How one tweet about a half-fallen tree inspired the hottest iPhone game right now

Prune ios gameDave Smith/Business InsiderPrune is all about shaping your tree to help it grow.

“Prune” is the hottest game in Apple’s App Store right now. And it’s unlike any game you’ve ever played.

Your objective is to help shape your tree as it grows closer to the sun, pruning away branches with simple swipes to avoid obstacles. It’s a simple premise, but with gorgeous visuals and a zen soundtrack, it’s an extremely addictive experience.

Right now, Prune is being featured as one of the “Best New Games” in the iOS App Store, and the $US3.99 game has been in the Top 10 paid apps on the store for the past week or so.

Prune was created by Joel McDonald, a 31-year-old developer based in Madison, Wisconsin. In an interview with Tech Insider, McDonald said he was inspired by a tweet (embedded below), which described how people could generate realistic-looking trees in the multiplatform game engine called Unity. But he said it “clicked when I saw a half-fallen tree in a field, its branches splayed out in all directions.”

“At the time, I had been an indie game developer for about six months and had been prototyping a bunch of ideas,” McDonald said. “I had a few promising leads but I was looking for a nice, short project that could help me get my feet wet. I thought Prune was the perfect project for me to complete in a month or two and release on the App Store to test out the waters.”

Prune took longer than a couple of months. In total, McDonald spent 15 months to finish the project. He said he actually “rebooted the game” roughly six months into development — it had more levels in it than the current version  — but he said he just wasn’t happy with it.

“Prune was still missing its soul at that point,” he said.

About 10 months into development, McDonald tapped Kyle Preston, a composer and sound designer, to do the music and sounds for Prune. And he personally refocused his efforts to create a game that was simple and more minimalist.

Prune ios gamePruneGame.comBy swiping your fingers in the right spots, you can remove branches to help your tree grow around obstacles.

“One of my main goals when designing Prune was to respect the player’s intelligence and to respect their time, whether that player is 4 or 74,” McDonald said. “So much of the mobile game market just does not do this incredibly simple thing of respecting their players as actual human beings whose time is precious.”

People seem to be responding positively to McDonald’s efforts. In just five days on the App Store, Prune is an Editor’s Choice on the App Store with a majority of user ratings being five stars.

Before Prune came along, McDonald used to build shooter games like “Call of Duty” and “Wolfenstein” — he worked at Raven Software, the developer of those popular games, for seven years — but Prune has taken him in a much different direction, which he certainly seems to enjoy.

“I realised games can be for anybody and that they can convey a much larger palette of emotions and experiences that I wanted to explore,” McDonald said. “Prune was me heading out in this new direction and seeing where it would take me.”

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