TouchMyApps » Interview http://www.touchmyapps.com All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Wed, 12 Nov 2014 17:09:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.4 Q&A with Loqheart’s David Ngo and Don Quach: From Rocket Scientist to Game Developer http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/04/19/qa-with-lochearts-david-ngo-and-don-quach-from-rocket-scientist-to-game-developer/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/04/19/qa-with-lochearts-david-ngo-and-don-quach-from-rocket-scientist-to-game-developer/#comments Thu, 19 Apr 2012 10:49:13 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=67715 Making games (especially good ones) is never an easy task. Just ask David Ngo of Loqheart, a rocket scientist turned app developer. Together with his trusty partner, Don Quach, the dynamic duo have been hard at work over the past several months creating an adorable, yet challenging casual game – Cannon Cat. With its simple … Read more]]>

Making games (especially good ones) is never an easy task. Just ask David Ngo of Loqheart, a rocket scientist turned app developer. Together with his trusty partner, Don Quach, the dynamic duo have been hard at work over the past several months creating an adorable, yet challenging casual game – Cannon Cat. With its simple “one tap’ gameplay where players launch a fearless cat out of a rotating cannon to save the flying fish trapped in bubbles, there’s something endearing about the game. Set to be released for iOS in a week, David and Don recently took some time away from their busy schedules to answer some questions for TouchMyApps.

1) Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

David: Funny thing is I actually used to be a rocket scientist. Got degrees from MIT and Stanford and everything. Worked on satellites, laser defense systems, and lunar base designs. It sounds cool, but the work was actually quite boring and was closer to writing science fiction than actual engineering. So I figured why not take that nerdy rocket science stuff and make something really entertaining out of it. So I went back to Stanford to learn about Design and experimented by creating playful products. I even won an award for one of my toy designs. But I wanted to reach more people. After I met Don at a Facebook game startup, I knew I wanted to make mobile games with him. He had a unique perspective on game design and I think we shared a similar passion for creating great experiences.

Don: If you grill me on my past, I haven’t had much of a career. I’ve always been more of an artist that got into programming because I didn’t know anyone who programmed or wanted to make games when I was a kid. I graduated from UCSD with a Comp. Sci. degree, and from there fell into different odd jobs as I struggled during the recession. I worked as a game tester, a cashier at hardware store, a college admissions specialist, lead engineer at an interactive video startup, Co-Founder of a couple small startups and have held a couple jobs as a developer at different casual games companies. So I’m a bit of an oddball, but I’ve always been into computers and programming.

2) What made you decide to become an app/mobile game developer? And how did the name Loqheart come about?

Don: During my last job, where I was a senior dev on a Facebook game and met David, I decided mobile was the place to be, considering the barriers to success on the FB platform. At the time Zynga was exploding, but after the failure of my prior startup Domisuto where I had spent most of my savings, I decided I wanted to give it another shot in the mobile space. All the signs were pointing towards growth while FB seemed to be stagnating.

I came up with the name Loqheart on a whim. I’ve always liked the ring of Loq (lock) because it evokes a lot of memories about strong characters and companies. And heart helps to romanticize it a bit.

3) So what was the inspiration behind your first game Cannon Cat?

David: Cannon Cat came out of a series of prototyping sprints we did, where we made a prototype of one game each week. We had about 3 or 4 of them at the end of it and let friends play them all. Cannon Cat was by far the one that had the most positive reaction from everyone. As soon as they saw the basic mechanic they wanted to play it. It was easy to pick up and immediately satisfying. Looking back on it, we realized it had roots from our days playing Donkey Kong Country, but we really wanted to push it further and explore the mechanic to its utmost potential. We feel we’re just touching the surface with where Cannon Cat can go, and already have a lot of cool ideas for new mechanics and zones.

4) What were some of the challenges you faced in the initial stages of development?

Don: The biggest challenge was probably picking the right platform to develop a title on. When I first started out, I was trying to leverage tools to develop faster. The Corona SDK offered the right balance of performance, ease of use, and cost for me to start experimenting with game ideas. After that it was about iterating on our ideas: ideation, prototyping, testing, culling bad ideas and being honest about it.

5) Did one of you specialize in certain areas of creating the game (i.e code, artwork etc.) or was the work load evenly shared?

David: We both do a little bit of everything. When it comes to game design I don’t think you can stay isolated in your one discipline and expect a coherent and good product to come out. But having said that, we both had our specialties. I did almost all the artwork for the game, while Don did almost all the programming. But Don was an amazing collaborator when it came to art, level design, interface designs, and any other aspect of the game. We experimented and designed the experience together. And I think Cannon Cat is much better because of that collaboration.

Don: I think it helps you create a more cohesive and innovative product if you have some insight into all parts of the creation process. It helps me to communicate ideas if I can share the same language or be able to execute an idea if things aren’t turning out quite right.

6) How long was the game in development?

David: It’s hard to say exactly when we started, but I think it was about 8 months. It was certainly longer than we initially expected. I remember when we thought we were going to launch last Thanksgiving in 2011. Now it’s April 2012. And we had a few other dates in between those where we thought we could launch. And it seemed to keep getting pushed back. But that wasn’t because we were slow or took on more than we could chew. It was just because we kept wanting to come out with a better and more polished product. And our tendency to be perfectionists usually wins out in the end.

Don: I would say half of that 8 months was spent distracted supporting the tools side of the business. Once we were able to focus only on Cannon Cat the product developed much faster. But the game is still in development. We’ve just decided it’s finally good enough to share with everyone.

7) So did Cannon Cat turn out even better than you’d expected?

David: I’m not sure I had any expectations about “how good” it was going to be. I just knew that I wanted to make the best game I possibly could. Which is why I don’t regret taking those 8 months to polish it to the point where it’s at now. And honestly, Don and I only see how we can make it even better. It’s a compulsion of ours. I don’t think we ever are fully satisfied, and that’s why I think people should stick around with Cannon Cat and experience all the fresh new mechanics and content we have lined up. We’ve already created the beginnings of this world and these characters, and we’re excited to build out new experiences and games around them.

8 ) Now that you’ve created your first iOS game, do you have any advice for all the aspiring app developers out there?

David: My advice is to share your prototypes and development with as many people as you can. But not just your close friends and family. Talk to people who aren’t afraid to tell you that your game sucks. Criticism is way more useful than a mild positive reaction. And get advice and guidance from people who are experts in different areas. I can’t tell you how much valuable feedback we got from other artists, sound designers, game designers, marketing folks, and just people who’ve been through this entrepreneurial process before. But even after getting all that input, do what feels right for you. I think there are many routes to success, so do what resonates with you the most. After all, that’s probably why you’re making your own games right? Because you have a unique perspective that you want to share with the world.

