The Blockheads Interview With Majic Jungle's David Frampton
We discuss comparisons with Minecraft and the future of this runaway success.
Release a sandbox world-building game in 2013 and you can be sure of one thing: it won't take long for references to Minecraft to show up - they were unavoidable in our review earlier this month. But what does developer David Frampton make of those comments, and what updates can we expect to see for The Blockheads? Read on to find out what the future holds for this App Store success story.
Can you tell us a bit about your development background and how you came to work on The Blockheads?
I was initially an artist before learning to program and creating the first version of Chopper back in 2003. Then when the iPhone App Store launched in 2008 I ported it across. It was very successful, so I was able to work full time making more games and apps. I went on to make Chopper 2, and then wanted to try something totally different, so I began work on The Blockheads just over a year ago.
How long was the game in development for, and what brought you to work on a game like this?
The Blockheads was in full time development for about a year. The idea was based on something I had wanted to make for a very long time, where you would evolve apes into humans and beyond, with kind of a Sims-like mechanic and set in a cross section of the world. It ended up turning into quite a different game, but it's still very much the kind of game I like to play and make.
It's hard to write about a sandbox exploration and construction game without references to Minecraft arising. How do you feel about that - is it legitimate comment, or do you think Minecraft's created a genre that other developers are now simply working in?
There have been some negative comments coming from a few Minecraft fans who see the graphics and assume it's a complete clone. But when they play for long enough they discover it really isn't. It has been influenced by Minecraft, and has many similarities. However The Blockheads also has plenty that sets it apart, and takes the genre in new and interesting directions.
It's OK to borrow some ideas from other games, and every single game does this to some degree. I think we're going to see many more titles emerge in this new genre that Minecraft pioneered. It's a good thing, and I'm sure most Minecraft fans understand this.
Do you have any plans to support other platforms in the future, be that PC or Android? What's the appeal of launching on the App Store first?
The biggest reason I launched The Blockheads on iOS first is simply that that is my area of expertise. I'm a one man band, so I don't have the resources to learn about and develop across all platforms. However due to the success of the game on IOS, I'm looking at my options for ports in the future.
We mentioned in our review that we'd love the opportunity to adjust the interface size, particularly on iPads. Is that something we can expect to see in an update?
I will probably add an option to increase the inventory button size on iPad in the future. When the iPad mini was announced I actually increased the size to make them as big as I could while remaining consistent across all devices. But they are still a little smaller than I'd like on iPad, particularly on the iPad mini.
Were you surprised at how quickly the game rose up the App Store charts. Has it exceeded your expectations?
My expectations for launch were far exceeded! I had anticipated a few thousand downloads on day one and slow steady word of mouth growth from there. But what actually happened was over a million downloads in the first couple of days. It's been an amazing ride, and I hope I can start building it back up from wherever the post launch fall levels out to. It was definitely a great start, but I'd like to see The Blockheads have long-term success too.
Free to play gaming is still quite a divisive topic amongst gamers. What are your thoughts on providing a paid-for version of The Blockheads, and was that ever under consideration?
Very early on I decided that The Blockheads would be free to play. It made a huge amount of sense for this kind of game for many reasons, the most important of which is that I wanted as many people as possible to play it. I'm not going to rule out a paid version, but I'm not planning anything along those lines for now. I took care to design as friendly a F2P model as possible, and many people are playing without spending a cent, mining the currency and using multiple blockheads to keep themselves busy without waiting. I'm not sure it's making any more money this way, but at least everyone has a chance to play, and it's making enough to fund continued development.
What kind of road-map do you have for The Blockheads - can we expect future updates? If so, can you share any details of want you want plan to release next for the game?
I'm working right now on adding some new content for the next update. I hope to just keep working on this indefinitely, given it has such a huge potential for more and more depth. For now, I'm keeping anything specific under wraps. But in future updates I'll be adding more building materials, furniture and lighting, plants and animals, methods of transport, and plenty of mini games along the way. 1.0 was just a starting point, The Blockheads has a pretty exciting future!