Days after its release, critics and customers are queuing up to praise Tiger Style’s Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor. Widely agreed to have one of the finest iPhone control schemes to date, not to mention strong grasps of scenic storytelling and pocket playing habits, it’s a game you’d expect to dominate the crowded, polluted seas of the App Store. But nothing’s that simple on this platform, even for veterans like Randy Smith and David Kalina. That the mainstream neither knows nor cares of their roles at Looking Glass and Ion Storm is one problem; the rest they share with every iPhone developer: getting noticed, getting staff, and maybe one day getting paid.
Spider feels how you’d expect an iPhone game to. Was that something you planned from the start?
DK I think our creative approach comes from a number of different angles, and one of the considerations we had from the very beginning was that we wanted to make a good match for the play styles and habits on iPhone. So one of the idioms we kept throwing around was that this is a game you should play while waiting for the bus. You don’t know when the bus is going to come – it might be three minutes or 30 – but there shouldn’t be any hesitation to crack this game open and play it.
How did you choose the game’s price?
DK It was quite the process for us; we agonised over it for a long time. When we first talked about doing the game, we thought that $4.99 sounded like an appropriate price point, and it seemed like a pretty reasonable amount of money for a game of the scope we wanted to build. But as time went on, I decided to get really active with researching how the market was going, so I was checking the top apps everyday and pulling information: how long were games showing up on the top 100 charts and at what price points?
Ultimately, we realised that games at $4.99 don’t really succeed unless they have a name behind them. Unless you have a licensed IP it’s a pretty risky price point right now. Since we’re kind of an unknown quantity, we wanted to come out in a way where nobody could say, ‘Your app’s too expensive.’ It just made more sense to go with the flow and realise what’s happening in the marketplace. It’s not about what the app is worth so much as what the market is bearing. It’s a pretty huge install base at the moment, though, so hopefully we can pick up the kind of numbers you need to survive.
Does Apple just stick these apps in the App Store the moment it deems them suitable?
RS Pretty much. I think this is the beginning of a real gaming culture for them, so they’re new to it and have a pretty rough-and-ready response that they’ll refine as things move on. But it is pretty simple right now and we only have modest control over when it appears in the store. So you’re kind of lighting the fuse and you have to be ready as soon as you submit. In our case we weren’t nearly as ready as we should have been.
We’re kind of doing three things right now. We’re really excited and fascinated to read people’s response; we’re scrambling to orchestrate a really committed PR campaign, so we’re still submitting the game to sites to review and finishing off the trailer and website; and we’re kinda relaxing, which is why the second point isn’t done yet. We burned ourselves out big time getting this game done and it was hard to jump right back in.
Few other games really use Facebook Connect. Are there more in the works?
RS It’s kind of trickling in. It seems to me there’s a lot you can do with it but it’s tricky knowing how to leverage that. We had a simple ambition with it where you could see your friends’ faces with the app, so we just stuck to that. But I think people are wary of what you can do. And it does take some time to integrate – it’s not completely free – and a lot of games have very short development cycles.