iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

News updates, status reports, and version information from the FC Team

iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby weasel on Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:30 pm

With the iPhone App currently being 3 days into release and nearly scoring perfect fives across the board, I figure we're on the cusp of getting a torrent of new traffic to the website and perhaps even a bunch of media attention. I figured I'd clear the air about some of the iPhone app questions, and maybe shed some light on some more of Fantastic Contraption's history..

First, and probably the biggest question people's minds: "What is the difference between Fantastic Contraption on the Web, versus the iPhone application?" Well, I'm glad you asked because I happen to have a bulleted list handy here for you:

:waterrod: Probably the biggest difference: The iPhone application is completely written from scratch. Colin Northway (the creator of the game) teamed up with inXile, who had the resources and the talent to back up a truly top-notch application.
:waterrod: The new iPhone application reworks the UI to work very intuitively with your fingers. The menu is usually hidden behind a Gear icon, and some minor things have changed (such as drawing rods now takes two taps instead of a click-and-drag).
:waterrod: The iPhone application detects what badges you score on each of your saved designs! This includes: :green: :brown: :champ: :clean: :boomerang:
:waterrod: The iPhone version solves the issue of your thumb "being in the way" while drawing your contraption by placing zoomed window appears on the corner of the screen to give you a closer view.
:waterrod: The iPhone version does not have a free or a trial mode (though is for sale right now at an introductory $2.99 price) - you must pay to play, unlike the PC version where the first 21 levels are free of charge.
:waterrod: There are level and design previews in the menu of the iPhone version
:waterrod: The iPhone version allows you to play offline, and save your contraptions offline as well. You can also download user levels to play offline.
:waterrod: The level editor is completely redesigned and for the most part much easier to use in the iPhone version.
:waterrod: At the time of release, the iPhone application contains all the Web's 21 levels... plus an additional 20 levels on top of that.
:waterrod: Of the 20 additional levels, around half were made by Colin Northway and are brand-new, never-before-seen levels. The other half are made by users using the PC version - classics by OfficiallyHaphazard, Entity, and several others - even myself! If you took part in some of the forum competitions you might just recognize a few of them.
:waterrod: The iPhone version runs slightly slower than an equivalent contraption on the PC version because of the lower speed CPU, but most will not notice the difference unless they have the largest of contraptions on screen.
:waterrod: Because of the different CPU in the iPhone, the application applies physics in a slightly different manner than on the web version. Chains will slip through objects a bit easier, and lock-a-pults are much stronger, for instance. There will be a variety of other tiny changes that you probably won't notice, but it is for this reason that you can't interchange levels between the two platforms.

Here is a link to Fantastic Contraption in your iTunes application store, and this is the official press release from inXile about the iPhone version.

Some more goodies to come soon, for both platforms. Stay tuned!
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby weasel on Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:31 pm

(reserved for future update)
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Dr. Phil on Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:43 pm

Good post Weasel, can't wait to see that interview :)
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby pacifist on Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:02 pm

But first! An in depth interview with the thoughtful man that is at the heart of the heart of Fantastic Contraption.

What makes weasel tick? What are his hopes and his dreams? Is he too nancy-drew to use his ban hammer? Lets find out in:


An Interview With a Weasel

FC: How did you become involved with Fantastic Contraption?

I believe it was Tuesday afternoon, March 18th 2008, at 4:23 PM PST when I got involved. Approximately. I got an email from Colin saying "Click the boxes! It's worth 30 seconds of fun." Attached was a .SWF file contained what must be considered the very first stable iteration of what would eventually become Fantastic Contraption.

At 5:03 PM PST I had offered a suggestion to increase the friction. I guess I've been involved in the creation ever since - if not as a beta tester, gameplay suggestor, or level designer :)

Trust my luck to be on the early beta.swf mailing list I suppose. :)

FC: How do you feel you've helped shape the game?