9) Top 5 games on your iDevice

David: Tripletown, Hunger Games, Temple Run, Tiny Wings, Helsing’s Fire.

I don’t nearly have as much time as I would like downloading and trying out new games. So most of mine are pretty mainstream.

10) Any final words you’d like to share with TMA readers?

David: Don’t be fooled by the cuteness of Cannon Cat. This game gets quite challenging and is built for anyone willing to put their gaming skills to the test. Just don’t be surprised if you laugh out loud or fall in love with the characters along the way. :)


 

A big thanks to David and Don for joining us with the Q&A. Folks you can find out more about Cannon Cat here and do keep an eye out for it’s planned release on the App Store on April 26th.

cannon-cat-iphone cannon_cat_title_screen-w480 cannon_cat_blowfish-w480 cannon_cat_shop-w480 cannon_cat_evil_emu-w480 cannon_cat_penguins-w480 cannon_cat_bounce-w480 cannon_cat_zones-w480 cannon_cat_basic_mechanic-w480

 

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iTête à iTête – Interview with Mark DeForest from Cyan Worlds – Immersing you even more by letting you touch the game http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/14/itete-a-itete-interview-mark-deforest-cyan-worlds/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/14/itete-a-itete-interview-mark-deforest-cyan-worlds/#comments Mon, 14 Feb 2011 18:09:39 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=47967 If you were in any way connected or even remotely familiar with the video gaming industry in the 90′s, you couldn’t have missed Myst (TMA Review). This bestselling game of all time (at least until the dreaded ‘The Sims’ came along in 2002) has seen a superb re-release on the iOS about a year and … Read more]]>

If you were in any way connected or even remotely familiar with the video gaming industry in the 90′s, you couldn’t have missed Myst (TMA Review). This bestselling game of all time (at least until the dreaded ‘The Sims’ came along in 2002) has seen a superb re-release on the iOS about a year and a half ago and nabbed a special mention in our The App Store’s Best Adventure. And with the recent release of the Riven: The Sequel to Myst (TMA Review) I personally couldn’t pass up the unique opportunity to interview one of the leading minds behind the scenes – Mark DeForest, the CTO of Cyan Worlds.

My comments are in my ususal bold.

1. Mark thank you for joining me today, especially at this early of an hour for you. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and Cyan Worlds?

I am the CTO (chief technology officer) at Cyan Worlds. I have been at Cyan for 16 years. My first assignment at Cyan was to port Manhole Masterpiece to the PC. Since then I have been involved in all of Cyan products – for the last 7 years as the manager of the technical side.

Cyan was started in 1987 by Rand and Robyn Miller to create a children’s exploration game on the Mac – Rand the programmer and Robyn the artists. It was followed by a couple more children’s games. And then the big break came when they decided to do a more adult adventure game called Myst, which was a computer game best seller. Since then we have continued in the adventure solitarily games. Then we ventured into the MMOG area with the release of Myst Online: Uru Live – which is currently running as a free service on our servers.

Recently we have focused more on the mobile platform – in particular the iPhone/iPad bringing some of our older games (Myst (TMA Review), Manhole and Riven (TMA Review)) as well as new game such as Stoneship and a new title to be released later this year.

2. Why did you decide to adapt your classic adventure for the iOS Platform?

Rand has always been an early adapter to new technology and when he was one of the first to get an iPhone he could see immediately that it was a perfect platform for games like Myst and Riven.

Myself, I was a little skeptical but he is the visionary so Derek and I started working on it. The more we had developed, I started to see how the touch screen that you hold in your hand was the perfect platform for a game like Myst and Riven, immersing you even more by letting you touch the game.

3. What would you say are the main challenges in bringing such a game as Myst or Riven to the iOS?

The main challenge was the same thing that made it great. The touch interface:

1) There is no cursor – so you have to give hints differently to the player.

2) Your finger is in the way of the screen – so it is harder to show what is going on underneath your finger. But it allowed for really cool things like swiping to turn and dragging things around the screen with your finger.

4. Do you feel you’ve done a good job with controls? Would you change anything now that the game has been live for about a month?

We are pretty happy with the controls. Riven did need more in the interface – mostly because of all the movies that will play which in the original the player was not able to interrupt, which they can on the iPhone.

The thing that I am working on now for a Riven update is to add Game Center achievements which create some games within the game.

5. Were you involved in the development of the original titles? Have you felt like there were things you would change for the iOS release? Apart from the interface, of course.

I came just after Myst but I was involved with the Riven development. Actually, there were a number of things that we changed from the original Riven – the biggest things was a hint system that shows the objects you can interact with – which the original had nothing like that. And of course, as I mentioned, adding achievements to the game and being able to share that with your friends is really cool!

6. In any project there are lots of funny stories. Could share one or two of them from your projects?

Funny stories, hmmm – I can’t think of a big one.

But there are at least a dozen gold discs on the roof of the Cyan building, most put there during the original Riven project. There are many scooter crash sites inside the second Cyan building after many all nighters during the Myst Online project. The dirty images drawn on the in-game tablet in Myst V testing that were submitted by the QA department as bugs. The Japanese TV crew that came to the Cyan parking lot and filmed the trash can. And, of course, the Space Ghost interview with Rand.

7. If you could go back to the start of the project, what would you’ve done differently?

I guess it would be to create higher quality assets for the iPad alongside the iPhone assets. That is one thing we are doing now is assembling the iPad assets for an iPad-only Riven. So, it would have been nice to have those ready to go much quicker.

Are you re-making the assets from scratch? I read somewhere that for the iPhone version the quality of the originals is somewhere in between the Retina and basic quality.

The resolution is already is as high as we can make them, which is bigger than the iPhone screen but smaller than the iPad screen size – however, to conserve on the size of the iPhone app they were created with a lower quality setting. For the iPad we can make the app even larger with higher quality settings – which the iPad user would notice more because of the bigger screen.

The original images were rendered on SGI workstations which we no longer have access to. So, it is not possible to re-render the Riven images again.

8. What can you say on the future of the iOS devices as a platform for adventure games? How would you compare it to the other similar devices on the market?

The iOS devices are growing to be an excellent platform for adventure games as well as other kinds of games. I think people originally thought that only “casual” games would be on iOS devices but I think that we as well as other game developers have shown that more serious games fit very well on the iOS devices and is received quite well by gamers.

