The Flippfly Interview | Part-1


The game studio Flippfly is run by two brothers, Aaron and Forest. I first heard of them when I compiling a list of Kickstarter games for the Mac for macgamerhq. I took a closer look at Race the Sun and reviewed the game for the Mac when it was launched a couple of years ago. I continued to follow the game it was astonishing to see how big it grew. I've always been a big believer in simple games with focus on concept and gameplay over visual pizzaz, and Race the Sun is the game which I feel follows that direction.

When I played the game and showed it to my friends, I had to literally wrest my laptop back from them. This game is ridiculously addictive. If you haven't already gotten it, here's the Steam link. Or the GOG link if that's your style.

I looked up the studio Flippfly, and seeing that it was run by a couple of genuinely nice people, I decided to find out more about their game and the philosophy behind their game making. They were more than kind enough to share what they had learnt and I think it is really cool to see how indie game developers go about their art.

This is the first of a multiple part article and I'll cover a little more about Race the Sun, their epic new way of ideating for new games and even Absolute Drift which is an absolute banger of game. 

Forest and Aaron

sap. How did the idea for Race The Sun come about? What was the inspiration?
Forest: Aaron brought over a Google Sketchup image of an endless flat space with a few sparse buildings in it. He said something like “Wouldn’t it be great to fly through that really fast, forever”.

sap. Can you remember the moment the idea for Race The Sun was born?
Aaron: I was playing around with google Sketchup, and created this scene:

And thought “Wouldn’t it be fun to be flying past these buildings at an insane speed?”

sap. How many games have you made before as a team?
Forest: Before Race the Sun we had made several prototypes, but only released one commercial product - it’s actually more of digital toy than a game. We made a musical creation app for iOS aimed at letting young kids make their own original compositions.

sap. Do you have any initial sketches for Race The Sun?
Forest: We have that original Google Sketchup - and a few really bad sketches I did of the solar powered ship. We actually did most of our concepting right in the game since it was pretty straightforward - and took about the same time as drawing an idea.

sap. At what point did you realise you were on to a winner of an idea?
Forest: We were pretty sure we had a good idea from the start, but the reaction to an early version (released on boosted our confidence. It’s always hard to predict how something will be received, but we found a contingent of players who really loved the game and spent a lot of time in it. That led us to expand the scope of the project and really commit to it.

sap. How do you start to make a game? Is there more to than just programming and adding artwork to it? How much pre-production was involved before you even got started making the game?
Forest: We’ve tried approaching games in different ways, but the first step is usually a prototype. We try to build the most bare-bones version of (what we think will be) the core mechanics of the game. Often this shows us that an idea doesn’t work at all and we will either modify the concept or toss it out. We’ve found that writing detailed design documents before a prototype exists isn’t a good use of time. Games almost never play the way you think they will when imagining them.

sap. What was the atmosphere like when the game was being developed? Did you ever imagine it would be so successful?
Forest: We had read all of the success stories from the “big name” indies and and, to be honest, we got our hopes a little too high. A few notable failures in the process brought us back to earth. We got to the point where we weren’t shooting for success as much as survival - so when we eventually did find some success it was an amazing surprise.

sap. What was the inspiration behind the art style?
Forest: Initially I tried pushing the style toward a sort of low poly realism. My lack of 3D experience really showed and it didn’t work well. Aaron eventually convinced me we needed to go another direction and we started experimenting with simple, representational shapes. The new style not only looked better, it played better with the type of game we were creating.

sap. What was the initial feedback like from the gaming community?
Forest: People liked playing pre-release versions of the game, but they were (understandably) underwhelmed by the lack of variety and visual style. When we finally finished and released the game, the response was amazing. Most players connected well with the visuals - and almost everyone loved the sense of speed.

sap. Were there any other ideas conceptualised with Race The Sun, but never saw the light of day?
Forest: We had all kinds of crazy ideas, but one that stands out actually did make it into a pre-Steam PC build. We had conceived a kind of asynchronous co-op relay race system that sounded fun on paper, but turned out to be a drag. We cut it before the steam release and nobody missed it.

sap. What is the motivation behind making games? Why did you get into this?
Forest: I got into this as a way to make a living by creating new things. I was working in graphic design and it was frustrating to be bringing my clients visions to life, while repressing my own. The experience of making something from scratch and then sharing it with the world is incredibly satisfying and I hope I can do this for the rest of my life.

Thank you for your time and patience Flippfly! Stay tuned for the next edition.

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