2D Boy’s rise to prominence with World of Goo has been well documented, and Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel are often cited as exemplars of the indie movement.
On the opposite side of the world, and with a physics-based puzzle game of their own, Israeli developer SpikySnail are very much hoping to follow in 2D Boy’s footsteps.
Founded earlier this year by childhood friends Niv Fisher and Sagi Koren, SpikySnail’s first game, Confetti Carnival, is an abstract one.
“The important thing for us was to create a physics-based game where everything depends on the physics simulation,” said Fisher, the programmer and game designer at the two-man studio.
The creatures you control in the game, known as gummies, are made up of jelly-like fluid that reacts genially to its environment. Using the physics and mechanics that enable you to slow time or change the direction of your gummy in midair, you trigger explosions by impacting with confetti bombs.
FLUID FREAK OUT
“For us it’s about the gameplay,” says Fisher, who wrote the engine for the game and has previously worked on medical simulations for surgical training. “We wanted to create a skill-based game.”
And the potential for skilful competition does exist, as SpikySnail demonstrated during their presentation at GameCity in Nottingham. Though you must make contact with the confetti, a more inventive approach is needed to hit the score-increasing point capsules.
These ‘stunts’, as Fisher calls them, are Confetti Carnival’s hook. The reversal mechanic that rewinds your gummy’s actions is particularly exciting as it adds a level of gameplay stickiness. Routes and collectables that are seemly unreachable in one circuit can be claimed be those skilful enough. The result is some eye-catching manoeuvres as your blob slides and darts around the level with a surprising amount of control.
Though the game’s art, by Koren, wouldn’t seem too out of place on a CBeebies indent, SpikySnail are targeting experienced players who have less time on their hands.
THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY
Indeed, Fisher believes the strength of casual games is the flexibility of the time commitment and the speed in which projects can be completed.
“For me, that’s what pulled me back in, because I didn’t want to go into a project with 50 other people and work for five years on a game. I wanted something small that I could control. And seeing the success of stuff like Braid and World of Goo really inspired me. There is a space where you can make these interesting unique games and people are looking for this kind of thing.”
Fisher and Koren previously worked on a third-person action game called The Family at SEA Multimedia in their home country. The company closed in the late 1990s and duo found jobs in other software sectors.
“Game development in Israel is not that developed,” says Fisher.
“Luckily, I’ve gained a lot of technical experience doing physics-based simulations. And with the elastics and the fluids, there’s not a lot of commercially available or even open source engines that can handle this, so I just had to develop everything from scratch.”
GUMMIES GO DIGITAL
Work on Confetti Carnival began two years ago. The duo spent a lot of time experimenting and iterating before the game, in its current form, emerged. They have struck a balance of physics that make it feel pacey, and mechanics that promote skilful play.
SpikySnail are pushing the game for PC, XBLA and PSN ideally. We asked if mobile platforms, like the iPad, could be a possibility. Fisher says: “I think that these tactile platforms really add a lot of opportunities. But you have to really study well what you’re going to do with them because you don’t want to make it the same game but with a different control.”
There’s six to 12 months of development still to go, but the duo are considering fashioning an edit suite to let players arrange their own circuits, in a similar way to Joe Danger. And they’re still figuring out how to teach players about the game’s finer points interactively.
“For us, a big success would be to have a decent amount of people enjoy it. We want it to be a really good first game for us to show our skill and to show where we’re going with the company.”
Life hasn’t been easy for 2D Boy, but they did have the advantage of setting up in one of the world’s major development countries. Capable and determined, these Israeli developers are out to prove that the American (Indie) Dream extends far beyond its country of origin.