As far as other mobile platforms – there are some very promising devices – Android, Windows 7 mobile, but they both have restrictions on the size of the app in their market places that games like Myst and Riven would be too large. Hopefully, these other device developers can see that the gamer wants more than just casual games on their devices.

As I understand you’re not planning to focus on other platforms but the iOS for the moment?

Right for now, especially for Myst and Riven because of the restriction on size of app by the other devices market stores. However, we are creating some new games that might fit into those size restrictions, so we have not closed that possibility.

9. Along with the re-release of Myst and Riven you created all original titles for the platform as well. Why did you decide to go that direction? How did it feel developing for a mobile device from scratch?

We decided to make some new titles for the mobile platform after the success of Myst on the iOS. One because we could see the potential but also because we could self-publish with Apple’s dev program – which makes it a lot easier to develop new ideas rather than the old fashion publisher route – which can get bogged down because it is different. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t do a published title – which we may do in the near future (nothing I can say at the moment).

Was it a different feeling, creating an original game for such a device? Would you say it requires a different mentality?

I’m not sure there is a different feeling or mentality. Making games is making games. Which is from the heart, more so than other kinds of software. And you definitely need the desire to entertain.

10. You mentioned a new release in the coming months. Can you share some details? What are your future plans? Are you going to bring the other titles from the Myst franchise to the AppStore? Or do you plan to focus on original titles?

We are working on a physics game based on Unity3D that should play really well on the iOS. As far as the other Myst games, Cyan only developed Myst and Riven. The other games were developed by Presto (whose owner now owns Oceanhouse Media) and Ubisoft. So that is a little out of our hands at the moment.

Our main focus from here on will be new titles on mobile devices as well as game consoles and PC/Macs.

Why did you choose Unity and not the gorgeous Unreal engine, recently debuted on the iOS with Infinity Blade?

When we started developing it, Unreal was not available yet.

I see. And do you plan to make full blown adventure titles or focus on lighter genres?

Both. Our core is adventure gaming but is fun to expand out a little.

11. What do you think about the iPad? Many competitors have announced similar devices at the recent CES 2011. Do you feel Apple will be able to hold their ground?

Oh yeah. Apple not only has the head start and has built a good market (despite the original critics) but to develop for the iPad (and iOS) and publish is still way ahead of the competition. But I do think they will figure it out (it is not just the tech aspects of a device that make it sell) that it is the apps that sell the device – and you need to make it easier for the developer as Apple has.

12. What are your expectations for the iPad 2? Have you thought about it at all?

I have not looked at the details yet. But I’m always amazed at what comes out of Apple lately!

13. 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 iOS platform?

Personally, we have not seen “enormous” amounts of piracy for Myst or Riven. I don’t know if other developers have different problems than us or if they are seeing something we don’t or if they see something that is not there.

<shrugs>

14. And what about jailbreaking?

For us, we only see a small percentage using Myst and Riven.

You track the percentage of jailbroken devices in using your games?

We use Flurry.

15. What are your top 3 favourite apps and games for the iPhone?

Angry Birds (of course), redbox and eIDB

16. If you could ask for one new feature for the next iPhone or iPad, what would it be?

Faster, bigger, better. – it would be nice to interact with the AppleTV more than just movies. One of our fans wanted to play Riven thru the AppleTV onto their big screen TV – but currently you can only send it movies.

Theoretically you could jailbreak and use an app to send it to TV Out :)

Right, TV OUT would work but it would be nice to do it all legal and such.

17. Mark, thank you for your time. Could you say some final words for the TMA readers?

No problem. It has been a pleasure talking to you and hopefully we can talk again on a new release in the near future.

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iTête à iTête – Interview with Charlie McHenry from Trilobyte Games – Like a phoenix, rising again from the flames of the AppStore http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/01/26/itete-a-itete-interview-charlie-mchenry-trilobyte-games/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/01/26/itete-a-itete-interview-charlie-mchenry-trilobyte-games/#comments Wed, 26 Jan 2011 21:36:43 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=47168 The App Store model has certainly revolutionized software development as a whole and games development in particular. Thanks to the extremely low entry cost and a centralized distribution system, it has become a launch pad for many new indie developers both successful and not so much. But that isn’t much of a surprise to anyone … Read more]]>

The App Store model has certainly revolutionized software development as a whole and games development in particular. Thanks to the extremely low entry cost and a centralized distribution system, it has become a launch pad for many new indie developers both successful and not so much. But that isn’t much of a surprise to anyone remotely familiar with the market. What’s more interesting is that this new platform actually allowed some veteran companies many thought long gone to get back together as well.

And of such phoenixes, born again from the flames of App Store, is Trilobyte Games – the company behind the legendary PC adventure – The 7th Guest (TMA Review), recently re-released for the iOS. Today I’m joined by Charlie McHenry, the current COO of Trilobyte, to talk about their resurrection, work on The 7th Guest, future plans, and more.

My comments and questions are in my usual bold.

1. Charlie thank you for joining me today, especially at this early hour for you. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and Trilobyte Games?

I am an industry veteran, with more years than I care to remember. I started out with AST Computer, went to Quarterdeck, was a marketing guy with a storage manufacturer, then a consultant. I’m the Chief Operating Officer of Trilobyte. Trilobyte Games was re-organized just last January to bring legacy games to iOS. We’ll be developing some entirely new titles as well. Original founder, Rob Landeros is our majority stockholder and CEO. There are three main partners now, some minor investors, and just a few contract employees.

So I gather there is not a big in-house team at the moment? Are you planning to get the folks back together or are you planning to use the “hollywood” model, pioneered by Charles Cecil?

I personally prefer a team, and am not anxious to use the Hollywood model. We’ll be putting a team together, a programming studio, and doing our own thing. We may use the Hollywood model to fund very large projects like The 7th Guest III.

2. Why did you decide to adapt your classic adventure for the iOS Platform?

It is a very large opportunity. And, it eliminates a lot of middle-men, as well as packaging, distribution, and the like. That enables us to do what we do, programming/development & marketing, and not worry about the other stuff.

Are you also planning a Mac Appstore version of 7th Guest?

Though I can’t confirm that yet, it is a very good bet :-)

:-)

3. What would you say are the main challenges in bringing such a game as The 7th Guest to the iOS?

The 7th Guest was unique, with unique challenges. It was originally written for pre-Windows PC’s with a VGA card. It has its own graphics engine called Groovie. We had to do a lot of work to get it over to iOS. Our Chief Technology Officer is very talented, and we got the job done. Other titles have their own challenges, but we are confident we can port our older properties, and, develop great new titles as well.

