It had been a while since we last managed to corner a developer for an interview. But this time, a developer cornered me to get an interview done. After looking at their game (Muffins and Apples) and playing it for a bit, I decided to agree to that interview. After grabbing some muffins myself to sustain me during the interview, I met with him again.
Welcome Ashley. I’ve just tested out your game and I am surprised. But before we get into details of that, can you first tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Ashley Spencer-Phillips, I’m 26 years old and I live in the United Kingdom. I’ve been into video games for most of my life starting with my Playstation 1. I would say I am mainly a retro-gamer, Pac-Man being my favorite.
So you are also a retro-gamer. I’ve seen two games you’ve released. Am I right to assume that the older games were an inspiration to use 8-bit graphics?
Yes, I am very much inspired by older games, so I try to incorporate their qualities into the games I develop.
As well as using 8-bit style visuals, I like to keep the gameplay quite arcade-like. I believe the qualities of old games translate very well into modern mobile gaming; for example my games which are about beating the high score are enhanced with the inclusion of online leaderboards.
Indeed, it does a bit, although some of the mobile speedrunners would disagree. But on to another question, when did you start making games and why?
As a gamer, I like to think I know what makes a fun game, when playing existing games, I’ve often thought about how they could be improved or tweaked. It was around 6 years ago while I was studying art and design at college I discovered Scratch software, so I played around with some basic coding to prove to myself that I know what makes a fun game.
So it was initially just for myself, but after others seemed to like what I had done, I started publishing games to Android.
I have never heard of scratch. What programming language does it use?
Scratch is a very basic drag-and-drop programming interface, it is very limited in what it can do and what file types in can publish to, but it was a good starting point for me. I don’t really remember about the programming language, it has been a while since I have used it. The software I use these days is GameSalad.
I see. So both your released games were made through that program. I myself started with RPG Maker, but I am more a writer than a programmer. What was the first game you made?
My initial game made using Scratch was called Chris’s Muffin Adventure, and the first game I made using GameSalad and published to the Play Store was called Chris and the Badgers.
I’ve seen Chris and the Badgers, which was released last year, right? And now you’ve released Muffins and Apples. What was your inspiration for that game (Muffins and Apples)?
Yes I believe it was released last year. The idea for Muffins and Apples was partially inspired by a specific level in a 2013 Pac-Man platform style game in which eating food would slow the player down making it harder to avoid the enemy. I took this concept one step further by making my game’s character get fatter as he eats muffins, and instead of an having an enemy to avoid; getting too fat would be the thing to avoid. I added constant weight loss from running to make being too thin a danger too. I am influenced by collect/avoid style games, but to make my game a little different, I decided to make the things you are collecting and avoiding the same things. One second a muffin could save you, the next second it could kill you.
Yes, that is something I’ve experienced several times in your game. Then there are the three modes, the standard mode: Where you gain points based on time, Muffin where you gain points based on muffins eaten, and apples based on apples eaten. What was the reason for these three modes?
The first build of the app only had the standard mode. I later added the other modes for a couple of reasons. I thought these other modes would give the player extra incentive to take risks such as trying to up their score faster by grabbing more muffins when already quite fat. I also thought it gives players two more opportunities to become number 1 on the leaderboard, so if they can’t beat a score on one mode, they could on another.
How long have you been working on this game?
I don’t really remember how long it took altogether, but in the period I was working on it I was working pretty much nonstop.
Any other hardships you’ve encountered besides the nonstop working?
One small problem I encountered was with the score counter on normal mode, it was originally meant to be in decimals going up 0.5 days per second. It wasn’t until after I had published the game that I noticed Amazon GameCircle (the leaderboard system) didn’t support decimals. Luckily I was quick to remove the decimals in the score system before people wondered why their scores weren’t displaying properly.
That can be an issue indeed. We are nearing the end of the interview. Do you have any last words to our readers?
Muffins and Apples is an addictive retro throwback that’ll surely keep you entertained in short bursts if you’re on the move, or for hours on end if you really want to beat the high score.
I myself am not a fan of most mobile games, but this one was reasonable fun. If you want to try the game out yourself, you can find it on the google playstore.