In this week’s Cost of a Coffee, Professor Kelvin Harris and Brian talk to the Simon Byron, the creator of Bang Man and David Chenell, one half of Enormous who developed Powder Alpine Simulator.
“We’re skint until our next research grant gets paid in February, so we’ve decided that this week we’ll focus on two free games that we’ve been playing: Bang Man and Powder Alpine Simulator.
Bang Man for Android and iOS, is a single screen, 2D, platform shooter brought to us by industry veteran Simon Byron, who has worked in Games Marketing and Journalism for years before turning his hand to game making in his spare time. Bang Man is Simon’s second game after Up, Down, Left, Right for Android, which was essentially a rhythm action stroop test. As a freelance scientist, you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to say that. Bang Man features the titular Bang Man fighting aliens on a platform by jumping to collect ammo crates numbered between 1 and 6, the number on the crate dictates the distance that the recoil will push the Bang Man back; fire when you don’t have enough room and Bang Man will fall off the end of platform to his death. The aliens keep getting quicker, so you are punished as you try to position yourself and the only thing that will slow them down, is a number 6 crate. It’s a very hard game and my high score after a few weeks is still only a paltry 23.
Powder Alpine Simulator on iOS, is a polished modern homage to Microsoft’s SkiFree that is part of a collection of creative side projects from Enormous, which consists of David Chenell and Eric Cleckner. The game is simple, guide a skier down the mountain avoiding trees and rocks in front of you, and staying ahead of an avalanche behind you. You control the direction of the skier by tapping on the left and right hand sides of the screen, this makes them carve and tapping for longer gives you more control with slower, sweeping curves; these make it easier to avoid obstacles, but turn too slowly and the avalanche behind you will catch up. You could try bombing down the mountain without carving, but good luck with that. Again my record is pretty poor at 271 metres.
Bang Man is supported by adverts that can be removed by means of an in-app purchase, whilst Powder chooses to use IAPs to provide additional content, such as the bear that replaces the default player character. So as discussed, Bang Man and Powder are both very different games. Bang Man, by Simon’s own admission, is stylistically basic and Powder is basically just stylish. When it comes to the audio, the opposite is true; Powder provides only white noise reminiscent of the solitary snowfield in which our skier is situated, whilst Bang Man has a catchy theme tune and satisfying sound effects that really draw you in. Powder plans to ‘add value’ with it’s in-app purchases and Bang Man offers you the option of turning off the ads, which really aren’t terribly intrusive when you consider the fast paced nature of the game.
Yet I’ve enjoyed playing these games far more than many premium paid apps with bigger budgets and more resources available for development, and I’ve invested far more time in them too.
The parallels are there because these games are made with passion, for people to enjoy and invest time in without being overly complicated; both games have pared back controls that are simple and intuitive, both are easy to learn but difficult to master and both are as addictive as diacetylmorphine.
Monetising them really was secondary to making games that people can play and enjoy to this pair of developers and likely countless others who we aren’t able to feature today. Perhaps next time you play a free game that really stands out, you’ll think about buying some additional content or paying to remove a few ads willingly as a wink and a nod to the people who do this to see if they can do it. After all, it won’t even cost as much as a coffee…”