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Behind-The-Scenes with the Art Team

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The art of Runaway is created by a team of three talented illustrators based all over the world. This morning I sat down with our lead artist Emma who lives here in New Zealand and called up Lars in Sweden, and Claudia in London for a quick chat about what they’ve been working on, and what we have to look forward to!

A lot of people have commented on the detail that goes into the butterflies and their animation. How do you make them so realistic?
Emma: We use flash to create the animations by skewing the wings at a lot of different angles, but the speed and the movement is all an AI made by the programmers. Early on we spent a lot of time at the Otago Museum’s butterfly house, studying how the butterflies moved. We wanted to capture that graceful yet frantic movement.
Lars: It’s important for us to find a really good reference images of the butterflies. We trace parts like the shape of the wings for accuracy, but we make the colours a bit more vibrant to fit the game environment. We can’t always add every little detail, but the main wing pattern is always true to the real-life species.

What were your influences when developing the art style for Flutter?
Emma: We were mainly inspired by nature. There’s also this nature photographer called Vyacheslav Mishchenko who takes incredibly detailed macros – we wanted to capture this mood with our art.

What do you draw when you’re not drawing butterflies?
Emma: Unicorns, pegasus… winged creatures. Mostly I draw nature or creatures I wish existed in real life.
Claudia: A lot of children’s book illustrations – and selfies, haha!
Lars: Robots and a lot of non-organic stuff. A whole lot of cute creatures.

Check out their personal work here:
Emma: http://www.ermiberm.com/
Claudia: http://lilasoul.tumblr.com/
Lars: http://resken.tumblr.com/

What’s it like working with people all over the world?
Emma: It’s really cool. Because of the time difference there’s always someone working 24/7, so we feel really productive.
Claudia: Yeah, having the time difference makes managing our own time easier.
Lars: We have meetings every day which helps to establish a routine and keeps us in sync. Sometimes it’s hard not being able to just turn to someone and ask a question, but it’s worth it for the focus you can achieve working on your own and not having to deal with the distractions you’d get in an office.

Can you tell us what you’ve been working on lately?
Emma: We’re all working on a new project at the moment, but we’re trying to make sure that the art style is consistent with Flutter. Recently we finished up the latest butterfly set for the next event, which was a collaboration between all of us.
Lars: When I’m not completely happy with something I’ve drawn, someone can always take over so we never get stuck. Sometimes I’ll work on a butterfly from start to finish, but other times all three of us contribute to the process.
Claudia: We learn so much from looking at each other’s technique – it can be really refreshing seeing how another person tackles an illustration and balances it out.

From the Art Team: Thank you to all the lovely people who have sent in fan art. This has been one of the most exciting and rewarding moments of the job so far – keep it coming! :D

 

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Behind-The-Scenes With Nic

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In November Nic joined us as our latest talented programming intern. Since then he’s been bringing a fresh perspective to Flutter and tackling some of the biggest player requests. I stole him for a few minutes today to chat about what it’s like being one of the newest members of Runaway, and whether he can share any secrets about what’s to come…

What’s a typical day in the office for you?
Lots of small jobs; picking out the most exciting or urgent ones and getting them ticked off one-by-one. As far as the actual process is concerned, I’ve been programming for as long as I can remember, my Dad and I used to code on a ZX Spectrum, so it just comes naturally now. It’s like writing poetry – I get completely immersed in the process of getting things just right.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Runaway?
If I was on holiday right now I’d be making video games, so it’s mind-blowing that I get to do this as a job and with such an amazing team! Even though I don’t code everything, I still feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end result. I think it’s really special how small the team is, and that we have people in the same room who help us communicate directly with our players.

What has been your greatest challenge?
My current project is much larger than anything I’ve worked on before and deals with the framework of Flutter rather than the game play. It’s completely new territory for me, so at the moment every day is a journey into the unknown.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on lately?
Lots! I’ve been coming up with new butterfly abilities and coding them, which has been really exciting as it’s a great opportunity to unleash some creativity. I’ve also been working on improving our community goal feature so that it can make a comeback in future events.

Is there anything you’d like to say to all the readers out there?
At the end of the day you can make a great game, but it’s the fans who have the ability to take it and turn it into something more. Since I started working here I’ve been looking closely at the Flutter community and have been amazed by how our players have created an entire world around the game. Thank you for making Flutter so special!

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Your Top 5 Questions, Answered!

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Howdy! Last week we gave our Flutter fans the opportunity to ask us anything on Facebook and vote on their favourite questions. Here’s the top 5:

1. Will you make some way for us to use all the extra honeydew that we can never use up after our forest is fully cleared?
This is something we’re definitely looking into and we’re open to suggestions, although we won’t be providing a Honeydew to Flutterbucks conversion. One thing we’re investigating is personalising some of the daily deals so players who have opened the whole forest get a chance to purchase a rarer resource, but for a big Honeydew price tag.

