Behind the Game: Ranch Rush

By Erin Bell |

An iPhone version of Ranch Rush recently launched, and Ranch Rush 2 is on the way for PC. While we’ve yet to get our hands on a demo of Ranch Rush 2, we have the next best thing: an interview with FreshGames President Stephan Smith where he talks about the making of the original Ranch Rush (a game we liked quite a bit).

What was the inspiration behind Ranch Rush?

An idea had been brewing in the back of my head for a while that I wanted to do a time management game where you moved things in the environment around, unlike other time management games where things are stationary.

We had been talking with Aliasworlds and they had a game that was about 25 percent done. There was no real name for it, and no storyline, but they had the basic mechanic of Ranch Rush were you had orders and could move things around on the screen, and farming. I really loved the concept; I just saw potential with what could be done, so struck a deal with them to co-develop the game, and from there developed the design document that outlined things we’d like to see incorporated into the game.

We started with the base ideas and built upon it, tweaked things as we went along, but it fully grew into what you see today.

How did the main character and story evolve?

Aliasworlds had a main character but it wasn’t a person. It was an animal – basically they had their Snowy character in there, a little white bear. We knew we couldn’t use it; it was cute and it looked good, but the bottom line was we needed something else. We thought that a southern female character would be kind of cool and interesting, and we went through several art iterations and added the clothing and the boots to give her a little bit of a unique personality.

One of the bigger elements that took quite a lot of time was the story. The story is very simple but crafting the words, making it flow, and making it interesting are a lot easier said than done sometimes.

We knew that we had to make it short and sweet and really craft the wording so that it flowed well. At first we talked about just having a little comic strip, but I didn’t like that at all, so we wanted to do something a bit more interesting with panning and zooming on the screen. Once we got the story nailed down, it needed something more compelling. So we worked with SomaTone as far as getting the voice-over and we interviewed several females and came up with this girl for the voice-over; that I think was really a compelling element.

What features did you add to Ranch Rush to make it stand out from the crowd?

What we wanted to do with Ranch Rush, which I think made it stand out, is having the ability to move around in this game unlike, and create your own strategy. All time management games pretty much involve coming up to a counter, picking up something in a restaurant, running around and doing a chore, and it’s almost the same forums over and over again. You can’t really control the environment or make anything in your favor if you want to.

And two, typical time management games are a little bit too stressful where you don’t know what’s going to happen, you just wait until someone comes up to the counter and asks you for food, services or whatever, so we wanted to give clear objectives up front about what all you had to do.

The third key element that we thought was unique was the ability to carry over chores or things that you were harvesting into the next level. We all hate the fact that if you lose a level, one you start over from scratch. I think that resonated well with people that they just didn’t lose everything and have to start over, but it also gave you a chance to plan.

I’ve had a couple people say, ‘Oh we’re getting one over on the developers! We’re able to plan this thing and jump into the next level way ahead of what they think they might be able to do,’ but really that was the strategy as far as designing the game from day one.

Any last words?

The bottom line is that we see so many games that are just rehashes of the same thing over and over again. We wanted to redefine the genre a bit without breaking it, and I think we accomplished that with features like moveable buildings that peple obviously love. I think it’s a great thing; it just gives you more freedom to do what you want and strategize. Simple addition, but I think it was critical to making Ranch Rush stand out.

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