Ellipsis Interview: Yacine Salmi Innovates Touch Controls Ellipsis was built from the ground-up with mobile sensibilities in mind: the touch controls are intuitive and a welcome relief from the standard swipe, tilt and unresponsive buttons mobile games can be known for; the levels can be played in quick bursts for progression or long sessions to grind out the arcade-style high score chase; and the action pauses instantly when you aren’t engaging with the game for an easy drop-in and play experience. Salmi Games, whose headquarters are in Munich, Germany, demoed Ellipsis during MomoCon 2016 to press and attendees. I had a chance to play on the show floor and was instantly impressed with how responsive the game was to touch controls, with no training I instantly knew how to navigate my spaceship through obstacles, avoiding enemies and unlocking the gate to the next world. I wasn’t the only one – Ellipsis was a crowd favorite and ended up winning the Indie Game Showcase Award at MomoCon. After playing a retail key for a couple weeks, I had a chance to meet with Salmi Games founder and designer, Yacine Salmi, to discuss their first release, the reception of Indie across the globe and what he thinks of the viability of VR Games. Salmi explains Ellipsis as a minimalist touch experience with single-screen levels. “At its core you are collecting points and avoiding enemies. We take this basic concept and explore it as much as possible. Over 130 unique levels.” The games is continuously more challenging as you progress. “We spent a lot of time to make the progression feel right. In places where the game gets really hard we offer multiple paths so that you don’t get stuck.” Each of the levels were coded one a time through a development tool to generate the game. There was no procedural engine to spit out random levels for the designers to attach to the game. Salmi says they built over 200 levels and stripped out the ones that were dull or repetitive based upon other experiences. “The game originated from a Game Jam and explored how much you can do direct-touch controls on tablets. Why do so many games use swipes or taps? Could you make a game that was fun where you control the action? We designed the game to take that restraint under consideration.” One aspect of the game development that was important to Salmi was to ensure the first iteration of the game available on iOS and Android was a onetime purchase experience. “A lot of people told us to do ads or in-app purchases. The thing is the game has no text and I’m attached to the idea – I like the old-school idea of, you pay once and you get the full game. I couldn’t find a great way to integrate ads. I thought it would break the experience.” As a foreign Indie developer I thought Salmi would have a different perspective on the global acceptance of Indie developers across regions. “I found there is more of a distinction between PC and mobile than Indie and AAA. In mobile everyone is Indie, so no one is Indie.” Publications which only focused on Indie titles weren’t interested in covering Ellipsis because of its attachment to mobile devices. One way to showcase the title instead was for Salmi Games to demo the game at conventions such as MomoCon. “Conventions are a great way to playtest and improve the game. Once you know how to play Ellipsis it is very easy, but that first learning experience it is hard to test on the same players again and again. We need fresh bodies. Conventions are an incredible value.” Ellipsis is available for iOS and Android devices today. To learn more about Salmi Games plans for additional level packs, their development philosophy or next title be sure to check out their site. If you want to learn more about up and coming indie developers and the gaming industry, be sure to attend MomoCon next year. Level Up, Friends!