Interview: Rovio on the origin of Angry Birds, being inspired by swine flu, and why you may never see an Angry Birds 2

Ville Heijari talks to us ahead of the Android launch

Interview: Rovio on the origin of Angry Birds, being inspired by swine flu, and why you may never see an Angry Birds 2
| Angry Birds

Is it safe to refer to Angry Birds as a phenomenon yet? We think so.

Millions of units sold across multiple platforms, celebrity endorsements (including our own PM), a new line of plushie toys and rumours of a movie deal have all pushed the game into an elite field of gaming crazes.

The bird-pinging game is about to enter a whole new realm of popularity with its release onto the hugely popular Android platform this Friday.

We thought now would be a good time to question Rovio’s Ville Heijari on origin stories, compatibility issues, sequels, film deals, and the millionaire lifestyle they must all be living.

Who came up with the idea of Angry Birds? What did the rest of you think at the time?

In early 2009, when toying around with numerous game concepts, the Angry Birds characters popped up from one of them. The original idea game from Senior Game Designer Jaakko Iisalo.

Everybody loved the characters, even though there was no clear idea what the game was going to look like. As the concept evolved and the Birds needed some opponents, the pigs were born.

This was around the time the swine flu pandemic scare had reached its highest level, so the sickly green pigs were born out of that!

It’s taken some time (and two betas) to get Angry Birds ready for Android. What were the main issues you faced?

QA was the hairiest task. There is a multitude of different devices out there with different hardware and Android platform versions, and it’s not easy to tackle the fragmentation.

We’ve done a good job of trying to support as many devices as feasible. We don’t have support for QVGA display resolution at the time of launch, but we’re looking into adding that in an update!

Will you continue to work on compatibility for older Android devices, or have you drawn a line under such efforts now?

We’ve drawn the line at Android platform 1.6 and newer, and the device needs to support OpenGL 2.0 ES to run Angry Birds.

Will there be an online high scores facility added to the Android version in future?

The different social gaming aspects are very high on our list, and we’re definitely looking into providing the best solution for online highscores, friends lists, etc. for the Android version in a future update.

When are we going to see the Angry Birds toys going into production?

We’re looking at a complete line-up of different plushie birds that should be ready for holiday season. We’ll try to have them available for pre-ordering very soon!

I hear talk of an Angry Birds film – I presume that’s going to be animated, right? Although I can imagine a live action version starring Jonah Hill would go down well.

There’s a lot of talk about the film, and we certainly get a lot of suggestions and volunteers for voice actors and live action roles!

The film is a quite distant possibility still, but what we might see sooner is an animated series.

Any news of an Angry Birds sequel, and if so would you now develop it simultaneously with the iPhone version?

It is very likely that you will never see Angry Birds 2 as such. What you have seen so far is only a small glimpse into the Angry Birds world!

Millions of copies sold across multiple platforms – how has that affected the day-to-day running of Rovio? Besides the bird-shaped pool and gold-plated stationary, of course.

We’re growing rather rapidly at the moment - our headcount just broke 30, compared to nine full-time workers at the studio in February of this year.

Other than that we’re keeping busy with the business, and we’re modest enough in that there are no Ferraris in sight at our office parking spaces.

Finally, tell me one fact about Angry Birds (no matter how random) that no one outside Rovio is likely to know.

Well, we’re so generous that we’ll give you two:

First, everybody knows that the yellow bird cuts through wood and the blue one breaks glass blocks easily. But did you know that the boomerang bird is equally effective against both?!

Second, for those not familiar with the extent of the phenomenon, we estimate that fans of Angry Birds play the game for over 1 million hours every day just on iPhones. We’d like to see Android users match those figures!

Thanks for your time

Always a pleasure!

Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.