iOS Video Games

Exclusive Interview: “Bomb Buds” Designer Jim Burner


If you give your mobile game a name like Bomb Buds, you’re just asking for someone to make jokes about weed. But in talking to Fugazo Inc.’s Jim Burner, the game designer on this iOS and Android strategic action battle game — if that even is his real name, and not another pot joke — he didn’t just make a couple weed-related quips, he veered into what would’ve been legally-implicating territory…had Fugazo’s hometown of Seattle not just legalized marijuana. As they say, smoke ’em if you got ’em.

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Let’s start with the basics: What is Bomb Buds and how do you play it?

That’s a great question. I’ll tell you why. Bomb Buds is really open to any kind of play style you can imagine. The fun is what you bring to the experience. For example, a more creative individual could detach the spherical heads of 15 Bomb Buds and play billiards with a friend or loved-thing. Even during an earthquake if one was so brave.

Where did you get the idea for it, originally? I’m guessing not from the DJ Quik songs “Tha Bombudd” [from his 1991 debut Quik Is The Name] and “Bombudd II” [from his 1998 album Rhythm-al-ism]. Or did you…?

DJ Quik’s presence was a constant, comforting, even medicinal one from the very conception of Bomb Buds right through to the end. In fact, Quik Is The Name inspired us so much that it was hard to choose how to “give props” to each track. The game could have very well been called “Sweet Black Pussy.”

Uh…okay. What about the art style, what are some of the things that inspired the look of the game, and especially the little characters?

My buds Charles and Joel are responsible for the character and background art, respectfully. There’s a definite influence from Saturday morning cartoons and such Nickelodeon stuff as Spongebob. The main idea was cute little buggers + violence = amusing. Many people have mentioned a Korean animation vibe, which is not surprising to us. Aside from listening to DJ Quik, we watched a lot of Joint Security Area during development — even though the name was initially misleading to us — Red vs. Blue, North vs. South… I’ll leave it open to each person’s preferred philosophical interpretation.

Do the characters have special abilities, or is it just a cosmetic thing so people don’t all have to play as the same guy?

All of the Buds have unique abilities and stats. Speed, power, health, and weight differ from strain to strain. Red and Blue are your bog-standard plants, whilst Kitty Buds don’t take fall damage, Pirates steal Sun Drops, Robuds emit a Super Explosion upon death, Cowbuds can score critical hits, and Zombuds regain health each turn.

Now you call these characters “garden warriors.” And you guys are based in Seattle, where they just legalized it…

Actually, development on Bomb Buds began before the legalization, so I’d say that makes this game rather progressive. We’re proud of that. Our programmer Greg was adamant about pushing the release date back to April 20th, but I couldn’t see the point in it.

The game has 192 single player missions. Could you really not make eight more?

Our game engine doesn’t support 200. This particular number had to be avoided whilst coding. 20 was fine. 2000 was A-OK, but 200 gave us a major headache. In fact, all instances of 200 in the game are actually 199.99994209999. You don’t even want to know what -200 did to the game.

Once again: Uh…okay. There are also thirty challenge puzzles. How are they different than the regular ones? What makes them so challenging?

The challenges are about altering previously held perceptions of gameplay and expanding the player’s mind. Think of them as a gateway to hardcore levels of play.

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The game also has player-vs.-player matches. How do they work?

Players can connect with each other via Facebook, Arc Username, or random matching. The host chooses their Bud and the map, plants their little buggers, and waits for their opponent to do likewise. Then it’s all “pew-pew-pew” with Thistle Missiles, Homing Shrooms, Seeds Strikes, etc. When all of your Buds are dead, you lose. There is also an in-game chat system called Bud-to-Bud, as well as a global ranking effected by each game you win and lose.

Why did you go with asynchronous multiplayer as opposed to real-time?

With mobile devices, games are like snacks. Everyone’s got the tech munchies these days. They play a little here, surf the internet there, text another life form elsewhere. Asynchronous play seems like the right fit for this kind of platform.

Bomb Buds is currently available for iOS and Android. Are there plans to bring it any the Kindle Fire?

We have no plans to light our Buds with Kindle Fire unfortunately. Sometimes in game development, with a team of our size, one has to pick one’s battles. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen though.

What about to Facebook or game consoles?

Game consoles are something we’d be very excited about, but at this point we’re waiting to see how well Bomb Buds is received on mobile platforms first.

Can you play player-vs.-player matches across platforms?

Yes, you can play across platforms. We’ll also be tracking who wins harder between Apple and Android players. Eventually we may release this data and finally put an end to the age-old debate, “Which is the better platform?”

Now the game isn’t free-to-play and doesn’t have microtransaction. Why did you decide to go with the pay model that you did, and was any of that decision based on or influenced by the fact that so many free-to-play games that have microtransactions have either done a bad job with it or annoyed their players by being too aggressive?

Tricky question! Bomb Buds will very likely go free-to-play at some point, but the team is very happy to be offering it as a paid app right now. Free-to-play is obviously a very risky model. It’s either Win Big or Lose Hard. Either way, we believe our microtransactions and all that jazz are pretty fair.

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Finally, since someone at an airport or in a federal building will inevitably get arrested for saying that they’re playing Bomb Buds, have you already written the apologetic press release yet, or are you waiting until it happens so it might not seem so contrived when it’s read aloud on the evening news? Or are you just going to blame DJ Quik?

Obviously the two words, even by themselves have a tendency to be problematic. Putting them together? Yes, it’s a bold choice. Yes, it’s a risk. Yes, we are brave people. Yes is our answer to this question. Thank you for your time. We’ll see you on the battlefield, buds!



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