GameSalad Game Feature: CheeseMan by Hicham Allaoui

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Developed by Hicham Allaoui, CheeseMan is a fun homage to platformer games of the past. Inspired by Super Meat Boy (and with the blessing of Team Meat!), CheeseMan was born. In the game, players guide Cheeseman through 42 challenging levels to defeat the evil Professor Mousky. CheeseMan navigates through saw blades, spikes, and cannon balls to advance.

“CheeseMan is the best action platformer I have played made with GameSalad,” says Billy Garretsen, head of Game Team One. “I am a huge Super Meat Boy fan and to see someone get that level of tightness and responsiveness without writing a single line of code is pretty amazing!”

Game Features: 

– Very “easy to learn” controls , 2 buttons for the directions and one button for jump related actions.
– Skill and reflex challenges which will revive the SNES boy or girl in you.
– 42 levels divided in 3 worlds.
– CheeseMan Transformations.
– Choose you character.
– Funny Bosses.
– Very cool retro sound track by BubbleGum Octopus.

Download the game for only 99 cents on iTunes App Store here.

GameSalad recently sat down with Hicham Allaoui to talk about his career in the video games industry, the development of CheesMan, and the success he has seen so far.

GameSalad: Hey, Hicham. Thanks so much for meeting with us and sharing your story. Can you start off by telling us about your background? 

Allaoui : I am a 29 year old game programmer, originally from Morocco and currently reside in Berlin, Germany. I have worked on various international titles, including Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands™ for Nintendo DS (Ubisoft), Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time™ for Nintendo 3DS (Ubisoft), and Pudding Panic for iOS/PC/Mac (Kunst-Stoff).

My choice to pursue a career as a game programmer was driven by my great love and fascination for computer games since childhood.

After I gained enough experience, I decided to develop my own game and co-found our own company Alphanoize Games together with my friend Arne Wörheide, a very experienced programmer and as addicted as I am with video games.

GameSalad: Tell us more about how you became interested in game design. What types of games do you enjoy/inspire you? 

Allaoui: Well, since early age I was attracted to video games and my dream was to make one. I started by modifying existing games like Doom to put my own maps in it and modifying the graphics, etc… Then I got interested in programming and did some simple Java games. I also tried programming some flash games. However, neither of those tools were satisfying enough because I wanted to work on real games. I decided to continue my studies in Computer Science and later got a job at Ubisoft Casablanca Studios, which was my first professional experience in the video games industry. I worked there as a Gameplay Programmer and then as a Engine Programmer. Working with a team of professional designers and programmers made me acquire some very important skills and rules about the fundamentals of game design. After 3 years at Ubisoft, I went to work for Kunst-Stoff GmbH in Berlin as a Senior Game Programmer. Two years later and it is still my current job.

For me personally, the type of games that I enjoy the most are games where you have the feeling of progression over levels or over the story line. I’m not very fond of casual games since I don’t get that progression feeling in most of them. With that said- I can say that my favorite types are: Platformers, RPGs, Action Adventure, and Shooters.

GameSalad: How did you discover GameSalad?

Allaoui: I was talking with a colleague at work about some free 2D engines for iOS and he told me about GameSalad. He had just started using GameSalad at that time and showed me some example programs which convinced me to give it a try. Since I work during the day as a game programmer, when I’m home I don’t really want to program again on my own game. So, I needed something more visual and GameSalad was perfect for my situation.

GameSalad: How long have you been part of the GameSalad community?

Allaoui: I’ve been part of the community since June 2011. I was very surprised on how friendly and helpful people are there. When I post a question,  I always know that I will have an answer very quick either from the Sous Chefs or the regular members.

GameSalad: Tell us about your game development experience. What kind of games do you enjoy making?

Allaoui: Generally the games that I enjoy making are the games that I enjoy playing. Platformers are one of the styles that I really like, so that was the main reason why I went this direction with CheeseMan. In the future, there are other styles that I want to go further with, like music based games (which will be one of the future coming games).

GameSalad: What was the inspiration behind CheeseMan? 

