Pineapple on pizza is a short first-person game about exploring an island full of dancing people and discovering what pineapple on pizza tastes like. The game was released for free on Steam and itch.io on March 28th, 2023.
Pineapple on pizza's experience is heavily based on an unexpected event. If you haven't played it yet, I heavily recommend you to stop reading here, as the rest of this article, including the very next section, contains spoilers that will totally ruin it for you.
Pineapple on pizza was originally thought of as an exercise of trying to come out with ideas for the smallest possible games that are an interesting enough experience to be worth it.
The original idea was that there is a small island filled with people dancing happily like there is a party going on. On the island there is a volcano, and when you jump into it, lava starts flowing out and spreading across the island. People scream and die in pain as the lava reaches them, but the party feeling of the music intensifies.
The ensuing juxtaposition of extreme happiness and chaos and death is unexpectedly comical. It produces a rarely explored emotion: euphoria induced by chaotic tragedy. Smiling while witnessing a massacre. My objective with this game is to convey that emotion.
Title and symbolism
I came up with the title and the pizza metaphor while I was already developing the game. After realizing that the island would look like a pizza from above, since it had a round shape and was surrounded by a yellowish strip (the beach), it occurred to me that the game could be interpreted as a metaphor for pineapple pizza, which coincidentally is also known as a Hawaiian pizza. The happy music and dance represent the pizza, the chaos and death represent the pineapple, and even though it didn't look like they would mix well, you find yourself enjoying the result. I must note that I have never eaten a pineapple pizza.
Since it was both fun and fitting, I decided to embrace the metaphor, both as an enticing description for the game, and as the ending, where the camera rises up to show the island from above, and the volcano turns yellow to form the shape of a slice of pineapple.
On June 2019, I was working on Majorariatto Museum v3, adding a new series of secrets. I decided to develop a quick version of my original idea for the game and hid it as the new secret ending. Here I titled it Pizza con piña.
I had very limited experience with 3D development and couldn't spend too much time on it, so I developed it as quickly and barebones as I could, while properly fulfilling its premise. The models were made with ProBuilder and used plain color materials as textures. The characters were 2D with a few frames of animations, drawn using vectors. Their body parts were made of ovals and other simple shapes that I could rotate and move around to create different poses. The volcano was set on a side of the island so I didn't have to populate the other side.
The flow of the lava posed a challenge. I had no idea how to do it properly, so I developed a clever system: I made a copy of the volcano and textured it red. Then I animated it so it slowly moved up while rising in scale on its X and Z axes. The result is the lava appearing from the top of the volcano and progressively covering it up. The ground on the island was slightly slanted so I could make a similar effect with its model, rising a slightly more slanted version from below.
The volcano was off-center so I wouldn't have to populate the whole island around.
Fearing he wouldn't quite get the concept and would lean toward darker tones, I lied and told him that when you dropped into the volcano, it erupted with confetti and everyone just partied harder.
The music had to be synced so the harder loop started the moment the lava touched the ground. To do so, I made the lava rise from the inside of the volcano to the top at the calculated speed so it would later reach the ground at the exact moment.
I came up with both the ending and the title during development. The game would end with the camera rising and showing the island from above, which resembled a pizza, with the volcano turning yellow to look like a slice of pineapple.
The game was very well received by those who completed the museum, and I thought the concept was too good to be hidden as a secret inside another game. My particular interest in short games made me feel it was a shame that it was not enjoyable as a standalone experience, even if it worked as a perfect final surprise for the museum.
The game, however, was too barebones and amateur-looking. If I had to turn it into a standalone game, I wanted to remake it with proper graphics, a bigger island, and more dynamic animations for the characters.
On April 21, 2021, after releasing pureya, I started working on remaking it. My plan was to hire DEValen, a novice but promising developer and friend, to develop most of it using the original version as a prototype, while I worked on a new game.
The plan was for a quick and cheap development. DEValen showed unwarranted confidence in his ability to finish the game working part-time for a few months.
We considered using premade assets but didn't find ones that satisfied our needs, so we decided that it would be best for DEValen to model them. We wanted a simple style that looked cartoony. After multiple tests, we settled for rounded forms with a low level of detail in both the models and the textures.
After about 2 years of work, with me supervising and offering occasional direction, it was clear that the project was not going well. On September 15, 2022, after finishing the Shipped v2 update, I joined DEValen and started working full-time on the game, aiming to release it on March 28, 2023.
In January of 2023, I also hired Gius Camitti, who previously worked with me on The one who pulls out the sword will be crowned king, to help us out a bit, primarily solving technical issues.
I spent about 30.000€ paying the rest of the team to make this game, with no expectations of recovering any of it.
The game was really well received. It had a good launch and it kept spreading in popularity in the following months, particularly in Japan. It surprised and got a laugh out of the vast majority, and it got a lot of praise, particularly for its soundtrack.
It was extensively covered by Vtubers, notably the Hololives.
The game released with ~23.000 wishlists on Steam.
Day 1: ~40.000 downloads and ~90.000 licenses.*
Month 1: ~200.000 downloads and ~330.000 licenses.
Trimester 1: ~325.000 downloads and ~490.000 licenses.
*Licenses = Users who added it to their library but didn't download and played it. The difference between licenses and downloads was abnormally high, likely due to most people discovering the game by watching it on video, thus not feeling the need to play it by themselves.
Regional (first trimester):
United States 16%
Reviews (first trimester): Overwhelmingly positive (16,882), 98% positive.
The soundtrack was sold at $0.99 on Steam.
Day 1: ~700 units ($600 gross).
Month 1: ~2.500 units ($2.200 gross).
Trimester 1: ~3,736 units ($3.300 gross)
Regional (first trimester):
United States 11%
I'm proud of how the game came out and satisfied with its reception. I feared that most people might not get this particular sense of humor, but I was relieved to see that not being the case.
I think the game achieved all its main design objectives and I see it as a genuinely great experience. I'm sure it's a game I would enthusiastically recommend even if I hadn't made it.
Its biggest flaw was the distribution of content. The game has a lot of content and animations, but the round shape of the island requires the content to be spread out so you can encounter some of it wherever you go.
This poses 2 problems: One is that you can't possibly see all the best content in a single playthrough, and two, that content is spread a bit thinner than would be ideal.
Ideally, no matter where you look at, something interesting would be happening, but that's not always the case. No matter what path you follow, there will be always something interesting going on nearby, but on certain zones there's some dead time between events. For example, if you go down the volcano through the plantation area, there's some dead time between the lava reaching the last of the villagers on the path and it reaching the corn fields. Ideally, there would be something else happening in between.
One possible solution, other than spending more time developing extra content, could have been to repeat content at multiple zones of the island to maximize how many things you get to see on your first playthrough. However, that would have made following playthroughs feel disappointing, and while I value a single playthrough over replayability, the game already had enough content on each path to achieve the intended experience, so I thought it worked better this way.
I think I made a good piece of art.