Archive | Indie Interview

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Indie Interview: Dogs Playing Poker

Posted on 21 May 2010 by Todd

*****2votes

Today we bring you an indie interview with Kevin O’Neil, the creator of Dogs Playing Poker!

Company: Candywriter
App Store: Dogs Playing Poker $1.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
I started Candywriter by developing Mac software in 2006 and instantly became enamored with the Mac community. When Apple announced it was opening up the iPhone to third party developers, we began prototyping immediately and had our first app, Imagine Poker Touch, available on the App Store’s launch day in July 2008. Since then we’ve gradually expanded our interests in the platform and, as of May 2010, have shipped 1.2 million copies of our games via the App Store.

How long did it take you to develop Dogs Playing Poker and how many people were involved?
Dogs Playing Poker piggybacks heavily on our Texas Hold ’em engine from Imagine Poker 2. From a programming perspective, I took the fundamentals out of Imagine and created Dogs Playing Poker in about two months. Our graphics team worked on it for a little while longer. Overall, Dogs Playing Poker was the result of one developer (myself), four artists, one sound guy, one lawyer, and three inspirational dogs!

How did you come up with the idea for Dogs Playing Poker?
My dog, Butkus, is a little thuggish and one day I was lying around looking at him and I thought he epitomized a blue collar poker dog from the infamous C.M. Coolidge paintings. Today his face adorns the Dogs Playing Poker icon!

What inspired you for Dogs Playing Poker from initial concept to formalized game?
We’re an exceptionally creative and humorous group of people are are constantly thinking of new ideas for games. If an idea sticks around long enough for us to start prototyping, it means that we’re really into it and excited for its chances. Dogs Playing Poker was a particularly promising idea as it is self-explanatory, offers built-in curb appeal, and stars man’s best friend!

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
We’re inspired by our search for the perfect game; I feel like we’re getting a little closer each time and continually learning about how to improve our users’ experience. We’re spending more and more time on the little things, whether its custom UI elements or clever little features like “Every Dog has its Day” – its these creative nuances that keep our interest fresh.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Without a doubt the most difficult aspect of life as an indie developer is the marketing. Its a community of established players, indie cliques, garage developers, moonlighters, and big money investors and the key to each of these parties’ success is the exposure. Its tough to stand out amidst the intense competition.

Can you describe your development process?
We use a rapid application development (RAD) model and start with loose designs and then iterate. We’re able to pull this off because we’re extremely agile, efficient, and motivated.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Its actually pretty unstructured. We do mockups and discuss extensively but we know that our best ideas come as a result of iterating.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Dogs Playing Poker was released?
We released a very high quality teaser trailer about a month before the Dogs Playing Poker launch and it was noticed and covered by a number of review sites and blogs. We also updated our other apps (user base > 500k) and, in the update blurbs, let people know about our upcoming hit. This strategy ended up paying dividends when Dogs Playing Poker finally hit the App Store.

What are you working on now?
We’re huge believers in the Mac and are hard at work on a Mac version of Dogs Playing Poker. We’re also busy with a sequel to our smash hit word game, Word Solitaire.

Any plans for updates to Dogs Playing Poker?
Absolutely. The reception to Dogs Playing Poker has been amazing but there’s still work to be done. I can’t say enough good things about our loyal users – their iTunes reviews are where we look to figure out where DPP must go next.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Dogs Playing Poker?
There’s only one thing that frustrates me about developing anything on the iPhone and that’s testing on an original (2G/Edge) iPhone! I use an iPhone 3GS and a third gen iPod touch as primary development devices and I’m such a speed fiend that my hands fill with sweat when I think about testing on an older device and watching everything slow down. I recognize that its stuff most people will never notice but the little animation lags drive me bananas (B-A-N-A-N-A-S). I can’t wait for the day when everyone is running speedier hardware.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Dogs Playing Poker?
The innate curb appeal of an idea like Dogs Playing Poker sells itself. Cross-promotion and getting some attention from the review sites helps but even if the Pope himself tattooed your app’s name across his forehead, it wouldn’t compare to a feature from Apple. We were lucky enough to catch Apple’s eye with Dogs Playing Poker and doing so made the game an overnight success, literally.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
User feedback is huge. We have ideas of our own but once you see two or more users make the same criticism on iTunes, you know you’re missing something important.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
We write games for ourselves because life is short and the self-fulfillment associated with publishing our own ideas is unparalleled. Thankfully, enough people appreciate our visions to keep us in business!

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Creative block is fortunately not a problem for us.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
I am in the rare and admittedly enviable position to say that I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Dogs Playing Poker is on the top of the Card and Casino categories and among the highest charting card games since the App Store opened.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
Like brains fuel zombies, trance fuels Candywriter. Podcasts like Dance Department, Gareth Emery.

What was a must have during the development process of Dogs Playing Poker?
Patience, attention to detail, and a love for dogs!

What games influenced you in your decision to make Dogs Playing Poker?
The success of our own Imagine Poker gave us the confidence to invest in Dogs Playing Poker. In Imagine Poker, instead of dogs you face off against characters from history like Napoleon, Cleopatra, and Genghis Khan. I thought we could make a “mainstream” version of that game.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
In all honesty, it came out nicer than we imagined.

Before the release of Dogs Playing Poker were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
The art was huge. We pride ourselves on pixel-perfect graphics and the more you add to the game, the more excited you become to show the world.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
Xcode, Photoshop, TextWrangler, SoundStudio, Springy, Skype, Fetch, Snapz Pro

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
I think TextEdit could have helped Robinson Crusoe.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Thanks for taking the time to find out a little more about Candywriter!

We want to thank Kevin for his time and the great work that he and his team are doing!

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Indie Interview: Edge

Posted on 14 May 2010 by Todd

*****1vote

Today we bring you an indie interview with David Papazian, the creator of Edge!

Company: Mobigame
App Store: Edge $0.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
We develop for the iPhone OS since September 2008. Before that we were working for other mobile handsets. Me (David) and my associate Matthieu Malot met at Gameloft in 2002.

How long did it take you to develop Edge and how many people were involved?
At first, Edge was made for J2ME handsets. We started it at the beginning of 2007. One year later it was working for around 100 different handsets (Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, etc.) and we signed a distribution deal with an English company: Connect2Media. It took again 6 months to make it work with all J2ME handsets, and 3 more month only for the iPhone version, which was really improved from the J2ME version and we publish this version on our own. So it took 2 years to develop Edge for Matthieu (as Game Designer and Graphist) and me (as Developer). 4 musicians helped us to make the music, and Ninomojo (Romain Gauthier) made the sound design and some amazing tunes (http://ninomojo.blogspot.com/)

How did you come up with the idea for Edge?
Matthieu had the idea a long time ago. He was looking for something very simple, something intuitive, and one of the core idea is that everyone played with a cube when he/she was a kid.

What inspired you for Edge from initial concept to formalized game?
The initial concept was a cube moving on its edge with a kind of analogic control. We thought a lot about the level design, the atmosphere, the graphics, the difficulty curve. Matthieu wanted something very pure, very polish. Some ideas like the mini cube come from the game Kid Dynamite, and one name came very often in our discussions: Tron. I guess you know this movie, if you don’t you must watch it!

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
We make the games we want to play. For now, Matthieu and I made 2 games: Edge and Cross Fingers. Both ideas come from Matthieu, and for the next games I am more involved in the game design. We share our ideas and we try to keep only the best ones. Matthieu is a Sega fan, and I am a Nintendo boy.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
You are dependent on the distribution channel, and you don’t have anything to say. For example, we had a legal issue with our game Edge last year. This year EA had exactly the same issue, but Apple did not react the same way with them. Indies are very dependent to the big companies, we have to follow and take opportunities. In a way it is great, but we have no security. Big companies do not share their secret about the future of the industry with us.

