As I stroll into National Mechanics, the Old City gastro-hub for Philadelphia’s geeks, I immediately spot Ray Merkler sitting at one of the tall tables closest to the entrance. His head is down, eyes darting back and forth from his iPhone to his iPad. When I approach his table and say hello, he looks up, smiles, and promptly turns off his iPad and places his phone, face down, on the table.
“Can I invite you to stack phones with me?” He asks, gesturing to his facedown iPhone.
I pull out a barstool and sit down, looking at him quizzically as I take my iPhone out of my pocket. He grins as I place it down on the table.
“I was having dinner with some developers, when Dain Saint from Cipher Prime introduced this to us,” he says, picking up my iPhone and placing it on top of his. “He said that he wanted to have a real conversation. I’ve been stacking phones ever since.”
It’s this sort of personal attention and focus that Merkler has poured into his debut title, Fortress, which launched in the Apple iOS store on August 2nd. But this launch hasn’t come without its challenges. A member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Independent Game Developers Association (IDGA), Merkler has struggled for years with bipolar disorder, and had to fight with his mental illness for four years while developing his game.
But what is Fortress?