Out today for Xbox One, Switch and PC, Pumped BMX Pro is the latest entry in the challenging Pumped BMX series.
Since its humble beginnings on mobile, the Pumped BMX series has accrued itself a legion of fans thanks to its pick-up-and-play nature and real BMX tricks. Featuring a new art style, real BMX riders and more, Pumped BMX Pro really does make PC and console feel like its natural home though.
What’s really surprising about the Pumped BMX series is that each release has largely been created by just one man, Adam Hunt, and Pumped BMX Pro is no exception. With the help of freelancers, Adam has bashed out three Pumped BMX games on mobile and two on console to date, and there’s no sign of him hanging up his development boots any time soon.
After dragging ourselves away from pulling off sensational tricks like the 720 Superman into Icepick, we fired some questions over to Adam to find out more about Pumped BMX Pro, solo game development, and more crucially whether video games or BMXs are better. Read on and discover his wonderful answers below.
Hi Adam, what drove you to create the original Pumped BMX game?
So basically it was a game I had wanted to play for a long time, and I finally got bored of waiting so I decided to make it myself! Back in 2001 or so I used to play a game called Dirt Bike which was a very simple side scrolling bike game in which you could make your own bikes and levels. So naturally I reduced the power of the bike down to zero and made sets of jumps very similar to the levels you can see in Pumped BMX! I really wanted the player to be able to do tricks, so I emailed the developer asking him to do what I (naively) assumed would be a very easy job – making the bike a BMX and adding tricks. Shocker: he didn’t.
I mostly forgot about it until about 10 years later when Tiny Wings came out, and that spurred me on to have a go at making it myself. So I spent a year learning to program and at the end of it I had my first game!
What’s it like creating a game by yourself? Do you find it a great help working with freelancers or does it present additional problems?
It’s weird. On the one hand I absolutely love it – I have total autonomy, complete creative freedom and I can spend days upon days in my pyjamas if I want. On the other hand I can go a very long time without talking to anyone, when work is particularly stressful there’s no-one to share the load with, and sometimes I spend days upon days in my pyjamas! One of those double edged sword type situations.
I can just about manage to do all the coding, overall design and UI work myself. However I’m objectively terrible at art, so I’ve worked with a number of freelance artists over the years – the games wouldn’t exist without them. So far all of the freelancers I’ve worked with have been from the US, and with me being based in the UK that means there’s a weird ‘couple of emails a day’ rhythm to the work that seems to work fine most of the time. So no, no real problems aside from personal hygiene and the occasional time-zone issue!
Did you ever worry that people just wouldn’t ‘get’ your game? That they wouldn’t like it?
Oh god yeah. Constantly. I’m still surprised that they do to be honest. Even the fact that I’m doing this interview is really weird.
Rationally I know some of that is ‘impostor syndrome’, but I do feel like I’m genuinely more of an impostor than your average game developer. I didn’t even learn to code until I was 28, so relatively late. I’m not part of any game related scene / clique – I’m way more ‘BMXer’ than ‘gamer’. And I’m totally self taught and have never worked in the game industry professionally, so I’m totally out of the loop there too! So yeah, the ‘I don’t belong here’ feeling is very strong.
Anyway, I digress, haha. The original Pumped BMX was aimed squarely at other BMXers. I was specifically targeting people that ride, and even more specifically myself. I made the game that I (as a BMXer) wanted to play, and I’m continuing to try and do that with all the newer Pumped games. That makes the feelings of worry slightly easier to manage – if I like it I know that at least some other people out there will like it too! As the series matures and becomes more mainstream, it still remains pretty authentically ‘BMX’. If that makes sense? So yeah, that helps me worry less.
The Pumped BMX games are easy to pick up but hard to master – how do you find the right balance?
There’s two sides to this I think, the physics and the challenges themselves.
For the challenges it’s just loads and loads of playtesting. That’s probably one of the more difficult aspects of being a solo developer – you lose all objectivity, and don’t have anyone nearby to sanity check things with. I obviously play the games an awful lot when I’m making them, so I get pretty good! Then it comes time to set the challenges, and what I think is a super easy challenge for early on in the game is more often than not *way* too hard. So friends and other testers are vital for that.
As for the physics side, that’s the part of my games I spend the largest percentage of time on. They all start off as physics sandboxes and I tweak the bike physics for months – literally months – until it’s feeling great, and has a nice balance. Obviously it’s never perfect, but hopefully I get a bit closer each time!
What do you feel makes your new game, Pumped BMX Pro, stand out from its predecessors?
Well, to go back to the whole ‘authentically BMX’ thing – this game has loads of real life, highly respected, awesome BMX riders in it! So that’s cool. It also has loads of new tricks, awesome levels and full bike customisation.
Is there anything that you’d like to change about your games or introduce to them?
Hmmmm. I dunno, that’s a tricky one. Basically yeah, loads, but I think that’s natural. I learn loads with every new project, whether it’s programming, or art direction, or sound design, or lighting, or something else. There’s a hell of lot of stuff for me to get better at! Hopefully I keep improving a bit every game, so I’ll always look back on old games and see the shortfalls.
What lies ahead for Yeah Us! Games?
At some point I’d like to do a game that isn’t a BMX game, but I’m not quite there yet! I’m working on another new game, but there’s not a huge amount to say about that one at the moment.
The question that every gamer hates: what’s your favourite video game of all time and why?
Ha, pretty easy actually. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2.
And finally, what are better: BMX bikes or video games?
Ha! A few years ago I’d have said BMX, but my body is a bit broken now and I can’t ride as much as I used to, so I’ll go with video games!
We’d like to thank Adam for taking time to answer our questions.
Also, you should really check out Pumped BMX Pro if you’re reading this, enjoy popping tricks, and aren’t scared of a challenge. It’s available now on Xbox One, Switch and PC. Oh, and it’s included in Xbox Game Pass, too, so if you’re subscribed to that you don’t even have to pay anything. Result!