You probably don't know his name. And you might have ignored his games. But Luke Schneider deserves your respect. And your money.
Schneider's turned out more than a dozen games in two years, a feat that's impressive no matter what you think of his output. And that output from his RadianGames studio has been very, very good. From the hypnotic Joy Joy to the clever hybrid Inferno, Schneider's games have taken familiar design templates and branches them out in challenging ways tweaks them to feel modern, re-invented and fresh.
Super Crossfire adds warping to the top-down shooter genre, letting you teleport across the screen. Fluid grafted physics simulation and momentum to a Pac-Man style eat-em-up. Ballistic SE manifests on the iPad as a twin-stick shooter without actual sticks and lets you control gameplay with one hand. Slydris, reviewed here, takes Tetris and reshapes it into a different kind of intelligence test. I could go on, but generally feel that riffing off of familiar experiences is the best part of Schneider's approach. Part of the fun to be had from his games is in the discovery of new tensions found in the mix-and-match mechanics.
He's also moved from platform to platform with an ease that serves as an object lesson for bigger companies and other indies. Leaving AAA development after working on game franchises like Descent and Red Faction, Schneider started to crank out games that went up on Xbox Live Indie Games, portals like Desura and the Apple App Store.
Maybe Schneider isn't a lightning-bolt-concept guy like, say, Warren Spector. You can see the through-line of emphasizing play style in the titles on the Epic Mickey creator's resume. The recurring theme in Schneider's oeuvre has been more like re-visitation. Playing something like Fluid makes you wish that present-day Pac-Man could be something like it. The same goes for Super Crossfire and Space Invaders. Where games came from and how they evolve get wrapped up in concise, appealing packages.
So, yeah, Schneider isn't mentioned in the A-list of game design heavyweights like, say, Patrice Desilets, Hideo Kojima or Kim Swift. But I feel like he's doing something that's worth paying attention to. These games speak to a new entertainment landscape where small nuggets of attention chain together to a larger engagement. That is to say, the tiny bursts of pleasure you get from a quick session in Slydris builds an increasing reward the longer you play. When one game-maker's creations have demonstrated a sharply-honed fusion of speed, craft and conceptualization like Schneider's have, there's probably something that other game-makers could certainly learn from. And, you out there, Temple Run addicts and scoffers-at-mobile-games alike, pick a RadianGames release to buy. Chances are that you'll find yourself surprised at you'll be diving into.