Friday, 23 August 2013

The magical story of Fat Owl With A JetPack

Fat Owl With A Jetpack is the game i've always wanted to make, It's the story of Ollie the owl who got so fat he couldn't fly until professor squirrel invented a special magical jetpack.

Sorry, I can't keep this up. I've been 'advised' that I should try to talk about my next game in fun, non-techie terms but I just can't do it...

 Fat Owl With A Jetpack is a game, or at least will be soon. What it isn't is a fucking story. As i've moaned about at length before games aren't stories.

The real story is that Fat Owl With A Jetpack is based on an idea I had a few minutes after playing the Palm Pilot version of SFCave back in the late '90s. I was impressed with how much fun a single button game could be. Obviously developers have taken this idea and run with it. Many of the best action games on iOS are played with a single button.

But being the point missing twat that I am, my instant reaction to the fact that you could get so much gameplay from a single button was to imagine what could be done with two:

One controlling vertical and one horizontal. No, that wouldn't work... SFCave only worked because gravity works against the thruster, I couldn't have horizontal gravity could I?... No, of course not but what if the thrusters were at 45 degrees?, press one to move left, the other to move right, both to move up and let go to drop down. Yes, that'd work, I could make a super simple lunar lander type game that worked on two digital buttons...

But why would anyone want to play something like that? People were getting excited about a new wave of consoles with controllers bristling with multiple analog pads and triggers. The time for neat two button control ideas had long gone and was, I thought, extremely unlikely to ever come back.

I was also playing a lot of Elastomania (the game that inspired a million Trials Bike games) and the idea that rolling round the walls should be part of it struck me. The Lunar Lander/Thrust/Gravitar convention of your ship exploding as soon as a wing tip touches a wall isn't actually a law is it? At this point the spaceship stopped making sense. It would need to roll while it's thrusters remained locked at 45 degrees. I started seeing it as some sort of abstract ball thing. The idea was getting messy and went on the back burner for a very long time.

So late one night last spring, in a slightly, erm, meditative mood, I was thinking:

I really want to do that two button lunar lander thing next as visualising it in my head for over a decade might be starting to drive me mad.

But can I really do it next? Sure, it seems like it might be a nice feeling physics based game mechanic but how would a game where you played some sort of abstract ball thing bouncing off the walls be able to compete with the cute characters on the app store?

Depressed, I pulled out my phone and started absent-mindedly playing Tiny Wings for the eighth time that day, "If only there was some way of turning a nice abstract physics mechanic into a cute game by simply sticking a cute character in it" I thought as I played before going to sleep...

The next morning I woke up and for some completely inexplicable reason, i'd come up with the answer in a dream. Fat Owl With A Jetpack was born.

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