Way back in October of 2015 I was at Playcrafting’s Fall Expo 2015 and was looking to check out a game called Double Dutch Jump. Double Dutch Jump was a lovely little project put together by a man named Matt Obst, and unfortunately he had stepped away from his table for a moment. In his place was a friend and martial arts instructor going by the name of Grand Master Solomon Quick who definitely knew his stuff and had a very firm handshake.
Grand Master Quick and I chatted for a bit while I tried my hand at playing Double Dutch Jump and failed quite miserably to get the timing down. After a few minutes, Mr. Obst returned and he agreed to do a quick interview with me about his game.
TechRaptor: Tell me about your game. [It’s a] rhythm game about double dutch [jump rope] and that’s what I got so far. I tried it out a little bit so far.
Matt Obst: Very cool. Yeah, so it’s Double Dutch Jump. The game is basically a very simple “tap to jump” rhythm game.
I slide the tablet on the table over to Matt Obst.
TR: Why don’t you give it a go because I tried and I really didn’t get the hang of it. You might be a little bit better at it.
MO: Probably because I designed it.
TR: Yeah that’s probably why!
MO: A local musician/producer Heinrich Zwhalen did all the music.
Matt demonstrates the rhythm-based tapping mechanics. The music is simple but vibrant and energetic.
MO: So now if you integrate in… there’s a swipe mode, too. So tapping you’re only getting one point per jump. [With swiping] you get twice as much.
At this point Matt has encountered some of the difficulties I had with getting the timing right. He goes into developer settings and adjusts a slider.
MO: I think there might be a bug going on, hang on. Let me restart it.
TR: Yeah, it did seem a little bit like the timing was off. But I just chalked that up to me [being inexperienced with the game], you know?
MO: Yeah, well we’re about a week off from the final build so we’re still doing some tweaks.
TR: Now when you say “we” is there more people to your studio, or…?
MO: My programmer Greg Bowman. I have a small team of artists in Seattle who I worked with to create the game. I’m actually the game designer. I produced it. This was my first independently-produced game. I designed several award-winning games in the children’s market including Disney’s Doc McStuffins Time For Your Checkup Mobile App. I’ve been working in games for about ten years.
Matt tinkers further with the developer settings in an effort to hit the sweet spot with timing.
TR: Please keep in mind [TechRaptor and myself] handle preview and development builds all the time, so this doesn’t reflect poorly on you in any way.
MO: Well, one of the issues we have with the game right now is the step jump – there we go – it was being triggered too easily.
Matt gets the game’s timing set right and he’s able to consistently get the jumps on time.
TR: What really stood out to me [about Double Dutch Jump] was the characterization at first. That’s the first thing I saw, the girl with these big pom poms [for] hair.
As Matt executes a combo, the music moves from a very simple step beat to a much more complex and dynamic musical track. The camera shifts angle and the background becomes more animated.
MO: And now the music as you can see builds. I’ve got two moves [I’m using right now]. I’ve got a single leg jump and I got a 180. There’s actually about seven different special moves you can unlock and as you [unlock them] they unlock different aspects of the song.
TR: So [are] the moves that you use completely free form? Like you choose what you use?
MO: I’ll show you. There’s combos. So for example, like “tap, tap, tap, swipe right, swipe left” is a 180. Now if I wanna do the other one it’s “tap, swipe, tap, swipe, tap, swipe” now that’s a single leg jump.
TR: So it has special moves like in a fighting game. [But] instead of a fireball you do like a 180.
MO: Right, exactly.
TR: So this is more than just “tap, tap, tap”. And how you tap and do things affects the music?
MO: Exactly. [As] you’re unlocking new special moves you’re adding layers to the soundtrack.
TR: You are the second person that I’ve seen here [at Playcrafting’s Fall Expo] that has that idea of music being layered on as the game progressively moves forward. [Giant Fox Studios with their title Toadled has a similar concept.] Their game musically expands in the same [sort] of way.
