February 29, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless
Now, we're definitely aware that people have been hacking the iPhone for a while to create games, even some that use the accelerometer for gameplay by calculating what direction you're tilting your hardware.
But we here at GameSetWatch got an email from Steve D. over at homebrew/semi-pro developer Demiforce, showcasing his new title designed specifically for iPhone and iPod Touch, Trism.
We checked out the associated YouTube video and were pretty much blown away about the neatness and simplicity of his new puzzle game. See if you are too:
To recap, Trism uses the touchscreen to manipulate the triangles on the screen, but in a really smart twist, the blocks will fall down in a different way, depending on which direction you're tilting the phone, leading to some major strategic possibilities. In addition, the way you grab and manipulate the rows of triangles using touch along multiple independent axes is a really nice touch.
Anyhow, we thought we'd better chat to Steve via email to find out more about his history, why he made this, and what he's going to do from here. So here we go:
What's your background in the game biz as hobbyist or professional?
I have dabbled occassionaly in the professional game industry, but I do enterprise development for my day job (I write ATM software for a large bank). My largest contribution to the gaming scene was as a ROM hacker & translator (Japanese to English).
My group was called "Demiforce", which I incorporated two years ago and is now the name I market my product under. We translated mainly NES and SNES games to English, including Final Fantasy II (NES) and Radical Dreamers (SNES). Additionally I worked on some Gameboy Color games back in the 90s, most notably a puzzle game called "Drymouth", but unfortunately it didn't go anywhere.
What APIs did you take advantage of to make this game, or is it fairly 'hacked'?
The game is a native iPhone app (not a web app), and the current version requires a jailbroken iPhone to work. However, as soon as the official iPhone SDK comes out next month, I plan on porting it over to that framework. I would love to get this thing on iTunes as early as possible, hence the current media push -- I need to see if anyone out there can help me get this thing shown to Apple!
How did you come up with the concept of using tilting as a gameplay mechanic in the puzzle game?
All I knew when I set out to make an iPhone game was that I wanted to make full use of the iPhone, to deliver a game experience that could never have been done until now. With its combination of multitouch and tilt, the iPhone can deliver a fundamentally different kind of game than the world has ever seen before and I think people are slowly coming to realize this.
I started by making an Excel spreadsheet, listing all the different kinds of game input methods available, such as directional, directional + buttons, directional + buttons + mouse, and mouse only. Then, I listed the natural endpoints of evolution for games for each control mechanism.
For example, Tetris I feel is a natural endpoint of directional-only gaming because it uses the keyboard's functionality efficiently and to its fullest extent. The 2D sidescroller is a natural endpoint of directional + button gameplay, adding the concept of multitasking to the mix. FPSs are natural endpoints of keyboard and mouse gaming, and games like minesweeper and solitaire are natural endpoints for mouse-only gameplay.
I then added 'Multitouch', 'Multitouch + Tilt' entries to this list. I tried to think out of the box, thinking of what natural kind of game could be most at home using these types of control. I went through many many permutations of designs. In the end, I came up with an idea that doesn't use multitouch, but does make use of use tilt. I was originally worried about this, but I finally relaxed a bit when I saw how simply the game was coming together.
How long did it take to make?
The idea for Trism was realized on Feb 8th, and I started coding that day in hopes of getting it shown off at GDC. I managed to get a working prototype up by the 18th, the say GDC started. From idea to prototype in 10 days -- a personal best! Especially since it was my first piece of software for an Apple platform. I'm a C++ and .NET guy by trade, so learning Objective-C was a bit of a challenge, but not too bad.
I was exhausted! One night I think I slept from 5am till 8am, then I went in to work. Plus that whole week was IBR -- a big party week here in San Francisco. So, I was doing binges of coding, binges of drinking, binges of coding, binges of drinking... :)
What are your plans for this game?
My primary goal with designing games has always been to get as many people to play it as possible. If you can make people happy with a unique creation, that's like the best feeling on earth, you know?
From a business angle I'm looking to get this thing noticed by Apple so that I can get it out to the masses on iTunes. They haven't released information on how little guys like me are going to be able to make that happen, so I decided to leverage the media to get noticed. Being a little guy, I'm aware some big company may come along and say 'hey, that's a great game, let's take it and make it our own' so I'm really looking to move this thing as fast as possible.
Have you got any other ideas that involve the iPhone and tilting?
Haha, what do you think? :)