Factsheet

Developer:
Gummi Entertainment
Based in Antwerp, Belgium

Release date:
May 20, 2015

Platforms:
Free Version for Android
Paid Version for Android

Website:
ballsmobilegame.com

Description

Again and again and again ... that is how a puzzle game should be played. You keep playing because you know that if you keep to it, the 'Eureka!'-moment will come sooner or later. It's games that understand this and figure out how to balance the difficulty and the 'one more time, I almost got it'-effect that get both the casual and the real puzzlers excited. Balls does this magnificently (Wait... What? Are they claiming their game is magnificent in the first paragraph?). It's a shame this Atari game never got the glory and glitter it deserves (Oh snap! A twist.).

Balls: the original Atari ST game

In a long forgotten world, a world where computer memory was expressed in kilobytes, where mega and giga were just words for 'very big' and where programs were loaded from giant save buttons, games were produced by the hundreds. Most of them were terrible and the only way you'd be able to sell them now is by slapping on a 'Vintage'-tag.
Out of this rubble a few wonderful games arose and gained an almost mythical status. But one couldn't make its way up, one beautiful game was left alone amongst its little brothers and sisters of questionable quality.

UNTIL NOW! It's time to awaken this sleeping beauty with True Love's Kiss.

Balls: the tribute Android game

With its slightly simplified game mechanics, updated graphics and more mobile-friendly level design our version of Balls is in a very obvious way a new game, the idea behind it however closely resembles the original. With only one way to interact with the levels, Balls (both the Atari- and Android-version) looks deceivingly simple. Most players however, experience a temporary brainfreeze around level 3 and from then on it melts and freezes over again until they've past the first 25 levels or so.

Game Play

Both the original and our tribute game play roughly the same way.
After a short amount of time one or more balls start rolling around on the map in a highly predictable way. It is the players task to guide the ball to a finishpoint within a certain timeframe while collecting diamonds (or golden orbs in the Atari-version), avoiding certain obstacles and using others. The balls only move horizontal or vertical and bounce back or in a 45 degree angle when they encounter a wall. The ball is guided around the map by strategically placing diagonal walls (up / or down \) that bounce the ball in (hopefully) the right direction.
It's harder to explain than to understand once you see it in action.

The moment you start playing, you'll immediately understand why we've made it our quest to bring Balls back in the spotlight. It's mechanic is one of a kind (well, until we copied it of course), it's fast-paced and yet very comprehensible. Because the movement is highly predictable (except for the obstacles that send the ball in a random direction, those are by definition not predictable) and the levels are relatively short, it has a high 'just-one-more-try'-quality. Every run-through you'll get a teeny-weeny further.

Game Design

Although the design in Balls for Atari holds up pretty good (considering), we chose to give it a complete makeover. In every step of the design process we had to consider two equally important issues:
  • This game is a tribute to an existing game, not a clone. Therefore the artwork should be original.
  • Playability should always come first, the design should support and clarify the game, not just make it fancy (i.e. Form follows Function).
These rules may sound trivial, but more than once we went back to the drawingboard because one or the other was violated.

Not only the artwork, but also the level design differs from the original. No doubt most smartphone screens will have a much higher resolution than the Atari screen the original Balls was designed for, but our fingers are still very clunky (high-res fingertips, that's the future, you can quote me on that!). This enforced a radical reduction in levelsizes, and in its turn that changed the type of puzzles. Where the original often combines a lot of puzzle elements in a big map, we had to stick to one 'code to crack' each level. In the end, this forced us to be smarter about our puzzles, which probably resulted in more interesting solutions.

Looking for Simon Carter

When reading up on Balls following sentence turned up 'Thanks, I depend on your honesty - you can depend on mine.', written by the Atari-developer Simon Carter. That sealed the deal and the decision was made to show some honesty and pay the creator back with a tribute to his ingenious game and hopefully show it to a new generation.

If you, the reader of this article, see a way to help us reach out to Simon Carter (or someone else in his team), please do. We would love to repay them for the joy we had while playing his game back in the day and more recently developing this app. We don't have the audience to launch a #LookingForSimonCarter Twitter campaign for instance, but if you do and you like this game, don't hold back...

We are well aware Simon Carters home/office address can be found in the same text we quoted above. But, since that text was written in 1992, it isn't very likely he can still be found there. If a digital-search-operation isn't successful however, we will try it the old fashioned way and write him a letter.

History

Balls, for us, is a childhood memory come to life. Developing this game had a strange side effect, it brought back memories and very specific flash backs, it's funny how that works sometimes. It's an interesting thing, that brain of ours.

Why

It wouldn't be fair to say our version of Balls was created as a purely altruistic noble act to shine a light on a forgotten game. When searching for our next project, this however fitted the bill perfectly. We strive to find a balance between a solid, financially feasible, project and something, for lack of a better word, meaningful.

Find out more about the original Balls.


Images

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About Gummi Entertainment

Boilerplate
Gummi Entertainment is a one-man-team (for now) with an ambition to carry out projects that are worth it. This may seem like an empty statement, but it translates to a very specific philosophy that can take on various forms depending on the project.

More information
More information on Gummi Entertainment, our logo & relevant media are available here.


Balls Credits

Guus Michielsen
Development & Design, Gummi Entertainment


presskit() by Rami Ismail (Vlambeer) - also thanks to these fine folks