From the beginning, Hal and I have had a shared vision for Amazing Frog? To make a “GTA” Style, online multiplayer, rag doll frog, physics sandbox version of Swindon. This is our vision and there is no quick route to achieve this.
We put Amazing Frog? on OUYA, unnoticed, March 2013 when it was just a development console. We worked solidly on the OUYA version of Amazing Frog? until Summer 2014 and made a series of substantial updates on the platform shaping it to the current UFO, OUYA Everywhere version. It had always been a struggle to build the game we wanted on OUYA. The hardware was underpowered even in 2013 and it hasn’t changed since.
When we started we only expected 2 things from OUYA. That the hardware would get more powerful quickly and that the user base would expand. Unfortunately, 2 years down the line, it didn’t work out like that for them. While that is sad, its not the future we signed up for.
To give a clearer picture of our situation, let me give you a brief history of Fayju. I had always wanted to make my own games. period. After 10 years of a strange mixture of rapidly made marketing games and digital Art Installations, I met Hal in 2009 while teaching. He brought my attention to Unity, iPhones and the AppStore and finally I saw a realistic opportunity to take control of my destiny. I bought a Mac, an IPhone and a Unity licence, set up Fayju (my nickname at home) as a company and we built our first rag doll frog, followed by a series of iPhone games.
Our first frog was laughable at best, but there was always something there…. by 2011 Fayju was a fully independent games company, just the two of us and still is today.
We had made a plan – Goldilocks and the 3000 bears, Cascade and Amazing Frog? originally we were planning to make them as iOS games, it was all we believed we could achieve and its what we knew. We had dreamed of making Playstation games, but just didn’t feel that it would ever be a possibility. Before OUYA I don’t think it was.
March 2012 we moved into our studio above the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon, looked out of the window and had finally found the location for Amazing Frog?…literally.
Every thing changed in August 2012, we Backed OUYA. Rightly or wrongly we figured that our future as indies could actually be what we had wanted it to be – making controller driven games.
We started building Goldilocks for OUYA first during the KillScreen Daily games Jam …We had been used to making 3D games for mobile technology, but OUYA’s hardware could not handle the “bear physics”. We ran with Amazing Frog? and showed version 1.0 at GDC PLAY 2013 and launched on the Development console the day of OUYA’s launch party March 2013.
In GDC 2013, aside from ours we only spotted one other OUYA console. I think we had jumped the gun a bit. We didn’t know they were lining up a bunch of funded launch titles for the summer, like Towerfall. But we had come from IOS where most developers are faceless and had not expected funding, we expected a platform through which we could fund ourselves.
Our original plan was launch free and introduce DLC later as we expected OUYAs to sell and the user base to grow, I think they did too or at least they said they did. The restrictions were that you made a free game, “Free the games” . As it turns out the only surge of sales happened in June 2013 where only the launch titles benefited.
We missed out on sales during the launch, but the game had loads of downloads, we had gone from jumping the gun to missing the boat in the space of three months, things were looking pretty bleak for us and things started to look pretty bad for OUYA too. Many indies were throwing a lot of negativity their way, we still believed in the ideology of OUYA, Open Universe, Ya? but it was apparent we were not going to be able to fund ourselves through sales on this platform, but we still didn’t want to go back to iOS and couldn’t see a valid road to any other platform for a game in ongoing development like Amazing Frog?
We had never asked for or needed any help, but at this point we were in trouble and Fayju needed financial support, I had no idea where to find it until Matt Thorson, the creator of Towerfall complained about his exclusivity Agreement with OUYA in a bid to go to Sony. I should really thank him for this bold move as it opened a door for us.
Amazing Frog? seemed pretty popular on OUYA, so I thought it would be OK to ask Bob Mills if there was any way OUYA could lend us some money to support the development of Amazing Frog? He came back with an 6 month exclusivity package offering an advance ( which started 6 months after we had already launched on the OUYA Store ) Bob was always really supportive and I appreciate it, but I think OUYA in general were not really interested in supporting small, unknown teams like us. I got the impression they were more interested in funding larger companies with more established figureheads. Ultimately I think they made some pretty poor choices for the wrong reasons. Soul Fjord.
However, I always felt at this point that Bob and Julie had saved Fayju and felt indebted to them for more than just the advance. Not just that, I still really believed in what OUYA supposedly stood for, an open platform empowering indies to get their games into the living room.
We took what was a modest amount of funding from OUYA. Ultimately not enough for us to run Fayju for a year but enough that we could carry on. We focused on Amazing Frog? on OUYA for well over that time. The problem arose because as time passed it became ever more clear that there was no way we would ever be able to pay that advance back through sales… And Amazing Frog? was number 1 for most of that time. By the time we had made the updates, we had no revenue source whatsoever other than to return to OUYA and ask for more help. The situation was effecting development and disrupting our original plan. We had to take action and escape this situation. So that we could regain control of the future of Amazing Frog? and put it firmly back on the path to our shared vision of a “GTA” Style, online multiplayer, rag doll frog,physics sandbox version of Swindon.
Either way, taking Amazing Frog? to Steam did not even breach our exclusivity contract which was against consoles only. The problem for us was that for two people developing an expanding game for PC and Android simultaneously (even in Unity) would severely impact our development process. On Steam we had to take many steps backward to move forward. Rebuilding the entire frog system was the first step. What we are creating now is much more along the lines of our original vision.
There is already a huge list of features that are available on the Steam version that would not have been possible on OUYA. When I get the time I think a technical blog post about this would probably be in order 🙂
I am grateful to OUYA for shaking the world of games. I wear my OUYA hoodie with pride and am hopeful that they can pull themselves through this. I wish them the best of luck.
For Amazing Frog? I am excited about the future, steam boxes, VR etc…
but mainly that we can continue developing our stupid game 🙂