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Proper Games flocks to digital download space

IN an animated world where woolly sheep shrink when they get wet, cows poop when squished, and pigs happily roll around in the mess lies the kid-friendly hook of hot new video game title Flock! And its developer, Proper Games, is hoping it has hit on a light-hearted formula that will fuel its future IP creation.
October 1, 2008

IN an animated world where woolly sheep shrink when they get wet, cows poop when squished, and pigs happily roll around in the mess lies the kid-friendly hook of hot new video game title Flock! And its developer, Proper Games, is hoping it has hit on a light-hearted formula that will fuel its future IP creation.

The Dundee, Scotland-based game developer pitched Flock! at last year’s Leipzig Games Convention in Germany and caught the attention of publisher Capcom. The company behind top-rated franchises Mega Man and Street Fighter moved fairly quickly to bring the sheep-centric game into the public eye at E3 Media & Business Summit this past July. So far, the title has generated a fair bit of buzz prior to its retail launch this holiday season.

Proper Games was established a little over two years ago, but the people behind the outfit certainly aren’t new to the industry. Its principals emerged from the now-defunct Scottish gameco Visual Science, previously known for its work with Electronic Arts on the F1 game franchise, as well as Harry Potter Quidditch World Cup and Lemmings Paintball titles. In fact, Flock! is a bit reminiscent of the popular Lemmings puzzle franchise from the early ’90s that was based on the myth that the rodent-like creatures follow each other off cliffs to their untimely doom.

Producer Geoff Gunning says the company was keeping its eye on the ever-increasing downloadable gaming market when it opened its doors in 2006, which also roughly coincided with the release of the next-gen consoles – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii – and their respective online networks. ‘We saw that as an exciting time to get stock in these smaller-scale, smaller-development times and make much more creative games,’ he says. To that end, Proper Games isn’t interested in creating the next ultra-violent shoot ‘em up, but instead hopes to keep making games that have old-school fun and charm, and appeal to a wide range of consumers.

Thus, Flock! was born. The lush and boldly colored world is a puzzle-like landscape that looks like it was made from a giant fabric quilt pieced together by someone’s industrious grandmother. Players are charged with shepherding animals safely across the quilted terrain to an alien mothership. A variety of amusing tactics are available, including a UFO depressor beam that creates a clear path through the field but leaves crop circle-like marks in its wake. Gamers can also introduce a puffy pink ewe to the lovesick male sheep, which start seeing hearts as they gaze upon her and then proceed to mindlessly follow her, single file, around dangerous obstacles.

There’s a time limit for more competitive gamers, but no penalty for those failing to complete the task in a designated period, which allows casual players the leisure of exploring the toyetic world. Proper has also included a level editor so users can customize the landscapes and make them available for download on the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and Windows PC platforms.

The gameco is busy putting the finishing touches on Flock! for its retail debut. Gunning is keeping mum on new projects, but there are definitely some in the works. The company is sticking to the downloadable space, mainly focusing on generating original IP, but he says that it would consider taking on a licensed title if the right property came flocking…I mean, knocking.

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