Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Story of Playdate

Christa Mrgan:

The original Asheville concept was for a device that pretty faithfully recreated Game & Watch-style games, which are composed of LCD segments, which Neven explains are, “…kind of like an old-school clock, where it just has shapes that it can turn on or off. It doesn’t really have pixels all over the screen. That’s not how our screen works, but we thought, well, maybe it’ll look and work like that. And we played with that idea for awhile.”


“Everything we do is to create kind of like an alternative to, to the, what did I say? Touch-screen psychosis. To us, it’s very unsatisfying to use a touch device. I get it, and I think it’s a great interface for creating a lot of different applications without, you know, having hundreds of buttons and knobs and stuff. So it’s very effective for like a smartphone, but for a gaming device… A gaming device to me is almost the same as a musical instrument. It’s about zero latency, muscle memory, and you need to feel that you are in instant control of everything that happens.[…]”


“The components are packed in quite tightly. And so even for the screw, we needed the head of the screw to be a thinner dimension than what we could find off the shelf, we needed it not to be quite as long because then it would go and hit the LCD, right? So every single component is being made on a custom basis,” says Steven N.


“All of the quirks of Playdate, I think, helped tremendously in attracting developers to want to make something for Playdate,” says Cabel. “If Playdate had a full-color OLED screen and a powerful 3D chip, it would take a very long time for one person to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll make a game for that.’ By going in the opposite direction of where gaming has gone lately, we return to a scale in which one person, two people, three people can make an awesome, entertaining, you know, lengthy, meaningful title, and the constraints enable that.”


Update (2021-09-07): John Carmack:

I have often thought that the presence of limits in the parameters of a design may, counterintuitively, result in better designs than the absence of limits. My working theory is that when you get to design whatever you want, you are “satisficing”, while limited resources force you to critically evaluate aspects and compete them against each other. Competition brings improvement, but many people shy away from competition if they aren’t forced into it. Parameters can be memory, speed, time, funding, or other factors.

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