Like so many accidental entrepreneurs, Will Stallwood launched Cipher Prime
-- an independent mobile game development company -- while trying to get a job. Auditorium
, the game Stallwood first created with music composer Dain Saint as an example of his capabilities, won him no job, but earned millions of downloads. In 2009, shortly after that unexpected success, Cipher Prime was born.
Now based in Old City, the company has since released four games on seven platforms, earning countless awards from the likes of Google, Apple, the Indie Games Festival
and Pocket Gamer
, their most recent product, gained international attention after debuting on the iPad as Google's "Feature Launch of the Week." The game was named runner-up for Game of the Year
by Apple's App Store -- and it was developed on a $120,000 budget, compared to a $1 million budget for the winner.
The company builds games in the "instructionless play" genre. Players solve abstract layered puzzles with no rules and no text. Cipher Prime incorporates work by local musicians and original art. The format starts simple but has a plethora of variables, making the games hard to master. Stallwood says this formula has helped solidify their international success.
"Basically, you're dragging and dropping these little nodes to try to form and outline," he says of Splice. "By the time you’re done the game, it's like a petri dish. You’re pulling cells around all over the place and they’re multiplying and you’re bending time back and forth. It really gets involved."
The company has raised $71,000 on Kickstarter for their next game, Auditorium II, and is hiring a marketer.
Cipher Prime is dedicated to building a local community of unconventional gamemakers. They host weekly development nights (regularly attended by 20 to 30 gamers), organize game-making challenges, hold public book clubs and host Skype conferences with industry leaders.
"We're really trying our damnedest to make sure there are more game developers here in Philadelphia," says Stallwood. "Everyone here loves what we do, and we want to share with other people."
Will Stallwood, Cipher Prime