One-on-one with Jan Vaněček: the Mind Behind Smashing Four

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Have you ever wondered where great game ideas come from? How those ideas are transformed into a successful title or what the highs and lows of game development are? Read our interview with Jan Vaněček, proud game designer of Geewa’s latest hit, Smashing Four.

First and foremost, Jan, how did Smashing Four get off the ground?

We started with one simple goal in mind, to create a totally new game using what Geewa already had – experience with developing PvP games and a great pool physics engine. Pretty soon after, it was clear that we wanted to go with a fantasy theme that would incorporate a wide range of unique characters. There was this idea of a princess that would need to be saved, so you could either fight your opponent or try to rescue the princess first. I’m still very fond of this idea, I just felt it was too distracting for the core game so we plan to use it as a special game event in the future.

So, like every game, Smashing Four started with an idea. But what followed?

“As soon as the idea crystallizes you need to make a playable prototype.”

Yeah, you’re right, the idea is the first thing you have. But as soon as the idea crystallizes you need to make a playable prototype – to find out if the idea is good, if the game’s going to be interesting. Then you work on the mechanics, visuals, make another version of the game, test it, improve it, make another version, and another, and another… :)

You have a rich background in board game development while Smashing Four is your first mobile game. What are some of the biggest differences between these two worlds?

The biggest difference is that when you’re designing a board game, you don’t have a chance to re-do the final product. Once it’s all printed out and you’re putting the characters into the box you have to be satisfied with it. All of the bugs you missed are just going to stay in the game. On the other hand, when you’re making a mobile game, you’re still working on improving it after the release. Found a bug? You’re gonna fix it in the next version!

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What is it like working as part of a large team? Was it a big change for you? How would you compare being a member of the Smashing Four team to your previous work experience?

Yeah, I’d say it was quite a change. When you work on a board game, you work in a relatively small team and your role isn’t as defined. You are a game designer, a producer, an HR specialist and whatnot… :) Now, my main responsibility is the game design, that means I can fully concentrate on that.

Can you tell us more about your role in the team? Give us some examples of the challenges you face every day.

As I already mentioned, creating the prototype is crucial. But then you have to produce new iterations of it all the time, and you need to do that as fast as possible, so you can really progress with the development. As the game gets more and more complex, these iterations become harder and harder to make. You also need to deal with players’ feedback. You have to find the reasons behind the symptoms they experience. Then, of course, you need to come up with the new content.

And, on that note, where, or how, do you find the inspiration to continually come up with the new content?

“To keep my mind fresh, I go to game jam events where I can really let myself get carried away.”

I try to focus on thinking outside the box and it can be a tiring process. So, to keep my mind fresh, I go to game jam events where I can really let myself get carried away by the most creative and unusual ideas. Geewa also provides tremendous support to us via regular Hackathons, such as the one we had few weeks ago.

How does the future look for Smashing Four?

We are all looking forward to the “Clans” feature that’s almost ready to hit the game. But what I am especially excited about are the new heroes. They are going to move in a totally different way, challenging the traditional strategies. Stay tuned for more info!