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OCTOBER 25TH, 2011

Ouie wants your phone


In preparation for a more general Android release, we’re looking for beta testers. If you have a non-Tegra Android phone running Android 2.3 or later and would like to participate, send us a note at

Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that you will be selected for the beta program. In particular we’re looking for people with phones from Motorola and HTC, like HTC Sensation and the Motorola Droid series.

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OCTOBER 11TH, 2011

Update available

It’s a pleasure for us to announce that our first content update for Sprinkle is available on the App Store and Android Market! It includes:

  • A new world with twelve tricky levels.
  • Game Center support with leaderboards and achievements on the iOS version.
  • Two new levels on the first world.
  • Toggle music and sound independently and support for iPod music playing in the background.
  • Level score and high score to compare your Sprinkle skills with friends.
  • You can now skip levels if you get stuck. However, you still need a certain number of drops to unlock the next world!

Sprinkle world 5

In addition this update also contains six bonus levels as a gift for those of you who used In-App purchase to pay for extra levels before they were made available in the last version. Hit the plus sign in the lower right corner and tap “Get bonus” to access them!

Go get it!

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Realizing potential

I have a bunch of old colleagues now working at NVIDIA, and one night in January while chatting with James Dolan, I sent him a small screen capture video of our new project. The video was unlisted on youtube, but as James sent the video around internally within NVIDIA, I could see there was a lot of activity as the view count was ticking away. It didn’t take long before we were contacted by an account manager about possible collaboration around the title. Especially the fact Sprinkle requires a powerful CPU catched their attention as devices with their new Tegra 2 chip were just around the corner. Here is the screen capture video I sent James. Here you can also see the point-to-sprinkle control scheme we used at the time:

At the time we were not planning to releasing on Android at all, but after meeting up with the cheerful guys at NVIDIA and they started sending us hardware for testing we just couldn’t resist. Since Sprinkle was already running on Windows, MacOS and iOS it didn’t take that long to make an Android port as well. Only the sound system needed a full rewrite, since Android still doesn’t support OpenAL.

Getting all this attention from NVIDIA made us realize that Sprinkle maybe had more potential than we first thought. Up until now, we were only planning on making a small game for fun, but this was a turning point where we realized Sprinkle could actually be something big. This is also when we decided to start a company around the project. The name “Mediocre” started as a joke, but grew on us and represent our humour really well. Other ideas we had for company name include “Polite Entertainment” and “Considerate Games”.

The name Sprinkle came about relatively early in development. Our first idea was “Squirt”, but after a quick google search we firmly decided against.

While making a trailer for NVIDIA we also started thinking about music. Both Henrik and myself are interested in music and occassionally makes electronic music, but we never felt it was an option to make the Sprinkle music ourselves, especially not now when we were onto something!

We talked to a couple of friends, but their style didn’t feel quite right for the game. I started thinking about a band I listened to many years ago – Swedish indie band “Dr Higgins”, doing a cheerful, electronic pop music with acoustic elements. The band itself was never big, and closed shop over five years. It was even quite hard to find out the members’ names at this time, but finally I stumbled upon an old german interview that revealed who was in the band. One of them had a rather unusual name “Douglas Holmqvist”, so I could easily track him down and found out he happened to live in the same city as myself (Malmö), now being a professional musician. I sent him some video footage asking if he was interested in making the music for Sprinkle, and it didn’t take much convincing before he decided to jump aboard. For the trailer, we got permission to use one of the old Dr Higgins tunes, and here is the final result:

Douglas has also created most of the sounds effects in Sprinkle, including the sound of the Titans. I don’t know how many different types we tried before this current one. We wanted them to sound organic, but not human. Douglas even invited professional actors to do the sounds, but it never felt quite right. The end result is Douglas himself talking through a vocoder with lots of electronic filters. He got the vocoder idea only a week before we had to submit the game, and the result is exactly what we were looking for!

