Interview: Canabalt creators talk about bringing their hit flash game to iPhone and iPod touch

With its simple tap-to-jump gameplay, high-speed scrolling, and grainy dystopian atmospheres, Canabalt proved to be a successful Flash-based sensation when it was recently launched online. The game has now been released for iPhone and iPod touch, one of the first truly successful Flash games on the platform. We spoke to Adam Saltsman and Eric Johnson about Semi-secret software about how the game was born.

Jumping from roof to roof, annoying pigeons.

Cult of Mac: How would you describe Canabalt to people who haven’t heard of it?
Adam Saltsman: Canabalt is a one-button ‘daring escape’ platformer game. You play as a little guy who tries to escape from a city besieged by unknown forces!

What were the origins of the game? Why did you decide to create it, and what were your influences?
Adam: Canabalt was created for the Experimental Gameplay Project, a cool monthly event hosted by some of the greatest minds in indie games. The idea is that you have seven days to create a game around a specific theme; the month I made Canabalt, the theme was “the bare minimum,” which had a big impact on the game.

I love minimalism in games anyway, but it was a good excuse to push it further. Canabalt uses six shades of gray and a button and is still pretty exciting. A list of influences could include Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog, District 9, District B13, Mirror’s Edge, Half-Life 2, and Flashback.

Was the iPod version an afterthought or was it still part of your plans?
Eric Johnson: The iPhone / iPod version of Canabalt was always on Adam’s mind when he created the Flash version, hence the one-button / one-touch interface. When the Flash version became an overnight success, it seemed obvious to start working on the port to the iPhone.

About to splash from a great height.
About to splash from a great height.

How did you find the development for iPod and the App Store process?
Eric: Developing for the iPhone / iPod has been a pretty quick experience, largely because we’ve been working on iPhone games for a year. We have a few other games in the pipeline right now. When we started working on Canabalt, we temporarily put these others on hold and were able to leverage much of the source code that we had already written in Canabalt.

How has the availability of the Flash version online affected word of mouth and sales regarding the iPod release?
Eric: It seems to be huge in terms of the anticipation generated for the release of the iPhone / iPod. For example, Canabalt has already managed to crack the top 100 paid apps, while with our first title, Wurdle, it took several weeks. It could also be that Canabalt is just great.

What was the thinking behind the price point? Similar games for iPod often cost money, so why the more premium point for Canabalt?
Eric: It’s something that worried us a bit. The App Store unfortunately tends to sell games for just a dollar. We think Canabalt is a good game and $ 2.99 is a good price regardless of the platform. We really hope people will support us as independent developers so that we can continue to make great games.

What future for Canabalt?
Eric: We are planning at least one major update to add our user profile and our high score system, as well as other things that I cannot mention yet. Beyond that, we’ll just listen to the comments and figure out what makes the most sense!

Canabalt is available for $ 2.99 on the App Store, and you can read the original online at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.