Clone Strike: Flappy Bird Knockoff Kills It In Kuwait [Interview]


Why yes, those *are* Gunnar gaming glasses; why do you ask?
Why yes, those *are* Gunnar gaming glasses; why do you ask?

Eli Hodapp is the Editor in Chief of popular iOS gaming site, TouchArcade. He’s just released his vanity project, Hodappy Bird, a humorous take on the Flappy Bird phenomenon. The game plays just like its inspiration, with a bird that looks a lot like Hodapp and a Chicago skyline background (Eli lives in the city). Hodapp gave developer Paul Pridham $50 as a joke to build the game, and Pridham made it in the course of a weekend.

It’s all in good fun, of course, but also perhaps a commentary on the recent explosion of Flappy Bird into the market. We wanted to know more, so we contacted him.

Eli took a few moments to chat with Cult of Mac via email today about his project.

Cult of Mac: Why did you want to make Hodappy Bird? Besides the awesome naming coincidence, do you have anything you’re saying with a Flappy clone?

Hodapp: I’d love to say there was some grand statement behind the creation of another Flappy Bird clone, but the fact of the matter is I have a silly sense of humor and very dumb things make me laugh. It’s been an evolving joke for some time now that Hodappy Bird should exist- Originally starting with Hodappy Bird as a playable character in Mikey Flapps, a Flappy-like I’d been trying to goad Mikey Shorts developer Mike Meade in to making since the clones started hitting. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen (because he was busy working on actual games like the Mikey Hooks sequel, Mikey Boots), I took matters in to my own hands and started pestering other developers.

Cult of Mac: What was the dev/design process like? You worked with Paul Pridham on this, right?

Hodapp: Paul Pridham is awesome to work with, and I totally understand why so many other developers have partnered up with him on projects like Punch Quest, Sword of Fargoal, and more. The dude is a machine, and totally isn’t willing to settle for something not being as good as it can be. The original scope of Hodappy Bird was little more than “Just reskin Flapthulhu, don’t spend too much time on it.” This evolved in to adding Bitcoins, randomized appearance of the Hodappy Bird character, multiple game modes, parallax Chicago skylines, an Android port, and more. We did everything over Skype, collaborating by sending different tweaked sprites and other files back and forth.

Paul’s attention to detail doesn’t just stop at how the game plays, but also the inner workings of the game that no one but him ever really sees or cares about. It’s written in low-level C, which not only allowed for a file size of less than 1 megabyte (The iTunes DRM wrapper actually doubled the size of the game!) but it also will run on devices as old as the original iPad running iOS 4.2. Who worries about things like that? Paul Pridham, which is exactly why you want him making your game.

Cult of Mac: Is this your first development experience? Would you do it again?

Hodapp: Actually, in a previous life before the App Store became a thing I developed and managed other developers building medical software. iOS games are way more fun, and I’d love to do more of them. It’s especially nice not to deal with governmental security audits or the myriad of compliance laws when making a Flappy game, comparatively.

Cult of Mac: How is the game doing? Getting any traction?

Hodapp: The metric I’m judging the success of Hodappy Bird on is whether or not its existence is amusing to me, and to that benchmark the launch has been amazingly successful. What’s fun about the App Store is that it’s a global market broken up in to all of these different tiny regions, each with their individual charts. Currently, Hodappy Bird is charting well in Kuwait and Pakistan. I’ve got no idea yet if that means it was downloaded twice in both of those markets to cause that spike, but being able to say my game is sort of a big deal in Pakistan is amazing regardless.

Cult of Mac: Any new insights into the mobile games industry you write about as a result of this process?

Hodapp: The real insight has been seeing with my own eyes what made Flappy Bird so magical. I’ve had the game on my phone since it was completed a few weeks ago, and since it was rejected the first time around by Apple (Which is why it now has the on-load warning about Bitcoins!), I had plenty of time to show it to people. I didn’t come across a single person who didn’t instantly know how to play it, including total non-gamers who don’t even bother with the ultra-casual titles it seems everyone with an iPhone plays. They crash in to the first pipe a few times, then won’t give your phone back until they manage to fly through it. Too many gamers and members of the media quickly dismissed Flappy Bird, but when you can hand someone who doesn’t play or even really like video games a game like this, and they not only know how to play it without you telling them but then won’t give it back because they’re enjoying it? That’s huge.

Cult of Mac: What can other game reviewers in the mobile space take away from your insights? What can game consumers take away from all this?

Hodapp: Just like the existence of Hodappy Bird isn’t making some profound statement, I’m not sure there’s any major lessons to be learned from this other than to just have fun… Which, in a way was what early iOS development started as and what was originally so appealing to me about the scene as a whole back in 2008. No one is planning to get rich and drive off in to the sunset in their new Tesla because of Hodappy Bird. If it blows up like Flappy Bird did, that’s awesome, but I’m happy just being able to tell my grandma I’m popular in Kuwait.

Thanks to Eli Hodapp for his time this morning. Be sure to check out Hodappy Bird on your own iPhone or iPad today — it’s free!


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