Over three years ago at JLOOP, we had a company-wide initiative to come up with great app ideas. One of Daniel’s ideas was about exploring space, and using the gravitational pull of planets to guide the player. I was smitten by the concept, and morphed it into a pitch to create a puzzle game like Cut the Rope, but with planets and astronauts as the primary components. The idea was chosen as one of our top 3, but we did not have the resources at that time to produce it.
Not long after, I really wanted to get the idea off the ground after I discovered a solution to one of the big challenges with space and gravity games: dealing with momentum and the thrust of your ship to go the direction you want to go, all while having planets pulling you towards them. The solution was for the player to draw a line for where she wanted her ship to go, and the ship would be responsible for figuring out how to control the thrust to make it happen. I spent a long time trying to figure out the best way to do line drawing for this type of puzzle game on iOS.
I ended up with something a bit different than Flight Control (a curve based off the path of your touch), and instead found some code that would take points and make best-fit Bézier curves between those points. This is really the point when Gravitations was born. The game concept was simple: make a curve to fly your ship from a start station, around planets, and to the end station, while picking up all of the stranded astronauts along the way.
Around this time, my son Ryan was born, and I had a month off from work to watch him. So, like a good father, I spent most of that time working on Gravitations. Don’t worry! Little Ryan slept quietly 24/7 like all newborns do. I had no idea when the game would be complete. I just wanted to keep making it better. There was no road map, just implementing any idea that came up and seeing it if it works. This process worked very well for Gravitations. Very early on, the game changed from having static levels with set solutions, to being about empowering the players to create levels themselves, and having a certain unknown element to each level in regards to the best way to solve each.
Around the start of 2013, I had a game that felt like it was ready for the rest of the world to experience, except it was nameless, and 100% comprised of art taken from quick Google image searches. So I brought all the code to Jay and Greg and told them that JLOOP should take over the game and have it be a JLOOP creation so we can give it the quality art it needed to be taken seriously in the App Store. Six months later, Gravitations had a name and real art, and was ready to take over the world. But before we get to that, I should mention what drove me to put hundreds of hours into a game.
What were my reasons? A mixture of curiosity and pride. There might be a word for that, but I don’t know it. I wanted to see what people would do if I handed them a set of tools and rules and let them make whatever they want. I wanted people to have fun using something that I made. I wanted this digital representation of a year of my life to be seen. So what better way than to have it be free for everyone?
I was pretty set on it being free for the reasons above. The more people playing the game, the more things I would never think of would be made, and the more levels there would be for everyone to play. But as a business, JLOOP would also want to see what the game could do for the company, and luckily Jay had recently attended a talk by the CEO of Kiip, who just happened to be having an indie game contest going on which offered $10,000 for each winner. We liked the idea of Kiip, which offered your players rewards instead of ads. We implemented Kiip with our launch version of the app and got it live at the end of June 2013. Gravitations ended up being one of the 10 Kiip winners and received $10,000. It felt pretty amazing to be almost instantly recognized for all the time and energy I had spent on Gravitations. I don’t think Gravitations will ever earn more money than that in its lifetime, but it doesn’t have to.
There have been over 2,000 missions made since Gravitations launched last year, and I can tell you that my expectations of the crazy things people would do with the game were blown away by what people actually did.
Some interesting developments happened when i decided to add the ability for players to write their own mission descriptions. I was thinking that people would simply give tips on how to solve the mission or something with the description. Instead, people started writing elaborate stories for their missions, even going as far as making a series of missions that continued the saga. Here is an excerpt from Perscirious’ 9 part epic mission series, The Fall of the Galaxy.
“Ep. 3: Terra is under siege! Save the Civilians, and The Prime Master that are in space. Do not let the destroyers take you, them are too many, you can’t take them all at once. I’m afraid our Terra, or Ancient Earth, is lost to the Dominion of the Destroyers. We must go to the Corinas Colony. It is the only safe place left.”
Here is a short list of some of the unexpected things that players have done:
- Stacked planets and moons so that a simple looking mission explodes with moons everywhere the first time a player tries to solve it.
- Created Cadet-themed missions to teach new users all of the special maneuvers you can do.
- Spelled out words using planets, and many other art-based missions.
- Created an 18-part (and counting) mission series of beautifully crafted missions that all have the overall appearance of three rings
- Recreated our own solar system
- Created missions that are actually race courses where the solution is obvious, but challenges the player to get the fastest time.
- Made missions extra tricky by hiding critical objects behind other objects.
- Made amazing designs using mainly the mines and the circles that they make
- Consistently exploit every new mechanic in some fun way.
- Spent 100s of hours making missions.
So what’s next in the story of Gravitations? Who knows? A year ago, I never would have thought that Gravitations would have EMPs, Laser Walls, UFOs, Wormholes, Turrets, or TIME TRAVEL, but now it does. The community has been keeping me inspired, and continues providing ideas for new features to add. All I know is that I still find it worthwhile to put any amount of time to create something new for Gravitations, even it means just a single person would take that new thing and surprise me with it. Now it’s just about finding the time.
**Disclaimer: If you are wondering why the app isn’t free, that is because we currently have it paid to set it free every other weekend so that the apps gone free sites pick it up. More people check out gravitations that way than when it was just free all the time.
If you want to check out Gravitations just hit us up for an app code.