Flying Spaghetti Monster - The Game
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If you haven't heard of the Flying Spaghetti Monster internet meme, then you're fine. No, really - it was a big thing in 2005, but now it's pretty much run its course. I won't bother explaining the deeper workings of this pseudo-religion (really "parody-religion") - a guy named Bobby Henderson created it as a goof, and it took off all over the Internet. "Pastafarianism", as it came to be known, is centered around a diety made of spaghetti and meatballs. Pirates are also part of the mythos. There's even a version of Heaven containing a beer volcano and stripper factory (don't be mad at me - I didn't make this stuff up) - pretty silly stuff.
When the Flying Spaghetti Monster thing was still taking off, I contaced Bobby to see if it would be okay for me to create the official FSM game. I even worked up a sample conceptual image for Him to review. He was very enthused and gave me the go-ahead immediately, and I got to work.
Within three weeks, the game was complete, Bobby posted it on his site, and people began playing. I posted it on a couple online gaming sites, and pretty soon people began stealing the source Flash file and distributing it to gaming portals everywhere (yes, without my permission - good thing I developed it as a self-promotion, for no charge). I get dozens if not hundreds of hits to my site every day from people clicking the link embedded into the game. Web analytics are fun.
I've never created anything with as wide a reach as this thing - before or since - so it took some time to get used to all the feedback the game generated - much of it negative. I made the gameplay fairly simple - you, as the Flying Spaghetti Monster himself, float above a scenic landscape, pressing the mouse button to fire one of your "noodly appendages" down to the ground. If the tip of the appendage hits one of the 25 people roaming the land, they are converted to a pirate. Convert all 25, and you win the game. There's a timer, a couple bonuses, and evil darkly-clad administrators roaming amidst the people - points are deducted if you hit them.
And that's it. But for some reason, the game play stumps the majority of people who play it - at least initially. See, you move the mouse left and right and the Flying Spaghetti Monster moves across the screen - the screen scrolls as well. But if you move up and down, your character also moves up and down - and your position in the sky determines where vertically on the ground the tip of your appendage will strike, which in turn determines whether or not it actually hits the people on the ground.
Most people who play for the first time don't consider this vertical positioning (your shadow moves with you, as an additional targeting tool. People get very frustrated with this, often posting comments like, "This game is IMPOSSIBLE!" and "I can't convert ANYBODY!!! HELP!!!" until some nice person (not me) comes along and advises them to consider their up and down movement when they're playing. It would have been way too simple a game if you only had to move left and right, align yourself with the people below and press the button - but for whatever reason, that doesn't occur to people. Maybe I should hold a press conference or something. Ah, too late for that.
And speaking of player feedback, the comments the game has generated (currently at 558 on the official Flying Spaghetti Monster site) have ranged from really positive...
"I love this game, and enjoy the challenge of converting the non-believers while simultaneously attempting to improve my score and skills" (sounds like it was written as a school assignment)
"Bravo on the game. I thoroughly enjoyed it."
"This is heaven on earth! Thank tou (sic) FSM for giving us the wisdom and knowledge to create this wonderful game!" (hmmm... I didn't know "we" created it)
...to the moderate...
"Quite amusing and decently challenging without being impossible. I just wish there were more levels or the game was longer."
"Great game, but it needs more levels. It`s great fun, and really improves your eye-hand-coordination. " (okay, so I probably should have made more levels - quite a few people mentioned that - of course, many more were happy the game was short and able to be completed)
"i thought it was a little hard. then again, i suck at video games so who knows?"
...to very, very negative...
"This game sucks!!!! While the rest of the site aint bad the game needs improvement. I will sodomize the monster" (that seems a little unnecessary)
"IT DOSNT (sic) WORK FOR ME THIS GAME SUCKS!!!!!!" (read the instructions, bud)
"wtf that is the most retarded thing i have seen in my life who ever made this should kell (sic) themshelfs (sic)" (I'll take it under consideration... mmm, no - not gonna do it)
I even got this private message sent to my Newgrounds account, where I also have the game hosted:
"Your addiction to the so-called oh-so-glorius (sic) Flying Spaghetti Monster, or FSM for short, plain disgusts me. Sure, you're allowed to make up your own religion [wasn't me, bud], sure you're allowed to follow this twisted immage (sic) of a wannabe god, sure I can't stop you... And so on and so forth. [he got a little lazy there]
FSM is a lie. If you think different, please prove his existance, (sic) the reason of the religion, some stories behind the creation of life... Stuff like that. I'm waiting, Steve. Waiting in excitement.
~Dottorius Sigma, mouthpiece of Ender."
For the record, the opening of this piece seems lifted from the Star Wars quote about "your sad devotion to that ancient religion...". I took it as a joke, but I still held off on responding.
Ever since the game came out, I've been receiving screenshots and even videos of people completing the game and getting into "Heaven". That's pretty fun - reminds me of my own youthful video game fascination (some people even send me screenshots and videos of them not winning, which is a little harder to get excited about).
The game was featured on an episode of Attack of the Show, though I never got to see it. From what I heard, they got a good laugh out of it and talked about the game for a good fifteen seconds - but I'm not complaining. Oliva Munn wound up contacting me to develop a Flash game for her. Okay, not really. That would have been pretty awesome, though. But that show, and some online publicity the game received, helped me get a few paid Flash game projects. So you see? It was all worth the abuse.
And the only nearly unanimous feedback I received was on the game's music, which I composed in GarageBand early one Saturday morning. Even people who hated the game loved its theme song. That softened the impact of some of the harsher feedback and death threats. People asked for an .mp3 file and I obliged, making the song available publicly to appease the Pastafarians who hungered for it. It's not as satisfying as a good marinara sauce, but then again, you can't dance to sauce.