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GDC 2010: Steph Thirion’s ‘Faraway’ Debuts

Steph Thirion is the brains behind Eliss, an independent game that we fell in love with at last year’s GDC. Eliss was an excellent example of the sort of innovative gaming that becomes possible with the incredibly low barrier of entry that the App Store provides.

While Eliss was not a runaway success for Thirion, it performed well enough that he has been able to devote his full time to making more games. His latest project is called Faraway and last night, we sat down with Thirion who gave us a demo and explained the inspiration behind the game.

Thirion reveals the seed idea for Faraway was simply to create a game that involved drawing constellations. From this premise, he began testing and exploring various mechanisms to accomplish this. In the end, he was inspired by Canabalt, a game that uses the iPhone’s screen as one single large button. Similarly in Faraway your only control is a single button.

Despite that fact, you actually have a lot of control in the game as demonstrated in the video (button presses are off-screen in this demo):

In Faraway, you control a comet by activating a gravitational pull by simply pressing a single button. Each time, it activates a gravitational pull to the nearest star. Using well timed presses, you can slingshot your comet into the right direction. The goal is to create as many complex constellations in the time allotted. Powerups include speed-ups as well as time-extenders. Creating large and looped constellations add to your high score (which will be recording on a global leaderboard). Once time runs out, you are treated with a panning view of the constellations you’ve created.

Thirion reports the game is very much still in progress and he’s planning on performing significant user testing and balancing before release. I really enjoyed my brief time with the game even at this early stage. The single-button slingshot mechanic works really well and trying to precisely create a constellation remained a just-out-of-reach skill, so I’m looking forward to the final release to get a chance to play some more.