4. I know that the current build of ScummVM already supported 7th Guest. Did you use it as the basis for your port or have you done the whole thing from scratch?

From scratch. John Fricker is our CTO, and he’s a great programmer.

Are you familiar with the ScummVM project in general? What do you think about it?

I’m aware of it, but John would be the authority and his opinion is the one that matters. So far, we’re using our own devices. We are working on tools of our own, including video (FMV) tools, for future projects.

5. One of the most difficult aspects in porting any game to the iOS are the controls. Do you feel you’ve done a good job with 7th Guest? Would you change anything now that the game has been live for about a month?

We’ve updated once already, and will continue to offer our users updates. But the challenges of the port do constrain us somewhat. We are satisfied to a point, and we look forward to our projects that will be “native” to iOS. The touch interface and in-app opportunities are exciting. We’re looking at ways to offer our users unique gaming experiences based on the 7th Guest brand. That will not be our only brand, we’ll be developing additional titles in the near future as well.

6. Were you involved in the development of the original game? Have you felt like there were things you would change for the iOS release in terms of gameplay design? Apart from the interface of course.

I played a very small role in the original effort. I was around, but not on the core team. I think the port has been true to the original game, with the exception of the 3 puzzles that didn’t make the port. One was simply too small to play on the iPhone. Another, the “microscope” puzzle, is based on AI and that was a problem. I like the iOS version, and our fans have largely approved. We do view the re-introduction as a starting point for our future efforts. Now that we’re back in the market, and back in front of fans, we’ll be offering regular new product introductions to maintain our momentum.

7. In any project there are lots of funny stories. Could share one or two of them from your projects?

Well…. I guess the fact that the company was re-born in a number of local coffee-houses over many Latte’s using the cloud for management has had its moments. If we drink much more caffeine, we’ll all be qualified astronauts. Working around original founder Rob Landeros’ golf schedule has been fun. He’s a committed golfer and when its sunny, we never know. Good thing we’re all so connected these days.

8. If you could go back to the start of the project, what would you’ve done differently?

I’d have gotten started a year or so earlier, but other than that, there’s nothing I’d change.

That’s almost a first in my experience :)

9. What can you say on the future of the iOS devices as a platform for adventure games? How would you compare it to the other similar devices on the market?

iOS is predictable, stable, and user-centric. We’re looking at the Android market, and it is not yet well-defined. It is device-centric and is implemented in a number of different ways – depending on vendor. We hope to have an Android team working by this Summer, but we won’t be devoting a lot of time and effort to that market until clear leaders emerge. The iPad rocks. It is an industry-changing platform, not just a new form factor. We’ve got a couple of interactive movies we’re looking at porting, just for that reason.

10. I know you plan to port the 11th Hour to the iOS as well. What is the current timeframe?

Summer. We’ve got some work to do on that. Anticipate a few new products first. We’re going to let our fans know we’re here for the long term by putting some new titles out there.

11. What are your other plans? You mentioned thoughts of developing an original title for the iOS platform. Could you share some details? Or at least hint?

We like puzzles. It’s a good place to be in the market. We also enjoy simple, graphically rich gaming experiences that have the fan “wow” power. Our programmers are good, but one should not forget that Rob Landeros is a graphic and artistic genius (IMHO). You can expect us to leverage that for new titles.

No chance you could be even more specific? :)

None of the online editors and bloggers would ever talk to me again. I’ve already given you a bit more than I’ve revealed to date. But here: expect our next new product to be ready in February.

No problem, I don’t want you to lose your credibility! I really appreciate all you told me…

12. What do you think about the iPad? Many competitors have announced similar devices at the recent CES 2011. Do you feel Apple will be able to hold their ground?

Yes. Apple has market share, and is standardized. Every other tablet will be based on a unique implementation of Android. We’re expecting the Samsung Galaxy and Motorola’s new device to be the ones to watch. But that’s not news.

13. What are your expectations for the iPad 2? Have you thought about it at all?

Sure, we’re thinking about it. Higher resolution should be awesome. For users, the reported camera and hardware adjustments should be welcome. Beyond that, we’ll just have to see. I am very impressed with the device’s market penetration and share. Apple’s infrastructure, with the brick-and-mortar stores as well as the online stores, is in place and working like a Swiss watch. Going to be hard for anyone to match that. In the 80′s, I worked on an independent marketing research team with Apple’s Ron Roner, that helped lay the foundation for the current stores. That project was called “Apple Fitness Centers” because the Apple team likened the new stores to the many health & fitness centers that were springing up at the time.

Are you keeping in touch with him now? Some insider Apple info? :)

Nope. Did not stay in touch. The market pulled me the other way and I ended up working the Windows and PC side for over a decade.

14. 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 iOS platform?

It does exist, but we’re not sure it is that widespread. We’re actually looking at that now, to make a determination as to the impact. Like most start-ups, the lawyers are running us around a bit, but we’re really focused on development right now. More titles, more markets, and building fan support. We’re really using Twitter and Facebook very aggressively to communicate and build buzz. That’s where we’re focused.

15. And what about jailbreaking?

We are aware that there are already 7th Guest v. 7.0 copies available for jailbroken devices. Our lawyers are looking into that for us. But again, we’re just not sure how big a problem it really is. Once we get that figured out, we’ll determine the correct level of response.

16. What are your top 3 favourite apps and games for the iPhone?

I use my iPad for playing games, and I like the graphics of Infinity Blade (TMA Review) – which I play. I use Fandango for my iPhone, Twitter & Facebook apps, and I enjoy “Art Authority” a wonderful app developed here locally by our friends Alan Oppenheimer & Jim Teece. I will be buying the translation app. Is it “Window Pane?” (I think Charlie meant Word Lens here) I travel a lot and that will be useful.

17. If you could ask for one new feature for the next iPhone or iPad, what would it be?

Tethering for the iPhone. But that’s not going to happen. I think the iPad is almost perfect and with the reported updates in the next version, I’m quite satisfied the device will remain the industry standard. Perhaps an improved sound system/speaker would be nice.

But the iPhone already has tethering, doesn’t it? And it’s more than possible that they will include the Wi-Fi hotspot feature. Or do you mean something other than that?

Wi-Fi hotspot would be very nice. And no, I am unaware that the iPhone can be tethered with other devices to provide internet access. We do live in a multi-vendor world and it would be great if all my devices could talk to, and be tethered with each other.

