Posts Tagged Adam Saltsman

 

AdamSaltsmanAdam Saltsman is one of the most talented, intelligent, and opinionated developers working on the App Store nowadays. He’s worked on a selection of titles on the App Store as diverse as the influential endless runner Canabalt to the abstract touchscreen game Hundreds. However, there are reasons why he thinks Canabalt isn’t quite as influential as it appears to be, and his concerns about the future of the App Stores and the indies working on it.

148Apps: Canabalt remains one of the most influential games on the App Store as one of the first high-profile endless runners, and the one that seemingly sparked a million more games. What do you think of the game’s legacy, though? Do you see it in similar terms?

Adam Saltsman: So the funny thing about Canabalt to me is that it hasn’t sold as well as a lot of people think. We’ve probably sold maybe 250,000 or 300,000 copies or something, and a lot of those were during sales over the last few years combined. That’s nothing to laugh at, and I’m super thankful and grateful for that response from people, but I think the game had a bigger impact on journalists and other game developers than it did on the general public. Not to mention the hordes of games inspired by the games that Canabalt seems to have inspired, which probably outnumber Canabalt’s direct influences by a few orders of magnitude!

Canabalt

It’s important to remember that lots of games influenced Canabalt too, though, as well as Wurdle. These were not things created in a vacuum! All the same I could not be happier with Canabalt’s reception and impact. It feels like a huge honor, all the time, forever.

148Apps: The way that developers make money within the App Store has definitely shifted in the past 5 years, yet you have remained an outspoken critic of the way that many games use in-app purchases. Why is that? Has your position shifted at all over the last few years?

Saltsman: I don’t think my position has changed much. Most of the approaches to IAP or “free to play” style designs that are deployed on the App Store, especially in financially successful games, remain fairly corrupt or coercive in a way that makes me pretty uncomfortable. Some of these approaches have actually been outlawed in Japan, so I don’t think their coercive nature is completely imaginary. These approaches have even become formalized enough to have actual names (treadmills, energy systems, tight loops, etc).

I think players in general are at least slightly more aware of these systems. This is important, especially for kids. Many of these games still target children with schemes like “give us $5 or your virtual fish will DIE.” It’s good for people to understand that a “game” on their phone might operate that way.

But also there have been games with large IAP components that don’t really feel particularly coercive, like ShellRazer, which I think is cool. These games actually speak to the promise of IAP and F2P as a way of engaging a broader or different type of audience in different ways. These games are very definitely the exception to the rule, though.

148Apps: What do you think about the viability of the App Store over the next five years? Will there be any changes, or any directions that you would like to see the marketplace go in?

Saltsman: The App Store to me seems to really strongly favor a particular kind of approach (if you don’t do IAP of course), which we used on Hundreds. This approach goes something like this: “work on the game in relative secrecy for like 1–2 years, then launch it and hope it gets featured and impresses everybody enough to get the critical mass you need to get good word of mouth and a good long tail in the future.”

Hundreds-3

As a member of a small team, and somebody with a growing family, this approach freaks me out pretty bad, and there are a lot of platforms (especially PC/Mac) where you don’t have to take that kind of crazy all-or-nothing path. I would love it if the App Store could support preorders, and bundles, and a lot of these other things that help sustain small teams through risky development on other platforms.

On top of that, launching on the App Store first places certain price limits on your work in some people’s minds, and selling at a higher price point on other platforms later can be a challenge. For small teams, it seems like designing for PC/Mac first, with potentially touch-screen friendly controls in mind (e.g. favoring the mouse over gamepads), is a really superior way to approach things, from a business and tech perspective.

In the “old days” (ha ha!) it felt like you could just think up a real good game for the only model of iPhone/iPod Touch that actually existed, build it in a reasonable period of time, and kind of blow people’s minds. Prices weren’t quite as low back then either. It’s totally natural and understandable that those early successes would draw in more competition, but at this point, as a small team of 2 or 3, you have to be pretty receptive to the idea that you are up against teams of 10 or 12, with 1–2 years of publisher-backed runway. You can still compete, indies can ALWAYS compete…but if you are trying to make games commercially and take care of your family, you have to be cognizant of these things, and more considered in your approach in the future.

Thanks to Adam Saltsman for his time; it’s always a pleasure.

Developer: Adam Atomic
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

While fans await the opening of The Hunger Games movie this weekend, the iOS and indie game world was awaiting The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire, thanks to the all-star list of talent working on it, spearheaded by the talented Adam Saltsman of Canabalt fame, who’s also working on the fascinating upcoming game Hundreds.

It’s an auto-runner, but also an action game. It’s not an endless runner though, as there is an actual end to the game that comes once the first section ends. Players control series heroine Katniss Everdeen, who’s running through the forest, hunting down the giant hornets called tracker jackers that can hurt her. When she gets hit by a projectile or by hitting one of the hornets, she gets stunned and slows down, but doesn’t die, though if she gets hit again while damaged, it’s game over. Players can swipe up and down to switch between the two levels, and tap on the edges of the screen to fire in that direction at the hornets.