Can you describe your development process?
It is very simple. When we have an idea we make a prototype. If we like it we push it further, we add news ideas, we keep only the best ones. We can call this iterative game design. It is pretty long, and you don’t have the full game design at the beginning, but at the end you may have a great game.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Our team is very small. We were only 2 on Edge, and today we are 5. I mean, with a small team everyone give his ideas. When everyone is enthusiastic we try it. Sometimes we play old games which could answer to some questions more quickly, but in the general case we try all ideas. The initial stage is very exciting, everything is still possible. But for us the most important is the gameplay. Everything in the creation process must help to improve the initial gameplay.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Edge was released?
Not really. We released a video on YouTube one week before the release, and I sent an email to some journalists when the game was released.

What are you working on now?
We have just finished a new game. It is a very fun old school racing game for the iPhone. Now we are finishing another game, a very ambitious one. it is 3D game with lighting effects and physics and a very innovative gameplay, still for the iPhone. We are also porting Edge for the PSP and we are working with another company to bring Edge on the Ds, Wii and PC.

Any plans for updates to Edge?
There are many options, we want to do more levels, but we also want to add new gameplay elements. We also want to improve the graphics. Should we do a HD version for the iPad with more levels? or should we do a sequel with a lot of new stuffs? Anyway, we have a lot of idea and we will continue to work on Edge.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Edge?
We worked with iterative game design. But at some point, you cannot add new ideas easily, because it will need too many changes in the engine, or because you have to release it soon. At this point you start to think “ok let keep this for Edge 2”, and you hope there will be an Edge 2. The final stage was the most frustrating.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Edge?
The awards, or the video. I mean, the game won some awards before its release, it was announced as a triple IGF finalist when it was released so I am sure that helped. Also the video, Ninomojo made an amazing soundtrack for the video (Kakkoi) and the trailer has been seen more than 100,000 times in the first 2 weeks, that’s pretty good, but this video is unique, the game is innovative and the music is great, it is not something easy to reproduce, and Apple promoted the game on the store.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
A lot! We answer to all our customers’ emails, we do our best to make our games better. For example, we add 2 controls types to Edge because our customers asked for them, and we add 20 levels since the initial release! I think it was a good move, some companies prefer to make a sequel, but making a free update create a special link with our fans. For future projects we are looking at where the market goes, what people want, and what we want to do, and we try to fit everything together. But we also want to surprise our customers, one of our next game is something never seen before on the iPhone, we don’t know how people will react, but we have a lot of fun with it. We try to have a good mix between artistic and commercial games.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
It is a hard one. We write games that we want to play, but we write them for others, because we want to share what we like. I will give an example, When Matthieu makes a new level for Edge, I am the first tester. And Matthieu look at me when I play it, sometimes I laugh when I die in a trap, or sometimes I feel it’s too hard. It was the same with the sound design. Each one of us make his partition to share it with the team, and the team make the game to share it with the world. I hope it makes sense.

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
We have no secret for that, we take our time, we stay away from the game and we wait until the solution find its way through our minds.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
We would do everything the same way.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
The atmosphere was pretty cool. Sometimes we were really excited about what we were doing, and sometimes we were afraid of what the people would think about the game. We listened to very different musics, I like to code with Ennio Morricone, Pink Floyd, Archive, Led Zeppelin, Placebo, etc. One track that Matthieu and I listened to a lot is Planisphere by Justice, this track is amazing, if you want to give it a try you can download it here: http://www.zmemusic.com/other-genres/electronic-music/download-justice-planisphere/

What was a must have during the development process of Edge?
Rubik’s Cube, and not only one! You need a minimum of two of them to simulate all mechanics. And you can also use it to relax, yes solving a Rubik’s Cube when you know the algorithms is very relaxing, for me at least.

What games influenced you in your decision to make Edge?
None. And that’s probably why Edge is unique. During the creation process we thought to some games, we also find out some other games featuring cubes, like Cube on PSP which was released after we started working on Edge. But no game influenced our decision to make Edge.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
The end product is really really better. The gameplay goes really further, especially with the “Edge Time” which was not present in the initial concept (it is when you hang on the Edge of a moving block to cross a gap). We are also very happy with the esthetic, the shade of grey of the levels with the colorful cube. At the beginning the cube was only blue, the levels were made of white and grey blocks, and the background was white. But one thing did not change, the cube and the way it moves.

Before the release of Edge were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really, we took 2 years to make it, and we released it only when we were happy with it. We polished it until the last minute. There was no deadline, so no hurry at the end.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
We trust in our potential, we believe we are doing good games and that’s enough to keep motivated. It is easier when you are not alone. When Matthieu make a great design, or when the musician make a great tune, or when I add a great feature in the game, everyone else is more motivated than ever.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
It was really important. Some people does not understand it, they said we should have added a blue sky, grass on the ground and this kind of stuff to make it more casual like a Popcap game. But Edge is a piece of art, it has his own esthetic, and I can say that because I am not the designer. Matthieu had a vision and it is exactly what you can see and listen to in the game, there was no compromise.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
The code was made with Emacs (a free and powerfull text editor) and Xcode. The art were made with Promotion 6 (I highly recommend it for pixel graphics). The music were made with different tools, Cubase, Fruity loop, etc. For the levels and other tools we made our own software with Visual Studio.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
If I could take a game, I would play Heroes of Might & Magic 3, it is one of my favorite game of all time. And if you give me a C++ compiler and Promotion, I will probably code a lot of strange games or effects, that’s my demomaker side.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Our industry is changing. Indies are becoming more important, and we need some people who will help to connect developers, together we are still indies, but we have a voice that our industry’s leaders will listen to. When we add all our legal trouble last year, The Chaos Engine and IndieVision helped us a lot, and we discovered that developers were a kind of family. That’s important to me, and that’s why I really thank you for what you are doing here at IndieAppolis.

We want to thank David for his time and the great work that he and his team are doing!

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Indie Interview: FaceFighter

Posted on 16 April 2010 by Todd

****½2votes

Today we bring you an indie interview with Paul O’ Connor from the team that brought us FaceFighter.

Company: Appy Entertainment, Inc.
App Store: FaceFighter $1.99 | Lite

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
Appy Entertainment was born on Halloween 2008 to develop games for iPhone and iPod/touch. Prior to founding Appy, we were mostly VP-level guys at High Moon Studios, a developer we helped to found and guide through acquisition with Vivendi. While at High Moon we developed next gen console games like Darkwarch and The Bourne Conspiracy.

How long did it take you to develop FaceFighter and how many people were involved?
The FaceFighter core team was our CTO Marc-Antoine Argenton and Project Director Emmanuel Valdez, with Farzad Varahramyan, our Creative Visual Director, also devoting significant time to the project. Steve Sargent was Executive Producer.  At various times about a half-dozen other folks were on the project in full or part time capacities. Total development time was in the neighborhood of five months.

How did you come up with the idea for FaceFighter?
Em had a background in fighting games, and we wanted to do something game-based with our face and photo tech from our first app (Appy Newz), so FaceFighter was a natural choice.