18. Charlie, thank you for your time. Could you say some final words for the TMA readers?

Trilobyte Games is delighted to be back in the market, and we’re grateful for the kind reception we’ve received to date. Look for other legacy game ports from us in the future, as well as a variety of newly developed titles that will be built from the ground-up for the iOS interface. Keep on gaming.

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Interview with iCrowdApps – Get Paid for your App Ideas http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/12/09/interview-with-icrowdapps-get-paid-for-your-app-ideas/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/12/09/interview-with-icrowdapps-get-paid-for-your-app-ideas/#comments Thu, 09 Dec 2010 22:29:07 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=44494 In the past, we’ve posted several iPhone development articles that ranged from learning how to get started with iOS programming, or for those who are allergic to coding, finding that right developer for that app project. But what if you neither want to become an iPhone developer or have the need to hire a dev to … Read more]]>

In the past, we’ve posted several iPhone development articles that ranged from learning how to get started with iOS programming, or for those who are allergic to coding, finding that right developer for that app project. But what if you neither want to become an iPhone developer or have the need to hire a dev to create an app? What if you simply have an idea that you want turned into quick and easy cash?

This is where iCrowdApps come into play. Fairly new to the iDevice arena, this small team of individuals want your brilliant app ideas and they’re willing to pay you $500 for simply submitting them. Of course, they won’t just pay you for any idea; they have to be something that truly stands out and potentially worth investing their time and money in. And recently, Ted Kao from iCrowdapps was nice enough to join me in a Q&A for TMA readers and give us a little more insight into his company.

Can you tell us a little about iCrowdApps? How did you come about the name and what inspired you to pay iOS users for their ideas?

We were a couple of guys literally sitting around a hotel lobby deciding we wanted to get into mobile app development.  We pitched probably 15 or 20 ideas to each other when it really dawned on us that anyone who loves their iPhone probably has great ideas.  We started to float this to our friends and family who, of course, all said it would be nice if there was an app for xyz.  I’ve always loved the concept of crowdsourcing as the internet has truly leveled the ability for anyone to share their thoughts and ideas so we basically decided to source the ideas directly from iPhone users.  Our name is a combination of 3 components.  1) i – stands for our customers 2) crowd – is the driving force behind our company and is at the heart of what we do 3) apps – stands for our products.  Essentially, our name defines who we are as a company along with what we create for our products.

$500 for an app idea seems like easy cash for someone who’s got plenty of bright ideas. Have you had many submissions so far?

It definitely is easy money! All you need to do is spend 5 minutes via our website or our Genius App and we will take it from there.  We’ve actually received a pretty large number of ideas and many that are very good.  We’ve also had a couple of super fans who’ve submitted 10 or more ideas.  We love those guys a lot.  We’ve gotten enough ideas that we’re looking for another 1-2 iOS developer to join us, so let us know if your interested so we can build more apps!

How many ideas have you approved so far and what are they? Are they currently in development?

We launched in September of this year and we’ve awarded one winner thus far.  We are hard at work developing the app now, so look for it around the end of January.  We are on the cusp of selecting between 1-3 more ideas for development soon.

How long does one have to wait once they’ve submitted an idea before finding out whether its been accepted?

One of our driving principals is business integrity and prompt response to our customers.  While we give ourselves 60 days to approve an idea legally, we will try to get back to an idea submitter within 21 days if not sooner.  We want to keep an open dialog with our idea submitters so we do try to make quick decisions for the most part.

What are some of the craziest/funniest ideas you’ve received so far?

One idea that came to us was an app that would unlock all of the apps within iTunes for free.  I’m not sure Apple would be ok with that one.  Another idea that was pretty wild was to have different characters and when you squeeze an area, goo would come oozing out.  That one was pretty wild and probably wasn’t up our alley.

What areas and aspects do you look at and how exactly do you decide which ideas will go into development?

We want to make great apps that either make people’s lives more productive, efficient, or just more fun.  At a high level, that’s all we are looking for.  However, if an app has been made for the 15th time, we would probably pass on it.

How much will you invest in an idea and what’s the cost that goes into developing the app?

Each app can have a development cycle of 3 months to potentially a year and the number of developers may vary.  We use our real dollars and time to develop the apps that we select, so the investment can be very significant. As such we have to pick the right ideas and execute them well.

If someone has a killer idea and they feel that it’s worth much more than just $500, can they partner with iCrowdApps to create the app and work out an alternative deal?

Absolutely, we tell people that in our FAQs.  If you’re willing to also take on at least some of the risk, then we can share in the rewards together.  It only makes sense and is very reasonable to us.  Of course we’d also need to think that it is in fact a great idea before we decide to co-invest.

Do you accept ideas for games as well, or is it only for apps?

We do accept game ideas and in fact, I’d say that about 20% of the ideas we’ve gotten are for games.  We’ve gone to final review for 1-2 games but have not selected one for development yet. We do however, generally shy away from them as games typically have some fairly unique skill-sets that are not part of our experience.  That being said, who am I to turn away the next Angry Birds idea!

Why did you choose the iDevice platform? Do you plan on expanding to the Android and Blackberry markets din the future?

We picked the iPhone/iPad platform because of the passion people have for their products.  People absolutely love their iPhones and iPads.  They can’t wait to show them to you and share their favorite apps.  In fact, I was in Asia recently and saw iPhones and iPads all over Taiwan, Philippines, and Hong Kong.  There were 3 iPads in viewable distance on my flight from Taiwan to Hong Kong.  Here in the U.S., we probably see about a 10 to 1 ratio in terms of iPhone to Android.  We will look at the Android market next but haven’t really evaluated the Blackberry since I’m not sure what they are doing with their OS going forward as its in a state of flux.

Do you develop apps in house or are projects outsourced to other developers depending on what needs to be done?

We have our own in-house team who are all rockstars!

What are some of your favorite apps and games on the iPhone?

Obviously, I love Angry Birds since I blogged about it recently.  I use Awesome Note everyday to track different task lists.  I use Cozi with my wife to share our todos and shopping lists.  In fact, we nearly started developing something like it until we discovered Cozi during our research and loved it enough to say that they win.  I also like mSecure for securing some sensitive personal data.

Quickly, what are your thoughts on Jailbreaking? Is your iPhone/iPad jailbroken?

Our team’s iOS devices are all not jailbroken.  I think jailbreaking is really up to the individual to decide if it’s right for them.  You definitely should understand the risks if you go that route.  There are times when a cool jailbroken app that won’t be coming to the App Store ends up on Cydia that I want, but I’ll stick with the overall Apple experience as a consumer.  I think they do a very good job overall even if they are pretty tight on controlling the OS in general.

