Announcing: Downpour

Today I announce a new project! This is the big thing I have been working on since leaving Niantic, and I am very excited about it.

It is a game making tool for phones, called Downpour. Here is what it currently looks like:


The utopian vision for the project is this: making a tool so that anyone, without prior knowledge, can make something interestingly interactive in a spare ten minutes. And without having to have access to a computer. What would you make if making a game was as easy as writing a letter?

It’s inspired by seeing how an accessible tool can open up a creative space that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Seeing the impact that tools like Bitsy, Twine or have had in creating spaces and genres that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Or even outside of games - for example, my own Cheap Bots, Done Quick!, or musical instruments like the TB-303. The transformative power of approachability.

More specifically, though, it was inspired by my experiences making a flatgame. Flatgames are a type of game where you put together handmade images in a (flat) space you can wander through and exist within, but without focusing on traditional gamey stuff like collision or 3-D-ness or winning. As someone who is so often On The Computer, I loved the process of drawing and collaging things together… but I hated the part of the process where you had to scan things in, photoshop them and fuck around with the settings in Unity (I spend enough time fucking with things in Unity). If only there was a way to automate those annoying processes. And if only people didn’t have to learn the basics of Unity and of coding to make them. So, I thought: what if you made this on your phone? A device with a camera built in, and that you already have in your pocket.

The game format has changed a little in the process. The games you can make are fundamentally hypertext - they are built around capturing images, and linking those images together. Select the door in the image, and link it to the monster that’s hiding behind the door. It turns out this is enough to make expressive, interesting things! I spent a week or so at the start of the year making games with this tool, and I’ve not yet scratched the surface of the possibilities. And I’m not done yet.

If you want to try it out and are within reach of London, the best way is to come to the Now Play This festival between the 8th-10th April. I’ve made a special build for them, and there will be stations set up with crafting equipment, props, a doll house, etc. Plus, the festival is a great time, with lots of other cool & thoughtful games and artworks.

Or, of course, you can wait for the full release, which will be coming out later this year (touch wood). If you want an email when it comes out, you can sign up here:

30 March 2022