Nominated for the Independent Games Festival's Nuovo Award for innovative and often offbeat titles this year, Fingle is a two-player cooperative iPad game that explores "the thrills of touching each others' hands."
In the game, players drag blocks on the tablet's multitouch screen with their fingers to solve puzzles. Fingle's stages are set up in a way that it's impossible for players to avoid contact, and their fingers are often pushed against each other and into awkward, sometimes suggestive positions.
The intimate iPad title was the first release out of Game Oven, yet another Dutch developer that's popped up recently and made a name for itself with a quirky release, following in footsteps of other studios like Vlambeer (Super Crate Box) and Ronimo Games (Swords & Soldiers).
We talked with the Game Oven's Adriaan de Jongh and Bojan Endrovski about how it came up with the concept for Fingle, their thoughts on the iPad as a co-op gaming device, and the Netherlands' thriving indie scene.
What background do you have making games?
Bojan worked on army simulators and Prison Break: The Conspiracy at Zoofly, a game studio in Slovenia. Adriaan designed some levels for Gatling Gears by Amsterdam-based Vanguard.
The first time we worked together was at the HKU (Utrecht School of the Arts), where we worked on a student game for a big multi-touch table with a couple of fellow students.
Before that, Adriaan co-created the rehabilitation game Vogels! (Birds!), which won a bunch of Dutch prizes, but we both still feel complete novices when it comes to experience in creating commercial titles.
What development tools did you use?
In terms of software we mainly used Xcode and Photoshop. The game itself runs on our in-house developed engine. That engine is still tiny but already flexible and robust.
We built our early prototypes in Unity3D and used the Ogmo level editor later on to build the rough layouts of the levels. Supportive software like Versions for subversion control and Google Docs for the todo-lists helped a lot too.
How long did your team work on the game?
We had been working on the game for eight months from idea to App Store submission. Fingle started as Adriaan's graduation project, and he had to write a paper alongside it.
The game did not enter production until after four months of prototyping different features and styles. Those eight months do not include all the hours Bojan put in our cross-platform game engine.
How did you come up with the concept for Fingle, and getting players to mash their fingers against each other?
That big multi-touch table game we made, called The Jelly Reef, invited multiple people to play at once. Adriaan noticed that when people accidentally touched each others hands, they quickly pulled their them away in awkwardness.
It was something he wanted to make a game out of -- that's where it started. The first prototype was quite convincing and Bojan agreed to make a full-featured game out of it.
Have you played or seen Q Entertainment's Q?pid? It's a little similar; I wonder what you think of that game?
We remember coming across Q?pid when we were thinking of names for the game. The mechanics are somewhat similar, and there are a few more games that go into that direction: Fingertips, Fingler Mingle, TwisTouch, and Funky Fingers to name a few, but most focus solely on the puzzle element and try hard to replicate a board game on an interactive device.
Our vision was different. We wanted to make a socially intimate game. One that would challenge not only your puzzle skills, but also the relation between you and the other person. Around that idea, we built a complete unified experience with matching visual and auditory style.
We stayed away from making Fingle a four-player game, because we noticed during prototyping that it was a lot less awkward and intimate. The iPad often couldn't handle four people pressing on the screen too hard, [and the] letting go of all the touches.
Can you talk about the new opportunities you think the iPad provides as a co-op gaming device, that maybe haven't or couldn't be realized in previous platforms?
Hey look at that! A device that is mainly bought by non-gamers! And it has a screen big enough to have two people sitting next to each other and to play on it simultaneously!
What Apple's iPad (and iOS) offer more than any other multi-touch device, for single-player games and co-op games, are consistent specifications for the hardware and a market of people who actually pay to enjoy their games, making it a developer friendly environment.
The big opportunity in terms of co-op gaming on the iPad speaks for itself: the screen is big enough, so the only thing we are all waiting for is developers taking the risk to build a co-op game!
What's next for Game Oven?
Fingle was our big try-out and it worked out great. We have a bunch of ideas we cannot speak of (yet), but we can tell you this: our next game will undoubtedly be just as unique as Fingle and definitely for more than one player.
Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?
Johann Sebastian Joust is just an amazing game, period -- we've been playing that over and over again at several events. We think it's a winner.
GIRP was hilarious, just like Bennett Foddy's other games. Fez and Dear Esther look incredibly beautiful. Spelunky and Atom Zombie Smasher play really great. And Realm of the Mad God is just an incredible technical achievement.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?
We think that the indie scene is growing stronger by the day, but not because it's any easier to make a living from indie games now. The competition is fiercer than ever.
Lots of players are in the mood for something fresh and different, but they expect the same quality that bigger studios guarantee. So although the amount of self-publishing options greatly increased in recent years, independent developers aren't going to have an easier time selling their games.
The indie game development community in the Netherlands really seems to be taking off in recent years, with studios like Vlambeer, Ronimo, and Game Oven. What do you think is behind this surge for the region, and what do you think Dutch developers offer that's unique from other studios?
The growing independent game development scene is a subject we often discuss with Vlambeer. We think it is mainly due to one organization making life and work easier for starting Dutch game developers: the Dutch Game Garden.
All the companies you named are either inside their building or moving there (like Game Oven). Ronimo and Vlambeer are a huge inspiration to aspiring game designers and developers: they managed to reach big international audiences with their passionately built products.