Adios, Amoebas!: History

On October 9, 1997, I was contacted by a programmer at the Swedish web design company Netch about a little Java development job. They were creating a site for some particular client and wanted "some simple game" for attracting visitors. Quick download time was one of the main design objectives. It would also need to be finished rather soon. After some initial small talk he gave me a ballpark estimate of how much they were prepared to pay and asked me what I'd be willing to sell for that amount.

During my lunch break I managed to come up with a game idea that would fit the requirements. It was simple and inexpensive in terms of download time, yet presumably entertaining. All the essential elements of a good arcade game were there. So I wrote back and gave him a detailed description, along with an estimate of how long it would take me to finish it (if I really hurried). He passed it on to the project leaders and informed me that they had found it "definitely interesting". About my fee, however ... I was told I'd now need to discuss that with the guy in charge.

"If I can have your phone number, he'll call you" was the last thing I heard from him or anyone associated with Netch. I gave him my number and waited ... and waited. Nothing. I wrote and asked if the deal was still on, or if the project had been cancelled. No response.

I started dawning on me that maybe it wasn't such a wise move to reveal the whole idea before having signed any agreement. Any run-of-the-mill Java programmer would be able to implement that game without much effort. They really didn't need my services anymore. If that [name withheld] guy was "smart", he'd write it himself or pass the assignment on to someone who would do it for significantly less money. The incident could easily be blamed on some alleged communications failure if anyone started asking questions.

By then I had already began working on the game and I decided to go ahead and finish it. I usually try to make each new Java game more technically sophisticated than my previous work, but for one thing I didn't want to see the idea go to waste. For another, if Netch would actually build a site with that game on, nobody would believe me if I said "Hey! That's my idea!" unless I already had a similar game to prove it.

But if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well, so I spent more time on this game than I had initially planned. I added a couple of extra features, like the option to crush amoebas by pushing weights on them, and used a raytracer application to build the graphics. (The title, by the way, was not taken from the British pop group Tartan Amoebas track "Adios Amoebas". It was taken from an old The Far Side cartoon.) Ten months later I actually sold the game, but to someone else.

I've noticed that it's usually not the technical quality of a Java game that determines its popularity. I still get more positive feedback about Iceblox than about Cross Section, except when it's from other Java programmers or extremely dedicated computer game fans. Ordinary people seem to prefer games which are easy to get into. If that's really the case, then Adios, Amoebas! has definite potential.

"So, until next week, adios amoebas!"