Saturday, August 22, 2009

Development Blog #3


Well, so much for making weekly entries into the development blog. How does monthly sound?? In all seriousness, I'd like to do it weekly to help foster a strong community connection - as a little indie developer, that's really one of the biggest things we here at Headcase Games have going for us, so it is well worth the time and effort. It just takes that much more work, and everything else is already taking so much! Not to say we aren't enjoying it - it's a ton of work doing your own thing, but it is absolutely a blast! Anyway, we'll keep the Retro Game of the Day true to it's name and throw a bone to those interested in dev notes once in awhile, as best we can.

I'd like to take a moment and reflect on the recent release of our debut iPhone app, iFist. It's been nearly a month since launch and, all things considered, it's been successful in what we set out to do. No, we didn't make tons of money - that would be nice, but it's sort of putting the cart before the horse, in a way. Our chief goal was to see exactly what went into penetrating this new market - my partner and I have spent the whole of our careers essentially working in the larger PC and console industries, there's a very set way of going about that in regards to how all the parts work (all aspects of development, marketing and media relations, distribution, sales, commisions, and so on). The iPhone, in a manner very similar to how things like XBLA and Steam and WiiWare and such work, is very much on the vanguard of an entirely new business model that affects everything - and even more so than those listed peers, for more reasons (these are often considered "minigames," you can purchase them wherever you are as opposed to being plunked down in front of a console, et cetera).

So for us, though we had a great deal of knowledge about how development and sales and things worked on consoles and PC traditionally, and we'd spent a lot of time researching how the iPhone development and sales models worked, there's nothing like just putting yourself out there and attacking it headfirst. So we did that, and rather than attempting to create a large and ambitious project for our first outing, it made sense to scale it down fairly bare-bones and see how much work it would be just to do that much, from scratch. Some things we needed to be sure of - our game had to legitimately be enjoyable, it had to look competent, it needed all the usual bells and whistles (sound FX, user interface, et cetera) to be considered a complete package, and it needed to have an element involved that was fairly unknown to us - in this case it was online connectivity for the scoreboards, something neither of us had dealt with at all, but something which seemed very important for the success of our game (small as it was) and something to help it in being "an addictive experience."

Also, we wanted not to spend too much time on any particular aspects of the whole process, but not get too caught up in spit-polishing things, as you can certainly noodle in things indefinitely, no matter the project!

Without getting too mired in technical details, I will say that we approached the marvelously-adept cocos2D framework as noobs, and Ben (the programmer) did a great job of not only sorting through that in record time, but dealing with Mac development for the first time as well. We had an early prototype up and running much earlier than I'd expected, and from there it was a matter of balancing and testing things.

Overall, there's a lot of pros and cons to our project, I will type up an exhaustive post-mortem detailing them all from my POV at some point soon. In the end, we were both very happy to release the game and it felt very reassuring when we got a lot of positive reviews from the gamers who tried our little app.

Armed with the knowledge we've gleaned from the whole experience, and now tempered after having gone through the entire procedure from start to finish, we are well into development of our next title and very eager to show it off. Once again, it's a small team project being assembled within some very strict guidelines, but with that in mind it only takes a certain degree of creativity and proper understanding of how to allocate resources in order to produce some really enjoyable innovative software. Also, there is something to be said for a small group of driven individuals who know what they are doing, without having to jump through many of the hoops imposed by big-budget development - we can spend time working on only what we know we need to craft a finely-tuned, enjoyable experience.

I really believe you guys will like what we have in store for you all! Stay tuned--!


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