Friday, December 25, 2009

iPhone App Game Development Blog #17

iPhone App Game Development Blog #17

Merry Xmas everybody!! (says your favorite iPhone-developing Jew!) Man, so it has been a few weeks since I have contributed a development blog, you'll have to pardon me faithful readers as I have been quite busy with life - aside from already-exhaustingly writing the Retro Game of the Day entries (yes, every day.. for REAL!) since like.. June, and working on developing and supporting our already-released and Work-in-Progress titles, I have been busy as well working with a small startup group (as I have alluded to several times in these notes). And trying to maintain some kind of semblance of a social life. And running a hefty amount of the behind-the-scenes bizdev that any company requires to be any kind of forward-looking. So, 2009 has been incredibly busy for me.

That all being said, if you've tried to be in touch with me and I've been slow to respond, I hope you can not take it too personally!

So, seeing as how it's been awhile since a development update of any sort, and it's also a good time to submit some kind of general year-end-wrap-up, let's get this all under way, then.

180 Development - Things are coming along quite well with our new title. It's been quite a rollercoaster of a Hellride, this one - but it has all been worth it! HcG has deployed a very playable beta to several testers at this point, and by and large the feedback has been extremely positive. I regret that we're not actually done with the title yet (believe me - I am quite ready to move on to something else!!!) but I'd rather take the time to polish and properly wrap up the game so it will be in an appreciable and fully enjoyable state, rather then be another developer who just poops something half-finished out. As has been the case for awhile now, our gameplay is quite polished and deep, but we have a good deal of the shell and such to fine-tune - and that all takes time. The biggest thing we need to nail is that first impression, so that when the player first gets their hands on it they are intrigued by that sense that there is something special in the game they are exploring. The follow-through, I am not at all worried about :)

iFist - Our debut title, released last August, has sadly been languishing on the iTunes Appstore since just past its release. This is no surprise, as the store is literally bubbling over with.. ahem, thousands of high-quality apps available for just a song! Still, we put out a good game (and complete experience) for our first title and HcG stands behind it. Most importantly, we learned a lot from the experience, which is all very useful in understanding how to handle our follow-up projects. So, all-in-all there are no regrets. For the holidays, we decided to cut the price from $1 to FREE in an effort to actually get our work seen and potentially appreciated by the masses. It's been a few days now since this all has been underway, and again, a big learning experience! After the price-change I spent a good 12 hours sending out press releases touting "get iFisted for the Holidays!" (you can imagine how well this has gone over). Actually, all things considered, it has been going really well. I would like to see >1000 downloads of our Free App before we return it's price (hiked wayyyy back up to one dollar!) We get lots of DLs each day, but as our programmer is outta town, I can't get an exact estimate - in the few days it has been free (and I have been working hard pimping it), I estimate we got a good couple hundred downloads.

HcG Bizdev - Things have been largely quiet, but making good contacts with some important connections, and this has increased in volume as of late. The most recent notable one was a fairly important sponsorship/cross-promotion opportunity which, though sort of experimental, might potentially be one of the big things which could really help us break out. It's really exciting! Also of note, we submitted 180 to the Indie Games Festival's mobile competition, as noted recently. Its got a screenshot up on their site, and at the very least this could hopefully help us to get some good press coverage! Because I will say this, getting coverage from any major source is no small feat!

I am going to pass on the usual "recent app reviews" as I don't want this entry to get to lengthy, so maybe I will do a two-fer and touch that in a couple of days. In the meantime, here's a

2009 Year-End Summation Extravaganja!

2009, the year a lot of things in my life changed. Headcase Games, rather indie/iPhone development in general, was not even a sparkle in my eye exactly one year ago. I was on shaky ground in my last studio job, this was not a surprise, but I was planning to get elsewhere anyway. Slowly but surely the wheels came off the wagon and my job actually ending at the ass-end of January 2009 very suddenly dovetailed quite nicely with the economy completely peacing itself it for a good long while. I was outta work and tired of the stress, and hooked up suddenly with some folks to get some small-time indie development going as I realized there weren't many other larger studios exactly welcoming more Production Artists around town. As this new development started up - and it was quite exciting - I got a call from a programmer who I worked with at my last job, he'd just got let go as well. "Ron, would you like to make iPhone games with me?" he asked, as I was flying down the 405 en route to meeting my other new partners. "Sure why not?"

Long story short, just as my new startup was petering out, Headcase Games started getting interesting. Ben and I had some meetings, he turned me onto iPhone (I didn't have one, though my girlfriend did - and I didn't pay it any mind!) He got me tuned into things like Flight Control, Doodle Jump, and Tower Defense titles. Pointed me at websites like TouchArcade and SlideToPlay. All of a sudden there was this crazy new world popping up, mobile gaming had an exciting new sector that didn't just mean Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.

We weren't fools, we didn't expect to hit the ground running and be basking in riches within two months' time. Ben had never programmed on a Mac before, for an iPhone, etc - and neither of us had really done the small-time development shtick (doing everything by yourselves!) Fortunately, we'd both been around the block long enough to figure out the basics and it wasn't really too rough to fill-in-the-blanks.

It's been a blast - for me, iPhone represents a return to a simpler period of gaming, when small teams pooled their resources and creatively wrestled to pull imaginative work out of rough brew. I love how there are so many iPhone games struggling to find their new innovation with all the hurdles to jump over - lack of financing, lack of manpower, lack of sponsorship/financial backing, huge competition, lack of a damnd D-Pad and buttons! But what it does have going for it, is huge. Such a strong, powerful and friendly sense of community (iPhone is a giant love-in!). Healthy competition. A chance for the little guys to take on the big guys on equal footing, in a way - we compete with the likes of Namco-Bandai and Konami (and even EA and Activision) in pricing and banner space. It's so wild - and its not really even that hard to compete. The iPhone touch-screen interface is scorned by many, but it also represents a brave new world and it's barely even been utilized in an interesting manner yet - it's a treasure chest just opening up now. I love that there's so many new ways to design games using these features that developers would not otherwise even consider, had they not been forced to act creatively in this way.

I could go on (as you know) so I will leave it at this, then; 2009 was the beginning of a crazy new adventure for Ben and I, and 2010 is going to be an even more exciting follow-through. Thanks for sticking by us and watching what we have been up to - we are "the little guy" and the support of every individual is absolutely what powers us at this point. Every time someone sends me an email "I love your game!" or a tweet "Retro Game of the Day makes me happy!" it really makes me feel like we are onto something here, and totally justified with this path we have chosen. Thanks again and let's see what happens next!

And Merry Christmas!!!

As usual, here's the part where I plug our iFist App and request that you download it and spread the word - especially while it is still free :) If you have friends who just got iPhone/iPod Touch for the holiday, tell them to grab this!

(iTunes Link Here)

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