Sugar Monster Is the Sweetest Game App You Will Download Today

Wael Nabbout, Aug 30 2013

Sugar Monster is an indie mobile game developed by the Lebanese game developer and designer, Elie Rahhal. The game follows "a little mutant bouncy creature that loves to hop, eat luscious sweets, and play," through 128 levels split over 4 different worlds: Candy, Chocolate, Cookies, and Doughnut.

The game is free of charge and does not involve in- app purchases either. Power ups can be purchased using the the virtual coins collected in the main game or the mini in-app games available.

The latter are a series of Atari like mini games that follow the theme of the Sugar Monster. So instead of shooting space monsters like you do in Space Invaders, you would be fighting doughnuts, swirl lollipops and cookies that shoot laser beams right back at you. Other games included are tile matching and car racing.

"As for the mini games, most of them come from a flashback of childhood, inspired by old NES/Atari games that went missing, and also from "kermess" (fun lands) games that we used to play when we were kids and wait in line to have our turn (especially the electric ring game)," explains Elie.

Elie is a 25 years old Electrical Engineer who's always had a passion for video games, cartoons, and animated movies. "(...) Two years into my career, I felt I needed to be more creative and actually to put a stamp of my own in the software business and especially in Video Games, so I decided to pursue what I like and dive into the world of mobile video games," he adds.

His endeavor started off with Dare to Deal, a PC application modeled after a game show that he developed at college. Later, after getting a grasp of the Android framework and the publishing process he dived into the world of 2D OpenGL games and made two games: "Balloon Flee" and "X Challenge."

"With 'Balloon Flee' I learned how to draw, but in my opinion, I was still lacking in gaming technical performance so I had to create another game to improve my technical skills, so I made another small prototype the  "X Challenge" which completely changed my software design techniques."

The game is available for Android on Google Play. Make sure that your phone or tablet is set into Arabic to get the Arabic version of the game.


For more, check out the full interview below:

I am 25 years old, graduated in 2010 as an Electrical engineer (Low Current) from the Lebanese University, and then worked as a Software Test Engineer. I previously had a couple of training periods in software development, and some courses in university related to software engineering and programming. I always had a passion for video games and Cartoon/Animated movies, thus two years into my career, I felt I needed to be more creative and actually to put a stamp of my own in the software business and especially in Video Games, so I decided to pursue what I like and dive into the world of mobile video games.
I knew it was an extreme risk starting from scratch, having basic knowledge in programming, and zero knowledge in graphic design, the latter increased the challenge. I chose android as a framework because my main programming knowledge is in Java, plus android is currently the least costly production wise compared to its biggest rival iOS.
So at the beginning I had to start small, made a small game called "Dare To Deal" (based on a game show) which was a PC application I did in university so the algorithms were there and I just had to concentrate on learning android and the framework itself. Then after getting a grasp of the Android framework and the publishing process, I dived into the word of 2D Opengl games, learned and made two games: "Balloon Flee" and "X Challenge".
With "Balloon Flee" I learned how to draw, but in my opinion I was still lacking in gaming technical performance so I had to create another game to improve my technical skills, so I made another small prototype, the  "X Challenge", which completely changed my software design techniques.
Tell us the story behind the game. What inspired you to make it?
Packed with better programming knowledge and improved drawing skills, I decided to make a bigger project that contains all the lessons learned from the previous experiences and thus the "Sugar Monster" came to be.
Sugar monster is the 4th game. I like platform bouncing games but didn't find one that is on the Android platform that gives the user that "One more try" addictive feeling, combined with cute/funny graphics based around a theme and a character. So it was a perfect idea package for me to start with the game. As for the theme of the game, we all love sugar and sweets don't we! So in the game you can eat as much as you like without worrying about your health : )
The character itself is more like a reflection of myself, the monster mutates into several shapes to fit the needs of the game (bouncy ball, then as a jet engine, shooting invaders, driving a car etc), which actually what I am doing in my projects! Whenever I need something, I flex my knowledge into learning it, whether it is coding, drawing, composing the music, etc.
As for the mini games, most of them come from a flashback of childhood, inspired by old NES /Atari games that went missing, and also from "kermess" (fun lands) games that we used to play when we were kids and wait in line to have our turn (especially the electric ring game), now everyone can play without waiting in line!
What are the key lessons that you derived from developing games?
I learned a lot from the game, mostly improved my technical skills in graphic design and coding. Also a very important aspect as I am independent and working solo on this, is that it opened my mind to new areas such as: 
  • Designing the idea and the game in a way to be be able to reach all types of players. The game must be easy for the rookies to play and be a hard brain/puzzle game for the advanced player ( The latter appears starting level 20 in the games, and when the power-ups are needed).
  • The marketing area. This was the toughest part. You either have to be backed up by a big marketer, and when marketing budgets aren't as big as the big companies, you have to take the long road of contacting all the tech bloggers, android review websites, and forums. And since the game is available in Arabic, English, French the most common languages in Lebanon and the Arab world, it helped a bit.
  • Something that I always had in mind and stressed on more in gaming is to respect the user. This is reflected by keeping the permission to minimum in the game, and designing the game's algorithms for lower CPU consumption and making it also available for the widest range of Android devices. Also by listening, reading, and replying to every single comment coming from a user; be it from that little kid having problem with his device, to the experience developer criticizing the game.
What are the obstacles that you faced during development?
I still consider myself an amateur far from being a pro in game development, and as any software development project there are many difficulties, here are some of them: 
  • Crackers, Chinese markets and copyrights. Those are the toughest. Whatever techniques the developers are using the crackers will always find a way to decompile it. Some of them are even decompiling and changing the graphics and publishing the games as completely new ones. As for the Chinese markets, there are many crackers that modify your package and publish it as their own, and when you try to contact the market, the communication is in Chinese. 
  • Graphic design. I never had a previous experience in drawing software, and color mixing etc...
  • Technical difficulties due to the fact that the market is filled with low end android devices, which stresses the performance aspect of android gaming. 
  • Social networking aspect of the business. I am personally not active on the social networks, but it is the best way to reach the users, so this area needs a lot of improvements in the future, which helps spread the word.
  • Monetizing the games is still a limited area. Lebanon is not currently listed as valid for a google merchant account so I rely mostly on ads to monetize the application. And ads on mobile devices still have low eCPM, especially in the middle east, where bulk or my user base is. This is critical for future games/updates, as currently all the games are personally funded.
Any plans for the future?
I am currently working on some improvements for the game, in addition to adding a new mini game. If everything goes well I will keep on updating and making new games. The list of ideas keeps growing and making gaming was always a passion for me, and when you love what you do whatever bump you hit, you pick yourself up go through it. And most importantly even when working solo, contacting people and asking for help is always a key! That's what brought me to contacting you :), in addition, a lot of friends, when asked to, help in testing and giving feedback.

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