What inspired you for FaceFighter from initial concept to formalized game?
We knew FaceFighter would be funny, that it would make people laugh, that it would compel them to share the game with each other — we knew if we made a game that created a picture of your friend all beaten up that it would have a viral component to inspire word-of-mouth, which is critical to continues sales of any app.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
All of our games come from the same place — our games need to be something that will use the unique elements of the iPhone, whether that’s Multitouch, or the camera, or connectivity. Games also need to be strong in key areas — they need to have a social dimension, they need someplace to grow through continuing sales and updates, they need to create something players will feel compelled to share with each other. Not every game hits every one of these elements to the same degree but they’re all viewed and evaluated through this lens.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Fear of the unknown. Everything we do is entirely on our own dime, without any kind of publisher-level access to Apple, so margins for error are slimmer and capacity for disaster is greater than if we were doing projects for an established publisher. At the same time, we have greater freedom and the upside is considerably greater. Being an Indie is like being on a pirate ship, while a publisher gig is more like an ocean liner. Both are ships, both do essentially the same thing, but they get there different ways and with different attitudes. One isn’t better than the other — it’s really more a matter of deciding where your individual temperament will give you the greatest happiness and satisfaction.

Can you describe your development process?
We’ve got seven full-time guys inside Appy, we all suggest ideas and kick things around. Some of us do it more than others, but we’re all part of the process. Once every several weeks we have a day where we head up to the loft and cull our idea file (thirty or forty pages long by now) and get a few of the most promising ideas onto the whiteboard. Then we fight with each other a bit about what idea has the most merit.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Coming out of the whiteboard session an idea will be “green lit” for further development. At this point we’ll document the design a bit and try to get a clearer idea of what tools and code will be required to bring the idea to market. We’ll trim scope at this point and try to get a schedule. Then we work toward first prototype, which is proof-of-concept, and that’s kind of the time we need to put our hands on a rock and decide we’re really going to make this idea work. Not every game survives this step and we have spiked games that got to prototype when we decided that the game just wasn’t going to prove viable.

Did you do any pre-marketing before FaceFighter was released?
No … we kept everything dark right up until the game came out. We didn’t have a big customer base for promotion at that point, and there didn’t seem any point in promoting the game through the press until the game was actually available for download.

What are you working on now?
Continuing development of FaceFighter is our first priority — we have 3 million downloads of the game out there in all of its forms and the game continues to sell well. We just released FaceFighter Face2Face for iPad, and we have iPad versions of Tune Runner and Zombie Pizza on the way. We’re doing new fighters, weapons, and finishing moves as downloadable content for FaceFighter on iPhone and iPod touch. We have continuing plans for FaceFighter that we’re not ready to reveal right now. We have two new original projects in development for release later this year, and we’re looking at a couple licensed properties in entirely new areas for us. We’re also continually tweaking our existing games, adding new content (we just added email, Facebook, and Twitter connectivity to our free FaceFighter Lite), improving our ad networks, adding OpenFeint, that kind of stuff … it’s largely invisible to our fans but these adjustments are important to the long-term success of our apps and they cost real money and schedule time.

Any plans for updates to FaceFighter?
Yep — two or three new weapon/foe/finishing packs should be out by mid-year.

What was your most frustrating task while developing FaceFighter?
There were a whole host of things, but connecting to Facebook and dealing with that system was probably the most frustrating.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market FaceFighter?
Word-of-mouth … nothing counts more than getting the game into someone’s hands. They always laugh and they always show the game to their friends. So getting the game into the hands of people who will write about it and show it around has been critical. That’s why our game really took off after we were free for a week — we shipped a million free copies of FaceFighter in six days and we’re still riding the wave of sales from that event thanks to customer referrals.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
We take it seriously. We answer all of our email. We keep an eye on App Store reviews. We try to figure what will get us another star or half star on the App Store.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
We’ve concentrated entirely on original and wholly-owned projects at Appy but would consider outside development if the deal made sense for everyone.

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
We look at our bank balance.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
I think we’ve ended up updating and tweaking stuff in smaller chunks than we anticipated. We’re more likely to do two small updates in six weeks than one big update in four.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
We’re above a pub so there is plenty of noise and music and drunkenness down in the parking lot. Inside the office we watch a lot of Team America: World Police.

What was a must have during the development process of FaceFighter?
Time. Time time time. A lot of lost weekends and nights on that project.

What games influenced you in your decision to make FaceFighter?
The greatest influence was probably Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, which was also created by Em … that game was kind of the touchstone for our FaceFighter mechanics, in as much as we compared everything to that game in terms of execution and difficulty levels.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
The game took a casual turn during development. It started off as a more serious and “gamerly” game but we realized that FaceFighter would enjoy greater success if we guided it more toward a pick-up-and-play audience.

Before the release of FaceFighter were there any huge last minute changes?
The “Immortal Judgment” finishing move — at first just dropping a rock on your enemy, but later a whole range of goofy finishes — that went in very late. Basically, Em just announced that he’d come up with the idea and was putting it in, I think he came up with it entirely on his own and basically sprung it on the rest of us. And he was right — the game needed a comical climax and that’s exactly what the Judgments provide. But it was a pretty major addition for the home stretch of the project.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
We’ve burned our boats. There is no sailing back to where we came from. We make this work, or we fail. That’s all the motivation we require.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
Art is one of the strong suits of Appy Entertainment — we have monstrously-talented artists in-house to drive our animation, production design, and look and feel of our games. If we can’t make it look great, we don’t do it.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
Heavy use of green screen for our animation and image capture. Other than that, the usual stuff.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
No apps. We’d unplug, watch the waves, get some sleep.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Thanks for thinking of us. Go buy our games so we can keep doing this!

We want to thank Paul for his time!

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Indie Interview: Chalkboard Stunts

Posted on 09 April 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Arshad Rahman and Rav Dhiraj, the creators of Chalkboard Stunts.

Company: Manta Research
App Store: Chalkboard Stunts Free | Chalkboard Stunts Pro $1.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
We actually started developing late 2007 with the reverse engineered frameworks, before an official SDK was even released.  We’ve always had a love for low level tinkering, and this seemed like the perfect platform for it.  In our day jobs, we both work at a company where we develop high-end 3D graphics/video hardware and associated drivers for the Apple platform.

How long did it take you to develop Chalkboard Stunts and how many people were involved?
The original proof of concept was actually developed in the fall of 2008, but it sat on the shelf for a long time as we worked on other projects.  We revived it again in November 2009, and we’ve been focused on it since then.

How did you come up with the idea for Chalkboard Stunts?
We started experimenting with in-game physics in late 2008, and as part of that experiment we put together a simple proof of concept vehicle and rudimentary level builder to see how well it worked.

What inspired you for Chalkboard Stunts from initial concept to formalized game?
We saw the success of some of the other racing titles on the platform in spite of what we felt were serious shortcomings in some of these other offerings.  We thought we could do a better job, so we decided that we had to create our own 2D physics based racing title.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
All the good Apps that have found some success in the App Store.  It gives us hope that investing time to create a fun and polished game will be worthwhile.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Well both of us have full-time day jobs, so all of our iPhone development is done in the evenings and weekends.  There’s a tremendous amount of effort (over a thousand hours) that goes into putting out a game like Chalkbaord Stunts, and it means making a lot of personal sacrifices with our families so that we can pursue this.

Can you describe your development process?
Generally, it’s broken down into three stages: 1) prototyping and design discussions/notes 2) concentrated development of features 3) testing and iterating on design elements.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
We do a lot of brainstorming and playing around with different proof-of-concept experiments before we actually get down to writing a game like Chalkboard Stunts.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Chalkboard Stunts was released?
Not really.

What are you working on now?
We’re continuing to make improvements to Chalkboard Stunts, and are also working on another game that we hope to bring to market in the near future.  We also have a popular application called “AppSniper” which we’re also in the process of updating.

Any plans for updates to Chalkboard Stunts?
Absolutely.  We have a ton of ideas on how to improve the game, the level editor, offer additional in-app purchases, etc.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Chalkboard Stunts?
Balancing overall project development time with feature creep.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Chalkboard Stunts?
We tried a few different things without much success.  Sales were very poor, and it was a very frustrating experience for us because we genuinely felt that we had a good product that we had put a tremendous amount of effort into.  At the end of the day, what worked for us was to pay for a spot with FreeAppADay.com.  It was a big risk, and we ended up paying almost as much as we had made since launch (6 weeks worth), but we felt strongly that it could do well if it just had some visibility.

