2009’s Eliss was all Steph Thirion’s work – coding, art and sound. It was one of the App Store’s first true originals, and though the age of the iOS auteur may be under threat from the onset of big business, Thirion insists that a one-man studio can offer something larger developers can’t.
He spent his childhood dreaming of becoming a game designer, captivated by Another World and Prince Of Persia. They are both games with a strong sense of authorship, something Thirion aspires to. “It’s the fact that a videogame could be like a Boris Vian novel or an album by Nick Drake, a little universe from one person’s mind,” he tells us. “I think that knowing that these universes were almost single-handedly created had a powerful effect on me.”
Videogames changed, though. Becoming the next Eric Chahi or Jordan Mechner was unlikely in an age of bigger studios and even bigger budgets. “I had missed the chance of living in a time where games were made single handedly,” says Thirion. He turned to making music on his computer before studying graphic design, moving on to become art director at an ad agency in Lisbon. Later, he worked in web design and then, subsequently, in programming.
“A little before I started Eliss I was still building websites for someone else as a day job, and didn’t feel particularly satisfied,” he tells us. “I wanted to find a way to work on my own things. Apple announced the App Store, and it seemed like a good place to try something new.”
Thirion ditched his day job to try and live out that boyhood dream of becoming a game designer, combining all of the skills honed elsewhere. “It seemed like a dream project, to have one piece that gave me full creative freedom and to fuse all those mediums into one piece,” he says.
Eliss’ bizarre multi-touch play was stumbled upon, rather than a fixed point on the project’s horizon. “I was working on a prototype for another idea and as I was writing the multi-touch instructions, I had this simple test screen where independent circles of random colours where controlled by each finger,” he tells us. “I put my previous prototype on hold to see where this could go, and basically coded my way up at the same time as the idea took shape.”
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