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