Category Archives: Development

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…

Classic Ramps Experiments

I was digging through some of my old files from college and stumbled upon my earliest experiments with ball and ramp physics in Flash.

These were created on August 25 and 26 respectively back in 2006 as part of a homework assignment for Dan Chapman’s Interactive Motion Scripting course at the Art Institute of Portland. We were working through chapters 9 and 10 of the ActionScript 2 edition of Keith Peters’ Foundation ActionScript Animation.

The first draft of my homework used assets directly from the examples in the book. You could click, drag and “let go” of the balls to throw them, but there was no interaction with the randomly generated ramps (referred to simply as “lines” in my original script).

It wasn’t long before I added drag events to the ramps, which resulted in this:

This content requires Adobe Flash player.

At this point I became a little frustrated with the white and red, so I created the style that would define the look of Ramps Classic. I also took a stab at ramp rotation, though only on the rightmost point:

This content requires Adobe Flash player.

It’s fun to look back to the beginnings of this fun project. It shows me the value (and fun) of building things just for the heck of it.

It also makes me very, very glad to have a collaborator now. Physics are hard to troubleshoot by yourself!

GO! How Two Guys Made a Successful iPhone Game and Lived to Tell the Tale

Thanks to everyone who came to see our presentation at WebVisions today! Our slide deck is embedded below.

We’ll be sure to post any video, photos, reactions, etc. later if they’re available. If you have feedback for us or questions you didn’t get answered, let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Ramps is a finalist in the mobile category of the WebVisionary Awards, but we have some stiff competition! If you’re in Portland, we hope to see you there.

Ramps 1.1 is here!

After several long months of crafting, polishing and fine-tuning,  Ramps 1.1 is finally released into the wild. We couldn’t be more excited!

Once you update Ramps from the App Store, you’ll find 100 new levels containing 300 new challenges, nine achievements, two new leaderboards and six unlockable balls! We even have two new tracks from Essa… they’re riffs on his previous light world compositions and they sound amazing!

We’ve heard from some players that they wanted more challenging levels to conquer. Inspired by one of our favorite Super Meat Boy design elements, we decided to create alternate dark worlds to compliment the existing light worlds. These new versions of the 100 original levels contain new challenges and gameplay mechanics we think you’ll really dig!

We didn’t just add new content, though—we also added Superball!

Superball screenshot

Superball can grab some extra air time while becoming invulnerable to whatever baddies may stand in its way. This only lasts a short time, and can only be used once per ball, so make sure you use your Superball juice wisely. Transforming into Superball is easy: just tap and hold anywhere on the screen!

Doing a major update also gave us a chance to catch up on some housekeeping. We improved the usability of several aspects of the game. For example, when you are in a scrollable level, there’s now a GO! button that travels with you as you scroll, so you never have to scroll back to the dispenser to spawn a new ball. If that ball dies, you’ll snap right back to where you left off.

We also redesigned the help screens to be simpler and easier to scale. As we add even more cool stuff, it will be a lot easier for us to show you how it works, and quicker for you to get back to the action!

Oh yeah, one more thing…

Buried deep within Ramps, where only the most skilled players can find them (Hint: you’ve gotta complete everything), there are unlockable tributes to two of our favorite iOS games: The Incident and Wispin! The developers of these fine titles were gracious enough to give us permission to pay homage to their characters. We continue to admire and be inspired by their contributions to touch gaming.

We’re so excited about our new release and we really hope you enjoy all the new content. Soon, we’ll have another big announcement for you regarding our plans for a… ahem… larger screen.


And.. one more one more thing…

For just a few short days, we are offering Ramps on sale for just $.99! Now is a fantastic time to check it out!