Social Game Universe: Dirty Dancing & Grow-Ops

Posted by aBethke on Wednesday Sep 21, 2011 Under Game Development

Reposted by

Social Game Universe (aka SGU) is a Toronto based social game/media company. From July 2010 until about August 2011, first myself and then Andrew were contracted to help SGU develop and release two Facebook games, Dirty Dancing and Grow-Ops. We were introduced to the CEO of SGU via our good friend Miguel (Spooky Squid Games) and subsequently got to work with him on both of the SGU projects.

Dirty Dancing

The second, and likely to be vastly more successful, game that we helped SGU develop was the recently launched Dirty Dancing. For me, this was a project that Andrew really kicked butt on as he single-handedly designed and implemented the entire isometric engine that the game utilizes. Andrew and I both played key roles throughout the course of this project starting with the high level design down to the technical implementation. Andrew led the client team implementation while I was mostly focused on Grow-Ops, but not one to slouch, I still managed to build the inventory, top/bottom bar and sound system. Oh yes, and the tooltips, how could I ever forget the tooltips. Let’s just say that at a certain point that is comical in retrospect, it began to seem like ALL I did on this project was to implement revised tooltips.

There are two things I really enjoy about this game from the project/development perspective. The first is that I feel there is some sort of hilarious satirical social commentary on the fact that the main mechanic has you making people fall in love which in turn causes them to spend money. (Relationships are expensive, heh.) The second has to do with an aspect of the design that I got to personally influence. Back when we were trying to figure out various ways to spread romance in the resort and how that would work, I helped put forth the idea that the user should be able click to drop a spreading bomb-style romance wave on the guests. This concept was inspired by a zombie apocalypse game where you drop plague bombs which zombify people. So to me at least, it will forever be hilarious that spreading romance was inspired by spreading zombie plague.


Grow-Ops is a farming style game with combat/strategy elements that allowed you to sneak onto your friends’ yards and attack their plants. I was hired to be the team lead for this project but that role expanded to include managing the project and completing the game design which resulted in lots of challenges (with opportunities to overcome them) and many blurry-eyed late nights. The game was wild and zany to say the least, boasting among other things, a plant hybrid known as the Cthulillies and the most devastating attack you can unleash on your friends, the dreaded HIPPIES!

On a personal note, this was one of the best projects Ive gotten to work on because I got to take on a lot of challenges on the design side of things. Social game design, for those that don’t know, is a very different beast than traditional game design; a lesson I had hints of but truly learned first hand on this project. The art team was amazing and I especially enjoyed working with Rosemary Brennan, Jamie Tribe and Kyle Kafka on trying to solve some of the creative problems. Rosemary and myself definitely poured a lot of passion into this project.

Play Dirty Dancing
Play Grow-Ops

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