We started work on Blowfish Meets Meteor close to three years ago.
That's a lot of time for an iPhone game. A suicidal amount of time, in all likelihood. In hindsight, it feels like a ridiculously stupid move. So why did we do it?
Let's start with the stigma.
Mobile games have a reputation. They're cheaply made. They're crammed full of ads, or, worse, microtransactions. They're repetitive -- the same thirty seconds of content stretched across hundreds of thousands of identical endless runners. They constantly interrupt you, asking you to rate the game, tweet about it, or post your scores to your Facebook wall. They are creations unloved by their creators.
We wanted to help fix that.
When we started Blowfish Meets Meteor, it was all about subverting expectations. It's a mobile game -- but it has real production values, and it has a console-game-sized campaign! It's a block-breaker -- but it quickly dovetails into an insane platformer genre hybrid, where gigantic bosses and ridiculous setpieces are the norm. The title screen dumps you into a relatively simple block-breaking stage -- and then victory whisks you off to a sprawling world map, packed with unique locations and secrets! And all without a single advertisement or microtransaction. In its own weird way, Blowfish Meets Meteor would be a commentary on the entire mobile marketplace.
We started looking to the games we loved for inspiration. Block-breaker games like Breakout and Arkanoid, of course. And then -- Super Mario Bros. Donkey Kong Country. Even a little bit of Super Metroid crept in.
It turns out, the game we were envisioning basically was a console game. And it turns out those take a while to make.
Whenever talk of timelines or budgets came up, we dismissed it by using the first half of the equation: mobile game. Block-breaker. I made a prototype in a single afternoon. It had... a ball, a paddle, and some blocks. If I could do that in an afternoon, surely we could finish the rest of the game in a few months, at most!
So we started the game, and it was going fine. Maybe a bit more slowly than we had hoped -- it took a lot longer to program the protagonist as a fully-functioning sprite than it did to program it as a big rectangle, for instance -- but fine, nonetheless.
Then the first boss (of eight total) came around. Imagine: it's nighttime. You're in an earthen grotto; there's water up to the screen's midpoint, and you're surrounded by tropical plants. All is peaceful.
Suddenly, with a blood-curtling screech, the ceiling collapses in on itself and a gigantic battleship with the sentient head of a bird crashes through, landing atop the waves with a shockwave that shakes the entire room. The boss music kicks in. The boss screeches again and starts spewing fireballs.
Several tense minutes later, the fight is over. Victory music plays. All is calm once more.
Then the battleship's zombified corpse starts to fall. Tense music begins to play -- think Ridley's theme from the Metroid series. If you can't outrun this, you'll be squished to a pulp.
All told, this boss encounter and the subsequent escape sequences took us over a month to implement, not including the constant hours of testing and tweaking we did afterwards.
But don't worry, we thought. It's just a block-breaker. It'll be done before we know it.
That naivete carried us through the entire project. We went through the all the typical start-up phases: we ran out of money. We put the project on the back-burner to do contract jobs that would keep the lights on. I moved in with my dad temporarily to make ends meet. We borrowed money from friends and family alike. And, around every turn: "don't worry -- Blowfish Meets Meteor is almost done!" I think we sincerely believed it, every single step of the way.
In a lot of ways, it feels like the universe had hit the pause button on that entire period of my life. Life continued, to be sure, but at the end of the day, Blowfish was the endgame, always lurking just out of sight. It's a terrible and cliched description, but it's 100% true.
And, suddenly, that's over, and we have this big indie-console-game-in-a-mobile-game-wrapper on our hands. And the initial reviews are positive! It's a bizarre feeling -- humbling, exciting, and twinged with more than a little of what I can only imagine is pospartum depression.
At the end of it all, we're in uncharted new territory. We made a lot of mistakes, but we also made a game we're incredibly proud of. It's strange to think that our art no longer belongs to us; it's for everyone, now. I genuinely hope you enjoy it.