Unlike the previous entry of this sad series, DevCo Quest, this game was not an amateur, after-hours affair but a title in the early days of our start-up. Way before retina display even we were looking at game designs specifically suited for the device. Our previous title Flock It! was well suited for touch screen interface so the other big aspect of iPhones, gyroscopic control, seemed a good next avenue to explore.
Mocked-up initially by Paul, using Flock It! artwork, he created a simple sky-diving game using the gyroscope to control the position of a sheep on the screen. The design quickly evolved and, inspired by a silly T-shirt I saw somebody wearing in the street, turned into Skydog, a sky-diving dog whose aim is to earn points by staying alive, picking up bones and avoiding hazards like anvils, pianos and, obviously, jetpack cats.
So what went wrong? Honestly, not much. As I was creating art for the game Paul called a halt to that, as he needed time to hammer out the controls. The problem, he found, was that it just wasn't...much fun. Rather than me creating art that might never be used, he spent a few days trying out different ideas. We had pre-set patterns that would be randomly selected, extra interfaces to help deal with the perspective (it's always difficult to judge 3D depth in a 2D game). But in the end...we just didn't like the gyroscopic control.
It's something I find to this day, subjectively. iOS games with gyroscopic control are not fun. They are usually not very precise, and what is the point of a game where you turn the screen away from your face? We were trying to find a balance between a fun, challenging piece of gameplay and an input-mechanic that was actively fighting that. In the end, we did the difficult thing...we killed off the project. We were spending so much time trying, hope against hope, to make something work well and be fun that it just wasn't good for us to continue with it. I think we all were initially too excited and jumped on the idea without proper prototyping. In an ideal world we'd have had a working, fun prototype before anybody else spent time on assets and designs, or, in this case, to find out what we were aiming for wasn't possible or fun.
The very next project we returned to what we liked better: touch-screen input, and we created what is arguably our most critically successful iOS title, Piczle Lines. Part of me regrets not pursuing the sky-diving adventures of a cute cavalier king Charles spaniel, and this is coming from a cat-person! But he lives on, as the solution to puzzle 17 of the free starter pack of puzzles for Piczle Lines, in case any fans were wondering what that was all about.