Flash Meets Mobile with Nitrome Touchy

Nitrome Touchy Launches on iOS & Android

Nitrome, a game development studio and games portal, has just launched their first mobile app…but it’s not really a game. Actually, it’s a controller to play games. Have questions? So did I, so I asked the Nitrome guys what this app is all about and how it fits in with their future plans.

Video Overview of the Nitrome Touchy

Q & A with Nitrome

So, just what is the Nitrome Touchy app? What does it do?

Nitrome Touchy is an app for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Android smart phones. The app enables users to control our browser games using these devices. This means we can utilise the technology in the device as an extension to our games, giving us access to motion control, touch screens and local multiplayer opportunities that were not possible before now.

Touchy connects the device to the gamer’s computer through their WiFi. Once the connection is established, the loaded game on the browser can load the control mechanics and artwork into the device.

When we first got hold of the beta technology from Brass Monkey, the first thing we wanted to try was Super Snotput.  By using the device’s gyroscope, we could interact with the game much like the Wii Motion Plus. This is currenty an office favourite and has become the free to play game with the Nitrome Touchy app on www.nitrome.com.

Using the Nitrome Touchy app as a controller also means we can now expand our games into full screen mode and it looks amazing! Play Flash Cat full screen using your device as a steering wheel and it suddenly feels more like a console experience.


Is this app the first of it’s kind, using an app to control Flash games?

There are other apps out there that act as a virtual controller for browser based games but none of them as far as we are aware allow for such a varied and fantastic range of functionality.

Touchy allows us to literally re-map the controls and lay out a design that is tailored specifically for each game. Most other virtual pads on the market, in our experience, are just standardised familiar d-pad and buttons on a screen, where you can tag control commands to each button. With touchy we have ultimate control of the onscreen visuals, with all of the modern smartphone’s cool features like gyroscope, accelerometer and even multi-touch to play with, so the list of possibilities to enhance browser based gaming is endless.

The game is fully replicated on the app including the menus, so you can navigate through using your device. Therefore dramatically improving the whole experience not having to reach for your computer’s mouse.

In the past people have tried using external controllers for Flash games linking through the internet. But this method suffers from lag, therefore you never really feel like you are in control. You need instant feedback in a game controller otherwise you can’t help think “nice idea but…” . Because Touchy works locally through your WiFi it doesn’t suffer from this and the control response is instant!


How did this idea come about?

It came from our relationship with Brass Monkey. We all love gaming, they new about us because of our games and we were aware of their technical developments. We were sent a beta SDK and we set to work on developing it into our games for testing.

We tried it out on a couple of games and instantly knew that this technology was different. Suddenly we found the whole office crowding around a computer wanting to play Swindler using an iPhone! There was a buzz in the office, not only for the new gaming experiences we could deliver, but more importantly how easy it was to use the app itself.

We are not aware of any other virtual pad that can work without pre mapping controls or downloading an EXE onto your computer before you begin. In an ever expanding market of casual gamers we felt that it was vital for the process to be as straight forward as possible and we feel that this is one of Touchy’s biggest selling points. Download the Touchy App, turn on your PC / Mac, go to our website and play…it couldn’t be simpler.


What is the revenue model for the app, since Flash games are free to play?

The Nitrome Touchy app is free to download from the iTunes App Store as well as the Google Play Store. You can play Super Snotput as much as you like without any cost. We wanted to do this to show people that the technology really works! Then if you want to access all the other games that can be controlled through Nitrome Touchy there is a one off in app purchase. This unlocks all the existing ten launch games and all the future releases that we will be rolling out for no extra cost.


Why did you decide on an initial 10 games?

Nitrome Touchy is a truly impressive piece of tech and we feel we are only scratching the surface of ideas in the first 10 releases on launch.

In terms of what we can do with Touchy, our conversations in the office can spiral out of control! There is so much more that we want to explore… imagine a Metroidvania game with a touch based inventory and map onscreen as a helpful guide, touching the rooms on screen to bring up a larger shot of what is lurking in each room. No more backtracking as players could warp to save points around the map at the tap of a finger… it’s certainly food for thought.

