Mark the date, February 9th 2014 is the day that indie developer Dong Nguyen removed Flappy Bird from the mobile gaming market and since then gaming audiences have been going berserk. This simple game so well captured the hearts and minds of the mobile gaming community that it simply could not go into that good off screen—and as a result, it has been reincarnated dozens of times since.
For anyone who missed the craze:
Flappy Bird was a smartphone-based mobile game that presented players a single bird, flying through a field of oddly placed pipes. The objective, to pass between the pipes by tapping the screen to make the bird “flap” upwards (and not tapping causing it to fall with gravity.) The difficulty came from navigating the bird via flapping as the pipes scrolled horizontally past.
At the speed Flappy Bird and its clones run, 4-5 pipes can be the casual players best effort…but the truly obsessive could keep going for quite some time, flapping away to their hearts content.
The massively multiplayer angle
Flappy Bird spawned FlapMMO. A tiny, simple, “massively” multiplayer Flash game available on a web page that gives players a chance to flap—we mean, compete—against one another to attempt to fly through pipes using the usual Flappy Bird mechanics.
It’s free-to-play, add-supported, contains no combat and gives players the chance to compete against friends by making “parties.” As a simple game with very little development put into it, it’s a fairly interesting proof-of-concept that could be expanded into something even more fun.
Unfortunately, FlapMMO hasn’t been working properly for a little while and there’s no news from the developer on a fix.
The rest of the industry
After the removal of Flappy Bird from app stores, sites such as Elance were flooded with requests to developers to produce similar games. As a result, Android and iOS app stores have seen an avalanche of games mimicking the mechanics of the now-missing game.
Clones of the game have emerged so swiftly its hard to name them all: Fly Birdie, Flappy Bee, Flappy Plane and Ironpants have all been made to sell to the obsessive, needy smartphone public.
To keep up the momentum, and respond to the amount of hate directed towards the developer of Flappy Bird—which in turn led to the removal of the title from app stores in the first place—a programming jam was put together with the following prompt:
“Make a hard, almost unplayable game. Use assets inspired (not ripped) from classics. Flappy word or gameplay not mandatory. Have fun, be supportive. Hate must not win.”
Flappy Jam then produced more than 799 games inspired by Flappy Bird. So many poured into the system that a rating system needed to be produced to help sort through the titles streaming in from the Internet.
After playing a few—here’s a couple worth checking out.
Funky Bat takes the Flappy Bird mechanic and applies it to a bat—except making the “pipes,” really stalactites and stalagmites invisible except when the bat is using sonar to make them visible. It proved to be quite difficult to navigate.
Flappy Nyan Cat runs in the Unity web browser plugin and allows you to “flap” a Nyan cat through swiftly advancing pipes, whilst streaming a rainbow out your very cute butt.
Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh whipped tried his hand at creating a Flappy-clone with Maverick Bird. In this game he followed a very similar trajectory to Super Hexagon by including amazing music.
What happened with Flappy Bird certainly gave the mobile gaming industry a run for its money with all the unexpected attention. In short, a game that was somewhat difficult, provided an extremely simple mechanic and a catchy character, gave obsessive social gamers a chance to excel at having some sort of fun. As a game it came entirely out of nowhere; and sadly, it also went into nowhere.
Now all we have left is the march of the clones and they don’t seem to be ending.