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How flipping bacon led to an Apple Design Award: Interview with developer Philipp Stollenmayer

Philipp Stollenmayer
Philipp Stollenmayer (Image credit: Philipp Stollenmayer)

You may have heard of Bacon — The Game (opens in new tab), a minimalist game about flipping bacon onto various things using quasi-realistic physics. It's simple. It's funny. It is beautiful. It, and a bunch more like it, are made by one man, Kamibox's sole employee, Philipp Stollenmayer. Stollenmayer got started in game development nearly a decade ago with a passion for interaction design. With about two dozen games under his belt and unique and identifiable design esthetic, Stollenmayer was one of this year's recipients of the Apple Design Award (ADA).

I sat down with Stollenmayer for a chat about why he makes the games that he does, how his passion for design led him to win an ADA, and his love of paper.

Stollenmayer's love of interactive design and game building started about eight years ago while he was in college. In a class about interactive design, he was grouped in with programmers instead of designers, so he had to learn how to code. "I learned a pretty easy language, which allowed me to finish in three months."

Stollenmayer is self-proclaimed to not be particularly good at or familiar with coding. "I tend to learn to code until exactly at the point that I need it," said Stollenmayer.

Errors inspire new mechanics because some errors will produce weird esthetics that lead to something new.

"I learn [to code] up to the level that I need. I make errors, of course, but those errors inspire new mechanics because some errors will produce weird esthetics that lead to something new that is visual and deep.

He's been using the Corona programming language for years, but recently tried out Swift for the first time. "It's a bit like drawing with a pen instead of with a pencil. You can't just erase something if you did it wrong. You really have to think about what you're going to do."

He started by coding an iPhone game and has loved the Apple ecosystem ever since. "I stuck with the iPhone because it was great to be one of the first to be shaping the interactive standards for what was a new medium at the time." Stollenmayer has always designed for mobile and takes it into consideration when he creates something new.

I stuck with the iPhone because it was great to be one of the first to be shaping the interactive standards.

One of Stollenmayer's first apps was an app for printing papercraft toys and machines that he designed. You see, Stollenmayer is an award-winning papercraft designer. He'd been making clever moving papercraft toys for a while and his fans wanted an app so they could print from their phones.

"I just used Interface Builder that comes with Xcode. It wasn't even using code. I was just clicking these screens together."

Though the apps are no longer available in the App Store, you can still visit the Kamibox website to find some really great papercraft designs.

Since he's a one-man indie development studio, Stollenmayer has to balance gameplay with game reliability, which is partly why his games tend to be fairly simple with a short story and, well, frankly, nothing that can break.

If they do break, he just removes them from the App Store. "It's not such a tragedy. A lifespan of three years is enough, at least for my games."

They're like temporary art. They're not meant to be played over and over and over for years (and hundreds of dollars wasted on in-app purchases). "Song of Bloom is a complete story," Stollenmayer said. "It's kind of like watching a movie. You play the game and it's complete. There isn't much replay value."

A lot of Kamibox games are free. Stollenmayer isn't trying to make a lot of money off of games. He's just trying to make enough money to live off of. He makes a few games with the intention of trying to make revenue and the rest he makes available for free.

I'm not interested in maximizing revenue.

"Bacon - The Game is the game that is generating the most revenue of all of my games. As long as that's the case, I'm not interested in maximizing revenue. If I'm the rich king sitting on a shitload of money while millions of people playing my games are interrupted by interstitials or something like that; I don't think that's a fair balance."

Stollenmayer has a fairly robust portfolio (opens in new tab) of apps and games on the App Store with games that range in category from word games to simple platform games, to bacon flipping fun.

Song of Bloom is the one that won accolades from Apple this year for its unique exploration and story telling. Bloom has no instruction manual. You have to figure out how to get to the next level by following hints. Hints you may not have even realized were hints when you first saw them. This is Stollenmayer's first Apple Design Award.

I can't think of a higher honor than an Apple Design Award.

"It is really incredible. I can't think of a higher honor than an Apple Design Award. These are the people across the whole world that are about interaction design, and they just said, 'OK, now you made something we like.' I can't think of anything that could be a higher honor for me."

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When asked whether he has plans to port his games to Mac, especially to Apple Silicon Macs, Stollenmayer doesn't think many of his games will transfer to a point-and-click medium.

"I design all of my games for the devices they are going to be played on, which is the iPhone and iPad — I have that in mind when I design them — so playing them with a mouse is really not the experience I was looking for."

Stollenmayer does think some of his games could be playable as iOS games on the Mac, like Sticky Terms.

Stollenmayer is one of those rare game developers whose design esthetic is so iconic that they have a loyal following. People know when they're playing a Kamibox game. "I think it's because, when you play my games, you really know when you're playing that I'm making them while not being bored or doing something that I don't want to do. It's those tiny details that make a difference."

Visit the App Store to see all of Stollenmayer's games (opens in new tab) for iPhone. You should also check out the Kamibox website to download and build some amazing papercraft toys.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).