Developer David Frampton is one of our favorites around here at TUAW — he made a big splash on the App Store a while ago with Chopper 2, but these days he’s working on a huge sandbox app he’s made called The Blockheads, which is a Minecraft-style game where you can explore a world with the titular characters, making and building items and contraptions from the items that you can find and collect.
The Blockheads is doing very well for Frampton — he says the game has seen over four million downloads so far, and it’s definitely the biggest project he’s ever worked on. The game’s gotten even bigger after a recent update that allowed “backgrounding,” too. When the game first arrived, you had to basically watch your Blockheads perform their tasks, and leaving the app caused the task to pause as well. I mentioned this in the game’s inital review, and while the game was still a lot of fun, longer tasks could be very annoying.
Frampton says he agrees that requiring the app to stay open while those tasks were running could be annoying, but during the game’s initial development, he just wasn’t sure if backgrounding could work, “whether I could do that or not.” The game’s monetization depends on using time crystals to skip past tasks as well, and Frampton included the ability to bring in a few different characters at a time, which he hoped would help people with the waiting periods.
Unfortunately, he says, “only 1% of players warped in a second Blockhead,” which means that most of his players didn’t use the tools he’d given them to make the waiting more bearable. That convinced him he had to find a solution, and the backgrounding patch went in recently (along with a price drop on actually bringing in a second character). Frampton says the change has helped him, both with exposure for the app as well as growing the audience. “Everything doubled,” he says about making the change.
As for what’s next in Blockheads, Frampton has a huge list of features, both from things he wants to do as well as fan requests. There’s a tutorial coming into the game, to smooth out the initial player experience, which he feels can still be a bit confusing. Fans on the message boards have asked him for the ability to create signs (because right now there’s no way to see what’s in the game’s chests until you open them up), but Frampton isn’t sure that’s a good idea. He’s more interested in providing “shelves,” which would be storage items where you can see exactly what’s being stored at just a glance.
Currently, there is two-player local multiplayer, but Frampton says that Game Center is really causing problems with any larger multiplayer game, as the system is not very good at keeping game sessions running when one player leaves or enters. So multiplayer is up in the air for now, though Frampton says it’s definitely a possibility at some point in the future.
In other future plans, he says he’d love to bring more complicated machinery to the game, like copper wiring, elevators, and even electricity. Fans have asked for more goals, so he’ll be filling out the endgame as well. But unlike Minecraft, says Frampton, he doesn’t want the game to “end” at all. “I can keep adding more and more games to it,” he told me. One idea he has is to allow players to build up technology to the point where they can travel to other worlds, which would obviously open up a whole new set of resources and areas to explore.
That’s all in the distant future of the game, however — Frampton is just brainstorming ideas, not simply working on actual features for that yet. Still, The Blockheads is definitely a popular title, and Frampton says he personally is excited by the process of creating and developing this game, in a way that he wasn’t with Chopper 2 or his other titles. If you haven’t gone to check out The Blockheads yet, you can find it on the App Store for free right now.