Thursday, February 13, 2014

In Memory of Flappy Bird

I interrupt my NES coverage to bring you a rant. Most of you are already sick to death about Flappy Bird but the issues around the game are important and a badly worded Kotaku article really pissed me off so I simply had to rant. It is understandable if you skip this week’s post though there are some valid points made so at least try to skim through it.

Flappy Bird was created by Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen. It is a Helicopter style game with graphics reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. You simply dodge pipes by flapping, with the score based on how many pipes you dodge. It is essentially the type of game that I would create in a game jam but would not release on other sites because I wouldn’t feel the quality was high enough. Perhaps if my standards were looser developing games would be a job and not a hobby? A simple game that was kind of fun but nothing special. Still, for some reason or another the game took off in popularity and became one of those surprising mobile-device success stories. Then the controversy started happening.

First people started accusing Dong of gaming the system. Claiming that the download numbers and 5 star ratings were artificially inflated by using bot nets or large numbers of paid-off people. If you had looked at the review pages for this game you would have noticed a lot of 1 star ratings mixed in with 5 star ratings. This may seem suspect but when you think about human nature it is quite conceivable. When many people go to rate a product that they like and notice a bunch of undeserved 1 star ratings, the score that was going to be given immediately changes to a 4 or 5 star rating to compensate for the “idiots” (and if they don’t like a game but see a bunch of undeserved 5 star ratings they will lower their rating to 1 or 2 to compensate for the “idiots” with anybody that has a different opinion from your own being a idiot). For those of you who are curious, I wouldn’t have bothered to rate the game because it is too simple to deserve the effort required to give it a rating but if compelled to rate the game it would get a 2 due to the annoying difficulty since overly difficult games aren’t my forte.

Next were claims that the art was “ripped” from Super Mario Bros. While the art style is very similar, it is clear that the artwork was created by Dong. The Kotaku article claiming the art was “ripped” was poorly researched as ripping art means you take the actual art from another game. Creating your own similar artwork is perfectly legal. The pipes, in particular, can be created by anybody in under a minute by using two linear gradient filled rectangles. I’m not saying that the artwork in SMB is bad, in fact with the palette and tile restrictions that the NES had the art is really good.

After that we get to the argument that the game is just a clone of another game. This is actually the case for the vast majority of games. For example, if you are a fan of first-person shooters, you are playing a clone of Battlezone which itself is a clone of 2D shooters but extended to the third dimension. If you think a game is too much like another game then play and promote the other game.

It is doubtful that the above items are the real reason for the hatred that Dong is receiving, however. The real reason is that the game made a lot of money. Seeing a weekend project make someone lots of money is annoying. Especially when a great game like Kingdoms of Amalur fails in the market. This doesn’t give you the right to harass the person but far too often on the internet people forget that they are talking to other humans.

Interesting enough there is a Flappy Jam going on at . I will probably be doing something for this jam. Will be starting out in Unity and see if I can figure enough out to finish a simple game in it.

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