Allaoui: When I started using GameSalad, my aim was to make a platformer game. Platformers are one of the game styles that I’m in love with and kind of miss it nowadays (as they are becoming more and more rare). At the time, the last 2D platformer that I played was Super Meat Boy (which totally blew my mind) and that was the biggest inspiration for me. I started adding some ideas that I wanted to try like the character transformation, the looping levels, teleportation to the game. Then came the time when I had to decide for the graphic theme, the idea of cheese just came out from some old sketches I had drawn.

GameSalad: We heard that you actually worked a little with Team Meat and got their blessing. Tell us about how that came together. 

Allaoui: Team Meat are my favorite Indie Developers, so the last thing I wanted to do was make them mad by making a game that is similar to Super Meat Boy. That’s why I tried to contact them when I had the first playable prototype. I wanted to make sure that they were okay with what I was working on. I first got in touch with Edmund McMillen from Team Meat. We talked about CheeseMan and maybe putting a reference to Meat Boy in the game. He agreed with that and also told me that “its awesome that you were inspired to make a game by SMB. That’s one of the reasons I made it.” His words and reassurance gave me a very strong push of motivation to finish the game.

GameSalad: CheeseMan is a perfect example of a well executed and fun platformer game. Tell us about your development process and the type of feel and gameplay experience that you were hoping to create. 

Allaoui: Since my time was really limited with my day job, I had to organize everything to optimize my time at a maximum. The development started by prototyping and for every prototyped mechanic there is a testing phase to decide either to keep it or discard it. After filtering the mechanics, I wrote a detailed game design document which described all the mechanics and elements on the game. After that, I created a level design document where all the levels were defined.

I started by making the main character and controlling it and then animating it.  After that, I started creating actors with temporary placeholders for the elements of the game(collisions, traps, collectibles, interactive items….) and tested them in a test level. The next step was to create all the levels based on a template which contained the basic things needed in a level like the character spawner and the parallax system… and of course testing every single level to be sure that everything works and it’s not too hard, too easy, or too boring. The final step of development was to make the menus and implementation of Game Center and links.

When creating the game, I was always careful to put a lot of challenge in the game with minimal frustration for the player. That’s why there is no life counter and no loading time between retries in CheeseMan.

Another key part of the look and feel of CheeseMan is the soundtrack. It was made by Matthew Morden from BubblegumOctopus. He’s a very talented musician. When I made the first video preview of the game, I looked for some fast retro music and I found “Acid Wash” from BubblegumOctopus. I fell in love with it and contacted Matthew to ask him if it was okay to use the song for my trailer. He was very nice and even proposed to make a soundtrack for the game (which was more than i was dreaming for).

By the way, you can download the soundtrack here:

GameSalad: CheeseMan has received such great exposure and praise- from being awarded a Silver Award from PocketGamer to being featured in Kotaku. Tell us about the success that you have received thus far.  

Allaoui: When we released CheeseMan, I was not sure if the players would like it since it’s a style that is not very common in iOS. I was so happy when we started getting nice AppStore Reviews and when I started seeing the game in review websites. The game was released on December 12th, 2011 and thinking back I realize now it is probably the worst time to release a game. Especially if you don’t have a good marketing backup and considering that a lot of big titles are launched that time. During that time, I was lucky to get some very positive reviews from iphoneitalia, apptudes, and iphonegamerUK. After that came the “Silver Award” from Pocketgamer and “Game of the Day” at Kotaku. Both of which had a good impact on the sales for some time.

To help promote the game further, I made the game free on the 1st and 2nd January. During these promotion days, I was surprised that the game was downloaded more than 20,000 times during this period, and that’s when posted a small article about the game. Now, we continue to get more and more exposure.  I still hope that the game will get noticed by Apple in the future and be featured somehow.

GameSalad: What is next on your horizon? Any games in development?

Allaoui: Well, a month ago after we created my game company, Alphanoize Games, Arne Wörheide started working on a game while I was finalizing CheeseMan. Now that our first game is released we will concentrate on the second and very soon we will be publishing some preview information about it. Stay tuned!