iTête à iTête – Interview with Frédéric Aloé from Coladia – We need to do a more casual game on the iPhone
Quite a few high-profile titles have been brought to the iPhone in the last several months. And one such release came almost out of the blue from a company, previously only a player on Mac OS market. I’m talking, of course, about Secret of the Lost Cavern from Coladia – an adaptation of the excellent ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern PC adventure by Kheops Studio. It got a Grab-it rating from me and earned a well deserved spot in our The App Store’s Best Adventure Games. And joining me today is Frédéric Aloé – the founder and CEO of Coladia to talk about the iPhone, iPad and their plans for bringing new and exciting games to the iDevice platform.
As usual, my comments are in bold.
1. Frederic, thank you for joining me today. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and Coladia?
I’m French, 37 years old and I have a master degree in computer science. I started developing 1984 on an Atari 800XL, then moved to the Atari ST and finally to the Mac in 1995. Since then, I’ve always developed for the Mac. In 1999, I was hired by Cryo Interactive, a French game company, to port their games to the Mac. From 2002 to 2005, I worked for Apple on mobile technologies. I created Coladia in 2006 mainly as a consulting company for companies who wanted to develop apps for the Mac. I was also in contact with my ex-colleagues from Cryo who founded Kheops Studio, a company dedicated to adventure games for the PC. In 2008, we decided to port all their games on the Mac and when Apple announced the iPhone SDK, we obviously decided to do adaptations. Today, we have 6 Mac games and 1 iPhone game and we’re working on 5 more games for the Mac, 3 game for the iPhone, and 11 games for the iPad. I think we have enough work for 2010 and 2011
2. Coladia is quite an established company, specializing in bringing game to the Mac OS platform. How did you start on this path?
We were doing Mac development and Kheops Studio asked us to do the porting. Since they had 10 titles available on the PC, it was a good opportunity to bring a lot of adventure games to the Mac, with a low financial risk. The main problem was to negotiate the deal with their publishers.
3. Why did you decide to expand to the iPhone platform?
Well, the iPhone is the natural extension of the Mac. First, as Mac developers, we had a very good knowledge of the Apple frameworks and technologies. Second, as Mac users, we were very excited by this new platform. We talked a lot with Kheops to see how we could adapt their games on the iPhone. We didn’t want to do a port, but an adaptation. Mac/PC versions of their games target adventure games lovers. But for the iPhone, we had to make a game more casual, easier to play on a small screen, but with a very good graphic quality and a strong story telling. It took us almost a year to port our engine to the iPhone, to build new tools and to imagine the gameplay.
At the moment you’re not the only company bringing Kheops Games to the platform. Tetraedge have got quite a head start on you with the Mysterious Island as well as some other games. Do you compete with them?
No, they’re friends, we share the same offices
Nice to hear, since both of you bring out excellent products
4. Your first adventure project for the iPhone is the highly acclaimed Secret of the Lost Cavern, released over several months in 4 episodes. Are you happy with the result?
It was our first title on this platform, and we had no idea how many units we could sell. We were maybe too optimistic
As you know, they are any many titles available on the iPhone, and it’s very difficult to gain visibility. But we had some help from Apple, especially in France.
At the end, we’re happy with the sales and since we learned a lot, we very confident for the next titles.
We, maybe, made one mistake: we released the game in 4 episodes, and it created some frustration for our users.
5. Once you released the final chapter you made the first one free. How did this affect its sales? How are they overall?
Downloads for Episode 1 were huge (more than 100 k during the first week), and we tripled the sales of other episodes.
Wow, that’s amazing
By the way, since a lot of people are asking it, we’re going to release a full version of the game. But it will be a 800 MB game – maybe the biggest on the AppStore.
I know Tetraedge have decided to split their latest titles into parts for exactly that reason.
Episodes are good and bad
good: because you have small application and you can sell them for 1 or 2$
bad: because they create frustration
I don’t think our next games will be released as episodes.
On the other I remember installing Myst was a pain exactly because of the enormous filesize.
I know, I had the same feeling. Especially on iPhone Edge or 3G, which are very slow.
Personally I would go for the episodes provided they are released simultaneously.
That’s also a possibility if the game can be split in episodes.
