Captain Forever: A space odyssey

In June of 2009, Farbs – who on Earth is often known as Jarrad Woods – quit his job at 2K Australia and set off for the stars. Within a few months he’d reached his destination, spinning through a Petri dish cosmos, blasting whirligig enemies when they swarmed in from all angles, and picking over their remains once the killing was done. His launch vehicle of choice was a freeware Flash game called Captain Forever that took him mere weeks to construct, and in the years that followed it has spawned two richly ingenious sequels. With work on a far more elaborate fourth instalment now under way, it seemed like a good time to find out how things are going – and to look back on the journey so far.

Prior to leaving regular employment, Woods’ freeware output was characterised by an antic cheerfulness. Rom Check Fail pulped 8-Bit classics into an epileptic fugue where the objective never changed but just about everything else did, while Polychromatic Funk Monkey saw you racing through the background of what looked like some tuned-in 1970s kids’ show, rearranging rainbows and leaping from one curved ledge to another as you activated a series of totems. It was a good life – I suspect you couldn’t make games this relentlessly chirpy if it was anything else – but a trip to GDC ended with Woods calling his partner from San Francisco airport and telling her that he had to quit his job. Time to go solo. Time to start the countdown.

Did Woods have an image in his head of what a Farbs game should look like? “It’s more like your games choose you,” he laughs when I catch up with him on Skype. “So on my first full day, I sat down at the kitchen table with a pen and paper and listed all the game ideas I’d been thinking about for a while, and tried to pick which one to do. I really did not have an amazing plan. But I’ve got to say, just the other day I listed out all my games and other projects to have a think about them, and I was kind of surprised. I’ve always been a bit interested in construction and making things, but when I looked at all the things I’ve made, that’s a really heavy theme running through there.”

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