Making a living from mobile
Just a few years ago, the prevalence of powerful, gaming-capable smartphones we see today was little more than a pipe dream. Moreover, the idea that traditional handheld consoles would face any real threat was laughable. It’s difficult to recall that time, now that everything from Drop7 to Dead Space lingers temptingly in your pocket, just a download away. And it’s Apple’s iPhone that much of the revolution can be attributed to, despite Google’s Android platform now winning the numbers game. Here, we speak to four developers who’ve made a career out of iOS development, including Hand Circus founder Simon Oliver; Flower Garden creator Noel Llopis; the man behind Trainyard, Matt Rix; and Phil Hassey, who developed Galcon, one of the earliest games to appear in the App Store.
Simon Oliver | Handcircus
Rolando, Rolando 2, Okabu
How has iOS changed development?
It’s had an enormous impact – the full extent of which is still being felt. As a developer, there has been a staggering increase in the number of ways that you can distribute your game – you’re almost spoiled for choice. The increase in digital channels has been accompanied with a major lowering of barriers – both of which are awesome for individuals and small teams that have a great idea and want to get it into as many players as possible. I’m sure there are many people out there that might be struggling to break into the industry, just as I did, but now have a wide range of outlets for all of their ideas.
How has the success of Rolando and Rolando 2 changed the way you work?
It’s really been a dream come true – allowing me to change the way that I’m involved in game creation from being a part-time hobbyist developer, into running my own small studio and fund development of our new PlayStation 3 title Okabu. It’s also allowed us to move into self-publishing.
What advice would you give to people looking to get into mobile development?
The most important thing is to get making – chances are, your first game isn’t going to be the one that makes you a million dollars, but the process of creating a simple game provides an extremely valuable experience. I’ve made all manner of small games and prototypes that failed miserably, but each failure provided a number of insights into different aspects of creating a game.
What’s key to a successful mobile game?
Polish, personality and accessibility are all key. There’s so much competition in the App Store now – for a game to do well it needs to grab your attention the moment you launch it, and needs to deliver an experience that is unique, fun, easy to get into and a joy to interact with. Taking the extra time to really polish and add detail will pay huge dividends. If you look at recent successes, like Tiny Wings, they ooze personality: from the character illustrations, to the music, audio and touches such as particle effects.