Llamasoft starts 2011 with an assault on the App Store that manages to be both cuddly and ferocious. Design legend Jeff Minter is up to his old tricks, taking inspiration from the arcade classics like Asteroids and delivering something that's vivid, hectic, and idiosyncratic.
We caught up with him to find out what he makes of the iOS platform and what's next for his minotaurs.
Eurogamer: You've made so many games over the years, is a release day still special? Do things like online leaderboards let you feel a bit more connected with your audience?
Jeff Minter: Yes, it's always quite nice to finally see live users pouring onto the system and people starting to get the high scores and things like that. It makes you feel a bit closer to the whole process. You're not so abstracted from it as you used to be.
In the old days, you'd send something off, it would be published a few weeks later, and that was it, basically. Now you can actually sit and watch the whole thing happen, which is rather good. It's just nice to see a game finally get out there.
You can generally get a pretty good idea in the first few hours whether something's going to be well-liked or not, too.
Eurogamer: How's the reaction to Minotaur Rescue been so far?
Jeff Minter: It's been very good. I think about the worst thing that I can say about it is that some guy in Russia didn't like it so much on the iPhone and iPad that he only gave it three stars out of five.
If that's the worst that it's doing, then it's pretty good. As far as I can see on the App Store, most of the user reviews are averaging out at nearly five stars. I think we're fairly good.
Eurogamer: What have you been up to between working on Space Giraffe and Gridrunner Revolution and then releasing Minotaur Rescue?
Jeff Minter: Most of the stuff that's been happening has been happening in the background, really. It's been developing the Neon 2 platform and getting it working between iOS and PC.
This is going to be the platform which we're going to base everything on going forward, so it's stuff that's got to be done. Basically, you'll write the same code, and create versions for iOS, PC and Mac at the same time.
Eurogamer: The iPhone's very popular at the moment, but was there anything in particular that made you want to develop for it?
Jeff Minter: It's just a very convenient platform that a lot of developers own and it's fairly easy to publish, so it looked like a fairly obvious thing to have a crack at. At first I was put off at the prospect of touch screen controls, but that doesn't really bother me now.
Eurogamer: Your approach to controls is very different from a lot of other developers. A lot of teams seem to just slap on virtual joysticks and leave it at that.
Jeff Minter: I don't like those, you see. I'd played quite a lot of those games, and that's why I wasn't initially looking forward to doing this. I've played a lot of iOS games and not really liked the controls on them.
It all kind of grew out of recent developments. I only realised I wanted to use what we had to put some kind of game out there fairly recently. It's only just before November that I started working on this.
So just to test things out, I threw a little Asteroids ship in there and started playing with the controls. I got something I liked, put the sun in the middle, played with it some more and went from there, really.