16 December 2007

The Story Behind Platypus

I liked the game Platypus so much I started to Google for more info about it. I learned that there was a sequel called, uh, Platypus II, for Windows only for now. Then there was also a Platypus for Sony's PlayStation Personal. Eventually, I came across the web site for Squashy Software, Anthony Flack's company. It was there that I learned about the story behind the game.

There are two stories of note on the Squashy Software web site. The first, also discussed elsewhere on the web, was that Anthony was an up-and-coming game developer. Along came software publisher iDigicon offering Anthony a lump sum for the game Platypus. Like many people starting out, Anthony didn't have much money at the time and took the offer, signing away all intellectual property rights that would be associated to the game. As yet another item in the traditional brick-and-mortar stores, the game didn't fare well at first. Then Mike Boeh obtained the rights to distribute the software from iDigicon, made some improvements to it, and re-released it online as shareware/demoware. The game was a big hit, but unfortunately, all Anthony Flack got out of it was the original sum iDigicon offered him (plus the completion bonus). Well, for a short while, through arrangement with Mike Boeh, Anthony was able to offer the game from the Squashy Software web site, but then iDigicon canceled the deal with Boeh and the action nixed the Squashy link as well. That was Feb 2006, something might be different by now because Boeh's web site, www.retro64.com, does offer Platypus for download, but Squashy Software doesn't.

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame once wrote that to be successful in business you would need to be a business person. He attributed his success in the cartoon syndication not so much because of his drawing skill, but rather from some other business angle. The world can be a complicated place sometimes. I identify with Anthony because I am not business-savvy. I like drawing cartoons and hope someday to make a living out of it. I dread ending up like young Anthony Flack of yesteryear, taken advantage by some lop-sided business deal that, at the time, was better than nothing.

The other point I find interesting is how having a backup offsite makes all the difference. While young Anthony was working on putting out Platypus, a fire in his building consumed everything he possessed except the clothes on his back. Luckily, he had a backup of the game stored outside the apartment. Wow. It is not only important to have backups, but the backup must be offsite, physically away from the original. Anthony had a hard time finding plasticine to continue making clay models, but at least he had the backup to continue the work.

Anthony Flack has been working on the next game, Cletus Clay, for a while. There is much anticipation in the indie game developer community, but Anthony doesn't have enough time to devote to it. Let's wait and see.

BTW, I learned today at http://www.blitzbasic.com/Community/posts.php?topic=34737 that Michael Reitzenstein did the conversion for the Mac platform for Platypus.

Besides the story posted on www.squashysoftware.com, you can also get info about Anthony Flack from an interview he granted to Indie Game Developer's Podcast:


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