fat pebble
The cool thing about Clay Jam, a mobile game where you roll a boulder down a hill to squish monsters, is that the art was meticulously created over the past year using claymation film techniques.

Chris Roe, the art director at indie game studio Fat Pebble, built the game’s scenes from real clay in his garage over the past year. Now, the title is launching today as a mobile game on Apple’s iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch) and Google’s Android platform courtesy of Zynga.

San Francisco-based Zynga has been dinged for its lack of originality. But Michael Movel, the creative director at Brighton, U.K.-based Fat Pebble, told GamesBeat that the unique art style of the game helps it stand out from the crowd of hundreds of thousands of mobile games. And that’s a big reason why Zynga got behind the game as the fifth in its series of titles for its third-party publishing platform, Zynga Partners for Mobile Program.

Teaming up with Zynga was a “no brainer,” said Movel.

“We are good at making games,” he said. “Zynga can give us massive exposure.”

He said Zynga offered advice but left the team to create its own game. It took longer than usual because of scale of the claymation effort.

Roe used 44 pounds of clay to produce the art, and he took 2,040 stop-motion camera clicks. Fifty monsters were squashed during animation, including 17 by chief executive Iain Gilfeather and his rolling pin. There are 26 different variations of monsters. Other factoids about the development: 36 large cans of coffee-flavored energy drink were consumed, 4,000 cups of tea were drunk, and two babies were born for family members of developers. He and the team also created Beardy’s Bluff, an obstacle course of molded claymation monsters.

You enable a ball to roll by swiping your finger on the screen, carving a groove in the clay. Akin to the ball in Namco’s zany Katamari Damacy, the Clay Jam ball gets bigger as you roll over more things. But while Katamari Damacy is about exploration, Clay Jam is all about squishing monsters. At the end of the course, you flick the ball high in the air to get it to fly as far as possible. The game has 130 quests and five hills.

Other Zynga Partners for Mobile Program titles include Rubber Tacos, Super Bunny Breakout, Horn, and Twist Pilot. Launched in June 2012, the program leverages Zynga’s huge mobile-gaming audience to promote games of lesser known developers.

Fat Pebble’s team formed a year ago and funded the project itself. They have experience working on high-end console games at Lionhead, Black Rock Studios, Blitz Games, and ZoĆ« Mode. They made the game with just five people, including freelancers for music and sound effects.

“We wanted to make our own decisions and make quirky, fun games that we wanted to play,” said Movel.