Game designer Shay Pierce made rather a splash in the game development community yesterday when Gamasutra published a blog post in which he described the reasons for his resignation from his job at Draw Something! developer Omgpop following the studio’s buyout by mega-corp Zynga last week.
The Farmville publisher paid $210 million for Omgpop, taking all of the studio’s staff in the buyout bar one.
In the post Pierce describes his reasons for declining the offer, most of which centre around a clause in the contract that suggested he may not be allowed to continue to sell Connectrode – an iOS game he created in his spare time – if he were to become a Zynga employee due to a ‘conflict of interest’.
“I love Connectrode,” he writes. “It’s a very personal creation. My wife (who’s played hundreds of hours of Dr. Mario with me) encouraged me to make it; when you first launch the game, you see a dedication to her. And designing a compelling abstract puzzle game is more difficult than you might think — I’m proud of it. It’s not much, but it’s mine.”
“I was unable to get any assurance whatsoever that, by signing this job offer, I wasn’t losing ownership or control of my creation.”
Pierce’s decision to bow out of the acquisition in order to protect his game has sparked lively debate in the post’s comments section, which you can read here.
Pierce refers to his game as being like a child to him (“Ask yourself: if you were asked to sign a document that might mean that you lost custody of your child, with no assurances otherwise — would you do so? I don’t have a child, I have Connectrode.”) and for some game-makers, his decision is a brave and true one.
Others think the guy is silly.
Rather than pontificate on the rightness or wrongness of the decision, we figured we’d take a look at Connectrode, which launched last year, to see what the game that turned down Zynga is like.
What we found is a pretty, colourful and largely enjoyable puzzle game that looks like it could have been released in arcades by Taito in the early 90s.
In the game you’re presented with a Tetris gulley filled with cutesy coloured computer chips. You must place coloured connectors insequence to link two chips of the same colour, causing them to disappear. Difficulty is introduced by the fact that you can’t move connector pieces through other pieces, so, as you create long chains, you may block yourself from completing other chains.
The aim of the game is, as ever, to clear the board of pieces while scoring as many points as you can but creating streaks, whereby you clear chips each go in a succession of turns.
Despite the arcade stylings Connectrode is a ponderous game, and rounds can take a while to complete. At the easiest difficulty the game can feel a little too much like tidying up your bedroom, but with none of the peril that makes Tetris a perennial classic.
But bump the difficulty up to Hard or Extreme and the puzzle mechanic gains a sharper, more focused edge, every move you make opening up new play options while closing down others, creating a satisfying rhythm.
It’s a slow-burner but well worth the 69p asking, and the presentation is slick and assured. Of course, Pierce had other reasons for turning down the Zynga job offer (not least due to a difference in “professional and creative values”) but the man should be applauded for making a tough decision in order to protect something he believes in and loves.
If you want to support Pierce then pop along here and pick up his game. Let us know what you think both of the game and of his decision in the comments.