Play our games (and say hello) at OMSI’s Play/Interact event this Thursday!

Play/Interact

Tim and I hope to see you this Thursday (May 8) at Play/Interact, an OMSI event in partnership with Oregon Story Board celebrating Oregon creativity. From 1 to 5pm we’ll be showing off our games alongside a bunch of other swell organizations.

In addition to demos of Lotsa Blocks and Ramps, attendees will have a chance to play a very early prototype of a new puzzle game we’ve been working on. This is the first (and perhaps only) time we’ve ever publicly shown a game in this early state!

The event is free with museum admission, full details available here. See you soon!

Hands-On With Lotsa Blocks

In the past few days leading up to the launch of Lotsa Blocks, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on the long road we took to get here. We started sketching and prototyping for Lotsa Blocks about when we were shipping Ramps for iPad late last year. At the time, we were looking to design an even simpler game than Ramps, hoping we could build it in a reasonably short period of time.

While I believe we met our goal of a simpler design, it turns out realizing our vision took a bit longer than we anticipated. Lotsa Blocks was a ten-month project for us, created over the course of many late nights and weekends.

early Lotsa Blocks multiplayer sketch

We decided to start with a core stacking mechanic, and let our experimentation help us discover the identity of the game. It wasn’t long before we learned we would need to approach game design carefully. Too many blocks on-screen at once meant poorer performance for older devices. Once we had an understanding of  what our technical limits were, we started trying a variety of ideas that could potentially shape what the game could become.

Early on, we knew we wanted to incorporate some sort of multi-player component, though neither of us had ever created a multi-player game before. Part of our experimentation was evaluating the capabilities of what Game Center had to offer for turn-based and real-time gaming. We loved our results, and decided to take the extra effort to polish these additional modes up and include them in the game.

Perhaps in our future games we will improve at vetting our ideas, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of working on each of these game modes for even another game under our belt.

Tyler and I have always wanted to make a video where we tell the story of our game to give people a peek into our creative process. It was a long, challenging road creating this game with many moments where I scratched my head, thinking, “this can’t be done.” We pushed forward, dreaming of posts like these on the verge of sharing our game with the world, and found a way to create things in this game that I never dreamt I would be able to pull off as a developer.

We have always approached our games as a creative, artistic pursuit first. The joy of creating, delighting and entertaining is the greatest reward for us, and we try to keep that top-of-mind even in a project as massive as this one was. I sincerely hope you enjoy our video, and our game, and look forward to creating more like them for you to enjoy.

Introducing Lotsa Blocks (Available Thursday!)

My younger brother took an interest in video games earlier than his hand-eye coordination would allow him to play. To stave off his inevitable frustration, I would nonchalantly hand him the second controller, sit behind him, and play the game for him as Player 1. He got the satisfaction of thinking he’d mastered the game, while I actually got to play.

I don’t remember if he ever caught on, but soon he was old enough to play games without any such trickery. Still, enough of a skill gap remained that I recall consciously seeking out games that were easy to learn, difficult to master. In hindsight, my concern may have inadvertently shaped our divergent taste in games. While my brother has since “graduated” to contemporary triple-A console titles, I remain preoccupied with playing and making accessible yet addictive games that anyone can pick up and enjoy.

It’s those games (and memories) that helped inspire Lotsa Blocks, Backabit’s second game for iOS. The simplicity of the core mechanic rivals even Ramps: Rotate and stack dozens of different blocks on a teetering platform until you reach the goal line. The execution, however, is far more complex.

The core single-player mode contains 70 levels across seven worlds, each with their own unique setting (we had a lot of fun designing layered backgrounds that would animate well in parallax). There are six additional modes to explore, three of them multiplayer. You unlock them by playing the game, or through a single in-app purchase if you’re feeling impatient. They include:

  • Adventure – Travel the world stacking blocks to new heights.
  • (Super Secret Mode) – For those who laugh in the face of danger.
  • Free Fall – Tilt your device to position plummeting pieces.
  • Endless – No goals, no rules, just stack to your heart’s content.
  • Last Block Standing – Compete against your friends or the world in turn-based play.
  • Versus – Race an online opponent to the goal.
  • Online Co-Op – A turn-based adventure for you and a friend.

We tried to do justice to the “Lotsa Blocks” title by including variety in more than just the environments and game modes. There are blocks that grow, blocks that explode, blocks that disappear and blocks that fall like a ton of bricks. Each has its own personality and banter to fill your heart with joy, even as your tower teeters on the brink of collapse. There are zany power-ups, extra lives and coins to collect, and a classic soundtrack reminiscent of our favorite Saturday morning cartoons.

All of this nifty stuff works in landscape or portrait orientation on any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with iOS 5 or above, including the new retina display iPad and the iPhone 5. It’s a universal app, which means you can buy it once and play it on all your devices… if you have iCloud set up, it’ll sync your game data, too.

Lotsa Blocks will go on sale in the App Store this Thursday (10/11/12) for only $0.99. We had a blast making the game, and we couldn’t be more excited to show it to the world and hear what you think. You can follow our shiny new @backabitgames handle on Twitter for Lotsa Blocks news, updates and tidbits.

My brother came to visit a few weeks ago, and I asked him to try a nearly complete build of the game. In the hour that followed, he proceeded to annihilate almost all of my high scores. Oh, how the tables have turned…

Ramps for iOS is 50% off this week, ‘Because We May’

Now through June 1, you can pick up Ramps for your iPhone or iPad and keep an extra dollar in your pocket, simply Because We May. We’re celebrating the freedom Apple gives us to set our own prices, and we’re not alone. Dozens of indie game makers (including some heroes of ours) are doing the same.

Tim and I hope you take advantage of this awesome sale by purchasing some groovy indie games for iOS, Mac, Steam, Android and more.

And seriously, if you haven’t played Ramps yet, what are you waiting for?