This is the second part of a 2 part review of Candy Box. Part 1 can be found here.
The earliest Google hit for your game is a ‘Let’s Play’ video from April 24th and now a little over 2-weeks later it’s one of the most talked about indie games on the internet. If you can, talk a bit about the meteoric rise of Candy Box.
I released the game about three weeks ago, on Wednesday. At first, I just showed it to my close friends and family, but on Sunday I put it on a well-known french forum called “Koreus”? It was then moved by the webmaster from the forum to the homepage, and everything started from here : I didn’t talk about the game anywhere else after that, but it spread anyway
At first blush, Candy Box may not be a game that you’d think would illicit a lengthy review and interview with the developer. You go to the webpage and sit and watch. The first thing you notice is the Candy counter ticking up at a steady rate and a button that allows you to eat the candies. After accumulating and eating and dropping candies enough, eventually you get to the point where a Merchant materializes out of nowhere to offer you something in exchange for your candies. From there the game grows ever more complex and expansive. I won’t describe the actual game any further. If you haven’t played it then reading a detailed description of the game ruins some of the magic and removes some feeling of excitement at what’s coming next.
Exploration, I think, is key to what makes Candy Box so compelling.
The game has a beautiful content curve, giving the player just the right amount of content at just the right time to keep them playing for hours on end. This is reflected in the way the ASCII graphics slowly grow more complicated and expansive. Was the graphical journey the game takes intentional?
Yes, it’s absolutely intentional. In the first quest, it’s very linear, you just have a line of text. In the second quest, you have some relief, in the third you have moving bubbles, and in the fourth ennemies begin to move.. The aspect “nothing at first, and then it grows” can also be found in the graphical part.
There is a button you get as soon as you collect 10 candies that says ‘Throw 10 candies on the ground’. I ended up throwing hundreds of thousands of candies on the ground before I stopped playing because I wanted to see what would happen. You can also eat the candies, or you can buy things with the candies. None of these mechanics are ever explained to you. What happens if you eat the candies? Or toss them on the ground? You have to explore the game to get any clue. And trust me, there’s a lot to explore in this game. The way you’re given content and the rate at which it’s given to you seems perfectly in tune to keep you wanting to move forward. Other developers need to look at this content curve and then consider the games they make. Call of Duty, for example, gives you content in the form of Multiplayer rewards. These rewards are new guns and new skins for your guns, but they never significantly change the game. Mass Effect 3 has you following an ever increasingly complex story, delivering content in the form of character closure and plot twists, but there isn’t an effective reward system to keep these plot twists from eventually getting droll. Candy Box delivers content in three ways. You unlock new mechanics, you unlock new ‘story’, and you unlock new graphics. The three are balanced together. You never feel like the mechanics have outpaced the story or the graphics have become too complex to effectively present the new mechanics. All of this content is delivered to you via exploration that you as the player have to undertake.
There is never an arrow pointing to way to go.
Are you trying to make a statement with the game?
I don’t think I’m trying to make any statement : I just wanted to make a game which people would like to play to, if this worked, then that’s all what I want :)
Aniwey has professed that there really isn’t a direct influence for Candy Box. We as gamers can project whatever previous games we want onto it and say ‘This obviously was the influence” but it seems like the game was borne more out of a desire to make a fun, free game that anyone can play. Browser games are, by their nature, more open and accessible than a game developed for a specific computer platform in mind. Borderlands 2 (a game I plan on finishing some day) was released for Windows Computers in partnership with Steam. To play it, you need to install Steam first, then you can download the game through Steam’s servers and install it within Steam. Part of the agreement you make with the big faceless publishers you make when you buy a game these days is that it will come with DRM. Steam, as much as we love it, is a very restrictive and intrusive form of DRM. It just also happens to sell games for very cheap.
There are no truly free games on Steam.
You mention on the page detailing the upcoming sequel that it will be ‘Free Software’ with a link to the Free Software Foundation. You also say you care about ethical computing on aniwey.net, can you elaborate on this a bit? What, to you, is ethical computing?
I don’t want to code just for coding. I want to code in an ethical way. And I think ethical computing needs free software (free as in “freedom”). When a software is free, the user has the right to run the program, to study it, to redistribute it, to modify it, and to redistribute the modified versions. I want people to study my code if they wish, because I find a lot of interest in studying others’ code :)
You can’t get much more free (in the world of Video Games) than a browser based game hosted on a private website with no included ads. Hundreds of thousands of people have played and enjoyed Candy Box despite having zero marketing. In this new age of accessibility and reach, developers are constantly working on new ways of restricting and limiting access to their games.
What can we learn from Candy Box? I think we need to take a new approach to both content curves and distribution. Aniwey is not asking anyone to pay money to play Candy Box nor are there ads or scary warnings about piracy. It’s a free game. Do I want Bioware to make Mass Effect 4 a browser game? (Okay yes.) No of course not. What I want is for EA and their like to look at Candy Box and realize that good games can be made available without restriction and be successful not in spite of this laissez faire attitude, but because of it.
Free 2 Play shouldn’t be a curse word.
Do you plan on opening up a way for people to donate to you in any way?
Yes, in the sequel there will be a “Donate” button. But of course the game itself will be totally free and you won’t have to pay anything to play ;)
Sometimes people don’t need Kickstarter or Steam or EA to make a good game. Just a brand new way to look at how to play the game itself.
One more thing:
Is the merchant Tom Baker (4th Doctor Who)?
Yup ! The ascii I found for the merchant is inspired by the 4th Doctor Who (wonderful TV series, by the way)