Seduction by iPhone



I think Snek is basically done now, it’s about as good as it’s able to get (with me at the keyboard at least). Importantly, the interface to the game is just about as awkward as I’d been thinking when I started the project. The rotation mode does involve turning your phone around in your hands and seeing the screen upside down etc. The tilt mode does involve sometimes having to tilt the screen away from yourself. The “thrust” mode does give you a surprisingly good toning workout. But it wasn’t always this way, for I, too, was seduced by the iPhone…

The iPhone is a pretty slick thing. Problematic in its various locked ways I guess, but slick. Normally when we play games on the iPhone it feels easy and kind of flawless. The angry birds just soar through the air. The Spell Tower words practically enter themselves. The stickets fly onto the board. In starting Snek I was keen to say goodbye to all that.

But then something happened, I don’t entirely know what. About a couple of weeks into development I realised I was trying to make a completely different game. I’d started with the idea of an awkward iPhone game, and suddenly I was making a procedural music-generation game based on swipe input, with nice calming chiming sounds and smooth gameplay. I was trying to make what I guess I think of as “an iPhone game”, as if it were a genre of its own, as if the device itself demanded.

I shook that off and returned to making things awkward, but then a couple of weeks later I found myself making another “iPhone game”, this time trying to integrate a swipe mode again despite the fact it possessed exactly zero physical awkwardness, supposedly the raison d’etre of the game. I was actually pretty impressed by just how much the nature of the iPhone pulled me in that direction, it seems like it’s a powerful thing.

Anyway, I pulled out of it again and managed to return to making an awkward game, but it’s pretty clear that the iPhone (or perhaps iPhone culture) “wants” a particular kind of approach to game making. That strikes me as a really problematic thing, very limiting in terms of the kinds of things we’re likely to see on that platform. I’d like to change that, obviously.

Guess we’ll see if Apple approves of Snek

4 June 2013
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