After the promotion, we shot up the charts and we kept gaining momentum all the way to the number 1 spot on the free list.  Of course we didn’t make any money from giving our product away, but we had over a million downloads in this period, and since then we’ve released a “pro” version which is selling reasonably well.

Since we never planned on making the game free, one of the problems we ran into was that our server did not scale well to suddenly having a million people trying to submit scores, vote on levels, and download new levels.  In fact, it completely flattened our server such that all requests were timing out.  We scrambled with our ISP to increase the resources, and make changes to our back-end server queries to help reduce the load, but this only helped a little bit.  We eventually ended up migrating to a MUCH more expensive load balanced dedicated server, but now things are zippy again.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
A lot.  We pride ourselves on our customer support and responsiveness to user feedback.  We are constantly evaluating the suggestions that people send us, and we always try to incorporate any good ideas that people send our way.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
A little bit of both.  We both love gaming, and we both love programming… and if we can make some extra cash doing it on the side, then it’s a win-win situation 🙂

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Usually playing other games. 🙂

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
We spent a lot of time beta testing the game internally with a group of friends, but unfortunately all of them were hardcore gamers.  All of them loved it, and had no problems with the controls, but at launch the biggest complaints we got were on the control setup and the difficulty of the game.  If we could do things over again, we would have launched with the configurability and ease of driving that we have now.

The other thing is that we would have been better prepared for the sheer number of downloads and the server scaling required to handle that.  At the number one spot on the free list, we were getting over 200k downloads EVERY DAY!

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
Most of the development was done late at night, so dark and quiet (no music).

What was a must have during the development process of Chalkboard Stunts?
Support from our families!

What games influenced you in your decision to make Chalkboard Stunts?
We looked at all of the games in the same genre, and also games that offered in-game level creation and sharing.  This included games like Jelly Car 2, Monster Truck Nitro, Line Rider, MX Mayhem, iStunt, Labyrinth 2, and iBlast Moki to name a few.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
The basic premise was still the same, but we ended up adding a lot of things to the final game.

Before the release of Chalkboard Stunts were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really.  We actually spent the final few weeks fine-tuning the game physics and creating levels.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
Feedback from our beta testers and knowing that the core gameplay was fun.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
We had a few different ideas for the look of the game (including a doodle look which we will be releasing shortly as a new theme).  The art assets sort of fell into place as we went, and the chalkboard look just made a lot of sense.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
XCode, Photoshop, Fission, HTTPscoop, TextMate, Screenium, SoundTrack Pro.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
The “Message in a Bottle” App. 😉

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Thank you for the opportunity of letting us tell the world a little bit of the behind-the-scenes effort that went into making this game 🙂

We want to thank Arshad Rahman and Rav Dhiraj for their time!

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Indie Interview: Ground Effect

Posted on 02 April 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Glenn Corpes, the creator of Ground Effect. You need to go get this game now if you do not already own it!

Company: Glenn Corpes
App Store: Ground Effect $2.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
Just over a year, although I bought a mac and registered as a developer about a year and a half ago.

How long did it take you to develop Ground Effect and how many people were involved?
Almost a year, the team were:

Pam Douglas: a constant source of inspiration and sometime source of stress, by the time we had finished she had become quite an expert on the subtleties of the iPhone game market, I’m sure half of Ground Effect’s sales are because of her efforts.

Andrew Cakebread: Long time friend and programming colleague from 15 years ago at Bullfrog and several other places since. He did a couple of months work on the game in return for a copy of my library which he went on to use to develop Tilestorm and Eggbot’s Irish adventure.

Jack Corpes: My 15 year old son. Designed several of the levels and craft paint jobs and was the primary source of feedback in the early days of the project.

Mikey Corpes: His 13 year old brother. More paint jobs and level designs though his speciality turned ou to be the more evil levels later in the game.

Tartan Monkey: A highly talented artist with a day job. Hence the pseudonym.

Ben Carter: His name should probably be higher on the list but his work was done so long ago, he ported our library to the iPhone at around the time I registered as a dev. This really smoothed the transition to a new platform for me.

How did you come up with the idea for Ground Effect?
I worked on a game for the PC, original Playsation and Sega Saturn called Hi-Octane. About half way through it’s development time it was a great driving game but stopped being fun when the guns went in and the controls were dumbed down. I wanted to do a driving game that focused on that pure hover-racer with momentum feeling for 14 years. I also calculated that the iPhone would also be able to display a very detailed landscape, that had been an ongoing research project for almost a decade itself. The two ideas just came together

What inspired you for Ground Effect from initial concept to formalized game?
Just the fact that I was sure both ideas could come together on the iPhone. The idea was that it was relatively risk free and should have been possible fairly quickly.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
I have a background in 3D graphic technology. Most of the game ideas I have are based around a bit of technology, taking it in a hopefully fairly unique direction but keeping the game idea simple. I’m not into huge epic games myself, I much prefer games that take a simple idea and explore it.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
The responsibility and lack of support, the days wasted trying to get my head around the way photoshop handles alpha channels. The cutting and pasting bits of Objective C without taking the time to actually learn the language. Stuff like that.

Can you describe your development process?
That’s a big question. Ground Effect was built on a simple cross platform Library, my programming tasks were split between challenging technical problems to do with the graphic engine, boring formalised stuff to keep the cross-platform stuff working, the fun of actually tuning the handling system and the AI drones and the relatively mindless drudgery of the front end menu stuff. I sort of worked on which ever bits fitted my mood that day.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
It started as a camera flying over a simple heightmapped mesh, multitexture was added, support for objects loaded from 3DS max, the level of detail (LOD) system. After a few months it was possible to fly a basic camera around a random rocky landscape.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Ground Effect was released?
We uploaded a couple of videos to Youtube and started threads on all of the iPhone game forums we could find. Only the Touch Arcade one got any attention. We managed to get articles on a few other iPhone gaming sites. Sadly this was all started a little too early as the game took a few more months to finish than we’d been hoping.

What are you working on now?
I’m working with Josh Presseisen (of Ravensword fame) on a completely different game based on some of the same tech. It’s a bit too early to say much about this yet but graphically, it’s going to be way beyond Ground Effect. I’m also doing contract work on a few console games.

Any plans for updates to Ground Effect?
Yes, we are working on new levels, these will be available in an update very soon.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Ground Effect?
The whole process was refreshingly painless. I guess if I did have to pick one thing it would be the time spent trying to get various little bits of Objective C to work but that was kind of my own fault for just jumping in without taking any time at all to learn the language. Also, switching back and forth from PC to mac took a while to become natural.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Ground Effect?
We have been very impressed by the extra attention the game has been getting since we promoted it through www.freeappaday.com in early March. It really is all about people knowing your game exists and the half a million extra people who got to play it seem to be making that happen like nothing else has.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
It’s a complex relationship. We had a lot of feedback from people demanding guns and to be able to update their craft but we also got a lot of people who clearly appreciated the game for what it is, a pure racing game. I personally believe that weapons ruin racing games, I could be wrong but I’ve stuck to it and Ground Effect will never have them. On the other hand, if people want weapons, big explosions and a hell of a lot more happening on the screen, they will not be disappointed in what is coming next. It isn’t a racing game though 🙂

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
I find it completely soul destroying to work on a game that I don’t even like, I’ve done it enough times over the years. I believe that the only way to do it is to explore the areas of my own gaming taste that might actually appeal to others. My taste isn’t that weird…

