Last month, long-time Sega fans had their dreams come true when the Dreamcast classic ChuChu Rocket made its way to the iPhone and iPad. We thought the App Store version held up extremely well in our review, so we wanted to follow up with Binary Hammer, the developers of the port, and find out how it was done. Here’s what Bob Koon, President and Tech Director of Binary Hammer, had to say.
How did Binary Hammer come to develop the iOS version of ChuChu Rocket for Sega?
Bob: We initially developed Sonic 1 for Clickwheel-controlled iPods, and when Sega approached us again they asked if there were any properties we were especially interested in. I immediately brought up ChuChu Rocket!, as I thought we’d be a perfect fit for it. That discussion got put on the backburner at the time, so I was really pleasantly surprised when they reached out to us again earlier this year to see if we were interested in developing the game!
Were the Binary Hammer team big fans of the Dreamcast original?
Bob: Absolutely! We played it all the time just like everyone else did back around 2000. I believe it was this fanboyism that helped us become good candidates to handle the iOS conversion.
What were the unique challenges in porting a Dreamcast game to iOS?
Bob: The biggest problem we had was porting the multiplayer code. The Dreamcast version never had to handle the kinds of situations that the iOS version has to deal with, like interruptions via phone call and making sure everyone’s screens are exactly in sync. Some people may not remember that 4-player mode in the original didn’t have everyone in the same room.
Related to this is the fact that some multiplayer “lag” was included on purpose in the original code to help keep everything in sync. We had to work with that concept while also tweaking the code to accommodate for different hardware speeds. The initial release of the iOS version actually doesn’t show an arrow immediately, and we’ve gotten some feedback from players who found this confusing. The new update, which is just about set, addresses this by acknowledging the arrow gesture with a ‘˜ghost arrow’ that tells the player: ‘the game got your input, here’s where the arrow is going to appear once all the devices are told.’
What updates are coming in the future for ChuChu Rocket?
Bob: We have already submitted an update that includes many bug fixes and enhancements as well as including 100 extra levels. Other features that are in progress for future updates include proper online multiplayer through Game Center, support for Retina display, and of course lots more levels. We’re also planning to include the Puzzle Edit mode and the ability to share levels locally with your friends, as well as more iPad-specific features.
What other Dreamcast games do you think would be a good fit for iOS? Does BH have any involvement in other Sega ports?
Bob: Well, the first brands that immediately come to mind are Space Channel 5, Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, House of the Dead, and Shenmue. Seaman could be an interesting project as well. We are talking to Sega about more conversions, but I’m not able to provide any details yet!
What is it about ChuChu Rocket that has made it such a long-running cult classic?
Bob: I’d say it’s the wacky visuals and premise combined with a fantastic multiplayer mode. ChuChu Rocket! is the ultimate party game. Game Center wasn’t released until very late in the development cycle for ChuChu Rocket!, so there wasn’t time to fully implement the experience that Dreamcast fans were expecting with the initial release, but we are working very hard to add this (and many other) features to the game through completely free updates.