How The Blocks Cometh Came(th) to Be
Derek Laufman and Melvin Samuel met while working at a game development studio in London, Ontario, Canada. Both decided to leave the company at around the same time and moved on to other ventures, but managed to stay in contact with each other. After spending a year working on various separate projects, the two decided to come together and form a small studio of their own. They founded Halfbot Studios in 2010, and decided to make their start by developing Flash games.
Initially, they met with little success. The Flash market was starting to become quite saturated, and while Halfbot was able to tread water by making games for the then-popular children’s site Moshi Monsters, the duo wasn’t satisfied with the situation. They weren’t earning a lot of money, and they weren’t making the kinds of games they wanted to make. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a whole lot of time to devote to ideas that might break them out of that situation.
As a bit of a self-imposed challenge, the team decided to try to make a game in just six hours. After about an hour, Laufman had come up with the idea of a character trying to avoid falling blocks in a Tetris-style well. A few hours later, the prototype that would become The Blocks Cometh was born. Realizing they were onto something cool, the two spent another month fleshing out and polishing the game. The Blocks Cometh released as a Flash game in October of 2010, and it was by far the developer’s most successful game. Most people really liked the game, and it was out-performing all of the team’s previous efforts. Even with a well-received title, however, Halfbot realized that the Flash market wasn’t going to be its future.
Right around this time, the iOS market was soaring high. Small developers were making good money on the platform, and it was the logical choice for creators well-versed in the kinds of games that had been popular on Flash portals thanks to the large casual gaming market. What better game to make its debut on the platform with than The Blocks Cometh? Mobile gamers would surely enjoy it. There was just one problem: they already had been enjoying it.
As it turned out, an unscrupulous publisher had been making unauthorized mobile ports of a variety of popular Flash games, and The Blocks Cometh had been one of them. Not content to simply copy the idea and gameplay, this publisher went so far as to lift the title and graphical assets. To their credit, the scoundrels at least changed the main character’s sprite. They replaced it with a sprite copied from another popular game called League of Evil. When the duo at Halfbot Studios discovered this, they were understandably upset. They reached out to Apple to ask them to remove the game, then contacted a number of members of the media.
The first to write about the situation was Jim Sterling, then at the website Destructoid. The story went viral, and after a few more days the unofficial game was finally removed from the store. The official mobile version of The Blocks Cometh was finally made available on February 16th 2011, where it met with considerable praise from critics and players. As a cheeky wink to the copycat, Halfbot Studios obtained permission to feature characters from League of Evil as unlockables. A number of updates followed, adding in further extra characters and new modes while also addressing some of the feedback the team had received from players.
While The Blocks Cometh wasn’t a smash success, the whole situation surrounding it ended up helping the team make connections and cultivate a fanbase. That led to Halfbot working on the mobile version of Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box in the following year. After a while, Halfbot moved on to other projects and are currently working with Liv Games on the upcoming action game Bullet Age for PC and the Nintendo Switch. The Blocks Cometh was revived in December of 2019 as part of the GameClub library, allowing a whole new generation of players to experience its tense platforming action.