Toronto-developed Severed and Vancouver-made Splitter Critters win Apple Design Awards

Splitter Critters

Toronto-developed Severed, created by Drinbox Studios, as well as Splitter Critters, created by Vancouver-based studio RAC7, have won Apple design awards at WWDC 2017

Severed, which was originally released on the PlayStation Vita before Drinkbox ported it over to the iPhone and iPad last year, has players frantically swiping across the screen to take down enemies in a first-person dungeon crawler throwback

When asked what the experience of porting Severed from the Vita to iOS was like, Drinkbox co-founder Graham Smith explained that there was a significant learning curve regarding his team getting the hang of iOS development.


“It wasn’t difficult because of performance, but because of other challenges. I went to GDC last year and met with a whole bunch of Apple people that were there and they introduced me to the user-experience team. I asked them, ‘hey, we need to be able to move around in the world, and swipe in the world, and tap in the world, and be able to pick things up, but also move forward. How do we get all these things into a touchscreen?,” said Smith, in a recent interview at Apple’s WWDC 2017.

The studio also ported the game over to Apple’s Metal coding language in order to ensure smooth and reliable performance across a variety of iOS devices. Smith says that given the success of Severed on iOS, it’s possible that Drinkbox could continue developing games for Apple’s mobile platform in the future.

“Any time that it makes sense for a game — for Severed it’s all touchscreen — if not it could be well suited for macOS or Apple TV,” said Graham, discussing Drinbox’s future plans for iOS.

Drinbox Severed

While Drinkbox has received critical acclaim for its past titles, particularly Guacamelee for the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3, Graham says that winning an Apple design award “is the biggest award we’ve ever received.”

“Everyone is feeling like, ‘wow Apple actually cares about us, that’s amazing. I don’t remember feeling that at any other awards we’ve been to before. This feels like a very personal award said Graham. Severed also won best mobile game of the year at the Canadian Video Game Awards last year.

The other Canadian developer to take home an award is Vancouver-based RAC7 for the studio’s innovative game Splitter Critters, a title that, similar to Severed, involves constantly swiping across the screen in order to split the world and solve puzzles.

In Splitter Critters, players are able to beat levels however they want, with stages becoming more complex as the game moves forward. Jesse Ringrose, one of Rac7’s co-founders, along with Jason Ennis, explained that the Splitter Critters aims to remove as many negative feelings as possible regarding what players are able to do in the game, resulting in the title placing an emphasis on experimentation.

“[Apple] are going to put the Apple marketing machine in full effect. They’re going to give us some time in the App Store and some features, which is amazing. Everyone wants to be on the front page of the App Store. That’s just the best.”

Splitter Citters

Ringrose says that winning this award will help the studio make more games and that this will allow Rac7’s two-person team to continue making games.

While game development initially started as a hobby for the pair, a few years ago Ringrose and Ennis quit their full-time jobs to see if they could make it as a tiny independent game studio.

The entire design awards list includes the following video games and apps from around the world:

Blackbox (USA)
Splitter Critters (Canada)
Severed (Canada)
Mushroom 11 (USA)
Old Man’s Journey (Austria)
Lake (Slovenia)
Bear (Italy)
Kitchen Stories (Germany)
Things 3 (Germany)
Elk (Singapore)
Enlight (Israel)
AirMail 3 (Italy)