Show Notes (thanks to Grace for the great show notes): Interview with Brian of Pangea Software
Interview was conducted at the Austin Game Developers Conference
Pangea produced Enigmo for the I phone and I pod Touch.
Inspiration came because Apple always does good work, and they wanted to do a portable system. Also it seemed to be the easiest and most profitable way to go.
The biggest challenge was learning objective C, which Brian said was the most complicated programming language he ever used by a factor of 20! Yet it only took him 5 days to learn it! He says that games don’t need a lot of it since they are not UI intensive, they’re open GL intensive.
Most of the games the put on Ipod phone/touch were older games that they just ported over. It took them about 2 weeks to port a game over – dealing mostly with performance and memory issues. There’s not a lot of memory on these devices. They have excellent developer’s tools, and API’s. It’s a breeze to develop for.
There’s a simulator you can run on the Mac, so that you don’t have to test your games on the actual Iphone. This speeds things up a lot, because downloading each time you want to test can take around a minute. Everything about working on the Iphone is like working on a Mac. The debugger and the compiler are the same. Mac developers won’t even notice the difference.
Testing is difficult because there’s no way to distribute copies effectively. They just let some people in house test it. Then mostly they relied on the feedback from customers and sent out updates.
You can submit directly on the website, it’s automated and an easy process. It takes 3-12 days to get approved, and then it’s just out there.
Their stuff was featured at Steve Jobs’ keynote. Pangea was one of the first to get out there and their stuff was available to people when the iphone/ipod touch shipped. This was the best time to make the most money because the people who bought those devices were not concerned about price, they just bought what they wanted. First 1-2 weeks were amazing for sales, after that it leveled off to a little less than amazing.
3,000 to 4,000 apps with no competition. Only 820 games last he looked. 99% of the games out there are total garbage, with only a handful of games being very good. The good games all float to the top 10 list. So you’re only competing with a handful of good games. You can compete with price too. Large companies have to charge $10 a game, but smaller companies can charge a lot less.
There’s a cheater method out there for rising up in rank. If someone gives away a game for free and then starts charging money they will move up the list rapidly. There is a separate list for paid games and free games, but the popularity counter doesn’t change. Free games tend to get downloaded 10x more often, so if someone goes from free to 99 cents, they will change to the paid list but keep the popularity they gained from the free list. This is considered cheating and is frowned upon. People will leave these game developers scathing reviews. However, some of these people can make a fast 10k this way and don’t care.
Some designers like to use the excelerometer to death. They may require you to move the screen too much and then you can’t see all of the screen. Pangea tries to use it more subtly. They do use it often in their games though, because it is expected now.
The three issues with Iphone/touch are excelerometer, touch screen, and network ability. Network ability isn’t very common right now. The whole technology is still very new. Pangea just submitted an adventure game recently and it’s the first full 3-D adventure game out there. The controls were a challenge. They ended up using a combination of the touch screen and excelerometer. There’s a learning curve for users too. He’s interested in seeing what other designers come up with for solutions to these challenges.
From a game development stand point, if you want to make money you have to do something unique. If you are going to create a game that’s not so unique then it needs to be one of the best ones out there.
He’s been doing Mac games exclusively for the past 10 years but right now he’s staying with the iphone/touch because it’s fun, he’s making lots of money, and it’s easy to develop for!
In the beginning he hired a PR company but it ended up being a waste, because the best advertising is the app store itself. Top 10 list or “what’s new” list are the way most people find games 99% of the time. If you’re not in the Top 100, then no one will ever find you. Two tips: Make a great game and Apple will help you by putting your icon into “what’s new” or on their “what we’re playing” section. Also you can compete by putting a lower price on your higher quality game. These two things will help you shoot up the list.
If you are on: Top 100 – safe for a while, but you’ll probably fall off Top 50 – very safe place to be, people will see you on top 50 list on iphone Top 25 – You’ll be on the first page of Iphone – so then you’re in Gold! Top 10 – Main page, premiere! Big bucks roll in!
Exponentially increase in revenue. Examples: Their #2 spot game is selling 45x the copies of their #72 spot game Their #10 spot game is selling at only 1/3 of what the #2 spot game is selling. At spot #100 you’re only selling maybe 50-200 copies a day.
It’s so easy to make money he’s not planning to do promo ware. Although they do offer a free photo app and they advertise their games on that. They say it helps a little bit.
Advice: Get in and get in quick! Preferably in the next few months!
0:00 - 5:00 Interesting game where you record a certain action and then it replays in the game. Game based on playing with time...
Prototyped game in flash and kept prototyping to get enough to hold a team down.
Did other prototype other games while doing this one.
Also used paper prototyping.
Focused on System Mechanics...
Did test board game prototypes on a few team members and users...
5:00 - 10:00 The call to recruit more team-members...
Had a recruitment meeting and showed demo to recruit other folks.
Put up a flier all over campus. Put out an e-mail blast...and went to classes, etc.
Thirty people showed up to the meeting...
All of them were pretty much designers. But they were looking for engineers.
Let everyone stay...and the person that kept showing up week after week...those are the ones with the passion.
Found a high schooler to help do the programming.
Visual design of the game is very unique... One of the designers was also an artist
10:00 - 15:00 One challenge was listening to an Engineer professor about using a 3D engine instead of Flash... so tried it for a month, but it wasn't working after a month...so went back to flash...it was hard to change to change back at the time, but it was a good decision.
At University of Southern California, the environment allows for innovation. Design on paper, etc. Even though most folks in the game design program there are not programmers, try to collaborate with engineering school to help with games. 2 things learned from game design school... 1) Prototype 2) Get the game out there
Future plans are to get the game out as a downloadable on one of the console games