When you founded Sexy Action Cool, did you start it with some game concepts in mind, or do you guys just all sit down together and say, "We're a company now. Let's start working on this"?
JK: Yeah, our first game concept we never actually released.
BF: Well, no, actually the first game concept we had was what essentially became Noah's Ark later on, when we kind of revisited it.
JK: Oh, yeah. That was our "lost city" game.
BF: Yeah. That was the first one. Jason and I worked on that for a little bit before John really started coming over. John kind of found the initial inspiration for Bejeweled in some really, really crafty dynamic HTML web game with colored circles and no animation.
JK: They weren't even circles; they were squares. It was really hard to figure out what was going on. It's like, "Oh, I kind of see... You're sort of trying to create a row or something?" But with absolutely no animation, it was impossible to play, so the first step was "Let's just try to make this animated and put better shapes in it."
That ended up becoming Bejeweled. We figured that would be just a quick little project for our first game and then we'd move on to much more complicated games after that.
BF: Well, we were kind of used to the idea. It had been working at Pogo, and at Sierra too. The idea was a lot of those games that were done there were not very big games; the idea was to spend a few months on a game, and in many ways it was sort of a sideshow. You had a chat room and prizes and all that stuff; the game was just something to kind of keep you amused. So they didn't necessarily put a lot of work or time into the game.
We were kind of on a schedule; if we could do a game every three months or something like that and could sell that game for a few bucks, that would be able to keep us afloat. So we just figured we had to do games on a very tight timeline like that.
JK: The initial version of Bejeweled, I think, only took probably a month or two, really.
When you say you were going to move on to more complicated games, you mean move on from one or two months to three months?
BF: Well, I had aspirations of eventually kind of working on more of what we would call "core games" today -- kind of like lighter versions of core games. But yeah, I didn't think we would stick to the casual games genre. I like action games and strategy games, and that's what most people play at our company. I figured eventually -- once we'd made some money with these quick Java games -- we'd be able to afford a longer development cycle and keep working our way up to be like the big boys.
JK: In the early days, we actually did do a lot of multiplayer games, but the problem with those was that they were very hard to sell to anyone else. The other sites didn't want to buy them because it was a pain to try and integrate all the multiplayer aspects.
Going into this, it doesn't sound like either of you guys were really into casual games.
JK: Well, at Pogo, I'd gotten to be pretty involved with it, over the last couple of years. It certainly started in the hardcore gaming space, but after a couple of years working on those games at Pogo, I really built a respect for those games; they were just as good in their own way as hardcore games. We weren't just slumming it. We really did like those kind of simple games.
BF: I didn't like those particularly much, though. I didn't have too much attraction to them in the beginning; I kind of saw it as they were easy to make. I thought we could rip them off pretty fast. I thought we could be superior developers who wouldn't have all this overhead, all this bureaucracy.
My plan was to just work on games that I actually wanted to work on eventually, but once I actually started to work on these little games, like Bejeweled, I started finding how satisfying it was to take a very simple concept and execute it absolutely perfectly. There's its own joy in that. Doing a simple game very, very well is just as rewarding as making a really complicated game that's executed okay.
JK: I was doing that a couple years before Brian, and I think we all had the same idea -- which was the idea that simple games don't necessarily have to be simplistic or bad.
You said at first you had ambition to graduate to a more core experience. At what point and why did you make the decision not to go in that direction?
BF: Well, I think we started having this love for casual games at some point, especially with Bejeweled. We had a lot of issues convincing people it was a game, but there was just something about it. It was so simple, but it could pull you in, in a really interesting way. We've all experienced that before with games like Tetris where you have these moments of being moved by something simple and beautiful, but...
Yeah, that just became our new focus: to keep doing that over and over, and kind of exposing out the simple, compelling concepts. We just kind of fell in love with that and said, "Well, why do we really need to make these more complex things when we have this new focus in life?"
JK: And it was very rewarding to see -- all these people would be playing these games, who were outside of the regular range of regular hardcore gamers: moms and secretaries and all these people that wouldn't otherwise play games.
BF: We started becoming recognized based on our games. We'd sign some lease form for some new apartment and put down where we work, and it's like, "Oh! You're those guys that do that gem-swapping game! I love that thing; we play it all the time." It would be somebody who, a year ago, would absolutely swear up and down that they'd never play a video game. We can change the world and reclaim video gaming for the masses.
JK: I was quite famous when I went into our local bowling alley on Seniors' Night wearing my PopCap bowling shirt. That was... not quite like the Beatles, but it was pretty funny how many people at Seniors' Night would recognize the PopCap logo.
Yeah, that was probably the turning point when we realized that this was a worthwhile endeavor to do, not just a stepping stone so that we could make our RTS or FPS games.