What inspired you to make Forbidden Island?
When the iPad was released we were excited because it was the first time board games and video games could really come together. When we thought about the features that would make a great iPad board game, we made a list including things like: fun for kids and adults, cooperative, no hidden information, great visuals, etc. When we compared our list to all of the board games that we frequently played, Forbidden Island topped it!
What's the coolest aspect of Forbidden Island?
As a gamer? The sinking-island gameplay mechanic. The original version of Forbidden Island implemented this fantastic idea to have the board disappear bit by bit and become more dangerous as you play the game. It generates real tension and motivation for players!
As a developer? The undo button. Our architecture actually supports undoing an entire game; every flood, move, card draw, and shuffle can unwind perfectly. Of course, that level of power is corrupting, so we only allow players to undo the actions in the current turn.
Anything you'd do differently?
On the technical side, there are a few pieces of our architecture that we'd like time to improve. Some of us have a lot of software architecture experience, but our inexperience with iOS before making this game meant that we were learning a lot as we went.
Speaking of the user interface, how did you come up with the visual design used in the game?
We iterated our graphic design many times over the course of development. Our final design aesthetic combines very tangible elements like a compass, notepad and bookshelf, with distinctly modern UI chrome. The buttons have a very clean and simple look that makes them stand out against the warmer and well-worn background elements. Our graphic designer really knows his stuff and was able to combine these two different styles to make something that really works well as a whole.
Board games tend to have a lot of rules for players to learn. How do you make Forbidden Island accessible to new players?
We've designed the game to provide lots of help for players who want it. We have a detailed rule book, interactive gameplay tutorial and in-game help to tell players which actions they can perform. We also created a small message area for each player that reminds them what to do next as the game progresses. These are incredibly valuable for guiding players as they learn the game. As they get more experienced, players can ignore these messages because they don't interrupt the gameplay at all.
Do you see Forbidden Island as an attempt to bring back the tabletop game?
Tabletop games are enjoying a renaissance right now. Our iPad implementation of Forbidden Island
is really a reflection of that, rather than an instigator of it. As gamers, we're really enjoying the awesome stuff being produced and we wanted to contribute something special to that world. We really love playing games with friends and family. So really, Forbidden Island
is an attempt to share something that we love with others, and I think you can see it in the finished game.
Sell Forbidden Island in one sentence:
Surprisingly deep strategy that anyone can play -- and play together.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Indie software development is also in the middle of a renaissance period right now. The barrier to entry has never been lower for creating software and that really made our efforts possible. It's wonderful to find so many developers discussing difficult development problems openly online.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
The complete control of having our own independent company is wonderful. Not only can we decide what games we want to make, we can decide how to make them. It takes working in a large company for a few years to realize how valuable it is to define your own working style and processes.
How do you get together to work on Button Mash Games projects?
All four of us live in different cities at the moment, with one actually living in another country for now. Because of the distance, we get together in person very rarely. We communicate regularly through email and voice chat, but the large time differences means that we can usually only talk in real-time on weekends. We also use online task tracking software so that our project leader can organize and prioritize everyone's work. That's really helped us track our progress and focus on what needs to be done next.
Our immediate plans are to add new features to Forbidden Island. We will be adding support for different island shapes by rearranging the tile placements. The different shapes will really alter the difficulty and strategy needed to succeed. We're also investigating online multiplayer and leader boards for future updates. We really want to give Forbidden Island continued development attention and build up a great audience for it.
Forbidden Island is available now for iPad in the App Store. Join the tabletop revolution, right from your iPad (yes, it counts)!
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