Life Flashes By on the iPad?

One of my big goals for Life Flashes By is to have it be playable on as many platforms as possible. So far, thanks to the efforts of a handful of awesome people working on the OpenSLUDGE engine, there will be Mac, Windows, and Linux versions, which means practically anyone with a PC will be able to enjoy the game, even if said PC is five years old or is a tiny little netbook. I would try to target consoles, but am not doing so because the hurdles needed to develop for them are really not an option for me at this point in time, so I try to console myself [1] instead with the notion that most console gamers have a PC with which they could play my game, so all is not lost.

A few days ago, Apple announced the iPad. I’ve been waiting for this announcement ever since I started hearing rumours about an Apple tablet a few months ago, convinced that the form factor of a tablet — particularly given that it’s small enough to curl up on the couch with, yet has enough screen real estate for cartoon characters to move around comfortably — would be perfect for Life Flashes By. Learning about the feature set makes me even more convinced. The majority of geeks I know have been deeming the iPad a great disappointment, claiming it to be underpowered and overhyped. While I can see where they’re coming from, I’m not too worried about their reservations. The iPad isn’t really made with them in mind. [2]

It is, however, targeting the kinds of people who are looking for a little computer that just works, and does so in a way that’s simple and elegant. The sorts who likely use regular old PCs out of necessity but hate all the fighting they have to do to get them to play nicely. These people are also the kinds of people who don’t go out of their way to find indie games to download and install on their computers. And that’s a shame, since I’m sure there’s a not-so-insignificant subset of those people who’d probably really enjoy something like Life Flashes By.

In fact, the intended audience for my game is a lot like the intended audience for the iPad in many ways. I’m not really making a game for gamers. Sure, there are many video game enthusiasts who are probably going to like what I have to offer, many of whom are reading this, and a handful of whom were kind enough to back my project over Kickstarter, for which I am extremely grateful. Yet, as you all very well know, I don’t intend on writing a game that’s too much like the games that are already out there. I’m not using cutting-edge tech or implementing much in the way of complex gameplay innovations. I’m not even pandering to the nostalgia subset, or using old-school pixel art. What I do want to do is take what I’ve loved about adventure games and interactive fiction in the past and make it interesting and accessible to people who likely don’t yet know that thought-provoking, engaging interactive stories even exist — not because they wouldn’t like to play such stories, but because we haven’t made it easy enough for them to find and play them. Only when this happens will those of us who already are interactive storytelling aficionados be seen as a viable audience rather than just a niche market that isn’t worth game developers’ and publishers’ time and money.

Making Life Flashes By available for a platform like the iPad may not completely solve this problem, but I get the feeling that it might help it gain an audience I wouldn’t be able to reach by having it only be available on the PC. Obviously, there will be some complications in porting the game and allowing it to be available in the App Store — the very things that make downloading and installing programs easy for users are what make it non-trivial for developers, after all — and I’d rather spend more time working on the game itself these days, so I’m not planning for an iPad version immediately. However, if my hunches about the system are correct and it does get widely adopted, then maybe by my projected completion time of the PC version in November, I’ll be able to devote the resources to making the iPad version happen. Perhaps I’ll even start a new Kickstarter project for the port. Hmm…

  1. That was a terribly pun. I apologise.
  2. And as someone said to me over Twitter, with such a low price, many of the detractors are likely going to buy one anyway.
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11 Responses to Life Flashes By on the iPad?

  1. Erwin says:

    Some of the hurdles you’ll have to take when developing for the console are also present when developing for Apple’s closed App Store marketplace.

    I posted a link to a very useful article on GS below that lists almost everything you might want to think about.

    My personal points of concern are: $99 annual fee to join the iPhone Developer Program, Apple takes 30% of every sale, The huuuuuuuuge userbase makes it difficult to stand out, Ambiguous Approval process, Performance of the devices is limited and difficult to test (porting dektop games would require a lot of code optimalisation).

  2. The key here is “some of the hurdles”. Regarding your points of concern: a) I could offset that by raising more funds via Kickstarter, b) not a huge deal since LFB is a non-profit project and I’m not looking to get rich off of it, c) I’m working towards standing out in other ways, and already know that just throwing something into the App Store isn’t going to do much, and d) I highly doubt I need a lot of processing power for what I’m trying to accomplish, and am willing to “scale down” the game if that becomes necessary.

    Thanks for the article, though. It’s also worth mentioning that I haven’t completely written off console ports; if a decent opportunity comes around to develop for one of them, and I’m convinced that people who use a particular console would enjoy my game, I’ll look into it.

  3. Erwin says:

    Hmm… Well, I would love to give iPhone/Pod/Pad development a try even though it’s a pain in some areas. While the iPad is criticized by a vocal community of techies and semi-techies, who also happen to rule the Interwebs, I think it’s going to be a success with everyone else. The only thing Apple has to do is reaching them.

    Sorry for breaking your page’s design with my absurdly long URL, by the way. I should’ve trimmed it.

  4. Eleniel says:

    The iPad sounds perfect for adventure games. The beautiful display, the touch interface, and as you say, perfect for lounging on the couch with! (Weirdly, my parents have actually been getting back into adventure games lately-they introduced me to them and then stopped playing video/computer games at all for like fifteen years-I will definitely have to show them your game once it’s finished.)

    Also, thanks for the link to OpenSLUDGE, I’ll have to check that out!

  5. Leopold says:

    I think you’re on to something with this adventure games on iPad thing…

    Great article, glad to see you’re making progress…and even getting backing!

  6. @Erwin No worries about breaking the page design. I’ll have to look into it and see why the word wrap isn’t working like it should. Hmm…

    @Eleniel I hope you do show my game to your parents! I’m interested to know what they’d think of it…

  7. NM says:

    Why are all the posts on graphics “backers-only”?

  8. Um… because that’s who they’re for?

  9. NM says:

    Can non-backers expect some interesting materials?

  10. What, you mean this blog isn’t interesting enough for you? I’m heartbroken. :P

  11. NM says:

    It is interesting, but I would like to see some BG’s as well.