Any parting words you want to share with our readers?

We want your users to know that, above all, we believe in 100% ethical business practices.  There are rumors that some of our competitors “steal” ideas but I can tell you that the first time we do that, we will shut our doors.   Combined, our team has 35 – 40 years in the technology and business world and have seen first hand how world class organizations operate as well as those that take short cuts.  On the web, our integrity means everything so we hope to earn your trust for the long haul.  Oh, and please, send us your ideas and maybe you can get paid!

Well that’s a wrap folks. Many thanks to Ted once again for taking the time to answer our questions…and good luck to all those who send in their app ideas!

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iTête à iTête – Interview with Guillaume & Romain from DotEmu – Bringing back the classics to the AppStore http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/11/29/itete-a-itete-interview-with-dotemu/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/11/29/itete-a-itete-interview-with-dotemu/#comments Mon, 29 Nov 2010 16:06:05 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=43651 In this bustling world of the triumph of modern technology, a recent trend has been a rapidly rising demand for nostalgia gaming. It isn’t that much of surprise if you come to think of it. After all, people who grew up on the classic games of 80′s and 90′s are now in the position of … Read more]]>

In this bustling world of the triumph of modern technology, a recent trend has been a rapidly rising demand for nostalgia gaming. It isn’t that much of surprise if you come to think of it. After all, people who grew up on the classic games of 80′s and 90′s are now in the position of making decisions and spending money… Sometimes, a LOT of money… And this in turn gave rise to a new breed of companies, focusing their efforts on bringing the classic games to modern platforms. One of the more prominent players in this market has been DotEmu, known for porting titles for almost every platform imaginable, from modern PCs and Browsers to Smartphones of all breeds. And more recently – the iOS family of devices.

Joining me today are the co-founder and CTO of DotEmu – Romain Tisserand and his Head of iPhone applications – Guillaume Siorak. The topic at hand: the recent release of the cult classic – Gobliiins (TMA Review), along with more general talk of the iDevice world.

As usual, my questions and comments are in modest bold.

1. Guillaume, Romain, thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity. Could you tell us a little bit about yourselves and DotEmu?

Romain: My name is Romain Tisserand, I’m the co-founder and CTO of DotEmu. I manage the engineering and technical aspects of DotEmu projects.

Guillaume: Hello, I’m Guillaume Siorak and I’m developer at DotEmu. I am in charge of the development of iPhone applications.

Romain: DotEmu was founded back in 2007, with the goal to bring back classic games from the 80s to early 2000s on new platforms such as Smartphones, PC, Browser, and more. (founded by Xavier Liard and myself)

2. DotEmu is one of the few companies looking back on how it all began, providing modern gamers a way of rediscovering old hits. How did you decide on such a business model?

Romain: It’s “more than” a business model actually ;)

We are a team of passionate gamers. We actually felt, back in 2007, that there was no obvious, legal option to play back these games on PC, Web and mobile devices. And that the retrogaming was becoming a widespread, popular phenomenon.

And it’s on this basis that DotEmu was established: in order to provide a legal and “easy” (for the end consumer) way to rediscover classic hits.

Is DotEmu a big team at the moment?

Romain: Well, yes and no. We have a small, but efficient internal team of 7 employees, and some other people working externally on a regular basis. So it’s around 10 people.

3. How did you finally decide to expand on the iOS Platform?

Romain: When we started back in 2007, and released our first game for Smartphones (Windows Mobile 2003 / WM5, Palm OS, Symbian S60v3), that was a completely different story!

Actually, the iOS platform just became huge thanks to the App Store distribution channel, which has definitely changed the industry. iOS is an obvious channel to expand our activity since the user base is growing quickly, and since we think most of these classic games are well suited to mobile devices.

Guillaume: With the App Store and the number of apps still growing, yes it was logical to go on it too and in some way to concentrate our engineering for mobile platforms on the iOS.

4. There are only a handful of titles released on the AppStore by you, some of which you went through publishers (like Bulkypix for Gobliiins). Which way do you prefer? How do you plan on doing it in the future?

Romain: True. Honestly, there’s no generic rule. It all depends on business opportunities. All our games are licensed from original creators or actual right owners, so we need to give them back royalties obviously. So it actually depends on which option gives us the best chance for success on App Store. As you know, the App Store is crowded with apps and it’s not that easy to get noticed.

We are going to release some games in the future by ourselves and some others with third party publishers.

5. Bringing such a prominent game as Gobliiins to the iDevice is certainly a feat. Is it your first adventure release for the iPhone? Why did you choose it as the first step into the adventure genre?

Guillaume: Yes, Gobliiins is the first adventure/puzzle game we released. Before there was Nicky Boom (more a platform genre) and R TYPE (TMA Review) published by EA – a shoot ‘em up.

Romain: And Golvellius – The Valley of Doom, but it did not get much attention ;-)

Guillaume: So yes Gobliiins is the first adventure game. Like we said, we are gamers and Gobliiins is one of these games we played a long time ago and we love it. So why not bring it to the iPhone? Moreover, there aren’t a lot of adventure games on the App store and Gobliiins is obviously a cult one.

Romain: It’s a project which started back in 2008, but it took time to get a iPhone license. Licensing such games is always a long time discussion.

6. What would you say are the main challenges in bringing such a game to the iOS?

Guillaume: There are a lot of difficulties in bringing such a cult game on the iDevice.

First of all, like we said, it’s really cult, so we had to keep the spirit of the game and to be faithful of the job of the creators of the Gobliiins series.

Then, the iDevice is not a PC, you just have your finger to play. So we had to make some obvious change to play it on the iPhone. The gameplay had to be intuitive like moving your finger on the screen to have some help (the hotspots), display all the actions possible with the gobliiins because you haven’t got a mouse to right click and select the best action.

So yeah, these are examples but it’s a real challenge to keep the spirit and try to offer something enjoyable and intuitive for iDevice players and new players who didn’t know the game before.

Were any of the original developers of Gobliiins involved or consulted in making the port?

Romain: Yep! We did meet Pierre Gilhodes in order to discuss the game with him and to understand better the Gobliiins universe, how it was created back in the days.

Did you have any inkling of changing bits of the game here and there to make it more iDevice friendly?

