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Even Canabalt's creator can't explain its success
Even  Canabalt 's creator can't explain its success
November 5, 2012 | By Staff

November 5, 2012 | By Staff
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Design

Adam Saltsman, developer of Canabalt talks to Gamasutra about why the game has been a hit with fans -- though he's "hesitant to give any specific reason," maybe the key lies in one of his workaday fantasies.

"I used to have this fantasy when I worked in an office building with this long, long hallway with this glass window at the end that looked out over a river and a cliff," says Saltsman.

"You'd be in this office and a two story party boat would just creep down the river, filled with people partying. What a beautiful thing to feel -- if you were invincible, how beautiful would it be to take off down the hallway at top speed and physically and metaphorically explode out?"

That, as much as anything, could explain the appeal of Canabalt -- a game which has become not just successful but highly influential in the mobile space, with its one-button approach toward platforming easily executable on smartphones.

"My general sense is that there's a clutch of different things that it does that are good" about Canabalt, says Saltsman. "It's pretty awesome right away. One of the things that doesn't hurt it is that the game turns on, the music gets super creepy, things start shaking, you jump out of a window, barely land on your feet and take off running."

For more on Canabalt -- and the claustrophobic Capsule, which forces players who run out of fuel to wait for death -- check out Gamasutra's talks to Gamasutrafull feature interview with Saltsman, live now.

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Chris Moeller
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I'd like to understand it's popularity too. As a game goes, it was a fairly decent 2 minute runner. Nice quality, great details- but really not a game I could spend more than a few minutes on.

Chris Hendricks
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In animation school, I had a film teacher who said that he couldn't watch movies properly any more because he knows too much about how movies were made. He could appreciate complicated camera shots or great staging, but simply couldn't appreciate the movie as a whole experience.

Canabalt is not a short demo for a game that doesn't exist. Canabalt is a pure game in its simplest form. 20 years ago, this game would have been quite comfortable sitting next to Tetris, and no one would have questioned its credentials as a game.

Chris Hendricks
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"I don't understand the praise."

"It's the kind of game most people will play for a few minutes and then forget about promptly."

If most people really forget about it after a few minutes, there would be no praise. However, I have friends who had about a month of topping each other's high score, and someone I work with was playing it (for fun!) on their off-hours at work last week. It's anecdotal evidence, but I doubt I'm surrounded by the only pocket of people in the world that happen to enjoy it as a game.

Wylie Garvin
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Great game, very addictive. It's hard to play it just once, and hard to stop playing it once you start!

I think its quite well designed. Only one button for input, and it teaches you how to play it in the first few seconds (you hit a couple of obstacles and then fall to your death... unless you press the button to dodge at least one of those obstacles). The artwork is great, and some of the stuff in the background has a sort of dystopian, War of the Worlds vibe.

Luis Guimaraes
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Justin Sawchuk
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I remember back in school the first person to do there presentation would automatically get 70% no matter how good or bad it was, everyone would be graded against that. The fact canabalt was first on the scene AFIK had to help

Chris Hendricks
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It has a lot of great things going for it:

- simple goal
- one button (simplest control scheme possible)
- addictive soundtrack and sound effects to help the mood
- sense of urgency
- when you fail, you always know exactly why you failed, and know what you should have done instead, driving you to replay and "fix" your mistake

Arthur Souza
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You know you guys, you can keep talking about how you don't feel it's unique or interesting, yet players keep playing the game, and that's what matters in the end.