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The highs and lows of creating Angry Birds

"By the time we got to a prototype, there was still no catapult: the birds would just jump at, say, a castle. When we tried it out on people, they’d no idea what they were supposed to do."

Chris Kerr

February 23, 2016

2 Min Read

"By the time we got to a prototype, there was still no catapult: the birds would just jump at, say, a castle. When we tried it out on people, they’d no idea what they were supposed to do."

- Angry Birds designer Jaakko Iisalo speaking to The Guardian.

Angry Birds designer Jaakko Iisalo and programmer Tuomo Lehtinen have talked through some of the challenges Rovio faced when designing its global hit.

Speaking to The Guardian, Iisalo revealed that back in 2009 the mobile developer only had enough in its coffers to make one game, and although Rovio eventually used its limited funds to create one of the most recognizable franchises in the world, the very first version of Angry Birds was a very different beast.

"There was a queue of birds and when you tapped the first one, it would just attack some simple color-coded structures," recalls Iisalo, speaking to The Guardian.

"By the time we got to a prototype, there was still no catapult: the birds would just jump at, say, a castle. When we tried it out on people, they’d no idea what they were supposed to do.

"We realized we needed a recognizable mechanism to launch the birds, [so] I came up with the slingshot."

Even after Iisalo had designed the now iconic birds and found a firing mechanism that didn't leave players clutching at straws, new problems kept on surfacing. 

Players were having trouble aiming, says Jaakko, while the structures themselves, designed from the simplest building blocks, were more complex than they appeared. Eventually a solution was found that would also give the game the edge it needed to climb to the top of the App Store charts. 

"The aiming mechanism wasn’t working: the birds didn’t fly where you expected them to, which wasn’t fun – players had to be able to figure out where they had failed," he says.

"We initially had a castle much closer to the slingshot – you could see both on screen – but when we moved it further away, the extra flight time meant the anticipation and excitement grew."

You can read more about Angry Birds' creation over on The Guardian.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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