So twenty further games seemed a good number to commit to. There will be brand new Nitrome titles released that are built to work with both Touchy and non Touchy gamers. Whilst there will be re-imaginings of existing games that have been developed to capitalise on the advancements that Touchy brings. We felt that a 30 game package for Nitrome Touchy is a good bench mark for us to work towards. After that, who knows?! I guess it all depends on the demands of the gamers!


Since this is your first release for the mobile platform, what made you choose this path vs. releasing more traditional apps?

We have often been asked the question of why we haven’t taken some of our popular franchises to iOS but it was not really a conscious decision to lead with Touchy as our first app. We do have other more “traditional” games for iOS which are near completion.

Check out our first amazing iOS app Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage …Nudge nudge wink wink… shameless plug! ;-)

We felt that it was important not to ignore our roots in the Flash gaming community and not to simply cast aside what has seen us well for all these years. After all it is down to our loyal fan-base that have made us into what you see today. There is still a huge amount of room to expand upon ideas on our existing website and make it into something even more special, Touchy is hopefully the first of many ideas that will make the gaming experience on our site stand heads and shoulders above the rest.


Why did you choose to first launch on iOS vs. Android? Any plans to launch this on other stores?

It was a rather simple decision really, to develop the app for the iOS market is a far easier task than on Android. We are a small team whose primary recognition in the Flash gaming market is to make high quality ‘pixel’ based games. The varying shapes and specs of Android handsets is staggering and pixel artwork doesn’t resize easily. The differing aspect ratios of artwork mixed with the laborious task of testing on all of the handsets made it an easy choice to go with iOS first…but it is now available on both stores. :)


Do you think mobile as a platform is a natural fit for Flash game developers? Why or why not?

Yes in many ways we think the mobile platform does fit the Flash developer, it offers up new challenges in terms of user interface, screen real estate, control and different operating systems. (iOS / Android / Windows) But it still maintains the relatively low development costs that the Flash game community was built upon.

As many Flash game development teams can range from one person upwards, the mobile platform offers a similar ‘fit’ to the developer’s needs. However nowadays there are lots of options for the indie developer. Take Steam for instance, its community has nurtured some of the most successful games which have come from small teams with small budgets. For example Terraria was developed by a small group of friends in their spare time and has been a huge success.

If you want to make games, there’s no better time than now to do it!


What are the major challenges for Flash game developers that want to make a mobile game?

It was fairly easy for Flash developers and designers to create games and put them out on the web for people to play. The mobile games market is very similar in that aspect. However as time has gone on, it has become a highly competitive market. This offers up new challenges to the developer. How do you get your game noticed? Flash game development can really help in this aspect. If you take Terry Cavanagh for example, he produced the well received Flash game Hexagon. Then through the Flash community and the following that the game had gained, was able to create and develop an iOS version that attracted a lot of attention and gave the game the visibility to succeed in the iOS market place.

If you take our situation, over the past 8 years of developing Flash games we have developed a Nitrome brand that is fairly well known amongst the Flash community. This public image gives us a small head start in promoting our mobile apps in these new markets. We are still in our infancy when it comes to being a mobile games developer but hopefully over time we will be able to parallel our success in Flash with the iOS and Android games market.


Are Flash games going to continue to be a big part of Nitrome’s future?

Yes they are, however with the advent of Smartphone based gaming, that there has been a small decline in the number of users who approach browser games like they used to 5 years ago.

There are a lot of studios jumping ship to develop for more lucrative markets, but we recognise that the two markets can co-exist for Nitrome and see no reason why the two fields cannot combine and produce better gaming experiences. The internet is here to stay and Touchy in a sense combines both the simplicity of smartphone gaming and online, using a device which is becoming something that most people carry around in their pocket.


What is next for Nitrome?

We can see a lot of exciting things in the future for Nitrome. We have so many interesting ideas and projects on the go that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up!

We will of-course continue to build new games, features and content for our website. We are working on integrating more Touchy games and expanding the Touchy experience. We are also hopeful to have our first downloadable release, as we continue to urge people to experience and vote for our outstanding project ‘Flightless’ on Steam Greenlight.

We are just finding our feet on the App store and hope to see a huge success with our Icebreaker series! Oh and we also have another yet to be announced game being developed for iOS as well …shhh it’s a secret!


Thanks guys, and good luck with the Nitrome Touchy!