MO: It’s a really fun thing. Because music is reward. What’s neat is as you’re playing – depending on the special moves – you’re unlocking new parts of the soundtrack. It might be the strings, it might be the horns, it might be the bass. As you [use] those special moves… when you use them up, they’ll drop out. So you have [music tracks] coming in and coming out so in a way you’re live mixing the song based on your moves.
TR: What inspired you to make a game about double dutch of all things?
MO: Well, I live in Brooklyn.
TR: Okay, there we go. I live in Newark, but you just explained it right there.
MO: I live in Brooklyn. I’m very inspired by the community out there. One thing is I wanted to touch people that played double dutch as a child but also bring double dutch back to children. And one of the things I’m gonna be doing with this game is we’re gonna be selling a new character. And [proceeds from] that character [is going to] go towards putting double dutch into local communities in Brooklyn and New York City.
TR: See, that’s really cool.
MO: So that’s one of things we’re gonna do. The idea to me is not just to bring this game – which is a lot of fun, a great way to play with music – but to bring the nostalgia of what the community and New York City has been doing for a very long time but is not doing as much anymore.
TR: Stylistically I think it looks nice. First thing that hooked me [is that I looked] at the character [and thought] it looks cute. Second thing that hooked me was, “Okay, game about double dutch, okay I’ll check that out.” And now all this stuff where it’s just beyond a game… it seems to be one of the running themes of a lot of the games here. A sort of “giving back” undertone to them one way or another.
MO: Yeah! It is, it’s giving back. And in a way, too, I’m celebrating the African-American, Black community, and multi-cultural nature of Brooklyn. I’m going to add characters of all different ethnicities. Most recently we’ve included Deedee’s Paris Hijab outfit, featuring a muslim head covering. But what’s so cool is the initial achievement set that we’ve created in here [has] every achievement [named] after a black historical figure. Let’s say if this game is 90% fun, it’s 10% educational. Living in Brooklyn, one of the things I love is that there’s a celebration of history and culture like… the graffiti on the walls in Bed-Stuy where I live are often of historical figures.
TR: I’m from Newark and we’ve got some stuff like that too.
MO: So you know, yeah! And so I love the idea of, “Let’s celebrate the history of Central Brooklyn, the people that live there, the culture where games like this came out of and the simplicity of street games.”
TR: I guess my last question is [about] platforms. So it [will be] on iOS, are you gonna be expanding to any other platforms? Are you gonna go to Android?
TR: Do you think you’re gonna bring it to PC [or something else] maybe?
MO: So one of the first ports we’re planning may be Apple TV. We’re very excited about the game development on the new Apple TV. I also am gonna do Android and I have plans… if the game is successful, I’d like to port it to Xbox Live Arcade and also PlayStation as well as Nintendo.
Double Dutch Jump was pretty fun to play. It’s easily the best jump rope game I’ve ever played. Of course, there aren’t very many games of that type so that might not be a meaningful quantifier for you. What I can say is that I thought it made for a genuinely interesting rhythm game made by a man who has a deep love for Brooklyn and the culture there.
Matt Obst’s love for his community extends to real-world action as well. The launch party for Double Dutch Jump featured, well, actual double dutch jump rope. Matt Obst has also partnered with the local Police Athletic League, The Wynn Center in Bedford Stuyvesant, and brought in a Double Dutch after school program taught by Ruth Payne, coach of Bed-Stuy’s own Double Dutch team, the Jammin’ Jumpers. Matt is also teaching a Gaming Workshop after school program at the PAL, where kids learn all about what goes into both playing games as well as the craft of creating them.
If you’re interested in checking out Double Dutch Jump yourself you can grab it for free on iOS here. The Android version is scheduled to hit the Google Play store this summer! You can send the developer Matt any comments back directly at [email protected]
What do you think of a jumprope-based rhythm game? Are there any other traditional “street games” that you think would make for great gameplay? Let us know in the comments below!