There is Always a Story to be Told
Video games have been a large part of peoples’ lives for well over 30 years. Many players will spend hours on an individual title seeking to conquer its intricate puzzles and challenges. However, what many people do not take into account are the minds behind these games. Great games (like FlickBack) do not just appear out of thin air; they are created, and those who are responsible for making these titles put all of their passion and time into creating the perfect gaming experiences.
There are more stories that can be told about the creation of games than within the games themselves. I was able to sit down with two talented game developers recently and have a chat with them about their upcoming mobile title, FlickBack, and ask them about their own stories and inspirations. The conversation helped me to understand that no matter how grand the project, passion is that which fuels the gaming industry.
A Look at FlickBack
Before we meet the minds behind the game, let’s first look at the fruits of their labor. FlickBack is a “touch and go” mobile title that is as simple as it is complex. Within the game there are four different colored arrows that appear during play. Each color indicates a different time interval in which it will remain on the screen before disappearing. The objective of the game is “flick back” as many arrows as possible while prioritizing those arrows which will disappear first.
This game was initially created to be a simple and fun way to pass the time, but as software testing continued, something dawned on the developers. FlickBack is more than just a game; it is brain training. Through quick reactions coupled with defined choice, this game has become mode in which research can be conducted. The focus of this research is what scientists call mental chronometry, or reaction time, as we like to call it.
New Breed Games, the developer of FlickBack, has seen the usefulness of this title and been reaching out to some big names in the scientific community concerning it. They have already been in contact with such groups as The National Psychological Society, MENSA, and the Neurological Association of America. These groups and others will prove to be important partners in the development and implementation of FlickBack as a game and resource. To say this title merely has potential is to grossly underestimate its intrinsic value.
The Minds Behind the Game
FlickBack is an independently developed mobile game that was created by two individuals who are separated by an ocean and bound by a goal. These men are Ryan McClellan and Gary Pettie, and their stories are the bases for the genius behind this title as well as the passion that leads all game developers to create the games we love to play.
Ryan McClellan is the CEO and Founder of New Breed Games, a Miami based development company that specializes in creating new and unique video games. Having had a degree in Business Management, he helped found various companies and organizations that had nothing to do with the gaming industry. All of this changed in 2010 when he met an unnamed EA Games producer that saw his potential and took Ryan under his wing. Over the years McClellan grew in his knowledge of the gaming industry and eventually founded his company and began working on various projects; some of which would never see completion. Stretched and tired, McClellan was working on a project in 2013 when he fell asleep behind his computer; that is when it came to him.
McClellan described the epiphany that led to FlickBack as a dream. While he was asleep at his keyboard, he envisioned colorful arrows coming across his view. As he swiped at the arrows they disappeared and new ones appeared. Awakening from the dream, he knew that it was a golden idea that needed to be pursued further. McClellan created the first version of FlickBack in 2014, but for the developer, there was something missing. A few years later another game creator would notice FlickBack and contact McClellan to see how he could help. This developer was Gary Pettie, and he and McClellan had actually met prior to this partnership.
A few years before to “the dream,” McClellan had been working on a project called Cargo Drop and came to a dead end with the programming. Needing help, he reached out through the Unity 3D Engine Forums. It was there that he found a talented freelance programmer from the UK named Gary Pettie. The project was never officially finished, and Pettie had to leave it because of personal reasons. However, both he and McClellan stayed in contact as friends and fellow developers.
Gray Pettie is the CEO and founder of Slightly Odd Games, a UK based development company that makes just that; slightly odd games. Pettie believes that he got a late start in the development business as he recently received his Computer Science degree last year and started his company in 2018. He grew up enthralled in video games, being an OG gamer who traces his gaming roots back to the early Atari systems. Pettie worked as a private tutor and played music with his band on the side while going to college part-time to fulfill his dream of being a game designer.
Despite being from two different countries and owning two separate development groups, McClellan and Pettie both had a desire to work on FlickBack together. As of now, only those two are working on the title, and McClellan says that Pettie is truly the brains behind the game. Pettie has done all of the programming, art, and UI for the title. Along with that, he also created the sound effects and oversaw the audio engineering. This game was McClellan’s dream, and Pettie made it happen.
A Long Road Ahead
FlickBack was initially slighted for a January 2019 release. However, it had to be pushed back to May or June because it “is not ready.” The duo has been working on the game for well over six months now and is currently wrapping up production. Needless to say, their journey is far from over. As incredible as this game may be, the fact remains that both developers have created this on their own with their own money and have very little publicity surrounding it. Small time developers like McClellan and Pettie may never have the option to massively fund their PR campaign.
After speaking with them about the trials of being an indie developer, both men agree that it is a combination between financing a project and publicizing it. Along with that, McClellan says that many developers scrap their projects because they lose their ambition and drive. These talented individuals receive very little recognition for the hours of the work that they spend on a project. That can be soul crushing.
FlickBack has pushed through these obstacles due to the devotion and resilience of its creators. The early gameplay of this title testifies to this. Pettie has allowed for early versions of the game to be tested by random people he meets on the streets, and it is has gotten nothing but praise. Most testers want to download the game immediately, so even in the alpha phase, the game has enough polish to be considered a working title.
Future Plans for the Developers
FlickBack has been the main focus of the duo’s efforts for the last six months. However, they both have other projects that are in the works as well. McClellan has spoken to game design students in various colleges and universities over the years. He discovered that many of the students do not have a good understanding of the business side of game development. That is why he recently created the Multimedia Developers Association; a group that helps developers share experiences and techniques in game design, market mitigation, and business practices. McClellan is also the published author of a book called Video Game Design: A Student’s Handbook.
Pettie is also working on some new projects. Slightly Odd Games is a relatively new development group. With this in mind,Pettie has been focusing on creating simple and fun titles that will help get the group noticed. One of his games, called Oh No, My Patio, is a simple but fun block-rotating puzzler. Think Pipes, but with a street and patio. He also creates software that helps develop math skills among gamers. Both men plan to continue working with each other on future projects for many years to come.
Never Forget the Little Guy
If this article accomplishes anything, I hope that it helps you to take a closer look at indie games. You will not find more unique, clever, and weird titles anywhere else out on the market. We here at DVS Gaming know many of these developers personally. Much like Ryan McClellan and Gary Pettie, they do not receive the media coverage that larger AAA groups do. That is why we are determined to bring these amazing titles into the spotlight, even if only for a moment.
If you would like to learn more about New Breed Game’s latest project, FlickBack, then click on the link here. Once again, this game is slighted for May/June release and will be available on both Android and iOS devices. If you love indie games, show your support by finding a Kickstarter to fund or a Steam title to purchase. There are some amazing games out there that will only be discovered with your help.