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
One of the advantages of doing so much of the development on my own is that when I didn’t feel inspired enough to work on a creative part of the game, there was always plenty of less exciting stuff or messing around in Photoshop to do. I was alwats too busy to ever get properly blocked.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
I’d make it very clear that the first two levels are tutorials as it’s kind of depressing to see (via Openfeint stats) how many people never get past them and onto the levels with jumps, exploration and high speed banked turns.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
For a lot of the time it was kind of unhealthy, me at home, sat at a desk surrounded by 3 monitors for far too many hours at a time. Music was mostly my 24 hour super-playlist on random. The bands on this list with the most tracks are The Pixies, The Gang of Four, The Fall, The Cure. From that list it looks like I only like bands starting with “The”, there is a lot of other stuff honestly…

What was a must have during the development process of Ground Effect?
Not sure what you mean by this. Keeping the PC version going alongside the iPhone version was vital for debugging, it also would have been impossible to design levels without it. Away from the computer being able to get out on my Mountain bike or go skateboarding with my kids once in a while stopped me from growing to completely fill my chair…

What games influenced you in your decision to make Ground Effect?
It seemed to me that the iPhone was a platform where simplicity worked like no platform for a few decades. I thought a simple arcade style racer where the controls had been designed around the accelerometer and the graphic engine looked good (I knew I’d have a huge draw distance with a smooth frame rate at least) was bound to work. Of course it didn’t quite work out like this, a lot of customers wanted to know where the guns and upgrades were but you live and learn…

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
Very close, almost exactly what I was hoping for.

Before the release of Ground Effect were there any huge last minute changes?
Very late in the testing phase one of the testers found you could get a better time by jabbing the boost button very quickly rather than long, well planned boosts. Fixing this was a complete nightmare and involved rewriting part of the code that had been fixed for many months. It also broke all of the AI opponents.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
Fear of the ever increasing quality of the apps released every day since I started the project.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
A lot of the look of the game is driven by algorithmically generated graphics. The islands are fractals, the tracks are extruded along a spline, the lighting, shadows and texturing of the level are done at load time by a few hundred lines of the most fun-to-write code in the game. The way the trails dissipate and fade is done with custom code. I’m mostly a graphics programmer with an ancient history as an artist (the last game I did the graphics for was Populous in ’87!) but I can’t claim it was all in my head at the start of the project. It doesn’t really work like that. It was in my head but the picture was very fuzzy, more of a potential picture based on experience and, I dunno, crossed fingers and hope maybe. I’m very pleased with how the final game looks though.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
The code was done in a weird mix of XCode and Microsoft Visual Studio. Everyone who had any input into the art used Photoshop and the guy who designed the craft used 3DS max.
The music came from Pam talking to Diefenbach (the Danish band) and getting the instrumental version of a Rock in a Pond.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
Autodesk Sketchbook
Google Earth
Weather Pro
PuzzleManiak
Fox vs Duck
Beatmaker
Geocaching
BeeJive IM (i’m assuming I can get a signal of course)
Tweetie 2
The Facebook app
:Shift:
Noiz2sa Free
Boost 3D

We want to thank Glenn for his time and can’t wait to see what comes next!

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Indie Interview: Tilt to Live

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Adam Stewart and Alex Okafor, the creators of Tilt to Live!

Company: One Man Left
App Store: Tilt to Live $1.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
Adam: We set our sights on the iPhone around June of last year, and Tilt to Live is our first project. Before that we’d never done anything that would be considered “career” game development. We’ve been working as a team on pipe dream projects since high school, but Tilt to Live is our first commercial offering.

How long did it take you to develop Tilt to Live and how many people were involved?
Adam: Just two of us moonlighting as devs, Alex the Programmer and Adam the Artist. That’s how we address each other in casual conversation.

The moonlighting arrangement slowed the process down considerably. I think the game was started in June of last year, so it was almost 9 months before we agreed it was ready for launch. We could nearly have gestated a human being in the time it took to make this game. Because we both had day jobs to pay the bills, there was no financial pressure to “just get it done”. We took our sweet time exploring different ideas.

How did you come up with the idea for Tilt to Live?
Adam: The humorous look/feel was established as soon as we indulged that title: Tilt to Live. You can’t have a name that goofy and still try to look badass, so we just started running with ridiculous ideas. In the end, that helped set our game apart from all the glowing, techno-thumping shooters in the App Store. I don’t know why more developers aren’t sick of working in that style. It’s not bad, it’s just… well-worn. It’s the town doorknob.

The gameplay was inspired early on by Geometry Wars’ Pacifist mode. That’s the mode where they take away your ability to shoot, and you can only whittle away enemies by running through these bars that exploded. That was our nuke, basically, and from there we brainstormed different survival strategies that became our other weapons. It’s been exciting territory to develop, and we’re still not finished exploring it.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
Adam: This time it was an idea within Geometry Wars that we wanted to explore deeper. A lot of our new ideas have been centered around fun ways to interact with the hardware (both iPhone and iPad). I personally get excited when I’m deconstructing something that’s already established. Taking a classic paradigm, deciding what’s fun about it and what isn’t, then brainstorming new ideas around that. It’s not easy to make that work, but I find that reverse-engineering a game or genre really gets my imagination going.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Adam: Getting noticed in a marketplace as crowded as the App Store.  That’s the hardest part, which we’re hoping will become easier as we establish some kind of presence or (hopefully) fan base.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Adam: During the very early stages, the enemies were just red dots and the player just looked like an arrow! We have come a long way since then. For Tilt to Live, our creative process went like this: There are red dots and a nuke … “Try this” … Build … “Was it fun? Okay try this” … Build … ad nauseam.  Just adding weapons and changing waves until it felt release-worthy.

Early Tilt to live!

Did you do any pre-marketing before Tilt to Live was released?
Adam: We sent out preview builds to a few web sites, and did maybe two press releases near the end. Our biggest push was after we had a gameplay video to show. It’s hard to build hype for your first title, since you’re on a level playing field with 100,000 other developers the app sites have never heard of. Any success we had there was due to Tilt to Live’s quirkiness and how we structured the emails. After some trial and error we found that the quicker we got to the point in our press releases and emails, the better our response was.

What are you working on now?
Adam: Tilt to Live isn’t finished just yet. We’re developing a new game mode for the first update that completely changes how you play the game. We call it Gauntlet mode. Players basically run a treadmill of spinning, smashing dot formations, trying to survive the tide as long as possible. That’s coming April 24th.

As far as future titles, we have our sights set on the iPad next. That hardware has a lot of potential.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
Adam: Both. We use a pretty diverse group as testers, including ourselves. If it’s not fun for the majority of us, or if it’s not a game that’d we’d be satisfied purchasing, it’s probably not worth releasing. We don’t always agree on what’s fun, but I think that keeps the end result from being “too niche”.

We also use reviews on the App Store and app sites as food for thought toward updates. We often agree with the feedback, and treat it the same as tester data.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
Adam: We set out to make a simple, pick-up-and-play, casual game with minimal decision-making before starting a game. The update will have two screens prior to playing: a Gametype Select and the Assume the Position screen, which is actually two more than we were going for. Both are necessary and fairly common, though, so the concession wasn’t a total copout.

As far as difficulty, the feedback seems to be that half the people think it gets too hard too quick, and half think it’s too easy for too long. This tells us we’ve struck a decent balance between a hardcore and casual audience. We’re going to try to continue “swinging both ways” in the updates, though we’ve announced a hardcore-only mode called Code Red for the April 24th GameType update. The difficulty will be cranked up to 11 from the start, for the hardcore gamer on the go.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
We both just find the work rewarding. And if not for that, we get hungry. The people with the food ask for money. If we have none, we get motivated.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Tilt to Live?
Alex: Coding the more elaborate dot formations such as arrows and ping pong paddles was more challenging than expected. I went back to the drawing board several times trying to get this to work fluidly and still maintain good performance. What we have now works but I still think it could be done much better. We had a lot more ideas for this, but this proved to be one of the things that got down-sized for the sake of time and stability. But with the new update, Gauntlet Mode, it’s almost exclusively all elaborate shapes, so thankfully we’ve got a better system in place now for developing them!

