We’re down to the last interview in the Manufacturing a Hit series, and I’ve saved the most popular game for last. In this interview I talk to Brad Borne, developer of the massively popular Fancy Pants series. Brad was able to leverage the success of his first game into a franchise, and talks to us for a bit about how his original game became so successful and how he’s been marketing the new Xbox version.
1. How did you come up with the idea for Fancy Pants?
Fancy Pants Man started as an animation when I first bought a digital tablet. I had been fooling around with making a platformer previously, but progress was pretty rough, since I was just beginning to learn Flash. I drew a little stick figure with pants running back and forth playing around with a sword, and was surprised by the thought that not many platformers really captured the feeling of running back and forth with weight, with the animations keeping up with the movement. I though, hey, it’s Flash, it’s made for animation, why couldn’t I link all the moves together, instead of just switching between a few frames for every move?
The series has come a long way from that point, but everything added to the games have been focused around that core, feeling the weight of the character, and smooth animations that tie directly to the character’s movement.
2. Was anyone else involved in the design process?
Lately I’ve been getting more and more people involved in the design process, posting videos online and updating the World 3 Sneak Peek with new content. In the beginning, though, I got a lot of feedback from friends while in college, and built off of older ideas that I had showed off before. One of my first testers is now my wife, and I still run almost all my new ideas everything by her. When working on FPA on Consoles, the teams we were working with at EA and Over the Top Games had an influence on adapting FPA for the consoles strengths and weaknesses, but I always made sure that we were true to what I consider FPA to be. For all of my projects, really, I don’t think I could work without having final say, I’m pretty stubborn about certain things, for better and for worse, heh.
3. How did you market the game once it came out?
We got it into the hands of a lot of reviewers during EA events. I think it was important to show them that there was a game that core gamers could enjoy, and that while FPA started as a Flash game, it was substantial as an arcade title. I did work some with the original portals who distributed the Flash games. I created versions of World 1 and 2 that informed players about the new game, and once World 3 is finished, it will follow a similar path, hopefully drawing players to the premium, multiplayer focused console game. Our biggest viral asset will be World 3, while you have to push ads into potential customers’ faces, players will always seek out online entertainment themselves, and I think that there’s nothing more powerful for getting your message out there. I’m not skimping on World 3, though, so it’s not out yet! Hopefully, soon, though, then we’ll see how effective my evil plan for internet domination really is, muwahaha!
4. What was it about Fancy Pants that you think made it such a success?
I believe the simplicity and approachability has a lot to do with it. It’s a series that someone can jump right into, and since the beginning, I always believed that the game must react and communicate back to the player from the very first key stroke. As the series progresses, I still have to balance ease of play with more complex mechanics, but I think that the platforming genre in general is a great start, most players know what to expect once they start running around. You have a defined language, and as long as the player is having fun just navigating the game, you can build on that language, without asking them to learn too much at once, or leave them bored.
5. How can other game developers apply the lessons of Fancy Pants to their own games?
Be yourself! That’s my number one advice to anyone working as themselves or as part of a small team. FPA is very much a reflection of my own personality, I want it to look like I’ve drawn it, and reflect a lot of my own personality.
Remember, there’s no one on this earth who can be a better you than you. Your own personality is your most valuable asset, and if your game sets out to be your game, first and foremost, no other game will be able to show it up.
6. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Hey developers, go out and make great games, because I’m selfish and want to play them all!