Thursday, November 11, 2010

Steambirds: Now out for iPhone, iPad and Android

Have I mentioned that this was a busy week?  Monday saw the release of our new Kindle game Panda Poet.  Yesterday, we release not one game, but two games.  The first is Steambirds for iOS.  The second is Steambirds for Android.

Indie legends Adam Saltsman and Eric Johnson from Semi-Secret handled the iPhone and iPad versions.  They've been leveraging their experience with Canabalt and Gravity Hook to help navigate the wild west of AppStore relevancy. Check out that gorgeous new title screen...there are also all new plane graphics.  You can pick up the iPhone version for 99 cents or you can splurge on the HD iPad version for $1.99.  You are so totally worth it.

Victor Chelaru from Flat Red Ball handled the Android version.  They did some amazing work optimizing the UI to work on Android phones.  The performance was tweaked until the whole experience feels smoother than the silky fine fur of a baby beaver's bottom.  Try it and you'll see what I'm talking about. There is a limited launch promo price of 99 cents that only lasts till November 17th.  Then it gets expensive.

Long ago when I was first playing around with the Surface at Microsoft Research, I dreamt that one day in the far future I'd be able to play a game just like Steambirds.  There is just something incredibly tactile about a big screen and those little chunky planes that just beg to be dragged about.  The thought of it makes my fingertips vibrate. The touch friendly Steambirds UI plus the big screen on an iPad were meant for each other.


Here are two very basic design lessons from this particular set of releases.
  • Strive for simple interfaces.  We often get caught up in adding buttons; new feature = new button. But my favorite designs are ones that start out feeling almost too simple.  There are big benefits. Simple interfaces are easier to transfer to highly divergent platforms.  Simple interfaces are also easier for new users to learn.   There doesn't need to be a trade off; you can have both a simple interface and immense gameplay depth.  This is probably the one design challenge that I obsess about more than any other: how do you create layers of depth in the player's mind, not in the user interface? It isn't the easiest problem to solve, but when you see it, you know you are in the presence of great design. 
  • If you've got gameplay magic, bottle it up and spread it wide and far.  10 million unique users have played Steambirds.  The gameplay resonates quite broadly. The question is not 'which platform should I target?', but instead "how do I reach as many customers as possible across all viable platforms?" 
Alright, I'm breathless.   If you have an Android or iOS device, grab a copy of Steambirds and let me know what you think. Think of it as a vote for deep, great indie games on your phone.

All the best,
(...heading back to his design cave to make more games...the year isn't over yet and we've got more goodness to release.)