture and commerce.
The tight delivery timeframe and high demands from Lumba provided a great challenge for Polidea. While Lumba created the game and lead the product management of the game, Polidea provided their "engineering muscle" to transform those ideas into a working solution we also helped in making decisions that enabled the realization of all stages of the game quickly and professionally.
Within 3 months Polidea developed not only the mobile application, but also built the whole infrastructure that controls the game behind the scene. Desert Tycoon was developed using a state-of-the-art data-driven approach. The whole game environment, graphical assets, logic and scoring mechanism are entirely customizable from the server-side. Added to this an extensive suite of usage statistics allows Lumba to customize a great deal of the application with little or no changes to the app itself.
"It's amazing how modern technologies are successfully used in Desert Tycoon. We have automated and combined a number of seemingly unrelated tools in order to give full control to the admin team that maintain the game." commented Polidea's CTO - Jarek Potiuk. "You can simply change game parameters in a shared spreadsheet, or ask your graphical designers to drop graphical assets in a shared folder. Then with a push of a button the changes are verified, processed, optimized and available in the application."
One of the most challenging aspects of the project was the fact that the game is available in two languages with completely different character sets (i.e. English and Arabic). This problem is not only connected to right-to-left vs. left-to-right reading direction (as is the case in Arabic), it also impacts the quality of the user interface on smaller screen devices. Lumba had very specific requirements about the custom Arabic fonts to be used and screen space was limited. This required innovative workarounds to tackle iOS/Android issues with custom font shaping so that they appear as elegant as Lumba expected.
Another interesting questions was how to distribute apps for beta testing in both English and Arabic. To solve this problem, we turned to our in-house developed build automation tool AMEBA. Extending AMEBA to allow multi character set builds and releases enabled us to release both variants of the game automatically and instantly.
Both back end and mobile (iOS and Android) software is optimized to cope with a large volume of users and small memory on mobile devices - especially taking into account the graphically rich nature of the application. Polidea proposed not only solutions for the problems but also how to change the gameplay and logic in order to get solution much better suited for the mobile world.