Meeting the Face Behind Angry Birds

angrybirds_imageHeard of Angry Birds before? It's this moderately successful mobile game with oh, more than 300 million downloads! Here's a chance to find out a little more about one of the developers, Jaakko Iisalo.





Having most likely sunk an average of 20 hours a week at its initial launch completing the Angry Birds saga (triple stars only, kthx!), it was interesting to hear how the Finnish studio, Rovio, who are the makers behind Angry Birds, first came up with the concept.


Angry Birds has become the biggest videogame export for Finland's since Max Payne (did anyone actually know that was from Finland?), there is some secret Rovio appear to have unlocked that keeps us coming back for more.


With Angry Birds now having a Rio expansion and Seasonal releases, it's time to check out how this all got started.




How did you come up with the game concept at the heart of Angry Birds?

JI: We had a really small team and simply set out to make the best game we could. We had the opportunity to make one more game, as Rovio didn’t have any more money left. I pitched lots of ideas when we thought about what kind of game we wanted to make. I had dozens and dozens of game ideas with various characters. The birds were originally part of a different concept. I had created a piece of concept art featuring the birds – which everybody loved at the studio – so we settled on using them.

The way that I design games is by drawing pictures. I have to see how the game looks in order to understand it. I try to visualise the gameplay for myself, and drawing it helps. It gives me a feel for what the game’s about. We spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of game we could make that could be a hit. We looked at a lot of games on the web, such as Flash-based games, and we studied what kind of games people liked to play. We wanted to minimise the risks, so to speak, and go with what seemed to work for people. Two-dimensional physics-based games were really popular at the time, especially the kind of games where you launched something in the air. So we decided on that genre and then put the birds that everyone liked into the game. We got the publishing deal for Angry Birds based on that single piece of concept art.


Rovio had shipped 51 games prior to Angry Birds, and you had worked on some of those, as well as on several mobile games at other companies. What did you learn from those games that you were able to utilise in Angry Birds?

JI: Well, by making games, you learn the realities of game development and you gain the knowhow of what works and what doesn’t. I was a graphic artist on most of those games, while others did the gameplay design.

I consider myself a hardcore gamer, and in the casual space you have to learn certain realities. You have to make things incredibly simple – you have to present mechanics that are immediately obvious. Even simple gameplay mechanics can be very confusing for casual players.

Very few players even look at the tutorials we have in the game. They just tap the screen to get to the action. It’s challenging to even explain the basics, such as how the little blue bird splits into three when you tap the screen. People don’t even get that – I so often see players just launching the blue bird and never tapping again to split it up! [Laughs.] When you see the game, you immediately have to understand how it works


Full interview available at [Edge]