The elements do not belong in a laboratory; they are the property of us all.
From “Periodic Tales” by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
The Apple Thief took a very long time to make, about nine months, far more than I had anticipated. Getting the collisions and the animations to work well was so difficult that I felt like quitting the whole time; on top of that I was constantly tempted by various ideas for other games that I thought would be easier to complete in a short timeframe. Luckily I managed to have my cake and eat it too. I saw The Apple Thief through to the end while I started working on Aural Attractors.
The initial inspiration came from an amazing chemistry book entitled “The Elements” by Theodore Gray. It gave me the idea of building a game in which there were many agents with unique properties that could be associated in unexpected ways to create interesting patterns.
I then realized that the simplest way to get it done was to make it into a sort of musical toy rather than a game by assigning different sounds to each agent and placing them all on a small grid like the elements on the periodic table.
The next piece of the puzzle came from the twentieth-anniversary edition of “Chaos: Making a New Science”, a classic book on chaos theory that my wife Laura gave me last christmas. As soon as I saw the mathematical sets known as strange attractors, I knew I had the agents for my toy. The name of the resulting app is a combination of “Aural” (as related to hearing and also as an anagram of my wife’s name) and of these chaotic “Attractors”.
I then proceeded to find a way to generate the strange attractors. I tried many online generators and a few desktop applications but none looked as beautiful or more fitting for the idea I had in mind than the one developed by Jacob Seidelin, a very creative gentleman from Copenhagen. You can try out the generator I used in his excellent blog.
So, I took all these things, threw in some random pitch switching and packed them into a silly toy: Aural Attractors. Available now on the App Store.
Last year I discovered a British-American painter called John George Brown and was captivated by a painting of his entitled “Eyeing the Fruit Stand”. The painting immediately provokes all sorts of interesting questions: Who is the kid? Will he steal the fruit? Will he get away?
The theme was ripe for a beautiful iOS game. I envisioned it set in the early 1920s in a New York street brimming with life and all sorts of colorful characters: a fat policeman, a milk man here, a street sweeper there, scruffy paperboys, a nun asking for contributions, an organ grinder with a little dancing monkey… The game had to be short because I wanted each character to be unique. I watched many silent films by Chaplin and Keaton to really capture the spirit of the era. Even the car models are accurate.
“Prince of Persia”, “Another World” and “Flashback: The Quest for Identity” were really important games for me as I was growing up, they were mind blowing in many ways but specially in the life like movement of their characters. I didn’t know it then but the animations in these games were done using rotoscoping. When I started making The Apple Thief I knew I had to try the technique, I began with the little thief using my daughter Sophia as the model and then I animated the policeman with the help of my very enthusiastic father.
The last fully rotoscoped character was the fruit stand guy in the main menu, who is played by me. Animating those first three characters was so time consuming and difficult that I was forced to reach a compromise between my original vision and the development time I still wanted to dedicate to the project. I had to simplify the animations of all the other characters considerably. Sadly, the dancing monkey had to go.
In any case, making The Apple Thief was quite an interesting challenge and a great learning experience even if it didn’t turn out exactly as I imagined it. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed making it!
My original plan was to make seven story-based games, but after The Killing Machine, I was exhausted. It took me something like 2 to 3 months to make each of the four games I had done so far on my spare time.
Ironically my first game, The Job Interview, even though it’s the least polished, is the one that has a greater degree of freedom and interactivity. The player can move anywhere, look and touch many different objects, speak to some characters at different times and get different answers, etc. In order to complete the games that followed, I had to restrict considerably the level of interactivity.
Anyways, even though I’m proud of The Killing Machine, I rushed it towards the end because the idea of programming a totally different kind of game was more enticing than continuing making the short story-driven games, so this is where The Wine Cellar comes from.
The Wine Cellar is my first attempt at making a puzzle game based on a physics engine.
Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, maybe we should control the population to ensure the survival of our environment.
Sir David Attenborough
The fate of humanity has always been a matter of grave concern for me ever since I saw Charlton Heston’s “Soylent Green” on late night TV as a kid.
With The Killing Machine I tried to shape my deep seated fears about our future into a Malthusian thriller that would make Sir David Attenborough shed tears of joy.
If you’re in the mood for some World Destruction à la Time Zone, check out the screenshots and download the entire game for free here.
But there’s no bottom, none,
In my voluptuousness: your wives, your daughters,
Your matrons and your maids, could not fill up
The cistern of my lust.
From “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
Portraying complex emotions in games is usually avoided in favor of action-oriented thrills like shooting and jumping, which are easier to program and instantly rewarding. Nevertheless, the idea of making a game around the themes of fidelity and lust kept buzzing and buzzing around my head like a big fat bumblebee circling a flowery garden brimming with nectar.
The only thing I was absolutely sure of from the start was that the game would be called Fidelio’s Night Out. Fidelio comes from the Latin ‘Fidelis’ which means ‘Faithful’. It is also the password to the disturbing masked ball in Stanley Kubrick’s underrated masterpiece “Eyes Wide Shut”.
At first my wife wasn’t too happy with the lascivious nature of my pet project but she ended up influencing it greatly not only by giving me a copy of “American Adulterer” (Jed Mercurio’s excellent book on the extramarital affairs of John F. Kennedy), but also by drawing all the busty females! Niiice!
One last thing… The Orchid is a homage to The Flower, my favorite nightclub in Caracas around the late 90’s. I heard it was turned into a restaurant some years ago. Check out some raunchy screenshots and download the game for free with a complementary lapdance on the house here.