One Life Remains is a name that people within the French gaming community would not associate with commercial games. The independent game development collective has created games that have appeared in theaters and galleries. They've built strange arcade-like contraptions to play their experimental games. They've explored the concept of play as performance. They've never followed traditional game development conventions. They've never been one to follow the rules.
Last week, the collective released their latest experiment – an experiment in creating a commercial game.
Almost all of One Life Remain's games are experimental passion projects that are released for free on their website. Recently the group was approached by The Game Atelier to bring one of their games – Super Tiny Leap – to the iOS market – an offer that they saw as another opportunity to experiment.
"Experimental is not the opposite of commercial," One Life Remains tells Polygon. "It is possible to sell games that are extremely experimental, but it might be more difficult."
The collective says that when developers create games that are radically experimental, players tend to give them a bit of leeway when it comes to things like polish. But when a game is created with the purpose of being fun, then players can be less forgiving and anything that stands between the player and fun has to be removed.
"There are some counter-examples, though," the collective says. "The great Enviro-Bear 2000 by Justin Smith demonstrates that a lack of ergonomy can be a fun factor.
"Super Tiny Leap doesn't belong in that category. It is an arcade game based on precision and reactivity. Plus we wanted to have as few tutorials as possible. It sounds simple but it took us an amazing amount of time!"
The concept for Super Tiny Leap came from the idea of players controlling an environment rather than an avatar. One Life Remains says that in a game like Canabalt, players have the ability to decide what the avatar does, but what if that power was taken away from the player? How could the player then manipulate the environment to change the trajectory of the avatar à la Lemmings?
One Life Remains describes Super Tiny Leap as a variation on Lemmings with adrenaline.
"It's like when you put ambush the path of ants," the collective says. "To watch them change their path is something really fun, precisely because you have the feeling of controlling something that keeps its autonomy."
It describes Super Tiny Leap as a variation on Lemmings with adrenaline. The avatar will bounce from surface to surface to leap as high as it can go, but it is up to the player to place those surfaces. Movement is swift and fast. Misplace a block and death will be swifter and faster.
With its first commercial game out the door, One Life Remains is now prepping its next game – a very experimental one – for an exhibition at the Science Gallery of Dublin.
How big a departure will it be from the commercial and highly accessible Super Tiny Leap?
"[It's] a game designed to be played for 250 years."
Super Tiny Leap is now available on the iTunes App Store.