Developer Stories: Dene Carter and Incoboto
Dene Carter is a developer who has seen the game industry from a wide variety of viewpoints. He started as an independent developer, making games from start to finish by himself on home computers. His first game was the 1986 title Druid, an action game patterned after the arcade hit Gauntlet. After a few other titles, he found himself working at the esteemed British game studio Bullfrog. His first role there was as a designer and programmer on the hit 1997 title Dungeon Keeper.
A couple of years later in 1999, he co-founded Big Blue Box Studios with fellow Bullfrog alumni Simon Carter and Ian Lovett. The next year, they were reunited with Bullfrog’s superstar Peter Molyneux as Big Blue Box was brought in as a satellite company to his newest development team, Lionhead Studios. Together, the two companies worked on the action-RPG Fable. Carter was the co-creator of the game, and would contribute to the popular series until 2009, when he left Lionhead to form Fluttermind, an one-man studio.
Feeling somewhat burned out by managing and wanting to get back to the hands-on work he had started his career with, Carter decided to give independent game development a try once more. Like many developers at the time, he chose to produce games for iOS due to the size of the audience and the ease of development for small-scale teams. His first release under the Fluttermind brand was Flaboo!, a somewhat simple game where you had to tilt, shake, and tap your device to help a portly chicken bounce off of clouds and into the sky.
Carter’s next game would draw inspiration from another medium entirely. Greek artist and animator Ilias Sounas had produced an animated short called Space Alone, which told the tale of a lonely robot searching the universe for life. Carter was deeply moved by the animation, and was impressed at its ability to evoke strong emotions like loneliness, depression, and loss. He wanted to make a game that could create similar reactions in its players, and the idea for Incoboto was conceived. He chose to make his game for the recently-released iPad in order to take advantage of the greater screen size.
As he had at the beginning of his career, Carter would be doing the game entirely by himself. Development took 22 months, which back then was a considerable amount of time for a mobile game. During the process of making the game, Carter struggled with doubts and whether or not his game would turn out the way he wanted it to. At one point he nearly canceled it, only to be talked out of it by his wife. Having learned some lessons from the release of Flaboo!, Carter tapped a PR firm to help him out with marketing. However, a lot of the hype around the game came from Carter’s personal chronicles of its development on his blog and in public forums like TouchArcade.
Incoboto was finally ready for release in early 2012, and hit the App Store in March of that year. The critical reception was effusive in its praise, particularly of the game’s somber mood and clever puzzles. It earned high scores from virtually every major review outlet, and received such honors as the PocketGamer Gold Award and G4’s Game of the Week. Players were equally enamored with the title and its emotional tale.
In response to demand, an iPhone version of the game was prepared and released in November of the same year. At the end of the year, Apple honored the game as one of the App Store’s Best of 2012. The game was updated and restored in 2019 as part of the GameClub library, bringing the light back to this shining star of the App Store.