Shaping the game was always done by Colin, but he always accepted input from many sources. Sometimes I didn't have much impact - I had pushed and pushed and pushed for several more object types in the game, for example - but Colin stuck to his guns on the simplicity angle. Not that I regret it! In hindsight it was the best decision.

I do like to say though, that I was a part of the decision making process quite frequently, and the game would have been different if I didn't exist. For better or worse, I don't know, but I like to think there's a few slices of my apple in this pie. :)


FC: How quickly did the community start to grow?

The community tended to grow slowly in the first week, and I was a little disappointed there was no "release day miracle" so to speak. At first it was just friends and family - but after that first week went by, it seemed to explode.

We had users signing up at a pace that continued to astonish me every day, and the community growth that came along with that was so nice to see.


FC: How important is the community to the game?

There's the obvious answer that most of this game is based on user-made content, so I would say quite a bit! But, one of my favorite things about Fantastic Contraption is that it goes beyond playing a game on your own. Sure I like the levels, sure I like to build winning contraptions. I even like to share them with my friends, which is kind of borderline with what I really find enjoyable:

My constant state of surprise, and having every expectation set blown out of the water by members of the community.

It's always pleasantly surprising and intriguing to see how everyone else beat a particular level, but going a step further - if it weren't for the community, we wouldn't have even thought of "Green" contraptions (where no powered wheels are used). I was then further blown away when I saw the first set of "Brown" contraptions (completely wheel-less), and it boggles my mind to see that people have nearly beat every one of the original 21 levels "Blue" (using only water rods).

Without the community, none of our badges would exist. Heck, the multiplayer events events and competitions that regularly take place in the forum continue to be the biggest draws of participation. And it's always fun because there's always something new!

FC: If you didn't exist, would bad things happen? How bad?

One of my pet-peeves is seeing an official forum being run by those robotically-speaking impersonal press-release corporate-types that just seem to reek of "the man." I think those people quickly become targets the public rallies against, argue against, and makes it feel like a hostile place to hang out.

I like to think that I'm "one of the crowd." I'm a player, just like the rest of the public! I just happen to have a bit more knowledge than the rest. I still fool around, have fun, post in off-topic and remain approachable and friendly. I like to believe this rubs off on everyone else.

But I suppose, to answer your question, things wouldn't get too bad if I wasn't around. Depending on your definition of "Bad," of course. The forums could be "officially ignored" and end up like those quiet wastelands that you find in similar forums for other gaming sites. That would result in less posts, less contests, less innovation, and ultimately less sales. But that would take a while to happen, and something like "FansOfFC.com" will probably spring up where the atmosphere is more friendly.

Why not keep it in-house? :)

FC: Do you raise your ban-hammer alot? How do you keep things under
control without it?


Well that kinda goes back to my last answer - I try to behave like a "model citizen," complete with tomfoolery and having a good time... And I tend to think it rubs off on folks and makes for a truly enjoyable atmosphere. We are all here to have fun, not make drama!

I have been really shocked at how well the community has stayed self-policing, though. There's never been a real flame war, burst of anger, or name calling. The only threads I've locked have been the odd few spam-for-fun threads, and 99% of all my bans were for spamming the boards with commercial products (probably bots).

FC: What was your favorite Fantastic Contraption crisis?

Heh, that's probably got to be the "Big Wheel" incident. Some folks found a way to abuse the game and create very large wheels in their levels (the rotating kinds) and it actually produced a lot of wacky and neat levels. It had some potential for abuse though, and it made the graphics go wonky, so we had to shut it down. I remember the forum was full of "how do I make big wheelz?!?!?!!?!?!?" threads for an entire week afterwards.


FC: Do you go it alone?


The community has gotten so big now that I simply can't read every thread anymore. I do a pretty good job of staying on top of the feedback, troubleshooting, and email requests all alone - but I do have "deputies" of sorts for the rest of the forum.

There are certain key members of the community that I have become chums with, and I trust them to issue warnings to other users and edit spam bots out of threads. They don't have the power to outright delete though, and thankfully - hardly any of them have to lift a finger! It's just nice to know I have some backup if something big goes down when I'm asleep. It also allows me to have weekends. :)

FC: Who is the biggest pain in your ♥♥♥?

