The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Ballin

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 believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Ballin developer Derek Gallant describes his epiphanies relating to gravity and gaming.


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

Ballin is a challenging, charming physics-puzzle game. The main character, the ball, is trapped in Block World, and must escape. You advance through the game by reaching the portal keys in each stage, but you can't control the ball directly. You must move around the stage by altering the pull of gravity itself.

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

For me it was more of a circumstance than a personal decision. As I am currently in my final year at college, working for an established company really wasn't an option at the time. That being said, regardless of where I end up after graduation, I always want to work independently in some regard, whether that be as my full-time job or on personal projects away from work. The freedom of independent development is really attractive to me; it allows developers to really think outside the box and come up with something really unique and fun. I hope independent development is always a part of my career in some aspect.

What inspired you to make Ballin?

I am currently studying game programming at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario. Ballin was originally a final project for my second-year physics course. We were tasked with creating a simple two-dimensional physics game. The original idea for the game has always been the same, but it was a pretty amazing thing that happened with Ballin.


Here's a concept piece (left) from my original game pitch.

After the pitch was accepted by my professor, I found myself laying in bed one day thinking about the game. Suddenly, in an instant, it came to me. I'm not really sure how to describe it, but suddenly I could see the game in my head. I guess I could best compare it to Doc Brown's invention of the Flux Capacitor. I knew exactly how I wanted the game to look, feel and play. It was a pretty surreal experience, and a first for me in my game-development career.


Here's a screenshot of what the game looked like the day after (right).

What's the coolest aspect of Ballin?

The coolest aspect of Ballin is the gravity mechanic. It's really what defines the game. When this mechanic was first programmed, what was really interesting to me as a developer was having to learn the gameplay myself. This learning actually inspired a lot of the future design. The way the ball and blocks reacted to the change of gravity really influenced decisions such as level design and difficulty progression. Learning the game while developing with this unique mechanic was very fun from a development standpoint.

Sell Ballin in one sentence:

A charming, addictive, block-escaping, ball-exploding physics-puzzle game.

Who drew the art for Ballin and why did you decide to use a childlike style?

The artwork was all created by me. The charming, childlike art style was part of the original inspiration I had for the game. It also just so happens that this style is the extent of my art expertise.

Have you seen other games use similar controls? If so, how does Ballin differentiate itself?

I haven't seen other games with a similar game mechanic, but I really put an effort into making the gravity-altering mechanic as easy to use as possible. There are two control styles with the Windows version. The original control style allows the player to click anywhere within the game world to turn on gravity altering, while clicking again turns it off. As changing gravity is such an integral part of the game, I opted not to force the player to click-and-drag to change it. There is also another control style that is more suitable for laptops with trackpads, where the gravity altering cannot be turned off once started.

What's next?

With Ballin now complete for PC, and a Mac version following close behind, I am now looking to expand the game to additional platforms. An iOS version is currently in development, while Android and Windows Phone are hopefully not far behind.

Ballin is 33 percent off right now Desura, so snag it for $2 on PC ASAP.

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.