We are the first to admit it, paddling does not get the glory and spotlight as much as other sports (unless of course, you are a paddler. In which case it is all we talk about). So when we caught 'wind' that there was a paddling game out there on the horizon, we immediately sought it out. But if anyone expected a low effort -bored in 1 minute-designed by a non-paddler-ported from another game disappointing experience. WE WERE SO WRONG!
This game is not just well done, it is SWELLDONE. And so we reached out to interview the designer and paddling friend Wyatt Wong to ask some pretty important questions about the game, how it came to be, and what we might see in the future. Enjoy!
Check-out and download the game here: https://swelldoneapp.com.
> Hi Wyatt, first off, we LOVE what you did. But for those new to the game, tell us a little bit about this game and why it’s unique?
Swelldone is a paddling game that's designed from the start to be an open-world experience with a focus on downwind surfing. The other paddling games that are current out there are pretty basic and seem to have a limited or specific experience to navigate a closed obstacle course or to focus on a particular type of arcade gameplay. The experience I wanted for Swelldone was to give the player unlimited access to explore open water and let the waves take you wherever you want to go. I wanted to make the game realistic enough for a paddler to learn and apply their skills to read and get on bumps, yet keep it simple and fun to get lost on endless wave trains.
> What were some challenges to helping us feel like we are actually paddling?
Oh, there were quite a few gnarly challenges to designing and creating this game. Never a dull moment!
The first huge challenge was to understand how to model and simulate the water and environment - the experience of being on the water is very complicated to simulate as the ocean is very dynamic with wind, waves, chop, currents. As experienced paddlers, we look for and respond to all these variables that we read from the water. It was important then that the game is able to provide the same level of fidelity in these details for the player to feel immersed as if they were paddling on real waves, but not get so technical that new paddlers get overwhelmed.
The next challenge then was to simulate watercrafts - factors like buoyancy, handling, drift, surfing and sliding on waves. To appeal to both novice and experienced paddlers, the watercrafts must move and behave in a real and predictable way and so they had to be fine tuned with the ocean physics.
After that, modeling avatars and animating the paddle strokes and subtle movements were the next challenges - I ended up building my own motion capture rig to recording avatar animations as the paddling movements for Swelldone were totally unique and generic "lily dipper" animations could not be used.
And then there were a ton of technical hurdles, I'll save that for another nerd-out sesh.
> What made you decide to do it?
I just felt it was time to have a game like this for all paddlers to enjoy. I became very inspired by Keizo Gate's 2017 Solo Video, where Manny Kulukulu'alani said in the intro "I guess my whole purpose behind it is perpetuating my culture [of the Hawaiian canoe] because that's where everything is derived from... if I don't get out there paddling the ocean then different parts of my life just fall out of balance." Manny's words really resonated with me - I've always wanted to preserve and promote the Polynesian paddling culture and I've also felt that paddling really helps me to find my center. I want to thank Keizo and everyone in that video for articulating what paddling means to all of us.
In late 2018, I had also moved away from the ocean - from the San Francisco Bay Area to Toronto. I could no longer paddle in the ocean year-round and the windy days are different. The withdrawal is real! And with the mess of 2020 and COVID cancelling everything, that was the last straw. I decided it's time to do something good and share a little stoke and fun. Ultimately, the game is my love letter to the paddling ohana and is a way for me to feel connected with the feel of the ocean.
> Are you an app developer by trade?
I'm a tech "Product Person" by trade and I consider myself to have a very special set of skills. Over the course of my career I had: spent a number of years building training simulations in a virtual world/MMO; developed all kinds of software from mobile apps to large enterprise systems; created hundreds of hours of movement training videos and strength & conditioning programming for fitness and elite athletes; and been very active at my outrigger canoe club (He'e Nalu OCC) where I was also an interim race director for "Round the Rock" Alcatraz Challenge. Education comes in handy too, I have an undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Queen's University in Canada and an MBA in Product Development and Product Marketing from Santa Clara University.
> What is your background with paddling?
I've been paddling only for 5 years although it feels much, much longer than that. I discovered outrigger canoeing in early 2016 after stumbling on some Youtube videos and I knew I had to find a way to try it. Prior to that I had been in a dragonboat a few times and participated in a few novice/recreational level competitions. It took me a while to find an OC club that was active to take on a newcomer during the off season, but as soon as I sat in an OC6 I became obsessed. I learned everything I possibly could about the sport and culture and I trained my butt off to eventually earn a seat at Catalina with my club in my first year. Now I paddle OC6 with Maka Koa and Sunnyside in Toronto, I have my own OC1 (PueoX), I paddle SUP every now and then, and I also recently got my first Epic surfski.
> What can we expect to see in future versions of the game?
There's so much planned for Swelldone and I'm very excited to continue working on it. I'm currently working on networked multiplayer gameplay so you can surf and race with others in the game from anywhere in the world. Once we players on to party waves, we can host virtual races, challenges, and leaderboards in game.
I will also be adding other watercrafts - more OC models, SUPs, surfskis, foils, anything that surfs! New avatars, clothing, gear, a lot more content to personalize players and preferences.
More courses are in the works. Swelldone launched with a small map of The Mokes and we can certainly expect more courses to be added soon of real-world locations. The locations are all modeled from real world terrain and are GPS accurate... so I'm curious to try and load GPS tracks of real world runs in the game to race against and see what that's like.
Oh, keep an eye out for marine life, what's an ocean without fish and mammals?
Something else I'm exploring are ergometer and rower integrations. I'm a big fan of Zwift and I think being able to use your erg/rower power your avatar in the game would add a lot more fun to dry-land training and increase program adherence. No one wants to get on the erg, it's monotonous and it's a grind - and I want to change that. I'm currently collaborating with KayakPro to link up to their new Genesis Port console for their kayak and OC/dragonboat ergs. This is another feature I'm building for myself so I can be motivated to train consistently in the off-season and I hope that it'll help other athletes stay engaged as well.
> We see the game is free? So incredibly generous of you. Is there a way folks can Venmo you if they want to support your future gifts to the paddling community or something we can support you are a part of?
Yes, Swelldone is completely free and I want the core game experience to remain free so that paddlers of all ages and experiences can play. I really want to further the culture and excitement of open water paddling for those who are not fortunate enough to experience the ocean firsthand. The costs are real though - hosting and bandwidth fees, software licenses, art assets, development programs and tools, and hundreds of hours of time. I've been doing this entirely on my own as a passion project, so if you share a similar passion I will definitely appreciate your help and support!
There are several ways you can help support and contribute:
- Subscribe to my Patreon page - please chip in for a paid subscription and follow along with my progress: https://www.patreon.com/swelldone.
- Direct donators - please Venmo me directly if you feel generous to help offset some of the perpetual costs - http://venmo.com/wyattwww.
- Brands, product reps, race directors - please considering sponsoring your content to add the game. I'm looking for boats, boards, apparel, gear, and race venues - let's talk! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Just keep playing and enjoy the game! Share with your friends! Please leave a 5-star rating in the App Store, your feedback is always appreciated.
Aloha and Mahalo,
> Thanks so much! And we encourage all of our readers check-out and download the game here: https://swelldoneapp.com.