Haha, what a loaded question :) I have to say that nearly everyone in the community brings something to the table, and it truly is a joy to be associated with such an awesome crowd. We truly are Chill. :)

There is the occasional user, though, that simply won't accept an answer. They keep hounding and hounding, and no matter how many times you answer the question they find another way to poke a hole in it. It reminds me of those kids that just keep asking "Why?" to every question.

I suppose I should be thankful that it's my worst problem!


FC: Who is the little angel?

Darkeagle.


FC: What do you consider the most iconic contraption in Fantastic Contraption?


Wow... There have been so many that just blow me away, and my opinion does change from time to time. I like to find excellent contraptions and sticky them in the forums for a short time just to get them the recognition they deserve.

My most recent favorite I dubbed "Design of the Century": http://fantasticcontraption.com/?designId=5052358 . I believe Foro made most of it with some help of some other folks. :)


Thank you weasel for bearing a little bit of your soul today. I think everyone has a little piece now. And one day, if luck prevails, we'll all meet in a remote corn field and jelously burry them forever. So only we will ever know the secrects of your heart.

Also, wtf good god, that design is crazy ipecac! You tube videos must be made! Songs must be worn! Tshirts must be sung!
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby weasel on Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:03 pm

Allright! Now time for that interview I promised. :)

Andy: For the most part, a successful game is written by experienced game developers with a few titles under their belt. For those not familiar with the name Colin Northway, what path brought you to making Fantastic Contraption?

Colin: Well I've always tooled around making games. I probably start a game every couple of years. Every time I started I got a little closer to finishing one, until Fantastic Contraption, which I managed to complete. So this is the first game I've ever released. This time I was extra motivated because it seemed like such a good idea.

Wow, so Fantastic Contraption is your first released game! And you really seemed to find some success with it; Do you think your story is unique?

I am actually really unsure how unique my story is. I tend not to hang out on indie-developer bulletin boards or anything. I know that it's really easy to write a great game, have it be amazingly popular, and not make any money off of it at all. Especially in the flash world.

I would guess that there are very few people in the flash world like me. I would guess there are more people in the download game world, but not as many as there should be. Eforts like Steam, Greenhouse and Xbox Live Arcade are finally starting to bring those great games to the wider audience they deserve. And I bet the iPhone has a surprising number of them. Conditions on the iPhone are pretty good for us indie guys right now.

Do you think others could follow in your footsteps, and if so, would you have any advice for them?

Absolutely!

I think the most important lesson from Fantastic Contraption is to Release Your Stuff. Finish it. Get it out there. To a certain extent you're going to have to get lucky. The tortured bowels of the internet are teeming with great games that no one ever played. But you can't win if you don't play.

After that I would suggest that charging money for the game that you poured your soul into for several months is not amoral, conceited, or foolish. There is this culture of free that says charging money for something is somehow a dirty act. But everyone works for money. Is your day job less dirty than bringing games into the world?

When did the idea for Fantastic Contraption first hit you, and how long did it take to complete the game?

To a certain extent the idea came from nowhere. I was sitting at work (I used to be a web developer) and it just kind of popped in there. Like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. And then I asked you if you thought it sounded like a good idea. You seemed enthusiastic so here we are!

Of course it doesn't exist in a vacuume. It has simmilarities to alot of other games that I love. In fact I was playing the hell out of the World of Goo pre-order demo at the time.

The basic idea that popped into my head was: what if you turned The Incredible Machine inside out? Instead of having a dumb basketball traveling through an intelligent level, why not have an intelligent basketball traveling through a dumb level?

So basically in Fantastic Contraption you make hyper-intelligent basketballs.

And of course there are alot of other great games in the Physicsy-Puzzle genre. I named alot of them in the credits section of FantasticContraption.com. I am not so vein as to think I would be here had I never played Armadillo Run for instance (which is another great indie game success story).