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Alex: Stopping what you’re doing and go do something else. Music is always an inspiration, but just getting out and trying to experience new things really helps get those creative juices flowing. Even if it’s as simple as going for a walk to a part of the city or a park you’ve never been to before.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
Adam: To give a general idea: Horse the Band, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, and The March of the Penguins soundtrack.
Alex: Some days it’s chill-out lounge music, other days it’s classical/orchestral music, others it’s just random music from more mainstream sources.

What was a must have during the development process of Tilt to Live?
Alex: The biggest design goal was to create a game that requires zero tapping of the screen during the gameplay to fully play the game. We wanted to explore the mechanics of tilting exclusively, and also avoid the “hand in the way” problem that could be a huge issue in a fast-paced arcade game.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
Alex: The art and music definitely guided the overall humorous feel of the game. But from a game mechanics perspective, the art took a back seat to how the game played. We would come up with abstract mechanics and gameplay ideas first and then try to fit them in aesthetically. The art made the mechanics standout and not the other way around. In the mobile space, I personally feel gameplay is more important than theme. Themes work to get the player initially interested.  If the theme and gameplay are at odds with each other then it won’t hold their interest for long. While working in a constrained box (Like “Tilt only gameplay”) can really help push the creativity of mechanics, trying to make game mechanics ‘fit a theme’ doesn’t seem to have the same effect.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
Alex: XCode, Subversion, and Dropbox are kind of standard I imagine. As for a tool I use that a lot of iPhone developers probably don’t is Blitzmax. It’s another language entirely, but it’s proved to be extremely useful in prototyping early mechanics and algorithms quickly without all the “gotchas” of setup, initialization, and memory management in Obj-C/C++. Audacity has been key for me. I use it to mix, edit, and export the audio.

Adam: The artwork was wrought primarily by Illustrator, and I used Flash to mock up some of the animations. Also pencils. It took a lot of sketching to get the enemy design just right.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Of course.

We want to thank Adam and Alex for their time and we can’t wait for the update for Tilt to Live!

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Indie Interview: Labyrinth 2

Posted on 25 March 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Anders Mårtensson, one of the creator of Labyrinth 2!

Company: Illusion Labs
App Store: Labyrinth 2 $4.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
For about two years. I used to work at a major mobile phone platform manufacturer before.

How long did it take you to develop Labyrinth 2 and how many people were involved?
About 10 months for 4-6 people.

How did you come up with the idea for Labyrinth 2?
Well, Labyrinth 1 was our first game, and there was so much more we could do with it. We thought we could include obstacles, and also a level sharing system so that people could share their own levels easily with the world. Those ideas ended up in our first sequel, Labyrinth 2.

What inspired you for Labyrinth 2 from initial concept to formalized game?
Pinball games!

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
Being bored gets us creative, so we leave the office for a while, and since we miss our little computers and get bored, all kinds of ideas keep popping up in your head. Beer helps too.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Getting coverage on major non-gaming sites.

Can you describe your development process?
Get an idea. Take a week off the ongoing project. Do a prototype. See if it turns out great. If not, go back to the ongoing project. If yes, go back to the ongoing project and revisit idea later. Repeat.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Pretty much a one-man-job, and lots of coffee. And having the time of your life.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Labyrinth 2 was released?
Not much, we just released a video on YouTube and emailed a bunch of sites.

What are you working on now?
iPad versions of Labyrinth 2 and Touchgrind.

Any plans for updates to Labyrinth 2?
We have done a few already, but I think/hope we’ll put together some more obstacles and also new themes.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Labyrinth 2?
Getting multiplayer working. Multiplayer is in fact one of the hardest things to implement, I don’t think people realize that.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Labyrinth 2?
Getting featured by Apple! Especially in their TV commercials.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
A great deal. We usually have beta testing before we release it to get some feedback on how to improve things.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
Mostly ourselves. No-one likes having someone telling you what to do, and when to do it. We like being our own boss.

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Beer. And playing games on Wii and PS3.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
Pretty relaxed, no hard deadlines. The last month we are all super stressed though. We like listening to “Indie pop rocks” on Soma FM (http://somafm.com/play/indiepop)

What was a must have during the development process of Labyrinth 2?
Fun!

What games influenced you in your decision to make Labyrinth 2?
Labyrinth 1, obviously. And old school pinball games.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
I’d say pretty close. Some objects didn’t end up in the final game though.

Before the release of Labyrinth 2 were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
The community feedback and all the mails we get from parents etc.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
We did the game first, and art later.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
A genuine interest, and extremely high standards. Everything can be improved, always. And not to copy from others, let them copy you.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
Civilization, it never gets old.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Go check out or upcoming iPad games; Labyrinth 2 HD and Touchgrind HD on April 3rd! They are going to be awesome, I can promise you that!

We want to thank Anders for his time and we can’t wait to see Labyrinth 2 HD and Touchgrind HD!

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Indie Interview: Battle of Puppets

Posted on 24 March 2010 by TBS

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Juan Diego, the creator of Battle of Puppets!

Company: Small Wonders
App Store: Battle of Puppets $0.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
We have been developing since July 2009 and before that we were just video games lovers with a lot of ideas to develop.

How long did it take you to develop Battle of Puppets and how many people were involved?
About 13 people were involved in BOP. This includes programmers, graphic artists, production team, marketing team, etc…

How did you come up with the idea for Battle of Puppets?
We were thinking about an RTS game, but we needed it to be well adapted for the iPhone. That was the hardest part. We were thinking about crusades, but since we love opera we just thought about developing the first opera game for the iPhone. That’s how it started.

What inspired you for Battle of Puppets from initial concept to formalized game?
We were inspired by games like Little Big Planet, The Legend of Zelda, etc… We just wanted a simple strategy game, available for everyone, and we added things we love, opera, puppets, theatre and of course, video games.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
We love cute graphics, and we love when a game is very playable regardless the platform. Obviously this inspiration varies slightly depending on genre and platform.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
The most difficult thing is to get noticed. You aren’t able to build a lot of hype and you need to conquer your customer one by one because of the lack of a big marketing budget.

Can you describe your development process?
First we have a general idea about game, style, graphics, etc… Then we create concepts, when we think that we have found the right concept we start to create the whole world. Meanwhile we are programming AI, difficult levels, etc…
When everything is finished we test a lot and we publish the gameplay until we think it is good enough to sell.
After this we have a last test level with non-testers to see their reaction. If this reaction is good enough then we are ready for release.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
The creative process is amazing at the beginning. There are a lot of ideas and a lot of designs. If you look how it first began and how the game ended you would think it wasn’t the same game.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Battle of Puppets was released?
We just wanted everybody to see our characters. We wanted to see people’s reaction so we placed a lot of wallpapers in a lot of sites. Fortunately it was good, people love the art style.

What are you working on now?
We are trying to update Battle of Puppets with a lot of additional features. We want to include more maps, more armies, and if it was possible we would like to include multi-player (everybody asked for it).
We are working on a new title but I can say anything about it except that it will be a cute and funny game. It will not be a strategy game, and it will be released for the iPhone too.

