Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Jumpala creator Makario Lewis, who details the game, as well as his origin in the industry.
Jumpala (jum-PAH-lah) is a fast-paced competitive game that’s all about sabotage, superpowers, and stage control. While the core mechanics are simple, each game is a test of skill and strategy as you try to outscore and outplay your opponents. Play with up to 4 players locally, or compete with others online.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Makario Lewis: I made Jumpala to relive a part of my childhood and to share that childhood experience with the rest of the world. There have been so many times where I’m telling a friend about some obscure game I played as a kid, and I think to myself, “Wow, I wish they could play it so they can see how great it was.” This game is one case where I can solve that problem!
Jumpala is a love letter to Spryjinx, a DOS game I played as a kid. (Spryjinx itself was inspired by an Atari game called Quick Step.) I don’t think Spryjinx has aged all that well…I put some modern twists on it like special abilities and fun characters to give it more depth. It’s evolved into something of its own!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Lewis: I’m a solo dev, so…all of it? That’s not completely accurate—I’ve contracted out various art assets and stuff like that—but my team is just me. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you get involved in the industry?
Lewis: Wow, I guess I am in the industry now, aren’t I…
I saw a comic once that I really wish I could find again…it was something along the lines of: “How do I become a game developer?” “Pretend you’re a game developer. You’re now a game developer!” It does always feel like I’m pretending—like I’m not quite there yet…but I guess that’s not really true.
Anyway, the answer to the question isn’t all that glamorous: “Make that jumping game” was the next thing on my to-do list, so I started looking into how to accomplish that. Soon after getting started I thought, “There’s a lot of potential here,” and started investing more resources into it…and now we’re here.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Lewis: Both harder and easier than I expected, and at the same time exactly what I expected.
After you’ve developed software for a reasonable amount of time, you can build up intuitions for estimating the amount of work that goes into a large scale project. You also understand that things will take longer and be harder than whatever you estimated—and you factor that into the equation as well.
I also set a limited scope (and budget) from the start. It helped that Jumpala is based on prior art, and that I had a solid idea of features and characters I wanted to add. I follow strict guidelines not to venture out beyond that scope so I can finish the project in a reasonable time. So it’s “easy” in the sense that I know what to expect, and I can tackle things a day at a time.
That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park, of course. Building online multiplayer networking systems is hard. Determinism is hard. Marketing is HARD. I’m learning something new every day. But that’s the fun part.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Lewis: It’s truly a unique game, and I don’t think most people have played anything like it. The controls and mechanics are simple enough that you can jump in very easily, but there’s a surprising level of depth. It’s like a competitive puzzle game because part of winning is knowing the best route, and it’s like a fighting game in that there’s room for a lot of outplaying your opponent through mind games and other tactics.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Lewis: Spryjinx and Quick Step are the largest and most obvious gameplay influences, but I’m also gaining inspiration from other indie multiplayer titles, particularly fighting games. Towerfall for its accessibility, design, and tight gameplay loop; Lethal League for its style and cast of characters. And the wagering system—a very important mechanic at high-level play—was inspired by the fighting game Injustice.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Lewis: I’m still learning a lot of lessons, but the one that caught me off guard the most is that “marketing is hard, marketing is expensive, marketing is crucial.” I think for indie devs, marketing is especially hard because marketing is expensive and we’re on tight budgets, but it’s not something that can be overlooked if you want your game to do well. So finding ways to be creative in that area is important. Still learning, still trying.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Lewis: I’m going to try and show restraint in my answer…I feel like I could ramble on about this.
The “easy” answer for me is to say yes. Bringing an older game-play mechanic to modern times is kind of the M.O. for Jumpala. I think that ultimately, all new games have to get inspiration from somewhere.
But really—like the answer to a lot of good questions—it depends. It depends on the mechanic. (“No saving or checkpoints” is different from “tank controls”), it depends on the reason, it depends on the audience, and it depends on the combination of all of the above. Maybe you really like a mechanic but your intended audience won’t.
So yes, it’s important, but how it plays out depends on the type of game you’re making and the type of people you want to play it.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Lewis: Is it even possible to have a favorite? There are so many great memories that it’s impossible to have just a single favorite.
I’ll give you one, though: playing Super Mario Bros. 3 with my sisters—particularly the two-player Battle Mode. We changed up the rules: instead of trying to kill each other, we tried to see how long we both could survive. You should try it sometime, it gets difficult pretty quickly!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Lewis: If I’m honest with myself, I think chances are that my game is going to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor: played by a small handful of dedicated players, but ultimately lost in a sea of other independent games. Given that, I hope people remember Jumpala the same way I remember Spryjinx: a unique game with simple mechanics but a lot of complexity, highly competitive and incredibly fun.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Lewis: For Jumpala? There’s quite a bit of work to do before release…including some new characters and stages. Right now, I’m focusing most of my energy on getting enough wishlists on Steam for an Early Access release.
After Jumpala? We’ll see. I’ve got a laundry list of things to do, and new ideas are being added to it all the time. My last mobile game (The Vigil Files: Case 1) did well, and everyone’s begging me to make a sequel or at least port it to other platforms…maybe I’ll look into doing one of those things.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Lewis: Thanks so much for this opportunity! It’s truly an honor. If you’re reading this and interested in supporting Jumpala, the best thing you can do is wishlist the game! You can do so here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1278190/Jumpala/