Fantastic Contraption is a unique and interesting game idea, yet is one that seems so simple in retrospect. It is even easy to see where the inspirations come from (especially since you list several on the credits page for the game), and there are even more physics-sandbox applications being released every day. What are your thoughts on the level of innovation in the field of this style of game? Do you think there are a bunch of other physics-sandbox games just waiting to be written, or has the genre been tapped? Do you think you will continue writing games, and if so, will they be of the same genre?

I think there are a ton of physics games to be written. I think there is room for all of us. A rising tide raises all boats so to speak.

For instance, Contraption was just released in the iPhone app-store three days ago. Right now if you load up the app store and look at the top 50 puzzle games you can see Tiki Towers (which is very like World of Goo), Fantastic Contraption, and then Crayon Physics all directly next to eachother. We aren't all right at the top but we're all doing pretty well. And I think people who play one of our games will be interested in the others. If just one of our games was in there people wouldn't know what to make of it.

Physics should be the most intuitive thing in the world. We all inately unserstand what happens when we drop a pen or lean on an un-latched door. But somehow when that experience is once removed on a computer screen it messes alot of people up. They kind of have to learn to trust and play. So I don't mind who teaches them that physics are fun. But I'm pretty confident that after they've figured it out they'll like Fantastic Contraption. And I hope that alot of people who first played Fantastic Contraption go on to play Crayon Physics and World of Goo and Armadillo Run.

Changing gears a bit, Fantastic Contraption seems to be an overwhelming success, but it came completely out of left field. I scanned the net and couldn't find any official mention of it early on except at a few review sites. What kind of advertising or promotion did you do for the game?

Ha, none. We never did a lick of advertising. I credit StumbleUpon.com with alot of our success. It dumped 20,000 people on our doorstep the weekend after we released and it just went up from there.

Do you think the game would have been even more successful with an aggressive advertising campaign?

I can't answer the advertising question. I can't imagine FantasticContraption being more succesfull. I think if I tried to do that my head would explode.

Has the release and subsequent success of Fantastic Contraption had any profound effect on your life, or is it just something that runs itself in the background?

Drastically. I didn't take well to alot of the consequences of having such a popular game. Luckily you, Andy Moore, were there to pick up alot of the pieces I was dropping. The popularity is hard to deal with. The idea that literally several millions of people have played a game I wrote is mind boggling. And I guess it's mind boggling in a good way, but it's just not that pleasent to have your mind boggled.

And then there were always server issues, and PayPal is the biggest pain in the ♥♥♥ in the world. I really don't like those guys. But they're over there sitting pretty on their virtual monopoly. All that stuff takes up alot of time and none of it is fun.

Since inXile things have been much better for me.

"Colin Northway" and "Fantastic Contraption" didn't hit headlines until December 2008, when inXile put out a press release about Fantastic Contraption. What was the nature of this move, and what brought about your decision to pursue it?

There are all kinds of reasons. First and foremost was: I want to see bigger cooler vesions of Fantastic Contraption. And there is a limit to what I can do sitting on the couch in my appartment.

The iPhone version? It's totaly amazing! Bryan Perfetto at inXile wrote it and I am just in awe of that guy. I am his biggest fan. There are alot of problems in making Contraption work on the iPhone. Stuff you'd never even think about. Have you seen how small the iPhone screen is? Have you seen how many buttons are in the Contraption interface? Or how fat your finger is? When I got an iPod Touch (I don't like phones) I quickly discovered how hard it is to see through your own finger.

But Bryan just took all those problems and made them go away. I think his iPhone version is better than my Flash version.

Did you do much development on the recently-released iPod Touch/iPhone version of the game?

I was down in the inXile offices for alot of the brain-storming. But when I got down there. Bryan Perfetto had somehow gotten a bunch of my Flash code running on an iPhone and had already solved alot of the major design problems in something like the span of a week. So he should get alot of the credit for the really clever stuff in that version. Although I did have the occasional good idea.

