Thursday, October 28, 2010

iPhone App Game Development Blog #39

iPhone App Game Development Blog #39

Time to spit out another one of these! I feel like I just wrote one, but I guess it has been nearly a week and a half. So then, let's get into it, shall we?

I am going to break from the usual format, for a change, and just sort of spout about what's been on my mind. I like keeping things structured, but the way things have been progressing lately, the usual structure is not so pertinent anymore. And as this is just a blog at the end of the day, sometimes it makes sense to just have a brain-dump.

Things have been awfully interesting on the iPhone development scene lately, in many ways; quiet in several others. Surprisingly, following a tremendous lead-in the first part of the year (GTA, SFIV, lots and lots of high-profile releases) things have really cooled off with the major players dipping their toes into the scene in a manner which has kind of surprised me. They have the manpower, the money, and the wits to take over, and instead it's sort of been sloughing off, and I can't figure out exactly why. I guess there is some disinterest on the part of the heavy hitters now that the novely has worn off, and that's strange; the money is still there (and coming fast and furiously), the user base keeps growing exponentially, and the platform in general is just getting trendier than ever. A good bit of that seems to be rubbing off on the competitors as well (Android) and of course no one seems to care, but now the Windows Phone is available as well.

So what gives? Where is everyone? Why the malaise?

As an independent, I say it is fine, as it gives us a lot more room to have any kind of a profound effect in some fashion or other, and that's been happening to degrees. But it really does feel like this Sword of Damocles situation in a way, there will be this huge throwdown whenever those bigger, established studios decide to stop pussy-footing around, come in and "take over." I have a pretty decent finger on the pulse of this industry, and the only real excuse I can think of it short-sightedness/politics/lethargy. Whatever. The longer they are absent, the better off the rest of us players will be.

For indies, we struck a powerful blow when Matt Rix's Trainyard app suddenly rocketed far up the charts, enjoyed a moment at #2 on All Paid before settling into the lower end of the Top Ten for the longer haul. That was huge, I can't help but wonder if Cut The Rope hadn't yet surfaced if he could have grabbed that top spot, as he'd unseated even the reigning champ Angry Birds! Here's this one guy who made the game all by himself, his singular app released so many months ago (near the time our last one released), and he took over the world for a few minutes there (and obviously is still raking it in). I hope to see his app sitting up there in Top Ten-land for a long time to come :)

Also of note, our buddies at Retro Dreamer have released their new app Linkoidz this past week. Of course I was eager to get my paws on this title, as it is very inspired by a time-honored favorite Magical Drop (which does already exist on the iPhone, albeit in poorly executed form). Linkoidz makes short work of that title and is enjoying a lot of attention right now, I wholeheartedly recommend a pickup if you are a fan of quality action-puzzlers. Simple interface, splendid execution, and quite addictive.

Last bit of scene news will be to mention that Chillingo got bought up by none other than EA, which was a surprise to some and not much to others. For whatever reason, I had them pegged as Activision-bound (I am sure they were talking to everyone, hell everyone is always talking to everyone else) but I guess this was the one that bit. ATVI will get theirs soon enough I am sure. Even more interesting is the fallout from this, as none of Chill's games are coming with.. just their stupendous network. Angry Birds, the crown jewel, has since seen a chart-topping Chillingo-less update (Halloween edition) which has the layman's head scratching "didn't Chillingo make the previous game?" being that it was pretty heavily branded as such.. anyway, everyone from all camps are making out like gangbusters from these deals, so at the end of the day it's hard to feel bad for anyone.

BIZDEV - and what's up on the homefront, you may wonder? A fellow emailed me recently "so, is Headcase still making games?" It's an awfully good question, and while there's the most general of blanket answers available ("yes!") the honest reality which shouldn't be a surprise is, that things are moving so slowly in development that they might as well not be going anywhere. Anyone who is familiar with the ins and outs of any kind of smalltime development knows how this goes, all too well - unless you have a dedicated base, it's nigh-impossible to see something as complex as a full project through to appropriate completion. Even for seemingly small projects, lack of production really is a death knell. This is not trivial! In this operation, it's my job not only to do much of the brainstorming, raw asset creation and management, but also the connection to the outside world (which I've often related is quite a sizable and laborious job in itself). But at the end of the day, shepherding a brand is utterly useless when there's no new product to put out there.

It's very difficult. There's few things I enjoy more, in this world, then being on a development staff (large or small) and making something that's awesome, that makes people happy, that is alive. It's a charge unlike any other that I have experienced in my 35 years. But the big lesson is, it's just not that simple. There's politics to contend with. Personalities, money, hopes and dreams and plans. Until that flow comes in, things sound rad on paper but unless you are that true "do-everything-machine," you are just a half-realized concept. It pains me to see my game out in the world, but know that it's hobbled in certain ways. Products released 6 months, a year ago, and further out are already on such a different playing field than what is coming out now or with the next wave (and the generations pass quickly!)

I don't know what will happen. I have purposefully kept quiet about the deeper, stressful nature of this stuff ("will I get to continue as I'd like to in this capacity?") Bottom line - I am confident in my abilities. I have a head full of great ideas for the future. For the time being, I am doing all that I can to keep myself active in this industry, and work better towards that goal. Thanks for reading and supporting :)

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