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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Pinch

Justin McElroy

Being a giant, beloved video game blog has its downsides. For example, we sometimes neglect to give independent developers our coverage love (or loverage, if you will) as we get caught up in AAA, AAAA or the rare quintuple-A titles. To remedy that, we're giving indies the chance to create their own loverage and sell you, the fans, on their studios and products. This week we talk with Paul Crab of Coatsink Games about his new release, Pinch, and why he thinks the puzzle genre is the pinnacle of gaming.

How did your company get started?
I previously worked as an artist for Atomic Planet Entertainment. When they shut down last year, I applied for other jobs, but, oddly enough, none of them could recognize my genius. At the time, my friend Tom was working for a small-time, unknown company called Blizzard Entertainment. I went to visit him, and you know how it is – a few drinks, some reminiscing and next thing you know, you've decided to start your own games company.

The main problem was that we didn't have a programmer. I had a tiny bit of C programming experience from back in University, so I began to re-learn as much as I could, using any online resources and tutorials I could find. The iPod games market was blossoming at the time, so it seemed like a good starting point.

By October, we had a game design, business plan, basic prototype and concept video that we showed in a hilariously humiliating pitch to the Institute of Digital Innovation's Digital City Fellowship Scheme. Amazingly, we were accepted, and that helped us to go on to set up our company and develop our game full time. Coatsink Software was born (don't ask about the name, we'll be here all night).

Why did you want to make games?
Games are fun. I enjoy playing them, and I enjoy making them.

Fun is a fascinating thing. It's one of those things that make life something more than just survival, and being able to have control over that, to create fun for other people, gives me a sick feeling of power. If I can get paid in the process, then even better!

Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else?
As much as I enjoyed working at my previous job, my work was never really mine, so it really didn't scratch the creative itch – a sentiment that Tom shared. Now that we're independent, we get to decide what our work is.

It's scarier, because there's no-one else to blame if something goes wrong; all the choices are ours, and thus, all the consequences. But, personally, the euphoria I get from having complete freedom to create whatever I want completely eclipses those fears.

What's your game called, and what's it about?
The game is called Pinch. It's a puzzle game for the iPhone/iPod touch. The purpose is to guide a number of coloured circles that we call "Norbs," through mazes; solving the puzzles that you come across by "pinching" the Norbs apart to separate them, and bringing them back together to merge, when needed (sounds sexy doesn't it?).

By merging and separating Norbs, you change their size and color, which then allows access to other parts of the maze (for example, a door that only the smallest Norbs can fit through, or a color barrier that only allows yellow Norbs through). The challenge is in using observation and logic to work out the route you must take in order to reach the end with the maximum number of Norbs possible.

How long did it take you to create?
About six months, but we're not done yet. We're going to be updating the game, adding some features, game modes, extra levels etc. We'd like to explore all the possibilities the game holds – as well as see it credited as the next Mario, of course.

Do you feel like you're making the game you always wanted to play?
Has anyone ever answered "no" to this question? Honestly though, yes, if I hadn't designed this game, and thus, didn't know all the solutions to each level, I genuinely think I would enjoy it.

Puzzle games are, in my opinion, the pinnacle of gaming. The rush you get from deconstructing a problem to its logical solution is, I think, one of the purest forms of fun. It can occur in all genres of game: finding the best combat strategy in an RTS or RPG; working out the most effective weapon for a particular enemy in an FPS; finding your way to a secret area in a platformer – these are all puzzles in a sense, making use of the player's logic, observation, and experience. Puzzle games just take these concepts and concentrate them into beautiful, fun little packages. I love 'em!

"It's scarier, because there's no-one else to blame if something goes wrong."

What are you proudest of about your game?
Its logo! Look at the way the "i" merges perfectly with the "P", and the way it's shaped like two circles merging together, mixing colours between red and green, just like the game! It's perfect!

It's either that or the fact that it was hard to make.

We could've very easily started our company with something small and simple, or a slightly modified version of an existing genre, like a Tower Defence game or Bejeweled clone, and no-one would've blamed us. It would've been finished quicker, and its sales would have helped us make something more ambitious later on, but I don't think we would have been anywhere near as happy with the game if we'd have done that.

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get your game?
Did you not see the logo?

Want to try the delightful Pinch for yourself? It's just $0.99 on the App Store. If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email justin aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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