Earlier this month, a little game called Flappy Fighter hit the App Store and seemingly surprised everyone. What looked like a simple Flappy Bird send-up actually turned into the little mobile fighting game that could.
It seems like the only person who wasn't surprised by Flappy Fighter's success was the game's creator, Andrew Baxter. To learn more about the creative process that went into this breakout title, I reached out to Baxter. See our exchange below, where we discuss everything from the public reaction to the game as well as what the future of Flappy Fighter might look like:
148Apps: What has the reaction to Flappy Fighter been like for you? I imagine you obviously wanted it to be successful, but were you expecting such a strong response to it?
Baxter: I was very confident in the game so I was imagining a big response, but even then it was quite a lot bigger than I expected. Also, the game got interest from hardcore players in the Fighting Game Community (FGC) that had expressed zero respect for mobile fighting games. I never expected EVO commentator royalty James Chen to be playing the game so extensively, going full in on the combos.
— James Chen (@jchensor) May 9, 2019
148: What do you think is the key to Flappy Fighter's success?
Baxter: Tight controls. Cool visuals that are bold and pop out at you, cool music and a lot of fun and good vibes all around. Making a fighting game that I actually like playing rather than what will accommodate the best financial model I think is the main reason for its success.
There are many things about fighting games on mobile that frustrate players that I chose to leave out of Flappy Fighter. We had this criteria, everything in the game had to be cool, oldskool and dynamic: the graphics, the characters, the music, and the overall feel of the game. The aesthetic of Flappy Fighter is something we’ve put a lot of work into. The control system is a big part of Flappy Fighter’s popularity. We actually started with this first–the controls can make or break a game. We tried to create a system that would translate the feeling of playing an arcade game onto a touch screen. The fact that it is easy to pick up but has depth and complexity I feel is a great achievement for the game. Finally, I think the concept itself is what intrigues people… I mean Flappy Fighter sounds like it is going to be the worst fighting game you have ever played, and it's on mobile. Players–it seems–were not ready for it being as good as they’ve found it, which is kind of the point.
148: Your app description mentions new characters, and we've already seen Splashy added to the game. What other kinds of fighters can we expect, and when?
Baxter: There will be a mix of fighters. I’d like it to be a surprise what they will be, but they aren’t going to be all Shoto* types.
* - Shoto - A short-hand way to describe fighting game characters that throw fireballs, have an anti-air uppercut, etc. like Ryu, Ken, or Akuma from Street Fighter.
148: I see that the new character, Splashy, is now the only character in the game. Can you talk about your reasoning behind only having one character in the game at a time?
Baxter: I anticipated that as soon as we dropped the Flappy vs Flappy app, we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand for new fighters and features. So, the idea we came up with was to hold it back while we created extra content for a series of updates. The updates would go some way to spanning the gap, not entirely, but enough for Flappy Fighter to make its mark on the mobile fighting game genre and hold the community’s interest in the project. So fighters are being swapped in and out of the game, which creates appreciation for each one and helps them from becoming stale. That was the theory.
Note: The day after receiving these answers, Flappy Fighter was updated to feature a fight between Flappy and Splashy.
148: It's clear that Flappy Fighter was inspired by Street Fighter, and that Flappy himself (itself?) is a take on Ryu. Did you ever consider using other fighting games for inspiration for the game? Do you think that might happen for future fighters?
Baxter: Street Fighter is the fighting game that started it all off for me. It has had a great impact on my creative process, even on how I see the world (lol), but I am inspired by many of the fighting games of the 90s as well as the whole 80s/90s entertainment culture so my ideas can be drawn from anywhere. Nothing is set in stone but I already have an idea of all the characters I would like in the game. It is just a case of creating them.
148: Even if you stick with Street Fighter as the primary inspiration, there are fighters that play and control differently than Ryu, like charge characters and grapplers. Hypothetically, if you added these kinds of characters to the game, do you see them being able to fit within the control scheme you've already established? Do you think you might make changes to the game to accommodate them?
Baxter: I’ve continued to think about this a lot since designing the system. I am happy that so far I’ve been able to accommodate fighters with different combat mechanics within this current system without having to change the layout or functionality.
148: Are there plans for other features being added to the game? Might we see multiplayer, additional stages, or other modes, for example?
Baxter: I am currently working on new characters, stages and music. Multiplayer is something I am looking into. I would definitely like it to be included in the game at some point. As for the other modes, I have ideas but nothing concrete.
148: In all of the attention that Flappy Fighter has gotten, what has been your favorite thing to come out of people's enthusiasm for the game?
Baxter: This post on Twitter:
VIDEO GAMES, WE HAVE OUR CITIZEN KANE pic.twitter.com/PCC7dd5DJZ
— $ (@folmerkelly) May 2, 2019
That and players taking the game further than I’ve taken it myself and even racking up higher combos than me. The players were labbing combos in the training mode like it’s some kind of sport.