By now you should be good and hyped for our release of Chameleon Run this week. However what you probably didn’t know was that a game about color switching was developed by a color blind developer, who was injured and only could use one hand. And if that wasnt enough, he had his code stolen more than once during development. Sheesh.
After getting to know Jan “Split” Ilvasky, I realized this incredible story behind the development of the game needed to be shared. The following is a bit of a postmortem for the game which comes out this Thursday April 7th!
From the desk of “Split”
In the summer of 2013 I broke my arm when driving a kick bike.
At the time I was starting to become a big Ludum Dare fan, so I decided to participate even though I had only one usable hand to do the actual development. Fortunately the theme was “minimalism”, which sounded like something that I could do even with my destroyed body. Because of that, I wanted to create a game which could be played with one hand and so, Chameleon Run was born. You can see it here.
Since then, I hadn’t had much time to continue working on it, but I really liked that super simple game mechanics.
One of the rules of Ludum Dare is that you should put your source code available for download. Unfortunately it looks like that one guy just took it, changed few things and started selling it on the App Store and Google Play. He even created a thread on the Touch Arcade forums.
I found out that I could contact apple and google and ask them to remove the app. But before doing that, I tried to write to reach out to him directly using the forums on Touch Arcade. He never admitted that he stole the source code, but I couldn’t help thinking the probability of creating such a similar game, using the same font and have exact physics feeling (which was custom made, not any 3rd party physics engine) is really really low.
Here’s what he replied:
“A friend of mine approached me about the idea for this game on mobile. I liked it and i made it according to his liking. He must have seen it on lumdum site you had posted. But i really made it on my own.. i guess the concept is same..”
Anyways he seemed like a good guy, because he actually removed the game from sale from both the stores by himself. Something that I don’t think happens very often.
A few weeks later I found another game. This time there are more changes in the graphics, but when you look at very small details, you can tell it is the same source code. And most notably the name of the game is “Chameleon Run”. After happening yet again, I decided to remove the source code from the site.
Since then I have seen more and more games hugely inspired by Chameleon Run. At least they are using their own source code (I hope). For example.
Though they could be original ideas too. Something so simple is bound to be thought up by someone else. But all these versions made me realize that maybe it’s time for me to finish the game and make it look a little better than what I did with one hand in 48 hours.
Because the main mechanics were clear I wanted to focus on visual style. I’m color blind so I always struggle with picking the perfect combination of colors. Fortunately I have just small problems distinguishing some colors, so it’s not as bad as it may look like. Actually about 8 percent males (0.5% of females) are color blind in some way, which is quite a lot, so we should always think about these people when developing games. In fact many of my game developer friends always ask me if I can distinguish all the colors in their games.
This was my first attempt:
I wanted to go low poly and to have chameleon running around. This looked really bad.
So then I tried to go with different colors:
Eventually I ditched the chameleon character and changed the colors again:
I then added a depth of field added and few more effects:
Then I tried a more “tron” like style:
Still not good, so then I tried something totally different:
After hundreds of iterations the game finally looked like this:
Definitely interesting, but probably not for wider audience. That’s when I decided to add a running character:
There’s always a time in my game development when I show the game to my wife and ask her what she thinks. She hated the colors and told me I should go with something more optimistic, like a blue ocean and not dark rocks.
So I went back to a blue, green combination. But it still wasn’t good enough.
My wife saw the game again and told me I should maybe try use a pink color. “Pink color?” I asked myself. It’s wasn’t at all the direction I was thinking. But once I saw it, it really fits on the blue background. From there yellow was logical complement and here is the result:
After a few more tweaks to make the foreground really pop, the visual style was finished:
From there I started showing people my game and got connected with Noodlecake Studios who fell in love with the game instantly and has helped me put the final touches on it. After the accident, clones, and hundreds of visual iterations, I am really excited to finally get my game out there.
– Jan “Split” Ilvasky