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Betting on style with Saltsman and Wohlwend's Hundreds Exclusive
Betting on style with Saltsman and Wohlwend's  Hundreds
January 4, 2013 | By Mike Rose

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!"

hundreds 1.jpgAdds 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.

hundreds 2.jpg"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.

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Lex Allen
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The color scheme is atrocious. I wonder if this will hurt the appeal or not.

Brandon Sheffield
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I disagree with you entirely!

Aaron San Filippo
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I *love* the color scheme. More apps should look like this.

Lex Allen
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That's insane!

Red and white and black on white are not particularly effective marketing colors. It may help you to stand out, but there's a reason why most cereal boxes are blue. :)

Brandon Sheffield
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It's not about the masses, it's about appealing to folks who like stark contrast and bold choices - making a game generic for everyone is a mistake, in my opinion!

James Hofmann
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You're thinking of the "Red and White Comedy Poster".

Lex Allen
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@brandon sheffield

I don't know. There's more money in globalization, generalization, and assimilation than in trying to satisfy a black and white game niche. I could be wrong.

Sven Bergstrom
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Everything so far you have said about the game, and everything you continue to bash illuminates exactly how little you know about it.

Black and white? Nope.
Math Based? Nope.

"I could be wrong."

^ Yes, I believe you could be.

Tom Baird
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"Red and white and black on white are not particularly effective marketing colors."

Somebody should definitely notify Coca Cola on this one...

Or regarding the 'Black and White game niche', don't tell Batman Arkham City's marketting team, they are clearly just marketting to a niche. Attempting to say 'Color X just doesn't work for selling things' is a very confusing and short-sighted way of looking at things. It can not work for certain products (Green and meat for example), but saying it doesn't work for selling as a whole is ridiculous.

Barna Biro
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Well, I for one find it far, far from intuitive... It's also not very attractive ( visually ). Great for them, but I for one can't imagine how this will ever sell more than a few "Hundreds" of times at best. Good luck!

Lex Allen
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Yeah, it seems like an obvious miss to me, but I could be wrong. With enough press, I guess you could sell anything.

Sven Bergstrom
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I love how the internet can find 2 voices in the crowd of the millions already way interested in the visual style alone (note : That's what you are seeing on the app store, when shopping, right?) and connect them in a single post comment thread.

The app shot right up to #2 on the app store in the first day or two iirc.

Did these hordes of users read who made it?

I'm guessing the visuals did for a lot of people what they did for me :
A beautiful punch in the gut.

Something games should strive for, visual impact and unique flavor.

(oh and the game is also great fun, a contributing factor)

Pascal Belanger
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God I hate when people shoot down a game/movie based on one aspect. Especially when they think they got it right and they clearly don't.

That whole color argument seemed like a pop-psych circlejerk.

Barna Biro
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I stand corrected. Another thing ( note to self ): I should next time also read the article and not just watch the video. By only looking at the video, I still stand by my initial affirmation that it's not intuitive... but after reading the article ( especially the 3rd paragraph ), now everything makes sense. I also had to look up some gameplay videos to actually get a minimal feel of it ( just the trailer alone and the too brief iTunes description IMHO is not great - but that's me ). Sound is nice and graphics actually look fine in the overall style / context of the game.

I think they've did great so far - beside the niceish gameplay and feel - because of that 40% cut ( the price being borderline "Ok" currently ), but once it goes to 100% ( 4.99$ ), I'm expecting sales to drop badly... We'll most likely see them cut the price the weeks to come ( yeah, I don't think it's worth ~5$ to most of the people, but of course, I can still be proven wrong ).

John Krajewski
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That is one sexy trailer. Nice work, the first few levels are interesting and looking forward to seeing what crazy other things the game holds.

Oliver Bulloss
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I had dinner with Adam Saltsman in 2011 and the game his raved about was Drop7. I guess it inspired him to make a maths themed game. I definitely love the art style.

Lex Allen
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I think that's the other issue. A math game may seem fun for development nerds like some of us, but the last time I checked, most people don't consider math fun.

Aaron San Filippo
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It's really not a "math themed game" any more than checkers is a math-themed game because it's about reducing your opponents pieces to zero.

@Lex: The game is featured in Apple's new and noteworthy, and it's also Editor's Choice this week. It's been in the top 10 Paid apps since launch, and is in the top 50 grossing apps right now.

It's also just earned an honorable mention in IGF's "excellence in visual arts" category.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and you're entitled to your opinion.

But regarding your insistence that the game isn't marketable, I think it's safe to say that you're objectively wrong.

Lex Allen
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To me, the idea and the visuals just aren't really appealing.

I'm shocked that it made an honorable mention for visual arts. I would like to know how they came to that decision because it's nowhere near being an art game. The IGF has a history of making... decisions that nobody really understands.

It just has a few other colors besides black and white, which is why I said it fits into the black and white niche.

As for marketing colors, black, red, and white, are not the best choices for selling products. This has been tested over and over again. Yes, of course Coca Cola and Batman sell products, but those are existing brands.

I could see why people wouldn't consider it a math game, but adding to get to a hundred... I see how people consider it more of a puzzle game, but to me it's math.

In the end, we'll see how many people buy it for $4.99.