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As I continue pumping out design for Tim to breath to life, it helps to take moments to absorb all the beauty and wonder produced by the indie game community for quick hits of marvelous inspiration.
Here’s a fine example. Fez is a platformer currently in the home stretch of development by Polytron and featured prominently in the upcoming Indie Game: The Movie documentary (of which I am a Kickstarter supporter).
The game looks charming, evocative and just plain stunning. I’m a big fan of similar perspective shifts in Super Paper Mario, but this looks even more engaging and atmospheric.
Since Fez isn’t out yet, I was relieved to receive my copy of the Super Meat Boy Ultra Edition in the mail, signed by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes. I bought a wired Xbox 360 controller just to enjoy playing in my office between stretches of Ramps tomfoolery. My last great 2-D platforming experience was New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, so it’s been thrilling to routinely lose myself in such a merciless-yet-rewarding adventure.
If you’re a fan of Meat Boy, you’ll dig League of Evil for iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s the only virtual button platformer I’ve been able to play for any length of time. Seriously, how did Ravenous Games make the controls so responsive? A bargain at $1.99! Get it, play it, love it.
Speaking of touch platformers, I took 1-bit Ninja for a spin as well. I love the Game Boy aesthetic and the 3-D rotation feature. I applaud them for exploring a new and radical way to streamline touch controls without relying on the aforementioned virtual buttons. That said, I cannot seem to find my zen with the forward-only movement. Is it just my expectation of platformers in general that’s betraying my ability to control this game with confidence?
What games are inspiring you? (Besides Ramps, of course!)
Even outside of Backabit, Tim and I work at the same company.
The afternoon of January 20, he came by my cube and said “check out the app store today.” Our coworker (and awesome artist/designer) Calvin Ross Carl captured my surprise (appropriately, with his iPhone 4).
We are absolutely thrilled! IGN, quite possibly the largest game media property on the web, not only reviewed our casual indie title today, but they also sent out this e-mail to their subscribers naming Ramps their iPhone Game of the Day!
As a longtime reader of their website, I couldn’t be more excited and honored for this selection. Tyler and I are also incredibly grateful and humbled for their favorable review of our little game!
Someday soon we will share the story of how Ramps for iOS came to be. If you work with Tyler and I at Waggener Edstrom, you’ll likely get a taste of this story sooner than others. For those loyal faithful of you who enjoy our game and our blog, you’ll now get a look at what Ramps looked like after just three days of development.
After Tyler and I first discussed the project, Tyler sent me some art assets he had been saving for a rainy day. Sadly, the right day came without rain and in early August 2010, and rather than go out and play in the sunshine, I found myself pursuing a new addiction: touch gaming.
In our early development days, I was experimenting on both iPhone and iPad with the game engine. Seeing as Tyler and I both love our iPads dearly, there is a great chance we’ll venture back to that device family at some point. You’ll notice that even at this very early juncture, we already had functionality in-place to let you move and rotate ramps, and spawn balls. It just goes to show that the real work is in the details — we spent a tremendous amount of time on polish, creating beautiful menus, animations, and transitions, and fixing bugs from our beta.
Please pardon the jerky camera, as this was originally filmed to show Tyler what I was up to. Also: major brownie points to the first gamer to guess what game my wife Erika is playing while I worked on this. Your hint: listen closely to the background music!
I was interviewed by Corey Paul of Oregon Business Magazine for a story about the latest iterations of the classic Oregon Trail series of games. The article is available online, but I thought readers of this blog might dig my unabridged thoughts on why educational games have trouble making money:
Educational games and profitability is a bit of a “chicken and egg” scenario. If every educational game was as novel, fun and appealing as Oregon Trail, I’m sure they’d have no trouble recouping their cost. But because most educational games are a bit stodgy, focusing less on playability and more on communicating information, they can’t ever compete with titles that aim to be fun first and foremost.
There’s a comic book I love called Usagi Yojimbo by a cartoonist named Stan Sakai. The book is set in feudal Japan, and all of the characters are animals; a samurai rabbit, a pig ninja, a rhinoceros bounty hunter. The stories are fun and full of swashbuckling adventures, humor and dramatic moments. Most readers would never consciously realize that Stan has done painstaking research to insure that his portrayals of that era of Japan are accurate. Just by enjoying the stories, you will learn dozens of Japanese phrases, customs and historical moments, so much so that his comics are often used as textbooks in college courses on Japanese culture and history. Educational games should strive for a similar style of engagement as often as their subject matter allows.
Here’s a drawing of Miyamoto Usagi I created for a 25th Anniversary gift presented to Stan at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con:
As a kid I remember liking Oregon Trail and Math Blaster, but few other educational titles spring to mind. Which, if any, have you enjoyed?