Friday 9 January 2015

helix stuff

Helix has sold 3841 copies. Depending on where you stand you might think this number is good or bad, I don't know. For me it is certainly not terrible (hello Glitch Tank) but it is less than I had been hoping for given how long I spent on it and how encouraging everyone had been while I was working on it.
Inevitably I am making a comparison to my previous release, 868-HACK, which sold very well (it is at 13978 copies and still going steady). Each game had been doing better than the last and at that point I thought that I had made it. I thought that yes I can relax now and just make the things I want to make without stress. (And then I didn't get much done for a while because overworking myself and having all the stress has consequences but that is another story.) I expected Helix to do even better because it is much more accessible. Every time I show Helix to someone they figure it out within seconds and then end up just sitting playing it until I demand my ipad back, whereas 868-HACK they'll poke at confused for a little while then hand it back; it is a very obtuse game.

I am not that worried about the money right now; I have plenty saved from 868-HACK to keep going, even with my wife being about to become unemployed. Seriously I'm okay did you see that number last paragraph (and I'm releasing it on PC soon NO REALLY THIS TIME and hopefully people will still buy it there even though I took so long about it). I can keep making stuff. But it does feel very unstable; I can put all the work into something that seems like it will do well and that everyone is telling me will be the biggest thing ever and then it's just not. For me, while I am primarily making games out of artistic inspiration part of the motivation to finish things well and fix all the bugs comes from the hope of getting paid for my time, otherwise I would rather keep chasing new ideas. And Helix ended up taking a lot of time to get done. I don't know, maybe I can get fast again but maybe I am just getting old and slow and I will take longer to make things.

I had kind of intended to stop entering the IGF, at least for a while. I had had three games in it, maybe that's enough and I should leave some space for new people right? But then I was looking at numbers and thinking no I am responsible to do things to promote my work so I entered it again. Helix has received an honourable mention for the design category. I had entered it two years earlier, back when I was making games nice and quickly and I thought I'd be releasing it any week, and it got an honourable mention for design then too. I had hoped that maybe it would get in this time because it actually got a lot better during those two years, but it is okay.
(Aside: "excellence in design" is a bit of a confused category because the judges are divided on whether it means "game mechanics" or "the holistic effect of all elements together", the latter being essentially equivalent to the "grand prize" category. This is something I would like to see them clarify.)
Andi also entered our Ludum Dare collaboration BECOME A GREAT ARTIST IN JUST 10 SECONDS and that is a finalist which is pretty neat. I am positive about life.


  1. Good gravy, I just wrote like a 45 minute comment that got eaten alive.

    Condensation: BC1GC should win writing award; Helix great, missed your music; human evolution not monotonically increasing; Helix/O as exploratory Zaga/868/Corrypt as in-genre; question about nature of digital versus analog controls; borges quote about future artists "creating their precursors" so if you do a good job you are fucked by the whims of future art anyways.

  2. Have you considered giving Helix a chance on Wii U, 3DS, or PC (using mouse controls)? I'm a huge fan of your work, and have played all of your games (including Helix) for many hours each and more or less mastered all of your main releases. While I'm in the top percentile in the Helix leaderboards, I have never felt comfortable playing a game that requires such fine-tuned, split-second controls on a touch screen that doubles as the display. It forces me into making a Faustian bargain of using more screen real estate for my finger (risking my hand will cover-up an enemy incoming from the right) or else relegating my finger to a small area on the right (which risks my finger running off the side and losing control of the ship). iOS games like Bit Pilot get away with this control scheme because the ship stays in the center of the screen and the ship is much less maneuverable than Helix's.

    Metroid Prime Hunters on the original Nintendo DS demonstrated how effective a touch screen can be for eyes-off control of an avatar on a separate screen, but the 3DS and WiiU have not capitalized on this functionality in their software. Helix would be a perfect fit for either system, and maybe that will help it find the audience it deserves. Another potential (though probably less favorable) option would be to use the dedicated touch pad on the rear of the Playstation Vita, since that also would prevent visual screen occlusion. Please also consider porting it to Steam so that people can play it using a mouse pad for control. It's a pity for such an innovative game to be overlooked simply because it was on a platform that necessitated a frustrating control scheme.

    (BTW, on the iOS version it would be cool if you updated it to give the option to remove the avatar completely and substituted the player's finger, similar to MMM Fingers or On The Line. It wouldn't solve the visual obstruction issue, but it would be interesting to play nonetheless.)