Spruce Campbell: BAFTA Award at Apple Arcade, Portrait of a Little Genius

Any developer with ambition, secret or not, dreams of one day working with the greatest and seeing his works installed in devices all over the world. If it becomes more and more difficult to reach this high step, for lack of increasing competition, some people reach it without too much difficulty, by taking the “chance” factor in hand and making a vulgar ball of it. throw in the trash. We all know the story of someone who had a big boost from fate, through hard work and determination, reaching new heights despite speed bumps and detractors. This is the case of young developer Spruce Campbell who, at 14, had to face much older opponents, with some experience, and thwarted the codes of the environment. Meeting with the little genius who saw his work take place within the new game service Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade, promising service for promising concepts

September 19, 2019, Apple officially launches one of its new services announced a few months earlier, during a conference made in Cupertino. To the delight of gamers, the Apple offers owners of iOS, iPadOS and macOS devices access to a catalog of over 100 games in exchange for a monthly subscription. Inside, there are well-known licenses such as PAC-MAN, Rayman or Oceanhorn, as well as prestigious studios recognized in the industry. Corn, Ubisoft, SEGA or Bandai Namco are not the only ones to benefit from it, since Apple Arcade houses lesser-known creations, coming from independent developers who, without having joined one of the big teams in the middle, managed to make a name for themselves by winning awards.

Among them, Spruce Campbell, a code prodigy who, at only 14 years old, fulfills the dream of a large percentage of developers: to afford the luxury of working in collaboration with Apple. Although often blamed for its delay in the field, the firm has a creative space full of nuggets for touch devices: the App Store. Inside the latter, real fairy tales have taken place, and it must be said that we understand why: with millions of users, the store has become a benchmark for offering visibility capable of change. a life.

To strengthen this public desire to get closer to the video game market, Apple has therefore launched, in parallel with its new service, the possibility of synchronizing its PS4 / Xbox One controller to its device. to offer developers and gamers greater comfort.

It was these simultaneous announcements that made Spruce want to take a chance and get started:

When I saw the Apple Arcade announcement in March, I dropped everything and decided to make a new game for Arcade. I figured games that really matched Apple Arcade will probably be designed for it from scratch, so I found a stealth game that would work on any platform where Apple Arcade exists.

Spruce Campbell: BAFTA Award at Apple Arcade, Portrait of a Little Genius

Operator 41, that’s its name, is therefore one of the titles available when the new service is launched. A feat that is not at all risky, taking into account the small liabilities of the young developer who, despite his young age, already has a full CV.

A BAFTA award turns 12 …

Spruce Campbell: BAFTA Award at Apple Arcade, Portrait of a Little Genius

Developer and designer since his earliest childhood, Spruce Campbell is not his first attempt, nor his first positive experience … In 2017, the little prodigy was one of the finalists in the “young game designer” category (10 to 14 years old) during the BAFTA ceremony. He presents CyberPNK, a platform game requiring to alternate several realities in order to clear a path and see places appear on which to jump. The jury is unanimous, it outclasses its opponents in the category and won the competition when he was 12 years old.

When I was younger I played a ton of games. While playing I was thinking about new levels / ideas for the characters. A friend of mine was an iOS developer, and when I asked how to make apps he gave me some 600-page manuals that were way too heavy for an 8-year-old to understand. I couldn’t really shake the idea and over the years I learned to code. Finally, around 12 years old, I had the experience of creating the games I had imagined at the time.

… and a first game on iOS

Spruce Campbell: BAFTA Award at Apple Arcade, Portrait of a Little Genius

A great feat which is only the beginning of a great adventure: after the publication of CyberPNK, it sets out again to conquer the category of platform games in developing a certain CYBER: JUMP. The game is intended for iOS devices, a first experience in the Apple ecosystem for the young developer, who is having timid beginnings.

Despite a lack of communication budget, and the absence of a real opportunity to talk about him, the game is beautiful and rather successful. Its concept? A platform game therefore, but which puts the reflexes to the test: it is thus necessary to build a course of colored neon lights, to go as high as possible within a tower, by switching the famous colors with a simple tap. on the screen to bring out, or bring in, the platforms.

A cloud of starlings like sesame

At the same time, the young developer developed an application that simulates swarms of starlings., a mysterious movement that dozens of birds play in the sky. This creation, although more aesthetic than useful, still earned him a precious sesame: a ticket to attend the company’s annual California Developers Conference with 350 students.

This opportunity, he does not know it yet, will change his life: Spruce therefore attends the conferences, but carries some bonuses in his suitcases, including the possibility of showing his creation to some emblematic figures of society. Among them, a certain Tim Cook, current CEO of the Apple firm… The other opportunity? To be able to offer a game for Apple Arcade : thus, the young developer attended various conferences that day and applied what he learned at night, bringing the game Operator 41 to life.

The game’s design and coding was already done, but I wasn’t happy with it, so that night I sat down and started coding a prototype to show the game to Apple. I spent the whole of the next day working on it.

All the students could try their luck the day after the conference, passing in front of a jury and presenting their various creations. The “budding” developers thus had until 6 pm to claim this famous reward… 5 pm approaches, and Spruce believes that its work, although not finished, is worthy of being shown to the employees of Apple. Once the code compilation is finished, he rushes into the room and finds that the jurors are already packing their things, the volunteer candidates having all passed.

Spruce then managed to convince them to stay a few minutes to show them the prototype of his game: 10 short minutes were enough to pitch Operator 41.

I went back to the dorms and the following week I was accepted. I would say it was the luckiest moment of my life – so many stars had to line up for me to be accepted, and it turned out so well.

His goal achieved, he explains thatit was targeting Apple Arcade for very simple reasons:

I like having creative control and choosing how quickly I can make new content available to my players. The downside is that in the current App Store people are expecting free games. Therefore, every design I create has to generate monetization, which hinders the diversity of ideas I wanted to build.

To succeed in being part of the catalog when the service is launched, the young man needs funds and better logistics. Fortunately, thanks to his contacts acquired through his various experiences, Spruce integrates the team of the studio Shifty Eye, which focuses on Apple Arcade.

If, for the moment, it is difficult to know whether or not Operator 41 is and will be a success, the story of Spruce Campbell shows us that neither experience nor age is a barrier to living great. experiences. We imagine that, even if the returns are not unanimous in the near future, these various feats will open doors for him to make a living from his passion!

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Spruce Campbell: BAFTA Award at Apple Arcade, Portrait of a Little Genius