This Guy Created Angry Bird's Physics and All he Got Was This Lousy Sweatshirt

Illustration for article titled This Guy Created Angry Bird's Physics and All he Got Was This Lousy Sweatshirt

A few years ago, in 2006, Erin Catto created some code called Box 2D. It was a simple, free physics system the "math-obsessed PhD gamer" came up with in his spare time and gave away for free.

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A year later, the iPhone was released. And suddenly his convenient, effective little code for implementing realistic physics in games was in big demand, and was being used by hit titles like Crayon Physics.

It was also used by Angry Birds. Now Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, has sold so many copies of the game that it's worth over one billion dollars.

While Box 2D was released for free, and Rovio have no obligation to compensate Catto, you'd think that, as a gesture - especially considering Angry Birds' gameplay is built on physics - they would have properly thanked him. Maybe sent him a cheque or something.

But no. Catto says all he ever got was a hoodie.

"I have the sweatshirt but actually I have never worn it because it's red", he told NPR. "I generally don't wear red. That's a silly reason. If they would send me a blue one I would wear it!"

While you'd think all this would be grounds for him to be the world's grumpiest programmer, he's actually taken the whole thing rather well. Not only did Box 2D lead to jobs in the games industry (he now works at Blizzard, as a Principal Software Engineer!), but Catto takes pleasure just from other people's...pleasure.

"Almost everyone says ‘Jeez, Erin, you could have your own island now if you just charged for Box 2D!' The ironic thing about that is then I wonder what if Angry Birds used something else because I was gonna charge for it? Well, maybe if they used something else that wasn't as good, maybe Angry Birds wouldn't have succeeded. And I'm just happy that everyone is enjoying the games."

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The physics and physicist behind the hit game Angry Birds [KPCC, via G4]

DISCUSSION

whydoyouwork-old
whydoyouwork

Box2D is one of the best physics engines out there and for a reason. But, anyone who uses it that has a conscience and makes a good chunk of change from using it, donates money.

Rovio used the engine, yes. But that was open source. The fact that they ripped off a catapult game, is the main moral concern.

Considering the money Rovio has made on Angry Birds, they should have bought Catto a couple of high end cars and a freagin house. Or asked him what charity he'd like a couple million donated to. But they didn't, and more so, people look at Rovio as the "American Dream", not as a couple of thieves.

Same with Minecraft. Did these guys legally have to pay the guys behind the open source projects? No.

But they damn well should have and journalists should have railed and railed against them considering how much money they made off of other people's efforts; especially when it's open-source and the whole point is to have people share knowledge AND the benefits.

But nope. Kotaku didn't take that angle. Nor did any other major game journalists/organizations.

Because apparently we can all just hope and prey to win the lottery by depending on other people's work.

We as gamers already let them get away with sh*t like Modern Warfare and make the hell that is war in to a video game for a bunch of kids to shoot each other and make racists jokes rarely focussing on team efforts, but as adults we can't even demand they divvy out just desserts.