Any plans for updates to Battle of Puppets?
As I told you before we are trying to bring a lot of updates and we ask people about what they like and if it’s possible we’d like to include all these suggestions on the next updates.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Battle of Puppets?
I think we haven’t had a real frustrating task, but the hardest part, I think, was to find the right characters. We have had a lot of different ideas until we found these characters. It took a lot of time.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Battle of Puppets?
I think the most successful way is the game in itself. Each person who tries it loves it; there are a lot of people asking for wallpapers, extra material, etc… You can place banners, have good reviews, etc… But if people love the game then it works for itself.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
Feedback is very important for us. We are always asking people their likes or dislikes on Battle of Puppets, and we try to improve the game with this feedback.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
We write our games just for us. We want people to associate Small Wonders with a certain kind of game. The best way is to create your own products

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
We use to play games, and we watch a lot of movies too. When I am blocked I do something that has nothing in common with the task I’m doing. It’s the best way to find something new that probably works. You need to see things through different angles to find the perfect way to solve a problem.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
I think the only thing we would do different could be to add multi-player to BOP. Everybody asked for it, and it takes a lot of time to implement right now.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
We had a lot of jokes between us, and it’s been very fun. Music is difficult to have a list, for example I love groups like Venetian Snares or Aphex Twin, but people here listen to Led Zeppelin, Kasabian, etc… So you see how different we are.

What was a must have during the development process of Battle of Puppets?
The day when we found our characters was a “must have” day; it was when we realized we had a great game

What games influenced you in your decision to make Battle of Puppets?
Little Big Planet, The Legend of Zelda, Monkey Island (The Secret, The Curse, etc…), for example

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
We just wanted to have more things included, but we almost had 90% of what we imagined when we started, that’s great!

Before the release of Battle of Puppets were there any huge last minute changes?
We needed to fix a bug, but it was when the game was sent to Apple. That’s why we had version 1.1 in just one week after releasing Battle of Puppets

How did you keep yourself motivated?
It’s hard sometimes to get motivated, but we had a vision on this project, and that’s the best thing you can have to get motivated.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
Art is a very important part of the game as well as gameplay. It’s more what we need to feel with art than what we wanted it to look like.
We wanted to feel something cute, we wanted our characters friendly. That was our real driving force.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
You can use a lot of tools, but the only one that is a “must have” for us is Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
This is a real hard question (I can’t live without internet).
Obviously a lot of games, Plants vs. Zombies would be one of them (I love that game)

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
I’d just like to say thanks for this interview, It’s been nice to meet you and I’d like to say thanks to everybody who have supported Battle of Puppets, we work just for you, we love you.

We want to thank Juan for his time and for Battle of Puppets!

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Indie Interview: Enigmo 2

Posted on 23 March 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Brian Greenstone, the creator of Enigmo 2 (among may other awesome titles)!

Company: Pangea Software, Inc.
App Store: Enigmo 2 $2.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
Since the day the first SDK became available.  Previously we were doing Mac games, so the move to the iPhone was very easy.

How long did it take you to develop Enigmo 2 and how many people were involved?
The original Mac version took just a few months, and porting it to the iPhone took about 2 weeks.  There was 1 programmer, 1 artist, and 1 musician to make the game.

How did you come up with the idea for Enigmo 2?
Well, it was just an advanced version of Enigmo, but the original idea for Enigmo was inspired by a toy that my grandparents had in the 70’s where a marble would bounce off drums.  In college I thought that concept could work as a video game, but it took another 10 years for me to do it.

What inspired you for Enigmo 2 from initial concept to formalized game?
We were going for an ethereal, space theme for that game, so I guess we were inspired by that.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
I’m inspired by seeing cool things on the screen.  I like to come up with an idea, execute it, and see how it comes out.  It’s the whole creative process really.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Getting visibility and exposure.  Everything else is easier being independent, but being small means it’s hard to get seen.

Can you describe your development process?
Usually I’ll come up with a game concept, create a prototype / proof-of-concept, and then I get a team together to work on it and we hash out the details.  Then we’ll spend 2-10 months developing it.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
It looks like a lot of programmer-art.  I’ll often just have cubes and spheres moving around the screen to represent objects as I try to build the prototype.  Then gradually the artist will replace the temp-art with legit stuff.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Enigmo 2 was released?
Not really.  Apple wanted us to keep the iPhone version quiet so that we could get a bigger bang out of it when it went live.

What are you working on now?
Porting everything to the iPad.

Any plans for updates to Enigmo 2?
Possibly.  Enigmo 1 has been updated in some major ways for the iPad, so we may do the same for Enigmo 2.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Enigmo 2?
Dealing with performance issues.  The game is pretty complex and it is important that it runs at a high frame rate.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Enigmo 2?
If I knew the answer to that… I really don’t know.  It’s hard to market anything for the iPhone.  YouTube videos, reviews, and word-of-mouth seem to be most effective.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
Quite a bit.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
We only do internal projects at Pangea, although we did do an iPhone game called Beer Bounce that we had a different company publish simply because we didn’t want to tarnish our image with a drinking game.

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Play other games to get inspired.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
Nothing.  I’m very happy with Enigmo 2.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
That game was done so quickly that I don’t really thing a development atmosphere had time to develop.  We knew we wanted to a full 3D version of Enigmo, so we were pretty focused on that.

What was a must have during the development process of Enigmo 2?
Nothing in particular.

What games influenced you in your decision to make Enigmo 2?
Well, Enigmo 1 obviously, but Enigmo 1 was inspired by The Incredible Machine.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
Pretty much spot-on.  I was actually surprised how well it came out in the end.

Before the release of Enigmo 2 were there any huge last minute changes?
Nope.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
Kept thinking how well it might do since Engimo 1 did so well.  In the end Enigmo 2 hasn’t done anywhere near as well as Enigmo 1, but it still sells quite well.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
Well, it drove the theme, but not the game itself.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
Maya and Photoshop.  We use all internal tools for just about everything else.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
The US Army Survival Handbook!

We want to thank Brian for his time and look forward to seeing what Pangea comes up with next!

1. How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
Since the day the first SDK became available.  Previously we were doing Mac games, so the move to the iPhone was very easy.

2. How long did it take you to develop Enigmo 2 and how many people were involved?
The original Mac version took just a few months, and porting it to the iPhone took about 2 weeks.  There was 1 programmer, 1 artist, and 1 musician to make the game.

3. How did you come up with the idea for Enigmo 2?
Well, it was just an advanced version of Enigmo, but the original idea for Enigmo was inspired by a toy that my grandparents had in the 70’s where a marble would bounce off drums.  In college I thought that concept could work as a video game, but it took another 10 years for me to do it.

4. What inspired you for Enigmo 2 from initial concept to formalized game?
We were going for an ethereal, space theme for that game, so I guess we were inspired by that.

5. What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
I’m inspired by seeing cool things on the screen.  I like to come up with an idea, execute it, and see how it comes out.  It’s the whole creative process really.

6. What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Getting visibility and exposure.  Everything else is easier being independent, but being small means it’s hard to get seen.

7. Can you describe your development process?
Usually I’ll come up with a game concept, create a prototype / proof-of-concept, and then I get a team together to work on it and we hash out the details.  Then we’ll spend 2-10 months developing it.

8. What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
It looks like a lot of programmer-art.  I’ll often just have cubes and spheres moving around the screen to represent objects as I try to build the prototype.  Then gradually the artist will replace the temp-art with legit stuff.

9. Did you do any pre-marketing before Enigmo 2 was released?
Not really.  Apple wanted us to keep the iPhone version quiet so that we could get a bigger bang out of it when it went live.

10. What are you working on now?
Porting everything to the iPad.

11. Any plans for updates to Enigmo 2?
Possibly.  Enigmo 1 has been updated in some major ways for the iPad, so we may do the same for Enigmo 2.