2. Will we ever be able to gift our flowers or butterflies?
Adding new social elements to the game is really important to us, but adding an ability to directly exchange resources between players would upset the balance and economy of the game in many ways. The design team is working on a new way for players to utilise both their excess Honeydew and flowers to produce a new resource they can use to send mystery gifts to their friends. This is in its early stages, but we think its going to be pretty cool.

3. I’d like to know about the image carved in the frog’s log. Can you tell us what it is and why it was added please? It reminds me of Shrek.
It’s a carving showing where the frog treats live :)

4. Will Flutter ever be available to play on a computer?
It was a very deliberate decision for us to focus all our efforts on iOS and Android. As a small independent team, we need to be careful to choose our battles wisely, with the first priority being game quality and regular updates for our established platforms. That said, Flutter has done well over the last year, and we’re actively looking for new ways to expand its user base. One of those opportunities is bringing the game back into a web browser. While this is a huge undertaking, we have assigned some resource to begin a preliminary investigation here. We’ll let you know when we decide one way or the other.

5. Will you bring back the choice to sell butterflies for flutter bucks?
Check out our blog post for a full explanation of why this change was made. All those points still stand so we will not be reintroducing this feature. However! We do want a way to incentivise players to re-engage with earlier butterfly sets, and we think we have something pretty cool coming that will allow you to do that.


PS: A few of you asked how many of us work at Runaway, so we snapped this quick pic of the New Zealand team. We have three more team members currently scattered across the globe!

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Merry Christmas

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With the holiday season right around the corner, we have a truckload of new updates to squeeze in before the end of the year. It’s been an exciting time here in the Runaway camp, with the addition of three new team members, a new update for Flutter, and a dazzling christmas butterfly set!

Our new programming intern Nic has been hard at work improving the Flutter experience, and creating some of the features requested by our fans. There’s now a handy ‘find a butterfly’ button in your inventory, an all new Flutterbucks menu, and you can now see which butterflies’ abilities are ready to use based on the brightness of the star around them. Keep an eye out for more updates, as he will be sticking around and creating even more Flutter features over the coming months. Thank you Nic, and welcome!

You may have also noticed some festive additions to your sanctuary. Along with decorations around the incubator and a jolly new wisp mother, you’ll find a brand new community goal feature. Every time you send a gift to a friend this holidays it will count towards the community goal, unlocking prizes at each milestone and rewarding Flutter players with a special something from the team here at Runaway.

Lets take down those community goals together.
Happy holidays everyone!

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Connecting to Your Forest

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Hey there Flutter fans. As most of you will know we rolled out an update last week which streamlined the login process, and expanded the registration / social options for Android users. An unfortunate bi-product of the update is that many users were asked to log-in to their account again, which caused a lot of confusion. No one’s data was lost, we’re getting everyone back in the game fine, and we now have a handy guide to help you through the process:

Check here for our step by step account retrieval guide!

Since this has held back a lot of players from progressing in the game at their usual pace, we have decided to extend the current Cracker event for an additional 2 days so everyone gets a fair chance to complete it.

Our sincerest apologies to the players who this has effected. We’ve worked so hard to earn your trust and prove that Flutter is a world you can depend on being there for you. Fingers crossed we’ve got all the tech sorted so you can continue to enjoy the game as much as we enjoy making it :)

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New Visitors to the Forest

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Our big 1.9 update for Flutter just landed and it has two really awesome features we’re excited to share with you.

First up is the new Bee Fly character who you’ll unlock at the butterfly score of 1700. This cute little critter is hungry for pollen, and when full will burst to give you a special treat. It could be a flower, a storage resource, or perhaps even some Flutterbucks! This gives our players both a new source of items in the game, and a use for excess pollen you have floating round (or a strategic decision on what to spend your pollen on).  The bee will also grow the more you feed it. There are four stages of growth, with the bee requiring more pollen to pop at each stage, and returning better items.

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Next up is a feature which gives new players an opportunity to see and interact with old event butterflies. This was one of our biggest requests, and one we had a tough time coming up with a solid response to. More than anything else it was important for us not to damage how limited and special the event butterflies feel, so balancing that against the desire to let players see all the species we’ve created was tricky. So here’s how it works:

On a rare occasion, you will now get a a very special visitor to your forest, one of the butterflies from a past event that you have not collected. For the hour that the butterfly is with you, you can collect Honeydew from it, and use it’s special ability. If you’re super keen to keep that species around, you can pay a premium (2 x what it would cost to lay an egg within the event itself) to get an egg of that species and keep it round forever. So that’s the catch, you get to see and play with the limited species for free, but it’ll be a rare occurance that one turns up, and they are not cost effective to collect, so make sure you still put the effort in during the events okay? ;)

Thanks again as always for your wonderful feedback and support, hope you all enjoy the update.

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Artist / Animator Opening

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Runaway are looking for a new artist to join the team and help create the exciting followup to Flutter!

We’re looking for someone with a flair for character and proven experience in 2D tween animations. They will ideally have had experience in casual / mobile games before,  and be familiar with an animation package like Flash or Spine. Applicants must be passionate about making high quality games that forge an emotional connection with their audience. This is a full time position joining our 2 existing artists for what will be an intense but hugely rewarding production period.

