Betting on style with Saltsman and Wohlwend's Hundreds
Sometimes a game can be sold on the mere mention of its creators alone. Hundreds, a new iOS puzzler released earlier this week, has Adam Saltsman (Canabalt) and Greg Wohlwend (Puzzlejuice) behind it.
Alongside these iOS behemoths are developer Eric Johnson and musician Scott Morgan, completing the impressive Hundreds team.
The game plays like a sort of updated take on the classic Jezzball, with the twist that you're looking to expand the balls to fill the space, rather than blocking them in. If a ball touches another ball or any other obstacle while you're expanding it, you're out.
It's a simple concept, and one that can be fully explained in not many words, allowing the Semi Secret team to keep the website and assets for the game relatively cleancut and uncomplicated.
In fact, when I began researching the game a couple of weeks back, it felt as though Semi Secret was purposely being secretive and teaser-ish in the build up to launch, thanks to this simplistic approach. As it turns out, I was reading the signs wrong.
"We have spent an incredible amount of time thinking about and working on how to tell people about Hundreds," Wohlwend tells me. "I'm not sure we got it right. We do a lot of showing rather than telling and I hope that comes through as honest and confident rather than overly mysterious and weird."
"We went all over the map in search of a way to tell people about Hundreds," he continues, "[about] how it's extremely accessible: two-year-olds can play it, and my grandma of 84 who got stuck in the Spelltower tutorial, played 16 levels unassisted before she had to go check on the cookies; how it's very minimal and austere in a peaceful kind of way; how it's mysterious--riddled with codes and strangeness that are only for the select few that wish to unravel things."
So there wasn't an element of at least partially marketing the game on the names of the people behind it? Do they not think people will hear the names Saltsman and Wohlwend and come running?
"I for one do not!" laughs Saltsman. "And I don't think we're relying on that alone, either - there is a launch trailer coming out alongside the game that shows a lot of gameplay, and we've been very actively working with a lot of press to synchronize reviews and stuff."
"Most of the last 4 months has been dedicated to figuring out how to communicate what we love about this game to our audience without having to rely solely on our names/past work. Not sure if it's succeeding yet or not!"
Adds Wohlwend, "In no way do I have any illusions that people will give a hoot that I worked on this game. Adam on the other hand... now he's a stone fox."
iOS connoisseurs will most likely be able to look at Hundreds and immediately say "That's a Wohlwend game." It has a striking visual style that fits among the designer's stylish past titles swimmingly.
"I think it's important to do good work, and for me it means loving the work I'm doing," he notes. "I hope that comes through with Hundreds, it's definitely the game I've imbued the most of my self into. Even the red RGB build is 222,0,0."
"Honestly, I don't really think I was cognizant of this before but now after thinking over it for a while, a lot of Hundreds is based off my first year in design school," he continues. "I used so much red/black/white in that first year because I was much more concerned with form and layout than messing with color. I didn't know enough yet to venture out into color."
Indeed, Wohlwend's very first abstract composition at design school was a red, black and white deconstruction of a John Heartfield poster, as he attempted to recreate the visual elements and composition of the piece using simple shapes.
"The style of Hundreds sits right there with all those perfectly crisp design principles," he says. Wohlwend was ruthless with how simple he wanted the Hundreds prototype to look, such that when it came to building the real thing, he could then potentially expand on the base style and rules a bit more fully.
"In a lot of ways the visual design and the game design are almost genetically linked," he adds.
Laughs Saltsman, "We're kind of betting everything on that [the visual style]. That's our whole thing, basically. We're very inspired by Sword & Sworcery - not Craig [Adams of Superbrothers]'s style, specifically, but the way it stood out."
With Hundreds out on the App Store, the pair can now look forward to what the rest of 2013 has to hold for them. Wohlwend currently has four iOS games on the go -- one of which includes Ridiculous Fishing, while the other three are secret projects. Once those are all done and dusted, he then plans to jump back over to his Mikengreg studio, and work on "A Dedicated Thing that we've been wanting to do for years."
As for Mr. Adam "Atomic" Saltsman, he plans to inject some added features into Hundreds, and fire it out onto Android. He's also working on a "big Canabalt iOS update," before getting ready for some well-earned paternity leave in March.