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Stay small and design for the platform, says Doodle Jump co-creator

Igor Pusenjak, president of Lima Sky and co-creator of Doodle Jump, believes he knows what makes his company and its game successful.

Doodle Jump took no time becoming a hit when Lima Sky released the game for iOS in 2009. Since then, it's been ported to Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and more — including the Kinect-controlled Xbox 360 version that was released today.

The secret to Pusenjak's sucres, he thinks, is focus.

When it comes to games like Doodle Jump, he said that it's important to design for the platform, which explains the game's success on its many mobile platforms.

"The mobile version of Doodle Jump has been really a perfect sort of 30-second game," he told Polygon in a recent interview. "You can play it when you're waiting for a bus or, as people love to be ashamed to tell me, when they play it on the toilet — which is completely fine with me."

When it came time to develop the Kinect version, Lima Sky partnered with Smoking Gun Interactive, the developer who worked with NASA last year to create the agency's first console game, Mars Rover Landing, a Kinect game that simulated the Curiosity rover's entry intro Martian atmosphere.

With Lima Sky's oversight and Smoking Gun's Kinect expertise, the companies set out to create not a simple port, but a new version of Doodle Jump to take advantage of a new platform. That began with a fundament insight: whereas the mobile version of the game is a solitary affair, the Xbox 360 version is more social.

"The Kinect version is actually something that is sort of an evening affair," he said. "You know, you get together with friends and you compete against each other, and it's a lot of fun. It requires a little bit more of a time investment."

That insight into how Doodle Jump would be played on a console represents Pusenjak's theory at work.

"That's sort of ben our mantra from the beginning," he said. "You know, design for the platform instead of doing just quick, simple ports."

Following from that, the Kinect version includes new levels, new bosses and a new ways to gesture-based ways control the game, as we experienced in our recent hands-on with the game.

The new control scheme is was also a way to differentiate the game from its mobile counterpart, Pusenjak said. The most obvious control for a motion-controlled game with jump in its title is to have players do the obvious. But they learned quickly during development that requiring players to in the real world as Doodler jumped on-screen was exhausting and invented a new way to control the green protagonist.

"After a while, you got really tired, and it just didn't work so well," he said. "So we found that the sidestep is a really fantastic way to control that movement. It gives you a lot of control, a lot of exercise at the same time without being to strenuous on your body, which is something that's a real consideration when you have a game that you can basically play for hours."

Igor Pusenjak also applies that measured pace and deliberate expansion to Lima Sky's growth, as well. Over the last year or so, the company has begun to grow, as it took over development of the Android and other ports of the game and as the company moves into a new market: licensed products. By 2014, Lima Sky will have overseen the creation of toys, figurines, plush toys and more based on Doodle Jump.

"One of the things that we value is sort of the lifestyle business, where it's as much about the hard work as it is about the quality of life while you're doing that work," he said. "A lot of the people that we work with work from home. We're really trying to keep the number small, so the whole endeavor feels more like a family, rather than a mass production factory, if you will."

Taking input from every member of the team from designers to engineers is part of that familial structure and much easier for a team of nine (up from four six months ago) than it would be from a team of 300.

Pusenjak admits that the smallness goal has its own challenges, and offers the length of time it took Doodle Jump to come out on Xbox 360 as an example. But he believes, as with the measured pace of development, the trade-offs are worth it.

"But we got to it, and I think it's in a good place," he said. "We're happy about that."

Doodle Jump Kinect is available now in the Xbox Live Marketplace for 400 Microsoft Points ($5).

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