Guillaume: Yes, like I said on the iDevice, it has to be a lot more intuitive and I want to say “easy” because an iDevice player is spending approximately 10 to 15 minutes playing on his/her phone. So in order to keep the spirit of the game and to offer a more enjoyable and intuitive game we added some elements like the hotspots and the hints. These help the player to find the best way to resolve his current puzzle. So it’s in this way we changed the game.

Romain: We’re also looking closely on user and press feedback on the current version (v1.1) for future updates and improvements.

7. I know you used ScummVM as the backbone of Gobliiins. How did you negotiate with the team that builds and maintains this product? Did you use the existing Cydia port of ScummVM, or did you do the port from scratch?

Romain: We did start from the official iPhone port of ScummVM as released in 1.0. We’ve been in touch with the ScummVM team for a long time. Some other games use ScummVM too on the App Store, but we contacted to be sure everything would be fine on the legal side.

And we gave them the source code for review before submission. It is available on http://www.dotemu.com/en/gpl as GPL compliance requires it.

8. Are you planning of making an iPad native version of Gobliiins?

Romain: We are evaluating that currently, but nothing sure yet.

9. In any project there are lots of funny stories. Could share one or two of them from your projects?

Romain: <thinking….>

Wow! It sounds like there are projects that are not funny enough!!!

Guillaume: Yeah it’s kind of tough, how sad! About Gobliiins, not really…

10. What can you say on the future of the iOS devices as a platform for adventure games and retro gaming as a whole? How would you compare it to the other similar devices on the market?

Romain: I think iOS will continue to grow. And retro gaming seems to be liked by customers. I think it’s a great platform from a technical point of view for porting retro games, and a great way to reach a broad audience. We have a lot of upcoming projects on iOS :)

Guillaume: Regarding DotEmu, we are constantly looking for good old classics and a lot of them deserve to be brought back on this Device.

11. If you went back to the start of the project, what would you’ve done differently?

Guillaume: There are still a lot of improvements to be made on this game. I’m thinking about the hints – some of them a maybe a little spoilerish. But at the same time it’s true that Gobliiins is one difficult game and balance must be maintained in this issue.

Then, there are a lot of changes in iOS, at each update. At the beginning, game center was not available and I think that this element adds some fun in iDevice game.

So yeah, I think that if we started to develop this port today the game could have been a little bit different. But we are currently studying the comments on the game so updates will come in time to keep improving it.

12. What can you say about Apple’s approval process? Did you have any difficulties? After all, one might say using ScummVM as the backbone violates certain ToS, concerning executing code.

Romain: No, we did not get any issues on this side. They changed the rules about this part a while ago. I think the approval is quite straightforward, a bit long but that’s the same issue for every developer.

13. You have an impressive array of titles for the desktop. Will you be bringing some of them to the iOS devices? What are your future plans for the iPhone and the iPad?

Romain: We have a very, very nice game which will be released before Christmas (hopefully) on iOS.

And I know you have parts 2 and 3 of Gobliiins planned for release. What is the current target?

Romain: This is under discussion with Bulkypix. I can’t tell for sure right now, but Q1 to Q2 2011 sounds good for the Gobliins 2 release. And we are taking into account feedback on the first game to bring cool features and improvements to Gob 2 and 3.

14. Are you planning of creating original titles for the iDevice?

Romain: No. That’s not the purpose of DotEmu. We think some people do create games better than what we would be able to achieve. There are a lot of classic games to revive, and we prefer to focus on that.

15. What do you think about the iPad? It has certainly revolutionized the tablet market.

Guillaume: Yeah i think that games on iPad are really fun. You have a bigger surface to play with and a game like Gobliiins would be very fun, as a lot of adventure games. But I think this device is still for a family purpose. Like the iPod Touch is much more the students because of the average price. The game market on the iPad is growing up but it’s still a little bit complicated in my opinion.

Romain: The iPad is a great device, but I think it’s a bit overpriced.

16. We’ve seen some developers publicly announces that they suffer enormous amounts of piracy and lost revenue. What’s your take on piracy on the iOS platform?

Romain: lol

Gobliiins has seen a “scene” (pirate) release one hour after release on the App Store. So yeah, it sucks, and I’m afflicted to see people not willing to pay less than 1$ for a game. But it’s not worse than other platforms. In the past, we used to make some games for Symbian. Piracy was just… incredible.

That’s a difficult issue to solve, except for multiplayer/MMO games where you can resolve the issue by detecting pirated copies.

Guillaume: And it always will be there in some ways.

17. And what about jailbreaking?

Romain: Jailbreaking as itself (not involving installing pirated IPA games) is not an issue for me. It’s a matter of choice. I won’t jailbreak my iPhone personally because of security issues.

18. What are your top 3 favourite apps and games for the iPhone?

Guillaume: On the iPhone, at the moment, I play mostly to Angry Birds (TMA Review), Fruit Ninja and Sentinel 2: Earth Defense, a really good tower defense!

Romain : Pix’n Love Rush (TMA Review), Bejeweled 2 + Blitz, and ZENONIA.

19. Guillaume, Romain, thank you for your time. Could you say some final words for the TMA readers?

Guillaume: Thank you for reading us and we hope you’ll love our incoming ports and the other two Gobliiins! See ya!

Romain: Thank you very much for the interview, and we’re hoping to bring you back more great memories from the golden days of gaming on your iDevices.

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Interview With PlayFirst GM Chris Williams http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/10/29/interview-with-playfirst-gm-chris-william/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/10/29/interview-with-playfirst-gm-chris-william/#comments Fri, 29 Oct 2010 15:54:28 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=41784 One of my favorite styles of casual gaming on my iPod Touch is time management, and one of the top developers in this genre is PlayFirst, creators of the “Dash” series (Diner Dash, Wedding Dash, etc.)  They just released a new entry in the iPhone series called Hotel Dash, and to add icing to the cake, … Read more]]>


One of my favorite styles of casual gaming on my iPod Touch is time management, and one of the top developers in this genre is PlayFirst, creators of the “Dash” series (Diner Dash, Wedding Dash, etc.)  They just released a new entry in the iPhone series called Hotel Dash, and to add icing to the cake, I recently had the opportunity to correspond with PlayFirst GM Chris Williams about their iDevice ventures and where they are headed next.

1.    Can you tell me a little bit about PlayFirst and what your role in the company is?

PlayFirst is a publisher of emotionally engaging interactive entertainment and is committed to providing compelling experiences that always delight our customers. We publish our games on the most popular platforms worldwide including PC, Mac, iOS devices, Facebook, and consoles. We are known for hit titles such as Diner Dash, Chocolatier, and Dream Chronicles. My role as the General Manager of Mobile is to define the product and marketing strategy to bring our existing and new IP to all the established and emerging mobile gaming platforms.