This is a fixed term contract starting immediately and going through to the end of 2014 (with the potential for extension if the game goes well). Applicants can be based anywhere in the world as long as they are experienced and comfortable with working remotely.

Please send portfolios through to [email protected]

 

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Update: Flutterbucks Farming

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We’ve had a TON of feedback to the news of our new update, specifically the change of selling butterflies from Flutterbucks to Honeydew. Firstly, a genuine thank you for all your feedback. We read it all and reply to as much as we can. The passion that you guys show for the game and the time that you take to share your opinion is a great testament to how much Flutter means to people.

After the last day of reading feedback and engaging in discussion, I wanted to clarify a bit of our thinking around the butterfly selling changes.

Flutterbucks are our game’s premium currency. It’s the purchases of this currency that allow us to keep operating the game and delivering all the new content that keeps things fresh. It is a totally optional currency used for shortcutting challenges that can all be achieved through regular gameplay. It is true that some challenges require A LOT of gameplay to achieve for free (e.g. animated decorations, bumble bee), but we think it’s fair to have some content reserved for our most passionate players and those that support the team with their Flutterbucks purchases. Selling level 5 butterflies was producing so many free Flutterbucks that not only was it devaluing the currency, but hurting the economic health of the game and putting further development of the game at risk.

However, players should absolutely be able to earn some free Flutterbucks through gameplay! This is important so that players can understand the value of the currency, and if they have a lot of time on their hands save up towards some of those very special premium purchases. There are still many ways to earn Flutterbucks in the game. From goals to missions, friend gifts to petals, we’re still quite generous with the amount we give away for free compared to many other games.

An unintended side effect of removing this feature was that it also removes a part of the game that players enjoyed: raising lower level butterflies multiple times for a little FB boost. This was cool because it added a little strategy, as well as a use for flower and caterpillar duplicates. We’re thinking about different ways we might be able to reintroduce this feature in a more controlled manner in the future. We got some great suggestions on the blog and Facebook so thanks heaps.

We’re so thankful for your passion and commitment, and it sucks when a change doesn’t make people happy. For all the updates we’ve made over the last 16 months its incredibly rare that we reduce the power of something, but this is one of those times when a hard decision had to be made to benefit the long term health of the game. We hope you can understand and carry on with us on this exciting journey as we release heaps of awesome new features.

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Flutter Update Preview

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Hey Flutter players! Our upcoming update has some important balancing changes that we wanted to give you a heads-up about before it goes live. Some overpowered mechanics are going to be toned down to balance the game, but at the same time we’re addressing our #1 player request: more space for more butterflies.

Here’s what will be changing:

  • Selling butterflies. Level 5 butterflies will now sell for a big Honeydew boost instead of Flutterbucks. When we first designed this ability, we didn’t anticipate that it would become as overpowered as it did. Combined with special abilities it becomes a pretty crazy factory for Flutterbucks, which is supposed to be a really special currency. We know this is going to suck for players that have come to depend on it, and we’re sorry for getting it wrong in the first place, but part of tuning a live game product is balancing overpowered mechanics, just as much as it is about adding in all the new sets, characters, and features.
  • Comma Flower Duplicator Ability. The Comma’s ability will now be revised to work like the updated flower duplicator, so it will “Duplicate and harvest” the flower it targets. We just overpowered this ability plain and simple, it was our mistake. It has been out in the wild for a while now, but we have to balance it appropriately to make it fair for all players.
  • More forest space. The updates we made last time have paid off. With crash rates down and performance up, we can now safely add more space to the environment for you to unlock. Look to the right of the forest and you’ll find a cool new “corridor” that links together two of the spaces.
  • Cheaper Storage. Expanding your storage spots is now cheaper so you can hold on to even more species in your collection.
  • Minor tweaks. Event flowers will now be cheaper, but laying eggs a bit more expensive, and the frog will produce less event flowers (players with huge stores of frog treats were blitzing through events almost instantaneously)

We know this update is going to hurt a bit, but don’t fret! We’re making these tough changes now to lay the foundation for some really exciting new updates coming in the future. As always we’re listening to your feedback so let us know what you think. We’re hoping the update will be ready in time for the weekend, and we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s live!

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The Australian Jezebels

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It’s event time again! We’re welcoming the wisps back into the environment to help attract the limited Jezebel set, a very pretty collection of butterflies from Australia. Event is live now until next Sunday midnight PST. Remember when the event ends your limited flowers will convert to honeydew, and if you can perfect the set before the end then you’ll get a super special animated decoration flower to commemorate your achievement.

Things are whipping along at a frenetic pace here at Runaway HQ. Along with new features and event sets we’re preparing for Flutter, the design and prototyping of our new game is coming along really well. We’re running another bunch of user tests this weekend to see if we’ve got the core mechanic right, and working on some really exciting social design stuff that will be a big step up from Flutter. The expanded art team are getting into the depths of an “art jam” to help refine the style of the game and the huge cast of characters that we think our players will really love.

Have fun with the event, and more soon!

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