SPECIMEN: WELCOME TO YOUR NEW ADDICTION
You can't say we didn't warn you.
WNW Members #2763 Erica Gorochow and #6818 Charlie Whitney are the colorful minds behind Specimen, a just-released app that tests color perception and is crazy addictive. If you like Dots, you'll love Specimen: "To play, simply tap the specimen that matches the background color. As you advance, earn patterned boosters and chroma coins to combat an ever faster clock."
We spoke to Erica and Charlie about how they got the idea for the game (they sit across from each other at work), the impact that incubator NEW INC has had, and why they hate color blind people. Easy to learn but tough to master, download the (free!) game and see if you can beat our score of 1312, knocking us off the global leaderboard. Not that we're counting or anything...
Why do you hate color blind people?
Erica: Ha! If you’re color blind Specimen might not be your new favorite game, but it doesn’t preclude you from playing. Color-blindness itself isn’t a totally binary thing, there is a whole spectrum of color vision. We really want to find a Tetrachromat to play. Anecdotally, we’ve found that people definitely improve. I think the game is as much about focus as it is about perception. That said, we want to make color-blindness a mechanic. Having a color-blind mode doesn’t make sense but we’re asking: is there a way color blindness might be an advantage? Or can we do something that might engender color blindness empathy? Stick with us for the 2.0.
How’d you come up with Specimen? How did you meet the team and start collaborating?
Erica: The team is made up of Erica, Charlie and Sal Randazzo who is the lead iOS developer at Paperless Post. The music and sound effects were by Upright T-Rex. Sal and I have released other side-project apps before Specimen. We met several years ago while while working on a music video for Rihanna. Sal actually started his career in VFX doing flame. In early 2013 he mentioned that he was interested in making a game to learn new aspects of programming. As an animator, I knew my skills would be an asset.
Charlie: Erica and I have been friends for a little while and actually sit across a desk from each other. I came in shortly after she and Sal started working on this new project. While Erica and Sal were crunching on core game mechanics, I began explorations for how the specimens themselves could look and feel. It was a collaborative process where I would iterate with Erica, but then had to make sure I was working inside of a system that could integrate with Sal's existing code.
How did the museum-led incubator NEW INC help the game come along?
Erica: Charlie and I are full time members. NEW INC was a consistent hub for a side project that had an inconsistent schedule. The incubator helped us to connect with people who gave us advice, which in turn shaped the game. The supportive community was kind enough to put up with our constant play testing. And as we launch it was great to strike up partnerships with others in the space like Print All Over Me. Check out these rad leggings!
What have been the biggest challenges so far in bringing this to life?
Erica: Specimen is a bootstrapped side project. It took a lot of patience and faith that everyone involved would follow-through. Also, making a game is so tough. Trying to pin down what makes something “fun” is a lot harder than it might sound.
Charlie: I’m used to working heads down on a project for a month or so and then launching it. Keeping enthusiasm and attention to detail at a high level over the course of a year is tough. Having friends to hold you accountable is a must for me.
Anything unexpected happen along the way?
Erica: The game originally had a bigger quantified-self angle to it. We found we had to choose between making a diagnostic and making a game. That said, we want to bring back features that more explicitly reveal how you see color.
Have you already reached the highest level or beaten the game?
Erica: I’ve gotten to Zeta, but I don’t think I’ve beaten the most recent version of the game. I’ve played so much that I suspect my brain is somehow different. (I’m hoping for the better).
Charlie: I think I beat Delta once, but we might have made it harder since then. I am very bad.
Any advice for fellow creatives looking to build their own game?
Erica: Prototype until people won’t give you back your phone after you ask them to play.
Charlie: It will literally take at least 5 times longer than you think it will.
Do you have any plans to work on another game, or are you in need of a breather? What’s up next?
Erica: It’s nice to think longer term for once. We want to see how the 1.0 goes and evolve it from there. I definitely need a breather but I’m still excited about Specimen.
What are some of your favorite apps or games?
Erica: Dots, Two Dots, Finger Battle, Plug & Play, Ready Steady Bang, Metamorphabet, Loopimal, Edge, Threes. The Reuters TV app is stunning in how it incorporates motion graphics. I wake up and go to sleep to NYT Now.
Normally we don’t ask this, but what’s your favorite color and color combo?
Erica: I love almost-neon red. Color combos with two desaturated colors and one hot highlight color always does wonders.
Charlie: Green, somewhere right around #75a834