Doin' Great Since 'Eighty-Eight ★ The People's Champ ★ 21st Century Technology Hero ★ Indie Game Legend ★ A Titan of Art and Commerce ★ The Pride of Pennsylvania ★ Taking It Easy So You Don't Have To ★ 
  Doin' Great Since 'Eighty-Eight ★ The People's Champ ★ 21st Century Technology Hero ★ Indie Game Legend ★ A Titan of Art and Commerce ★ The Pride of Pennsylvania ★ Taking It Easy So You Don't Have To ★ 

Why I Keep Making the Same Game Over and Over

I just launched a new game, my first in about three years. Presenting Space Rocket:

Available now on iOS and Android.

It’s a dead simple and addictive high score game in the vein of Snake. It’s free! Go get it!

From the Bar to Your Pocket

Space Rocket was originally built as one of the flagship games on the BarTab – a bar-top gaming tablet designed by me and my brother that we worked on in 2017-2018. We built a prototype and installed it at a local bar in Philadelphia with a few games. Space Rocket in particular met positive reception, and recently I decided to package it up for an app store release.

As part of this packaging, I gave the game color (previously all the graphics were black and white), as well as sound effects and music I myself composed and recorded. Tom Sennett archivists may note this is the first game I’ve done music for since RunMan’s Monster Fracas back in 2006!

So this 2019 version of Space Rocket is an updated repackaging of the previous unreleased 2017 version of Space Rocket.

Primordial Origins

That 2017 version of Space Rocket is itself actually a reinterpretation of a previous game I built in 2015 (when I was in NYC, pre-van), called Sorkle:

(As of now, Sorkle is no longer available on iOS nor Android. It got removed a while ago for out-of-date SDKs or something and I haven’t bothered to fix it.)

I made Sorkle in about a month or so, and was very satisfied with how it came out. The game dynamically generates its soundtrack based on the rhythm and actions of the player, which is cool, but also something that was completely lost on everyone who played it. And I thought I nailed my usual colorful cute aesthetic in a little more sophisticated minimalist way, but reception to the visuals from players was muted at best.

Sorkle landed with a thud for $0.99 on the App Store and Play Store and sold fewer than a dozen copies. I put it aside and moved on until the next year, when I was living in a van and staying with my brother. He is not much of a gamer, but one day we were talking about my projects and he mentioned how he always played Sorkle waiting at the airport (he travels a lot for work). His feedback was essentially “This game is cool, but why is it a star with a rainbow trail? Why can’t it just be, like, a rocket ship or something that’s not lame?”

So naturally I just reskinned Sorkle and ended up with Space Rocket, right?

Wrong!

A Shiny Diversion

I started a totally new game from the ground up, meant to follow the same premise as Sorkle but comprise deliberately different design decisions. That gave the world Ultralight Beam:

I took the premise of Sorkle (draw a circle around a given point) and tweaked it so that you would be “drawing shapes” around the point, as dictated by the stars you have to collect. This added a layer of complexity to the game and (unintentionally) shifted it away from the sense of “drawing”. Additional differences include:

  • Extremely loud, bright, flashy graphics
  • Aggressive (pre-recorded) rock music soundtrack
  • You control a cool rocketship instead of a floating star
  • Multiple enemy types with different looks and behavior
  • Dynamic level layouts
  • Powerups
  • Background declarations of fortune cookie wisdom

I felt that Sorkle was on to something but missed the mark, so I made lots of different choices this time around, mostly focused on giving the game more personality. This time I priced the game at $2.99 and got a few more sales but nothing substantial.

My brother liked Ultralight Beam but had no idea it had anything to do with Sorkle, and I don’t blame him. It’s still a dope game, I don’t know if there’s an audience for it, by the time I got it out the door I was so worn out and focused on other things I didn’t really care.

(It’s currently still for sale on the app store, you can go buy it but fair warning I am planning to replace it with a free, ad-supported version soon).

Just Keep Going in Circles

I could probably make a hundred more games riffing on the idea of drawing a shape around a given point. I kind of hope I would get bored before it got to that, but doing three was pretty breezy.

In conclusion, the newly released Space Rocket is killer, and your nongamer brother and your mom and your little nieces and nephews are gonna love it when you whip it on the iPad at Thanksgiving.

? ✌️

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