The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Fingle

Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, Adriaan de Jongh and Bojan Endrovski of Game Oven feel out the indie industry with Fingle, a finger foreplay title for iPad.

What's your game called and what's it about?

The game is called Fingle, which obviously is a play on words on "finger." It has a bit of mingle and fondle in it as well. The game is about bringing people closer together. A lot closer.

A bit more in detail, Fingle is a cooperative two-player puzzle game for the iPad. Both players drag up to five buttons on color-matching targets. The targets often move and you move your fingers with them. The puzzles were designed in a way that it is impossible to avoid contact, resulting in intimate or awkward intertwined finger moments -- depending on who you play with, of course. And there are a few slow funk tunes in the mix to set the mood.

Is Fingle solely a foreplay game, or is there a deeper strategy you envision for it?

Fingle is most definitely more than a foreplay game. The first part of the game is intimate, but as players get accustomed to the feel and touch of each others fingers, the game slowly switches focus. Later levels require more and more cooperation and trust among players to finish them.

The foreplay element is the lure, the hook, it's what will catch your attention. But it is also what sets the mood throughout the game. The visual style and music are completely true to that idea and help reinforce the formula. The result is an intimate game, sometimes suggestive, but only as dirty as the mind will make it.

Fingle was an IGF nominee for the Nuovo Award -- Congrats! How has the IGF experience influenced your perspective on indie development and innovation?

Thanks! Its biggest influence on us would be the feeling that making innovative games is something we are capable of, as a small and independent company like Game Oven. We've become more motivated to innovate with our next games as well.

Who do you want to play Fingle (apart from the attractive hipsters in your ads)?

(That is a fair question.) One glance at our designer Adriaan and it's clear that Fingle is a game for hipsters from hipsters. Jokes aside, our target audience is very wide. Basically people with fingers, and five of those being the optimal number.

What inspired you to make Fingle?

Our inspiration came from people playing our previous game on a large multi-touch surface, from those awkward moments when people accidentally touched each other's hands. We developed a few prototypes and played them with friends and family: Fingle felt thoroughly awkward for us, two guys, rubbing each other's fingers. That's when we knew this was the one.

In a few months we had the gameplay set and we had an idea on how we wanted to sell the game, but the audio-visual style was a blur. After a good lunch we had an epiphany: We will use the same '70s sexy groove for the whole game, not only for the promo materials. Our vision for Fingle became crystal clear when the first music track arrived.

What's the coolest aspect of Fingle?

The coolest aspect of the game is what happens outside of the screen. Intimate, sexy, awkward, you name it. Playing Fingle can have implications beyond its game world, so use it responsibly. Another cool aspect is the very unconventional way you'll get to use the iPad. We have seen people running around the table or putting a coaster below the device to spin it in circles and finish the levels.

As the developers, we totally enjoy the clever and cool reviews that the game received. Kill Screen did it in just one picture, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore playing with clay in a '90s flick.

Terribly spot-on.

Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?

Creative freedom. We have worked in big studios and many developers have notebooks with ideas they would love to create, but going independent brings a lot of uncertainty with self funding and the pain of publishing it yourself. We feel that the creative freedom we now have totally outweighs all the hassle and effort. We aim to jump all the hoops and develop our craziest ideas into full, smooth-running games.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?

Absolutely, yes! We love the scene and we love the culture and mood that it brings with it. Some of the best games we've played in the last few years have been made by small independent teams. Indies are not just making games with simple gimmicks, but games with depth and hours of gameplay -- games that you finish in one go. Seeing the indie games lineup for this year, we think that the movement will only grow bigger and stronger.

We are based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and the indie scene is starting to become very vivid here. As the Dutch Game Garden in Utrecht has such a concentration of small studios per square meter, we might even say Game Oven has been forged in the midst of the Dutch indie movement. We get a lot of help from our indie friends, like Vlambeer.

Sell Fingle in one sentence:

Fingle, the Barry White of games.

What's next?

Games. Plenty of them!

A few ideas and prototypes for games are already cooking but we haven't decided on which of these is next. But we can say this; it will undoubtedly be just as unique as Fingle and definitely for more than one player. We will build upon what Fingle has sparked.

Fingle held up really good for an iPad exclusive, relying only on our guerrilla marketing. As "thank you" to all those awesome buyers we will keep supportitng Fingle. Thanks to them we launched straight into Dutch top 3, the US top 11 and the Chinese top 7 in the AppStore, and stayed in most of those for more than a week!

Fingle is available now for $2 on iPad via the App Store. It's Fingle-licking good! (Please don't lick your fingers after playing Fingle. That's gross.)

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.