This article is part of Pixeljam’s 10 Year Anniversary MEGAMONTH, and we’re doing a semi-chronological retrospective on every one of our games each day of the week. You can read them all HERE.
Rich and I could probably write about Dino Run for days. There really is so much to say about how it started, how we managed to complete it, and how it still remains somewhat relevant today… but in the interest of brevity I’ll try to focus on what I think are the most important details.
Dino Run’s inception took place during a road trip Rich was taking to burning man in 2007. Just another simple sketch in a notebook…
Most new ideas are exciting for a moment and then blow away like dust in the wind, but these particular sketches stayed with us long after their creation. The little raptor’s determination to outrun the impossible appealed to us on multiple levels… we KNEW it was special, and we knew we had to at least make an attempt to prototype it.
We got pretty far in a short amount of time. Nailing the physics was the hardest part… I had to roll them myself, which in retrospect was a good idea. A lot of weird things happen in the game that a more modern and robust engine simply can’t handle without a good (and dangerous) hacking.
(Just LOOK at those physics!)
After a couple months of intense work, we thought we were almost done. We sent it out for beta testing to a new and eager fanbase, and from their feedback we realized that we were in fact NOT done… maybe around the halfway mark. Thanks testers!
The last few months of development were pretty hellish for me. I think I had something that might resemble a nervous breakdown, though it was probably more like severe physical burnout from working 14 hour days for weeks on end. I was banging my head against the multiplayer code for quite a while, and was convinced what I was trying to do wasn’t actually possible.
I don’t recall how, but I managed to pull it all together. Let me clarify… I managed to hack and band-aid the code so that it just *barely* worked. And the myriad of little glitches that resulted from my hacky code are one of the main reasons people still enjoy and talk about the game. Serendipity, I suppose.
(Realtime multiplayer racing over organic terrain… don’t try this at home.)
When the game was released, things really started to take off for us. We managed to secure enough licenses and donations to actually PAY ourselves for the first time ever. We might have even become millionaires, had we not made one major oversight in the “monetization strategy”… my girlfriend (who is now my wife), a writer with zero interest in gaming, suggested that we charge money for each hat. Here is what the conversation went like (not really, but you get the idea).
HER : “You should charge a little money for each hat, kind of like an in-game store”
ME : “Are you serious? Who would pay money inside the game for a virtual hat”?
YUP. My wife invented the in-app-purchase, and yet she remains uncredited to this very day.
Actually, it was her idea to put hats on the dinos in the first place. Rich and I didn’t think it would look right, putting modern looking hats on what was at the time a very pure prehistoric simulation. But, you can’t stop fate, and after Rich tried it out we were sold. The game would have LOTS of hats. But we definitely would NOT be selling them outright. Instead we decided on something much more altruistic: donate what you want and we’ll give you a code to unlock the hats. Of course, the code was *exactly the same* for everyone, so you can imagine what happened there.
In the years to come, we would see runner games take off in ways we never imagined. We certainly won’t claim to have invented the genre (it had been done before we did it), but we’d like to think that Dino Run does have its little place in gaming history.
FOLLOW THE BRAND-NEW DINO RUN TWITTER ACCOUNT (@DOOMSURF)
PLAY DINO RUN (FREE VERSION) HERE
PURCHASE DINO RUN SE (EXPANDED MAC/PC VERSION) HERE
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by Miles Tilmann
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