Hot New Developer - Fish Potato Games - Knocks It Out of the Tank with Its First Title, "Big Fish"
by Ask Erin
The first title released by independent mobile developer Fish Potato Games is Big Fish (available on iPad and soon to be released on iPhone and Android), and if you ask me, it’s no accident that the little guy in the game grows up to eat the piranha. Mobile technology has ushered in a new world order of game development, and the big fish are going to have to watch out for the little guys.
The Quick Skinny:
I love this game! The arcade-style play is quick and fun. Level completion ranges from simple to moderately challenging. Getting all the achievements ranges from mild hair pulling to emulating the patience of the Buddhist master. The play is one part action and two parts thinking, which is my kind of style. A +.
The Game Play:
The player starts out as a small goldfish that grows by eating fish food, and eventually other fish. The specific goal of the game varies by level. Sometimes you need to grow a certain number of times. Sometimes you need to eat a certain number of fish. Sometimes you have a limited amount of food.
Your fish moves at a steady speed, always moving toward your touch on the screen. Other fish (including enemy fish!) either swim back and forth or follow you, depending on the type of fish and how close you dare to get to it. This makes for interesting possibilities, like using enemy fish to get rid of the neutral fish that keep stealing your food, or using one enemy fish to take out another enemy fish.
Each board has three stars you can try to earn. Stars are earned through achievements, and you have to finish the level to get credit. (Tap a star on the pause screen to learn what you need to do to get it.) Sometimes you can earn all three achievements at once, but in other cases you will have to play the level more than once to achieve all three, focusing each time on a different achievement. I was addicted enough to get every achievement in the game. Can you? (Oh yeah, I went there. Gauntlet… cast…)
I was so impressed by this game that I reached out to the developer, Alan Thomas, who was kind enough to grant me an interview about his development process. Here’s what he had to say about becoming a Big Fish in the iOS ocean.
What was your inspiration for Big Fish?
As a kid, I loved fish tanks. There is a whole world that happens inside of an aquarium. I know the kind of games that I like to play and that world just fit right into it. There is, in my mind, something universally appealing about the notion of getting bigger and being able to do more things. I like that kind of progression.
How many people did you have working on the project? Did you really do all the coding and all the art yourself?
I love the team that I work with. It’s just me.
What is your background in art and in programming? Have you worked in either field professionally before?
I studied fine art and civil engineering in college. I have always been into computers and computer art, so when the internet started becoming readily accessible it seemed like a natural move for me to start working in that field. I have been doing that professionally since the mid to late 90’s.
That’s a rare combination. I’m kind of in awe now.
Where did you get the music for the final "game complete" scene and how did you choose it?
I was on vacation in Jamaica last year and just loved every minute of it. The steel drum music captures a sense of happiness for me like almost nothing else. That was the vibe I wanted. So I went through a lot of royalty-free music sites looking for something I could license. I must have listened to a few hours of music until I found that piece, and I just knew that it was the one for that. That “Hola!” cracks me up every single time.
What was the biggest challenge in creating Big Fish?
The biggest challenge was learning a whole new programming platform. I’ve dealt with so many programming and scripting languages over the years, so there always is a bit of a learning curve for picking up on the idiosyncrasies and limitations of any new system.
Prioritization was also a factor. It can be easy to get overwhelmed on a project when you’re doing everything. On the flip side of that, if I ever found myself stuck on some bit of code, I could always relax and work on some of the drawings for the animations and backgrounds. Having that ability to step away from a roadblock and still be productive was a big help.
So jealous. (Or as my friend Zee would say, “Totes jelly.”)
So from start to finish, how long did the project take?
All told, the project took me about 3 months.
That’s the new world order I was talking about: a game title written and produced by a single (tremendously talented) person in three months.
Do you love games enough to design them for a living? Well break out that iMac and get cracking. The big development houses might be the piranha in the iOS tank, but there’s plenty of room for even a goldfish to thrive and eventually gobble them up. That is if you’re dedicated enough. And talented enough.
And if your game is as fun as Big Fish!