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Midlife Gamer Meets: One Man Left Studios

July 5th, 2010 by

As listeners of Episode 99 will remember, there’s a few of us here at Midlife Gamer that are quite enamoured by an iOS title going by the name of Tilt To Live. Developed by One Man Left Studios, this handheld gem has inspired discussion, competition and some pretty intense friendly rivalries between a number of forum members. But how was the game conceived and has it been a success? We talked to the developers to find out more…

Xero: First question from us, who are you and what do you do?

Adam Stewart: My name is Adam Stewart, and I’m responsible for the graphics and writing for One Man Left Studios.

X: Next thing is extremely important to us, and is something we ask everyone we meet here at Midlife Gamer, what is your favourite beverage and what is your favourite biscuit?

AS: My favorite beverage is beer, of which I don’t know if I have a favorite. Beer isn’t fun if you drink the same kind all the time. My favorite biscuits are the Girl Scout Caramel DeLites? Are biscuits cookies? This question was not properly localized.

X: For those readers who don’t know, what is Tilt To Live and why should they download it?

AS: Tilt to Live is an accelerometer-based iDevice game with tight controls, neat weapons, and a sense of humor. They should download it after reading some reviews, because people seem to dig it.

X: TTL is your first title for iPhone, but is it your first title altogether or had you worked on previous projects before this?

AS: Before Tilt to Live, and as we were making it, I was a web designer and Alex (our programmer) was a software engineer. We went to high school together, and used to goof around making games for Flash and PC. We’ve never been involved with a game sold for money before, though.

X: Can you talk to us about the new Frostbite scenario and what it will be adding to the game?

AS: Frostbite mode involves a blizzard of frozen dots falling toward a hot spring. Weapons are sparse, so you’ve got to shatter as many enemies as possible before they can reach the hot spring and reanimate. Your primary weapon will be a new one called the burnicade, which is, intuitively enough, a burning barricade you “draw” by hitting the weapon orb and tilting. So you can essentially create a safety net with it, which burns any thawed dots chasing you while it eats the frozen enemies falling into it.

X: Where did the idea for Tilt To Live come from, were you inspired by any specific games or other forms of media?

AS: Tilt to Live began as a reimagining of Geometry Wars’ Pacifism mode. Accessibility is important for mobile devices, and games just don’t get more straightforward than that. Developing the weapons, we were really surprised at the variety of offensive strategies you could arrive at from weapons you just run into.

X: What was the motivation behind the striking visual design?

AS: The tone was more serious, sci-fi in the beginning, but I guess we had a hard time taking that seriously. It’s got an interesting contrast now, having abstractions for the characters and backgrounds vs. literal visuals in the weapons. Watching an arrow zip around triggering weapons of mass destruction is strangely charming. Basically, we settled on the name and it all got goofier.

X: Was there a reason behind handling all of the controls via motion sensing? Why not go for an on-screen control for instance?

AS: The tilt was the first thing we tried. I guess we were just working with the tools the hardware gave us. The tilt controls felt great and didn’t clutter the screen, so we had no desire to try a joystick. I also have sort of a pet peeve about phantom thumbsticks. I can’t stand not physically feeling where I am in relation to the center position, or whether I’ve reached the point where I can’t push it any farther.

X: Why did you choose to go with AGON Online as opposed to OpenFeint or another social platform for your high score and achievement functions?

AS: We liked the way it integrated. Openfeint can be a little heavy handed when you first start a game up (“ENABLE ME!”). It was also a paid service at the time we were choosing, where AGON was free. We’re still happy with the decision, though.

X: In real terms, how successful has the game been commercially and does the economy of the iTunes store work for smaller developers?

AS: All we have to cover is expenses and two guy’s salaries, so we really aren’t asking for much. We expected to need like 5 titles a year to be viable, and now it’s looking more like two. Apple has been generous about plugging TtL into featured lists, so that’s definitely helped.

X: Tilt To Live went free for a short period of time, were the download numbers drastically different, and does the free-to-play, ad-supported model appeal to you at all?

AS: They were exponentially different. FAAD gets a lot of eyeballs, and it was great to get into the hands of so many people. At the moment, free-to-play is appealing to us when it’s supported by in-app purchases and expansions. At that point, it’s basically an integrated lite version people can try out before they commit to a purchase. Advertising is only appealing if it’s WAY out of the way (More Games buttons) and not hurting the experience.

X: Is the boom of the indie game industry that we saw starting a couple of years ago, beginning to tail off with larger companies and higher budgets muscling in more heavily on the mobile platform?

AS: Our artwork and programming is all in-house, which saves a ton of overhead and helps us stay competitive. It’s pretty risky for someone who spent a lot of money making a game to try and meet us at our price point. Worst case scenario, I imagine it’s like the rest of the entertainment industry. The big guys will spend more time on flash than substance, so there’s always an appetite for fresh ideas.

X: What can we expect to see from One Man Left in the near future? What new titles are on the way and what can we expect from them?

AS: We’ve been sprinkling hints for a while that Tilt to Live is coming to the iPad, and that’s what we’re developing alongside Frostbite right now. I’m excited about the HD version. Resolution upgrades are boring, so we’ve been playing with new graphics and effects to really make this one stand out as “the badass Tilt to Live”. Another title will likely be released this year, but we haven’t got anything to show for it just yet.

For more information on One Man Left Studios and the supremely addictive Tilt To Live check out onemanleft.com

4 Responses to “Midlife Gamer Meets: One Man Left Studios”
  1. Tilt To Live is my perfect iPhone game, bite sized and with friends leaderboards.
    Antman, I’m taking back my crown brother!!!

  2. avatar Antman says:

    TtL is simple at first glance but deviously complex the more you get involved. The thing that surprised me most is the fidelity and accuracy of the tilt controls, your death never feels cheap but always your own stupid fault!
    I love TtL, as Matt has said above, the competitive nature really pushes you to have “one more go”. I’d encourage everyone to download this immediately and get tilting.

    Oh and Matt, you can’t imagine the stress I put myself under to top your score before ep100. The relief was so strong I openly wept! Good luck beating 5 million, brother, I don’t know if I could top that again.

  3. avatar Mogg says:

    Great interview Xero, Matt Antman, i’m coming for you!!!!!

  4. avatar trrll says:

    Tilt to Live is an amazing game, near perfection in every respect, from the art, to the level of challenge, to the exploitation of the strengths of the platform. I class it with the great classics of intense arcade play, games like Robotron, Tempest.

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