Thumpies: The Making of an Odd-Ball Rhythm Game (Part 1 of 4)

“Follow the Bouncing Ball”

It was November of 2009 and I was asked by my Producer David K. to take a peek at a small iPhone prototype he’d been working on that he believed might have some potential.  Dave and I had just finished working together on a title for Namco called Garters & Ghouls and we seemed to have good synergy, bouncing ideas back and forth and inspiring each other.  Garters & Ghouls was full of zombies, werewolves, and all sorts of things that are right up my alley so I tended to have tons of ideas to contribute.  I was happy to be invited to check out this new idea Dave had so he called me into his office and showed me on his monitor what he had in mind so far.  What I saw was a couple circles bouncing back and forth on a few horizontal lines.  The circles would be bouncing to a beat like a ball that bounces along the words of a children’s sing-a-long, guiding their tempo to help them sing in time.   I was asked to see if I could come up with a possible visual direction to take this initially very simple game prototype.  I think I stared at the screen vacantly for a few seconds…

(Very first prototype for Thumpies when it went by the working title BeatBox)



Hairy Balls”

I honestly felt a little lost right off the bat.  Nothing interesting really jumped into my mind for the first hour or so.  I sat down to start sketching up some ideas and the initial tests I mocked up in Photoshop were pretty generic.  Ideas that first came to me were fast-moving baseballs and slow and heavy bowling balls bouncing off of bland looking drums that were colour coded like Guitar Hero buttons.  I was having trouble seeing a unique direction to go with the visuals and being relatively new to working on smaller mobile games I wasn’t sure how feasible it would be to do anything too elaborate.  I tried a few more balls like a big blue bubble, a fire ball, an eye ball, then a fur ball, and then I paused…  Something about this little brown fur ball sat well with me.  It was cute and already had some character to it inherently.  Suddenly this hairy ball made me think of that part in the movie Gremlins when little puffs of fur pop off of Gizmo when he gets wet and multiplies.  I was also reminded of that little dog-like creature named Fizgig from Jim Henson’s film The Dark Crystal.  I quickly gave this little brown fur ball a couple yellow eyes, a little puppy nose, a mouth full of crooked teeth, and an expression of horror like he really isn’t happy bouncing all over the screen.

(First tests for what the bouncing balls could be)


I decided to name him “FurFace” and that little fuzzy critter was the very first Thumpie born.  He still looks pretty much the same in the final game as he did that first day, although I’ve since given him a little red dog collar with a brass name tag.  FurFace’s simple creation was the catalyst that opened up the creative floodgates for me in the weeks to come.

“Tune in next time” and I’ll talk further about how this creative and bizarre title took shape!


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