Interview with Damir Slogar, Big Blue Bubble

In the casual game world, Big Blue Bubble is best known for creating the home improvement-themed strategy puzzler Home Sweet Home. There’s much more to the Canadian developer than that, however, as we discovered when we spoke with Big Blue Bubble CEO Damir Slogar.

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In the casual game world, Big Blue Bubble is best known for creating the home improvement-themed strategy puzzler Home Sweet Home. There’s much more to the Canadian developer than that, however, as we discovered when we spoke with Big Blue Bubble CEO Damir Slogar.

How did you come up with the name the Big Blue Bubble? Is blue your favorite color?

It is pretty common in the gaming industry that you get the awesome idea for a new game and later discover that something like that already exists. Similar thing happened with the name; my top choices were already taken. Big Blue Bubble had some nice ring to it so I went with that. It definitely helps when you call to complain about the product or service and introduce yourself as “XY from BBB.” My favorite color is #0C55A2.

What is your favorite game that you have created?

I have to go with Home Sweet Home.

What are your favorite games from other developers that you are playing right now?

Call of Duty 4, Portal and Super Mario Galaxy at the moment. If you are asking about casual games, I don’t play them that much but I really love hidden object games.

Big Blue Bubble may be new to the casual game scene (a lot of Gamezebo readers may have only heard of you with the release of Home Sweet Home), but you’ve actually been around for awhile. What types of games have you been working on and why are you moving into developing casual games?

We started Big Blue Bubble as mobile game development studio with the idea to eventually expand to console games because this is our area or expertise (our core teams are all experienced console game developers). This month we released our 35th game! We worked on many top brand titles across multiple platform (J2ME, BREW, Mophun, Leapster, GBA, DS, PC, Mac…) and based our studio around 3 core divisions; mobile, console and casual.

The decision to start our casual games division was partially based on the success we had in mobile space with casual games. Also, we wanted to create new IP’s and there is no better start than developing a successful casual game first.

Your first successful casual game project has been Home Sweet Home, a casual game designed around home decorating and interior design. Why did you pick this theme? Can you give us insights into the development of this game?

With Home Sweet Home, we wanted to bring something unique to the casual games market, not only with the theme but also in terms of the game-play elements. We didn’t want the game where you will run your game design business by simply clicking on things; we wanted user to be creative and take ownership of their design. It certainly wasn’t easy. It took team of 5 people (on average) almost whole year and dozens of prototypes before the game was ready for release.

Home Sweet Home is not your first foray into casual games that our users may be familiar with. You worked on Super Mahjong Quest, Jewel Quest 1 and 2, Professor Fizzwizzle… as mobile games. What’s the challenge of taking a game designed for the console or PC and turning it into a mobile game? What’s the secret to your mobile success?

Scaling down the PC version of the game to mobile phone is very tough. We usually start with developing the prototype that thanks to our mobile technology rarely takes more than a few days. After that, we focus on controls and ‘look & feel’. This is usually the hardest part and it could take months. So far it worked very well; some of our mobile games are multi-million sellers.

PC downloadable games are not the only type of casual games you are making. You just announced the launch of Animal Genius for the Nintendo DS in collaboration with Scholastic Media and on your Web site, you say that you are working on a role playing game (RPG) for the DS. What insights can you give us on these DS projects?

At the moment we have two DS games in production and we are about to start the third one soon. Most interesting is the RPG game that is based on our proprietary 3D engine that is generation ahead compared to anything you can see on DS. Our engine supports dynamic lighting, soft shadows and it runs in 60fps. Another game we working on is based on a very popular fantasy license and we believe it will one of the best DS titles out there when it get released (Q4/08). More info will be available very soon.

One of the most highly anticipated launches in 2008 will be Nintendo’s WiiWare, where developers can create games for download on the Wii, the most popular console out right now. How big (or small) do you think WiiWare will be in 2008?

I hope it will be huge because we will be there! Overall, it should work much better for a casual game developer than for example, Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). First, the WiiWare end user fits the target demographic for casual games much better. Second, Nintendo already offers the virtual console with all old games so casual developers don’t have to compete with the bad arcade remakes for a launch slot.

Big Blue Bubble is yet another casual game company situated North of the border in Canada. Why do you think so many great casual games are coming out of Canada?

The game industry has been strong in Canada for some time now (Canada game industry most recently surpassed UK and now is the 3rd largest cluster in the world). Cultural diversity combined with the great educational system and quality of living are in my opinion key factors. When you add generous tax credits on top of that, you can’t expect anything less.

Where do you see the future of casual gaming in 5 years?

Not much changed in the way it works, but significantly larger in the scope. Clones will still rule. Like sequels and movie licenses in the console gaming, casual games will keep the “dark side” strong as well.

Can you give us any hints about your upcoming games that we have not yet talked about (we’ve talked about a lot of projects so far!). Any new PC download games you plant to create? Is there a Home Sweet Home 2 planned for the future?

We have another casual game coming out in February and of course Home Sweet Home 2 is on the way. The main focus of our casual division right now is to bring Home Sweet Home on multiple platforms and so far things look pretty good.

Do you have any final words?

I would like to apologize to all the contractors out there who recognized themselves in our game Home Sweet Home. We know you don’t run like sissies when you get hurt, you don’t drink so much coffee, and you can always find your own tools.