Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Primary and Secondary

The First

I have uploaded video of the original version of Flaboo! from 2006. I coded it during a holiday in Cornwall - that being my idea of a nice, relaxing time. I believe it's one of the first of its kind: the endless jumping game. It's odd to know you pioneered a genre long before it became popular.

[Edit: see note from Kalev about 'NS Tower' which was developed in the early '90s!]

Flaboo! often gets compared to 'Doodle Jump'. Those who consider themselves in-the-know wink archly and say, "But Ah! Papi Jump was first..." I'll have to invent some other facial tic to preface my statement: "ACK-tually, Bounce was first. And here's a video of the original code running on a really old mobile."


I'm sure the scientists among you will state, quite correctly, that this does not constitute a proof. Furthermore, I'm aware that having not publicly 'published' Bounce (only a few friends downloaded it from my site) it is hard to verify.

However, I'm not attempting a scientific proof, nor gathering legal evidence. I know my little Fat Chick was bouncing high into the sky for years before the benozzled quadruped ever left terra-firma, and that's enough for me.

The Second
In other news, I'm facing 'second album blues' trying to decide what to do next. I've now built the animation exporter for Blender, so I can get more complex movement into games. However, with my experiences from Flaboo! it becomes quite hard to decide the best way to move next. I have about 6 game ideas to choose from. Some are ambitious. Some are quite simplistic. Some are very hard-core. Some are casual.

After trawling the feedback from the Free App A Day release back in March, I realised that I wasn't quite sure who I was making games for any more, nor were my personal motivations for making them clear. Here's a selection of the reasons people usually ascribe to their development:

1) To make money
Bwa. And indeed, Hahaha.
The iPhone market is so monumentally flooded with cheap games at the moment that it's hard to make any kind of impact, no matter how good your game might be. Getting your game into the top 25 is much like winning the lottery. I assure you, Flaboo!'s profit is negligible.

This is not the reason. Case 1 fail.

2) To make people happy
I've received quite a few positive comments about Flaboo! via email. When Flaboo! first came out, it averaged as a 5-star game. All seemed well.

However, a curious thing occurred when I made Flaboo! free for a day. My rating went down to 2.5 stars. There really does seem to be an enormous conceptual link between price and perceived value. In addition, I had one chap tell me that if he purchased an app which later went free, he went to all the app stores around the world and spammed them with negative comments to vent his ire. We're talking $0.99, folks. He would have spent at least an hour doing this. That's a lot of rage for such a tiny sum.

From some of the negative feedback and comments I received you'd imagine I'd violated their favourite pet with a novelty toothbrush. For these individuals it seems I actually made the world a worse place than it was before the little Fat Chick came into their lives.

Still others spent so little time even trying to play the game that they didn't realise the game had a) sound or b) tilt controls.

Oddly, and perhaps unscientifically, I find that the energy the world uses to fashion venom and negativity far outweighs the energy used to say something nice. I think YouTube comments illustrate this perfectly.

As a result, I don't feel making small games makes the world a happier, nicer place. Case 2 fail.

3) Just 'cos I have to
If I don't work on games for a week I start to go a bit funny. Ideas start bouncing around my head like ping-pong balls and I start gathering bits of paper together and start scribbling on them like a 3-year old on a tartrazine drip.

My work on Fable 2 largely consisted of director-like duties: ensuring things 'felt' appropriate to Fable, that the story's pace moved appropriately and so on. Despite its resemblance to game creation, it didn't feel like making a game to me, and that dissonance is what started me down the path of being deeply unhappy.

Now all these cares are absent, I'm a little too free. Ideas and justifications for each idea speed through my head and vie for attention, meaning it's difficult to decide... anything. The difficulty with making a game 'just 'cos' is that every damned idea seems like it's the most appropriate - depending on when you ask me, what I'm listening to, and how much coffee I have consumed. As many old club-going friends of mine will tell you, constraint can be a good thing.

Case 3 - a tentative 'yay'. With reservations.

So What Now?
In view of the circumstances, I have decided to take a short break from actively pursuing game-creation. I'm giving myself some time to write a CD based on the events surrounding the death of Kitty Genovese. The first track is here. There's a bit more work to be done, and about six more tracks to write, but I think a break from coding is a good idea. With luck one of the ideas bubbling around inside my head will rise to the top - and stay a while.


  1. Couple of things:

    1) The first endless jumping game that I'm aware of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NS-Tower

    2) The only (valid) reason for pursuing something creative is because you enjoy it. Kind of like 'because you have to', but a little more positive. This still doesn't answer 'which' thing, and at its worst means piles of projects started and only one or two finished (this is my practice). My current philosophy (which I've happily developed while in crunch; not having time to implement this new plan I can pretend it will work perfectly) is that finishing things is aesthetically pleasing. I'm not going to stop myself from starting new projects (tried that in the past with the end result of doing nothing at all instead of something new), just always try to look at the unfinished with the eyes of original inspiration rather than the discovered drudgery that I usually view partially completed work with.

    I guess my thesis would be that you should start something; it's better to have some work done on the wrong thing than no work done on the right.

    3) My ears thank you once again. As far as they're concerned, you are doing the right thing. (Espcially as I still don't have an i-phone with which to explore the other side).


  2. Wow... didn't know about NS Tower. Fascinating.

    Glad you're enjoying the tunes. There'll be more, I promise! I'm determined to make an album I can hold in my hands. It's soooo 1990s, I know, but it somehow validates the work.

    As for the 'which' thing... there's a new post!