Now that the iPhone/Touch application is on the market, it must feel great to be getting such glowing reviews. How do you feel about the job inXile did with the game's transition to the portable market?

It's incredibly fun. It's like the first release all over again. I am just so pleased with how it turned out. Matt Findley, the Contraption producer at inXile, said something very true. We don't have many disagreements over what the iPhone version is going to look like because we're all doing the obvious best thing for the game.

Yes you will be able to make levels. Yes you will be able to share them with eacther. Yes screenshots are the best way to list levels. It's easy because they just want to make really great games. That sounds cheesy but it's true. the iPhone version of Fantastic Contraption is so good because me and everyone at inXile really really care about it. That's how great things get made.

It's probably too early to call, but do you see Fantastic Contraption continuing to be a success on the mobile platform? Do you have any plans to bring it to any other platforms?

I'd love to see more Fantastic Contraption. I have prototyped out some great ideas for a possible sequel. Stuff that is just really fun and delightful that even our uber-players won't see comming. But that's all down the road. Right now I'm just enjoying the new iPhone release and the whole Fantastic Contraption world.

And finally, possibly the hardest question: Any regrets?

I wish I had payed attention in database class when they were talking about optimisation
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Dr. Phil on Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:40 pm

Great stuff, and thanks for working so hard on FC Colin :)
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby darkeagle on Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:57 am

LOL, Pacifist! I'm the little angel! Not that I want to be an angel, but... It feels nice that somebody's recognizing me.
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby VERYDUMBNAME on Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:48 am

wow when he said who is most anoying I thought he would say me for sure!
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Foro on Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:34 am

My most recent favorite I dubbed "Design of the Century": http://fantasticcontraption.com/?designId=5052358 . I believe Foro made most of it with some help of some other folks.
OMG :P
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby weasel on Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:42 am

VERYDUMBNAME wrote:wow when he said who is most anoying I thought he would say me for sure!


You'll always have a special place in my heart, VeryDumbName. :3
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby darkeagle on Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:45 am

ROFL! That's kinda creepy...
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Linkzcap on Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:51 pm

Can you post all of the new levels? Or at least the names?
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Marrell on Wed Jan 28, 2009 12:18 pm

Wtb the 20 other levels or just a listing of the original flash ones if possible. :D
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Afronanny on Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:21 pm

Very nice.
All that FC needs now is a couple of TV ads. Then you get so many players your server shuts down but you have more than enough money to buy a new one.
Fantastic Job guys.
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby OfficiallyHaphazard on Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:06 pm

Here is a link to the images of the new levels: http://tinyurl.com/b4g4v2 for reference for those that have not bought the game. :)
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Mr.Contraption on Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:29 pm

OfficiallyHaphazard wrote:Here is a link to the images of the new levels: http://tinyurl.com/b4g4v2 for reference for those that have not bought the game. :)



Thanks, Hap! Glad to see some of your levels made it in!
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby Marrell on Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:41 pm

Woo for on the Edge!
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby pokolo on Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:06 am

weasel wrote:
VERYDUMBNAME wrote:wow when he said who is most anoying I thought he would say me for sure!


You'll always have a special place in my heart, VeryDumbName. :3

creepy
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby RockstarM on Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:09 am

Wow, Incredible. How long did that take to write and proofread?
Excellent work anyway
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Re: iPhone App Released, PLUS: Exclusive Interview

Postby runescapeman on Tue Feb 03, 2009 11:34 am

weasel wrote:FC: What do you consider the most iconic contraption in Fantastic Contraption?

Wow... There have been so many that just blow me away, and my opinion does change from time to time. I like to find excellent contraptions and sticky them in the forums for a short time just to get them the recognition they deserve.

My most recent favorite I dubbed "Design of the Century": http://fantasticcontraption.com/?designId=5052358 . I believe Foro made most of it with some help of some other folks.


THIS IS THE BEST DESIGN I HAVE EVER WATCHED.
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