12. What was your most frustrating task while developing Enigmo 2?
Dealing with performance issues.  The game is pretty complex and it is important that it runs at a high frame rate.

13. What have you found to be the most successful way to market Enigmo 2?
If I knew the answer to that… I really don’t know.  It’s hard to market anything for the iPhone.  YouTube videos, reviews, and word-of-mouth seem to be most effective.

14. How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
Quite a bit.

15. Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
We only do internal projects at Pangea, although we did do an iPhone game called Beer Bounce that we had a different company publish simply because we didn’t want to tarnish our image with a drinking game.

16. What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Play other games to get inspired.

17. Since its release what you do differently looking back?
Nothing.  I’m very happy with Enigmo 2.

18. What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
That game was done so quickly that I don’t really thing a development atmosphere had time to develop.  We knew we wanted to a full 3D version of Enigmo, so we were pretty focused on that.

19. What was a must have during the development process of Enigmo 2?
Nothing in particular.

20. What games influenced you in your decision to make Enigmo 2?
Well, Enigmo 1 obviously, but Enigmo 1 was inspired by The Incredible Machine.

21. How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
Pretty much spot-on.  I was actually surprised how well it came out in the end.

22. Before the release of Enigmo 2 were there any huge last minute changes?
Nope.

23. How did you keep yourself motivated?
Kept thinking how well it might do since Engimo 1 did so well.  In the end Enigmo 2 hasn’t done anywhere near as well as Enigmo 1, but it still sells quite well.

24. How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
Well, it drove the theme, but not the game itself.

25. What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
Maya and Photoshop.  We use all internal tools for just about everything else.

26. If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
The US Army Survival Handbook!

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Indie Interview: reMovem

Posted on 22 March 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Matt Martel, the creator of reMovem!

Company: Mundue LLC
App Store: reMovem $0.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
My history prior to doing iPhone development is that of a long-time Mac and cross-platform developer. Absolutely nothing to do with games. Mostly desktop applications for video editing, workgroup collaboration, application development, that sort of thing. I was one of the few developers initially accepted into the program, when the pre-release 2.0 SDK was first made available. The company I worked for at the time decided to do an iPhone app in April of 2008. Thus my first iPhone app was a file uploader/feed reader for a social networking site.

How long did it take you to develop reMovem and how many people were involved?
After finishing the app for my day job I started to work on my own stuff. I completed the original version in less than a week. My wife and partner Trish did the testing. We’ve done about 20 updates to the free and paid versions in the last year and a half.

How did you come up with the idea for reMovem?
It’s based on games known variously as SameGame/Jawbreaker/ChainShot. I wrote a Mac version in 2005. I rewrote it a couple of times, but never released it to the public. I was experimenting with different cross-platform frameworks (such as Qt), but in July 2008 I realized that I should build the Cocoa version for the iPhone.

What inspired you for reMovem from initial concept to formalized game?
Once I realized the Mac to iPhone conversion would be relatively easy, I wanted to perfect the touch-based gameplay and release it as quickly as possible. I spent the most amount of time experimenting with different puzzle piece sizes. From the beginning I’ve tried to keep the game as simple as possible, which is a big part of its appeal.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
Definitely different for each game. I frequently get inspired by the feel of another game. For example, lately I’m interested in time-based games like Compression, in which the tension is palpable. Very much in the Frenzic vein. Hats off to our friends at Little White Bear Studios for perfecting that format.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
It’s awesome working for myself, but I do miss the constant interaction with my peers. The need to wear so many hats (developer, artist, marketer, spokesman, etc.) is challenging. Last summer I quit my day job (I was working on an iPhone app for a medical software company near Boston) and went full-time on Mundue LLC. Seems like I work just as much now with one job than I did before with two!

Can you describe your development process?
I’m always working on one or more projects, so my schedule is flexible. Occasionally there’s a deadline for a holiday release or something like that, but I work all hours of the day if I’m making good progress. I try to block off features and hand them over to Trish for testing when they’re ready. We each have our own lists of tasks to ensure the updates are ready in time.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Lots of sketching. I love using whiteboards, graph paper and the iPhone Sketchbook. I try to rough out a few screens on paper and figure out how to hook them together. Only then do I begin to place some elements in Interface Builder or try to write any code.

Did you do any pre-marketing before reMovem was released?
None.

What are you working on now? Any plans for updates to reMovem?
I’m working on a major revision to reMovem, an iPad-only version, which will probably combine the free and paid versions, and all their variants, into a single model. After that I’ve got three more unannounced games in the preliminary (sketch) phase. In addition, I’ve been working on an informal basis to help promote other indie developer apps. During the Christmas holiday I ran some cross-promotional ads for about 20 other apps inside my reMovem free game. We’ve got a large installed base and I feel there’s a big opportunity here.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market reMovem?
We found having a hugely successful free app first helped when it came to selling the paid version. Things are different today, but early on developers routinely took popular free apps and ‘flipped’ them to paid in order to capitalize on the popularity. We never flipped, but came out with a paid version LATER, and it slowly and steadily caught on. Now we use in-app reminders for the free version to point folks toward the paid versions. This causes a consistent number of paid conversions.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
When reMovem first came out we received many comments and suggestions. We updated frequently with many minor enhancements, always cognizant of the need to keep it simple. Then we updated with new language support, eventually reaching 13 different languages. That all began with a suggestion from a fan in the Netherlands. Thanks, Luc!

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
Usually for myself. It’s nearly impossible to get it right if you don’t make it for yourself. When I wrote our Keno simulation game, iKeno, I was not so enthusiastic about it at first. We did a little research and concluded there was an opportunity for a Keno game on the iPhone, so I decided to do it. As soon as I saw the first screens come to life I was hooked. Once I got into it I made the changes that I thought it should have, and was very pleased with the result.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
For the early reMovem development it was all classical. Specifically Mozart. Don’t really know why, but the music without lyrics really helped me focus at that time. Now I’m back to a mix of alt/folk/prog/classic rock. Anything from Muse to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to Porcupine Tree. With a good dose of guitar blues as well.

What was a must have during the development process of reMovem?
In order to concentrate I turned off the TV. I honestly did not watch a single bit of the Beijing Olympics, sadly.

To what do you attribute to reMovem success? Did you expect this level of success?
Being first to the AppStore was a big help. Having a simple yet addictive game was crucial. We knew reMovem was fun but were totally unprepared for the response. It was in the top ten list of all free applications within 36 hours, and rose to first place on its fifth day!

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
It was nearly identical to the Mac version, which was our goal.

Before the release of reMovem were there any huge last minute changes?
No.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
If I’m stuck on a problem I usually take a break and go for a walk or hike in one of the many parks near where we live.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
There’s not much to reMovem except for the bubbles! Choosing the right colors was the hardest part, and in fact we needed to make changes to accommodate our colorblind users. That’s something I wish I had done right in the first place. I see it as an issue in so many other games now.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
My main system is a MacBook Pro 17″ with SSD, a wireless keyboard, and a 24″ LCD Cinema display. Tried the Apple Magic Mouse and don’t like it so I’m sticking with my Logitech 6-button mouse. I use Xcode and Interface Builder for building things, Versions and Changes for source control, and Acorn for graphics. For audio I use Fission and Audio Hijack Pro. I have also used iShowU, Stomp, and Jing for grabbing screens. For music I have a nice pair of Sennheiser HD 280 headphones hooked up to iTunes.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
I’ll be using Xcode to build things. And Chopper to blow them up.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Being an indie developer has allowed me the flexibility to work anywhere I wish. Having spent my entire life in New England, my wife and I recently decided to relocate to Colorado and the view is awesome! This is what keeps me going.

We want to thank Matt Martel for his time and for reMovem!

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