Choosing a Game Idea: Part 2

(This post is a continuation of Choosing a Game Idea: Part 1)

In Part 1, I tried to give you an idea of the process we went through before finally arriving on a single game that we decided to go forward with. Here in Part 2, I’m going to take you through the brainstorming and research that went into the idea.

Where did I leave off? Oh right, cartoon fruit.

Bear with me for a few words here, because I promise it gets to the point.

A first part of our philosophy was that we wanted to create a game that is fairly simple to play. Just last night, a couple of us were discussing the simplicity of a game called Where’s My Water?, which has gone viral on iPhone and iPad. Games like this are proof that simple sells.

That said, simplicity alone cannot grab a person’s attention. You have to have presentation, dignity, and most importantly, character. The flagship game for this formula is Rovio’s Angry Birds. The game has a single gameplay mechanic (the slingshot), and they give you a few different types of birds to introduce a varied element of strategy without complicating the game mechanic. But the key, perhaps, is the uniform goal:

Kill those ugly, smug, smirking, effin’ pigs.

The game design overall is quirky, and lovable. It reflects character. The game mechanic itself was ripped off from another game (and/or other games just like it). But the presentation of the game was done very well, and the characters make it memorable.

That’s why the 36 year-old physical therapist is riding the bus home from work and playing it on her phone.

Market research tells us that when people go to the grocery store, they spend the extra dollar to buy Oreo cookies instead of the generic brand because the packaging presents an illusion of quality – of enjoyment – even if the product is exactly the same.

It’s just that in this case, Angry Birds is the Oreo, and Crush the Castle is generic brand.

Now, I promised at the beginning of this post that I would relate this back to our experience. I like to keep my promises (mostly).

The question we began to ask ourselves is this: why can you not take a game that is already made, and try to improve or modify the mechanic? Angry Birds did it. And the kicker is, we aren’t looking to make millions (not that we would complain…).

Enter Angry Fish.

Angry Fish is Angry Birds, with a new skin on it. Frozensoft actually improved on Angry Birds by allowing you to fire multiple shots at once and use a more precise power mechanic.

That said, it is also a blatant ripoff (or parody, depending on your point of view).

The GUI is stolen fairly directly from Angry Birds, and the game’s graphical style and mechanics (all the way down to the types of ammunition) are identical to Angry Birds. Many reviewers and gamers have rained down scorn on Frozensoft for such a shameless copy.

But what are they whining about?

Based on the numbers posted by Zeboyd Games, we can postulate that Angry Fish has sold roughly 60,000 copies based on its position on the XBLIG best-selling list. That’s 60,000 people who have downloaded (and likely enjoyed) it.

Whether or not it was a conscious effort by Frozensoft, ripping off (ahem…parodying) Angry Birds was a great marketing strategy, because people who like Angry Birds (and don’t have some ridiculous, pompous gaming attitude about them) will download it and play it.

Personally, I say bravo.

But from a business standpoint, Frozensoft may always be known as the company that started out with a stained idea, which isn’t the foot we wanted to start out on. Not exactly a risk we wanted to take.

If you’ve managed to stay with me this long, then you’ve managed to get to the point where I tell you about our game.

I talk about Angry Birds and Angry Fish because we are delving into the tower-assault genre ourselves (is that what it’s called?) for a couple reasons:

  • The genre is still relatively popular and fresh.
  • The genre is starved for new content, with Angry Birds being the only real presence in the market.
  • The genre has a lot of potential for additional game elements to let games stand apart from each other.

Our game, however, will not resemble Angry Birds in a variety of ways. And while it will play similarly, it (like Angry Fish) will add gameplay elements that you just can’t get with the manilla tower assault genre. We want to improve on an already created game, and hopefully make a true, original mark in an already enjoyable genre.

We are perfectly fine with anyone who wants to call it an Angry Birds-type game, but it will be a far cry from a blatant (or even subtle) ripoff.

For those of you who made it this far, you’re probably expecting me to explain how we arrived at cartoon fruit as the characters.

Yeah, about that…I honestly don’t know.

The idea spawned from a brainstorming session where I began to write down things that have a reason to hate each other (as, naturally, birds and pigs do). I had probably more than a dozen ideas written down when I decided to get a snack from the kitchen. When I opened the refrigerator, there I saw a Tupperware container of leftover vegetables (of some sort). I realized just then, how much I actually hated vegetables.

Then it hit me: everyone hates vegetables.

And thus, the idea was born. At least, I think that’s how it happened. It makes for a good story at the very least.

As I stated at the beginning of Part 1, ideas can come from anywhere: a train car, an unplanned pregnancy, a girl who makes animal noises, or a bird that you saw attack a pig. It’s about what you do with them that really matters.

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3 Comments:

  1. Luckily Frozensoft is not a real company and we can change the name whenever we want to 😉

    Also I really enjoyed this article.

    • the Crizz - Project Manager/Graphic Art

      Thanks for reading! Very much enjoy the Fishcraft series.

      We may even have some questions for you (development and/or publishing) as we move forward with our game. Our stage editor is complete and our programmer is getting into the game physics right now.

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