Happy New Year! We have started porting our Android games over to itch.io so that they can be played on any device, so head on over to our page there and check out what we have to offer. Right now it is just one game, but in the next couple of days we should have a few more up.
In the meantime, let me tell you about Rodney Dangerfield. This isn't a wild tangent, I promise. You see, Rodney Dangerfield had always wanted to be a stand up comedian, but he suffered from a simple problem. He wasn't funny. No one liked his jokes, he was booed off stage, he was a failure. Most people would quit at this point (I know I did, but that story is a wild tangent, so it can wait), and in fact Rodney did quit comedy for a while. The problem was that he had an itch, and it wouldn't go away. So, he ended up quitting his job, destroying his marriage, and almost ruining his life to find out why he wasn't funny and to use that information to fix the problems and become a successful stand up.
To go about this, he went on an epic quest (of sorts) to find out what exactly was funny. He wanted to know what exactly it was that made people laugh. In effect, he was looking for the essence of comedy. He wanted to strip away all the cruft and find the simplest form of humor, figuring that from there he would be able to master the medium. Well, he did in fact. He removed all the excess layers of story and exposition that other comics relied on and became the king of one liners. He found the root of the joke and used that to become very successful.
So what does that have to do with us? Well, I am of a certain age, and I started coding as a hobby a year or two ago because I felt that my needs weren't being met by software developers. Let's be honest, casual games suck, microtransactions and pay to win sucks, huge AAA cinematic gaming experiences aren't fun anymore, and mobile gaming is a cess pit. I realize that some of this is age, that everything was more important, shinier in my youth, but I also really believe that there are things that make the games of yore more appealing.
First, the unlimited resources of today - both computational and financial - allow game creators to polish turds so to speak. With enough computer power any game can be beautiful no matter how stupid the underlying gameplay is. With enough financial power, studios can and do force us to pay attention to these games that we would otherwise ignore. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but I don't personally care about the horses' testicles in Red Dead Redemption. What is the gameplay like? Is there actually a game under there? As a counter example, check out this essay of the perfection that is the beginning of the original Super Mario Brothers game for the NES. Now we joke about how a game will have a ten hour tutorial before you get started.
Next, there is the myth that creating a mobile game will make you wealthy beyond belief. Hey, look at Flappy Bird or 2048! They are so simple, anyone can do it. This leads to poorly made games filled with ads to the point that even the poor gameplay is choked out. Now, I am not against having ads in apps, in fact most of our apps do contain ads, but the user experience has to come first.
Finally, microtransactions and play to win are the worst ideas ever. Forcing a player to pay money to get more 'turns' for the game, or making important items only available in the cash shop is a great way to ruin a game.
The truth is that, to me, games have lost much of their appeal. Don't get me wrong. I still play Pixel Dungeon daily, and since I reviewed the game in early 2013, that means I have been playing it for five years. The problem, though, is that most games have lost that thread of what a game really is.
So, like Rodney Dangerfield, we are looking to trim all the fat from the gaming experience and see what is left. Looking at timeless games like Tetris show us that a game doesn't need shiny graphics or even a story, they just have to be fun. So, what then is fun? Well, let's find out together.