6. What would you say are the main challenges in bringing such a game as SoLC to the iPhone?
Optimization and memory issues. The PC/MAC version of the game is 1.5 GB, because of video, sounds and animations. It’s a huge amount of data. Even if we reduced the data to 500 MB, it’s a lot for a small device for the iPhone.
7. What main challenges did you encounter in your work on SoLC?
We spent a lot of time to optimize our engine. Before the iPhone 3GS, the memory was very slow and video memory texture was very limited. We had almost no performance issues on the iPhone 3GS. But since Apple sold over 50 millions iPhone 3G and iPod touch, our game had to run smoothly on these devices.
8. In any project there are lots of funny stories. Could share one or two of them from your SoLC project?
We decided to name episode 1, Man vs Wild, because of the show with Bear Grylls. Since you had to learn to do fire and hunt a lion
9. What can you say on the future of the iPhone as a platform for adventure games? How would you compare it to the other similar devices on the market?
Well as I told you. We need to do a more casual game on the iPhone mainly because of the screen size. You can’t do complex puzzle with tiny items. But multi touch can bring you a very good opportunity for nice ideas.
We’re watching the other comparable devices (Android, Palm Pre) but it seems very few people are willing to buy games there.
10. If you went back to the start of the project, what would you’ve done differently?
Wow. That’s a first in my interviews
We didn’t make big mistakes during development. We spent a lot of time learning and testing the platform. But it’s always a process on a new platform. For sure, for our next games we will be much faster since our engine is quite optimized and we have a very strong toolchain.
12. You have an impressive array of titles for the Mac OS. Will you be bringing some of them to the iDevice? What are your future plans for the iPhone?
Yes and on the iPad too. On the iPhone, we’ll bring Destination Treasure Island, Cleopatra a Queen’s Destiny and Secrets of Da Vinci. We’re talking with publishers for other titles but I can’t tell you more now. Next release is Treasure Island. But I have to admit, we’re late because of the Pad
By the way – you said you’re developing 11 titles for the iPad. Does this mean that some of them will be exclusive to that platform?
Not yet, but maybe in the future. First, we want to port our adventure games, because we think the iPad is a much better platform for point and click game than the iPhone.
That is true, but at the same time there are far more iPhones and iPod Touches out there.
That’s true But it’s easier to port a game from the Mac to the iPad, than to the iPhone. On the iPhone, you have to rework the interface, the gameplay, the puzzles. Because of the 9inches screen on the iPad, we can have almost the same gameplay than on a PC/Mac.
What will the titles be that won’t get an iPhone version?
They’ll come to the iPhone one day It’s just a matter of time and money
13. We’re getting closer and closer to the release of the iPad. What do you think about it?
As users, we’re very very excited by the platform. As developers, we’re thinking of new games. We have a lot of ideas for adventure games, but also for some social games.
Are you thinking of developing a game from scratch?
That sounds great. Any specific dates already?
We have so much work to do!
14. Do you think the iPad will catch on? Will you get one?
I’ll get one on April 3rd I think the iPad will be a huge success. It will be a new way of using your computer. I know I won’t be using my Macbook at home anymore. I’ll use an iPad to check my mails, browse the Internet, manage my music or play. I’ll be able to use it in my bed, my coach, in my kitchen – I’ll have it everywhere. I love my MacBook but the iPad is so much lighter!
15. Almost each month some developer publicly announces that they suffer enormous amounts of piracy and lost revenue. What’s your take on piracy on the iDevice platform?
For 1 game sold, 9 are pirated. It’s hard to tell how much is in term of loss revenues. One common explanation for piracy is to tell they want to test a game before buying it. We offer Episode 1 for free, so users can see the game before buying the other episodes. But we do have piracy on all episodes. Some people are just collectors, so they pirate everything. They’ll never buy a game, so it’s not a revenue loss. But as a user, if you have the choice to buy a game or get it for free, people will choose to pirate it.
16. What are your top 3 favourite apps and games for the iPhone?
17. Frederic, thank you for your time. Could you say some final words for the TMA readers?
Buy the games, don’t pirate them! Most developers are small companies, you need to support them if you want to see more great games coming to the iPhone.