The controls work very well – I felt very confident that my inputs meant what they were supposed to do, which is very important for a game with gesture-based controls. The art sets a great mood, and the animation from Paul Veer is useful, as when Katniss’ next arrow is ready, there is a clear animation to show it, which can serve as a clever timing mechanism. Danny Baranowsky’s soundtrack is great as well. The game has a lot of depth to it – there’s timing involved in level switching, and in making strategic decisions for which enemy to attack.

Not a lot is actually explained – why are some enemies worth more points when killed than others? What triggers the switch from the forest section to the industrial one? While the game seems content to let the player discover on their own, it is somewhat confusing. I would love to see the concept expanded out a bit, as there’s definitely room for additional modes and/or challenges. It is more complex than Canabalt which was a ‘simple’ game, so this complaint may be a bit silly. Some of the graphical elements don’t look as good when scaled up to the iPad or the iPod touch Retina Display, such as the score display.

Of course, this is a free movie tie-in game, but it is a darn good one. It’s free as in beer too, no in-app purchases here, just some promotional links to other Hunger Games material. The expectation was that this game would be a cut above the average movie tie-in, and the odds were in our favor. This is definitely worth the download.

We had the chance to sit down with Adam Saltsman last week at GDC to ostensibly talk about The Hunger Games, the upcoming movie tie in game from Semi Secret Software`, the folks that brought us indie darling and commercial hit, Canabalt as well as Gravity Hook.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Lucky for us, Adam may be the nicest crazy-smart person around. He seemed genuinely upset that he wasn’t able to talk The Hunger Games (maybe next week, he promised us), but also equally enthusiastic about the game he’s currently developing with Greg Wohlwend, the developer behind Solipskier, another critical darling of the iOS gaming scene.

Currently named Hundreds, the game app is a mathematical, physics, puzzle…er…thing. It’s beautifully designed with lots of red and white, with levels chosen by swiping a finger across a matrix of white dots.

Once inside the chosen level, the player must figure out how to grow the number circles to add up to 100, without touching each other, obstacles, or more vicious extra pieces. Each level is a mini-education in itself, as Saltsman spends an inordinate amount of time creating each level so that it can be figured out without a tutorial or instructions. This has got to be difficult, especially when we’re talking about the hundred levels or so included in the game.

We played a few levels with Adam looking over our shoulder, and I remain impressed with the advanced level design and brilliant unspoken, unwritten pedagogy built into each one. Saltsman showed us his notebook full of illustrations and written notes about the levels to be included in Hundreds–this is a man who is at the top of his design game, and it shows.

While we learned nothing about The Hunger Games app on our visit, we came away with a new appreciation for game design and this genuine, kind human being with a notebook full of awesome and a new baby. Thanks again, Adam, for a lovely chat.

With the Hunger Games movie coming this March, plenty of opportunities for licensing are sure to come up – and one has. Lionsgate has commissioned a Hunger Games iOS game to release alongside the movie this March. However, this is not just any licensed title: Adam Saltsman of Semi Secret, creator of Canabalt, has announced that he is working on The Hunger Games: Girl on Fire. The game is not just Canabalt with Katniss running across Capitol rooftops, it’s an original title that will be optimized for touchscreens, focus on “marksmanship and strategy,” while still having a running character.

Adam Saltsman has assembled an indie dream team of sorts to help make it. Doomlaser, primarily known for their Flash games, are currently helping to design and program the game from scratch. The art is being designed by Paul Veer, who did the graphics and animations for Super Crate Box, and this game appears to be using a pixel art style as well. The music is being done by indie composing superstar Danny Baranowsky, known for the soundtracks to Canabalt, Gravity Hook HD, Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, and more. A trailer will be released soon, so more about this intriguing title will be sure to come out soon.

    Advertisement    





Featured Apps

    Advertisement    


Categories

Developers

Would you like your application reviewed on 148Apps? See the About page for information.
    Advertisement    



Steel Media Network

148Apps - iPhone app reviews and news. The best gosh darn iPhone app site this side of Mars.
http://148apps.com :: @148Apps

Android Rundown - Android news and reviews. Where you get the rundown on Android apps and hardware.
http://AndroidRundown.com :: @AndroidRundown

Best App Ever - Yearly Mobile App Achievement Awards.
http://bestappever.com :: @BestAppEver

Pocket Gamer - Mobile game reviews, news, and features.
http://PocketGamer.co.uk :: @PocketGamer

Pocket Gamer.biz - Mobile games industry news, opinion, and analysis.
http://PocketGamer.biz :: @pgbiz

AppSpy - iOS game news and video reviews.
http://appspy.com :: @appspy