With elaborate worlds fully realized in stunning high-def graphics, challenging game play and online multi-player capabilities there’s certainly a lot to love.
I’m also sensing that even the hardest of the hardcore enjoy the occasional break from all of the bloody mayhem. That’s why I’d like to draw attention to Fireflies! a new iOS game that looks and sounds fantastic on the iPad and only requires one touch to win you over with its tranquil beauty.
I recently caught up with Jeff Meador, Principal and Founder of So Much Drama Studios, creators of Fireflies!, to learn more about its creation and the rising appeal of one-touch games.
Did the idea for Fireflies! fall from the sky? Or was the initial intent to create something simple?
Jeff: The idea for Fireflies! came about in phases. I first started playing with balls of light on the screen as some studies in how objects interact. I found it rather peaceful to sit and watch the colored lights float around the screen, so I decided to develop the study further into a game. I had a lot of trouble finding a hook or narrative element for the game, and then was playing it in low lighting one night and it hit me: these reminded me of the fireflies I would watch at my grandparents’ house.
The rest of the game evolved from there, but in a few stages. I wanted to use colors, but needed to make sure that they meant something, so I invented fireflies with different personalities and behaviors.
I wanted a game that could be enjoyed on the go, so a Story Mode with short levels seemed like a good idea, but I still felt strongly about an extended experience, so I created Arcade Mode for a different type of challenge.
My nieces and nephews loved the prototypes, but were still a bit young for a true game, so I made Zen Mode for them: no scoring, no beginning, and no ending.
I set out to create something that was fun and engaging, and I think we landed at something that’s much more than that. Fireflies! is a simple yet elegant game that draws you in with rich details, and all you need to do to enjoy it is to touch the screen.
Are simple, one-touch games like Fireflies! hard to develop?
Jeff: The challenge in developing a one-touch game isn’t so much in the programming and technical execution but in the design of the game itself. You really need a strong concept that supports that idea. You need to have a reason to touch the screen, but you also need a reason not to do anything else.
For Fireflies!, this meant keeping the game engaging while the user wasn’t doing anything, or rather, keeping the game engaging because the user wasn’t doing anything. This was by far the most challenging part of building the game.
I worked a lot with game balance: speed of the fireflies, burst distance, challenge goals. Building the technical infrastructure was somewhat straightforward, but it was tuning the behaviors in the game to a point where a simple touch can lead to a rewarding experience, that took a lot of time.
Sometimes limiting yourself like this leads to wonderfully imaginative ideas. For us, keeping the controls this simple really helped us build this wonderful, immersive environment where the user’s interaction, the visual elements, and the sound all come together to create something amazing.
It would appear that there is a rhyme and reason to where you touch the screen to draw in other fireflies. Is there a hidden learning curve here? Meaning, the more you play, the more you pick up on the ebb and flow of each level?
Jeff: There is, indeed, a strategy to when and where you tap, especially in Arcade Mode. In Story Mode, we introduce you to the different fireflies fairly quickly and use the majority of the game to experiment with different combinations.
You learn that some fireflies are best used early, and some are better to save for later. In Arcade Mode, where you have a series of taps to reach different checkpoints, there’s a strategy on how you can optimize your score and also in how long you can last in the game.