A bird indoors, I read recently – I cannot remember where – is an omen of bad things. I have no idea why this is, except there’s just something very wrong about it, I guess, a topsy-turviness to the order of the universe that brings on panic. I have a distant memory of a thrush getting into the house when I was very small, all of these grown-ups around me suddenly flung into a state of chaos: standing on chairs, looking for towels and brooms – to guide it rather than clobber it, I think – and opening windows. The thrush seemed calm, as I remember the moment, and it left when it wanted to. I don’t know how long thrushes live or the kinds of things they can expect to get up to over the course of a busy flapping life, but I imagine I think about that particular incident more of then than the thrush in question ever did.
Anyway, birds indoors: last week, on a hot day during the develop conference in Brighton, a bird got into our office. A man brought it in, safe on a laptop and also – in a mobile version – on their iPhone. Fugl. Is that what the bird is called? It’s certainly what the game is called. You play as a bird, and you soar and glide and explore glorious landscapes. That’s about it.
And “that’s about it” is just what I wanted to hear. Fugl is the sort of game you can so easily ruin with an objective or two. The movement is so wonderful and freeing and energising, so much of a thrill, that it’s so lovely to be able to tell you that nobody ever forces you to thread yourself through glowing hoops in the sky or attempt an Immelmann for style points. If you want to do an Immelmann in Fugl it’s because you work up that morning and really wanted to do an Immelmann, and not because the man told you to. You shouldn’t listen to the man if you’re a bird: it’s a core tenet of birdness.
Fugl’s out on early access now, and there’s that mobile version and a VR version on the way. However you play it, this thing is a glory. The environment takes the form of knotted towers of rock and glittering seas, all rendered with that most wonderful form of magic, voxels. Volumetric pixels! Who doesn’t want to have an excuse to type that?
There’s a level editor in the works, I gather, which sees you fiddling with this and that to conjure earth from nothing: it pulses as you work it, shape it, stain it different colours as if you’re manipulating a graphic equaliser.
Your bird is made from voxels too, and as you race around, coursing here and there, you often come across other birds or butterflies or what have you and gently, quietly assume their form. Wanna catch ’em all? You can if you so desire, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to do anything here, and that’s fantastic.