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Game evolution

After deciding to drop the tilt idea and focus on spraying water instead, Henrik drew a red little squirt balloon that stayed with us for several months. A real challenge was how to control the thing. We knew we wanted it to move up and down and some way of adjusting the angle. I honestly think we tried every combination of touch interfaces there is to control the squirter before deciding of the current one. It took a good while for us to come up with the red sprinkle button, so for a long time you could only spray water by pointing a direction on the screen. Some people liked that, but it didn’t give you much precision as you couldn’t aim without spraying, and you couldn’t spray without covering the screen with your hand. The current control scheme isn’t ideal for everybody at first, but given a few minutes practice, most people feel right at home.

The red balloon squirter was with us for a long time. Do you recognize the level? Yes, it's an early version of 3-12! One of the oldest level designs in the game, and still one of the hardest to master...

Another pressing issue we had was the limit on how much fluid could be simulated on the screen. This is just a hardware limitation, as compute power is finite, but it did affect gameplay in a very obvious way. Either there needed to be a finite amount of fluid, or the simulation would run slower and slower. None of them seemed very appealing, and we struggled hard to create fun levels with only 600 particles. To put that in perspective – 600 particles is equivalent to spraying for about four seconds. Being that restrictive with water simply wasn’t any fun!

To work around the problem we put a lifetime on each water particle, and simply removed it when time ran out, then it could be recycled and sprayed out again. This gave the illusion of an unlimited amount of fluid, while in fact only allowing four seconds of water on screen at the same time. If you look carefully in the game you’ll see that the fluid doesn’t pool up forever, but dissolves over time as if absorbed by the ground. This was the big turning point for the game and for level design! Finally we could make interesting levels and the game mechanic was actually fun to play!

Henrik sent me this level as a christmas gift. It never made it into the game, but I still like it a lot!

After getting the core game mechanic in place, we turned to replacing the squirter. We had this idea with small characters, but we didn’t really know how to use them, and we didn’t have a backstory at all. There were many different designs for the water spraying device, including this peculiar one:

I have no idea how this thing would work, I'm just glad it died.

Evolution of a fire truck

At this point we didn’t have any animation in the levels, so everything was mechanical constructions. Many of the levels on World 2 of Sprinkle was born around this time. Level design is a really tricky task. At first, we both did some attempts, but over time Henrik took over this task completely.

The windmill is another early level design, now found in Sprinkle as level 2-4.


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Getting the water flowing

Determined to make the fluid labyrinth, I implemented a 2D fluid simulator based on work I had previously done for 3D simulation and high-end machines. Here’s a short clip from the 3D version of the fluid simluation:

Adapting the code to run on iPad required starting over from scratch. Even though the iPad is a powerful machine, it doesn’t compare to a quad-core desktop PC (yet!). So performance was an issue, not only in the beginning but throughout the entire project. This is partly because we’re really old-school when it comes to frame rate and wouldn’t release anything that runs at less than 60 frames per second. Especially for a game based on liquid it’s particularly important that the game is flowing.

Henrik created a couple of concept images for the fluid labyrinth based on photographic realism. Beautiful, but pretty far from today’s Sprinkle right?

For level design, we made a PC version so that we could draw polygons with the mouse and using keyboard shortcuts for input. This is a video of a very early version of the fluid labyrinth that I saved on my iPad. I remember showing it to a couple of friends at a restaurant and the initial comment was “What’s that? The water looks really ugly!”. In retrospect I think they were right, but the fluid simulation is actually very close to what is being used in Sprinkle today, just with lots of added shaders and eye candy:

The fluid labyrinth had two fundamental problems:

A) It was really hard to design challenging puzzles.
B) It wasn’t fun!

The main problem with A was that we allowed tilt in all directions. To circumvent this we disabled upwards tilt, but then it felt unnatural that the fluid didn’t fully respond to the device motion. B was of course an even bigger problem. We tried this on a lot of people and got an occasional eyebrow, but never that Wow! response we were looking for.

We tried some variations of the labyrinth with a gold fish named Lipsy, swimming around in the water. Your goal was to slosh Lipsy around by tilting the device and get her back to the fish bowl while at the same time keeping her in the water. Do I need to mention this was a terrible idea? Here is Lipsy:



This is where we gave up on the labyrinth and the idea of spraying water entered our minds. Next post will be on the early versions of Sprinkle as we know it!


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