With 300,000 downloads and rising, Catomolo, the educational recycling game, has been a huge success

Catomolo
© copyright 2018 T.M.I.R. Manufacturers recycling corporation in Israel LTD

 

When the talented Dori Adar approached us with the Catomolo project, we were immediately excited to work on it. You don’t get the opportunity to make a game that is cute, fun AND educational every day. Plus we were going to work with a game designer we admired for Tamir– a very large and recognized company that is all about recycling- something we care about.

Container recycling has recently been introduced in Israel (pretty late compared to the rest of the world, I know). Israelis in general aren’t the best recyclers, probably due to the lack of education on the subject (or maybe because they have bigger problems to worry about, but who knows?). So Catomolo’s aim was to tackle that, and teach the general population, especially the younger generation, what to do with those tin cans, juice cartons and spray bottles. The game was meant to be part of a large awareness campaign (by Glickman Shamir Samsonov Advertising Co. Ltd).

Dori crafted the initial prototype and game design document (additional features were added later). We were also provided with most of the 2D graphics ( the UI & product sprites had to be on par with their branding and previous campaigns), and the 3D model of the cat stripped of the armature, animation and fur.

So Does Dedi look like himself??

The first challenge we faced was making Dedi the cat, the game’s slick street-cat character, look like himself 🙂 That was no easy feat, as the original Dedi was made in an animation studio for film-level animation, with a VERY large and complex armature for high level facial expressions and such. The game was meant to be much lower level (and was much lower budget and tighter schedule).

As fellow game devs know, the armature also deforms the mesh, so getting it to look exactly like Dedi was nearly impossible, but after two weeks of endless tweaking to the fur and armature (and lighting), we managed to get it sufficiently close to the original. Phew.

Catomolo recycling game
One of the first attempts at the fur, before adding armature. Not too bad IMHO
Catomolo recycling game
Reference Dedi © copyright 2018 T.M.I.R. Manufacturers recycling corporation in Israel LTD
Catomolo recycling game
Our version of Dedi, pretty close right?

Rendering Nightmare

 The second biggest challenge we faced was rendering. Highly detailed fur takes a LONG time to render (and while rendering the computer is pretty much useless). We calculated that it would take weeks to render the animations if we only rendered at night. We didn’t have enough time.

In order to tackle that (huge) hurdle, we set up a render farm on our Kubernetes cluster. That way I could render in the cloud with as many GPUs and CPUs as I wanted and work at the same time. It saved us tons of time and probably costed as much as the electricity bill would have.

Our Kubernetes cluster proved an extremely useful tool for scalability after launch as well- the game was much more successful than anticipated. The forecast was a few tens of thousands of players max (Israel IS a small country you know)- but we managed to reach 300,000 in one month. The servers didn’t even flinch under the burden of players.

There were a few more little bumps and challenges on the way (Unity’s UI system, right-to-left text, and more), but all in all it was an amazing experience. A stressful couple of months for sure, but we learned a lot, especially about tools that will be very useful in the future like the render farm and kubernetes cluster.

Huge thanks to Dori for making this all happen 🙂

Stay tuned for our next game MicroTap that will be out very soon!

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