2.    Looking at your web site, the iPhone seems to be the only smartphone platform with PlayFirst games.  Why did you choose the iPhone over other platforms?

PlayFirst was very early in putting a game in the Apple App Store, when we released Diner Dash in September of 2008. This was back when there were less than a thousand games and we could charge $9.99 for it. Apple had created a device which was very appealing to our audience and was a natural fit for our gameplay, so we jumped on it and had a lot of early success. As the new smartphones are now gaining market share, we are evaluating the opportunity to participate in the App Stores on those devices.

3. The Diner Dash series has been quite popular on the PC and Mac.  How has it fared on the iPhone?

The Dash franchise is one of the most successful in the App Store, with over 8 million downloads to date. We have three Dash games on iPhone and iPod touch (Diner Dash, Cooking Dash, and Wedding Dash) that all very consistently rank in the Top 100 Grossing Games. Diner Dash is consistently in the Top 30-40 Grossing Games. Both Diner Dash and Cooking Dash have at their peak ranked as the #2 overall Paid Application. Very few publishers have 3 games in the Top 100. Very, very few have three games that are all part of the same franchise that perform that well. On the iPad, Diner Dash: Grilling Green was a launch title that was featured by Apple when the device launched, and it was also playable in the retail stores as a demo. We are currently very excited about Hotel Dash launching on the iPhone and iPod touch – we think it is also going to be a huge hit!

4.    Time management games seem to play quite well on the iPhone.  What challenges were there in bringing the game from the big screen to a portable one?

See 5.

5. In general, do you add any features to your games that are specific to the iPhone?

While Time Management is a natural fit for the iOS devices, we have made significant improvements to the games over time by consistently providing updates. We don’t consider our current iOS games as ports – we think of them as being native versions that are heavily customized and enhanced for the platform. For example, Diner Dash: Grilling Green was the only iPad launch title to support gestures, multitouch, both orientations, two players, and all new art assets and levels. Most launch titles were just updated iPhone games with “HD” graphics. We made a ground up iPad game based on an existing franchise. On the iPhone and iPod touch, we take the same approach and are constantly updating to take advantage of new iOS and device capabilities. An example would be our recent update to incorporate Game Center high score rankings into Diner Dash.

6. You have quite a collection of games to choose from.  How do you decide which ones come the iPhone?

We look for games that we think are going be a natural fit for the device as a point of departure but expect that there will be a lot of work involved making them play well on the iOS device. The multitouch input is very different from clicking a mouse so we try to envision what it will be like to interact using the touch screen and then quickly prototype the core gameplay. Only when we have validated that it is deeply engaging on the platform do we move forward with development.

7. With the advent of the iPad, will we see more games jumping back to the larger screen?

We are very excited about the iPad as a gaming platform and believe the extra screen size allows for some different types of gaming that may not work as well on the iPhone and iPod Touch. We are encouraged to see that some of the adventure games currently available are doing well, since our Dream Chronicles franchise is widely considered one of the best in that genre. The iPad will immerse players into the beautiful artwork, intricate puzzles, and engaging story worlds of Dream Chronicles like never before.

8. Are there any plans for creating PlayFirst originals on the iPhone, or will we just continue to see ports in the near future?

We are hard at work on original, ground-up games for the iOS devices with new IP. You can expect a blend of our existing franchises and some iOS originals from PlayFirst going forward. We are also looking to provide cross-platform gaming experiences to our fans, particularly with our social games on Facebook.

9. What can we expect from PlayFirst in the next few months as far as the iPhone / iPad is concerned?

Hotel Dash for iPhone and iPod Touch just launched. We oriented the game vertically so that you play holding your device upright, and we are really excited about how it feels on the device. We are also putting a lot of effort into updating our existing Dash games with new restaurants. The Spooky Saloon in Diner Dash is currently very popular and you can expect more restaurants to be available around the holidays.

10. Briefly (I know that’s not really fair), can you share some thoughts on your opinion of the mobile games market and where it’s heading?

The mobile gaming market will continue to show amazing growth with the continued smartphone adoption worldwide. The number of App Stores that are going to be launched to put content on these devices is impressive. I think there will continue to be a blend of premium paid games with high engagement, low cost and low engagement games, and freemium games with a large user base that monetize through ads or in-app purchase. Given the massive number of games that will be available, well established brands like Dash will continue to have an advantage while it will become more and more difficult for new IP to break through.

I’d personally like to thank Chris Williams for taking the time out of his schedule to answer these questions for TMA and our readers.

You can check out PlayFirst’s iDevice offerings here: App Store Link

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iTête à iTête – A mini interview with Mark Darin from Telltale Games http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/08/17/itete-a-itete-interview-mark-darin-telltale-games/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/08/17/itete-a-itete-interview-mark-darin-telltale-games/#comments Tue, 17 Aug 2010 16:15:44 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=37856 Adventure games are my passion, as many of you may have guessed a long time ago. And when I heard that Telltale Games, the company responsible for such great iPad titles as Sam & Max Episode 1: The Penal Zone for iPad and Wallace & Gromit The Last Resort for iPad, are developing a completely original … Read more]]>

Adventure games are my passion, as many of you may have guessed a long time ago. And when I heard that Telltale Games, the company responsible for such great iPad titles as Sam & Max Episode 1: The Penal Zone for iPad and Wallace & Gromit The Last Resort for iPad, are developing a completely original series in Puzzle Agent, I was thrilled. Thankfully, after a bit of back-and-forth with the developers, I was able to secure a mini interview with Mark Darin – the mastermind behind the new project.

I’m in bold as always.

1. Mark, thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and Telltale Games?

My name is Mark Darin. I have been a designer here at Telltale Games for about 4 years and have worked on CSI Hard Evidence, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, Tales of Monkey Island and most recently Puzzle Agent.

2. At the moment Telltale has only released it’s titles for the iPad. Despite the fact that over 3 million units have been sold, it’s nothing compared to the almost 100 million of iPhones and iPod Touches out there. Are you going to bring out titles for them as well?

Puzzle Agent was designed to be to be an iPhone game as well as a game to be enjoyed on other platforms. You will be seeing it very shortly on the iPhone!

3. Puzzle Agent is the first franchise originally designed by Telltale. What can you say about it?

Puzzle Agent has been a fantastic collaboration with indie comic artist and former Art Director of Telltale Games Graham Annable. We were interested in starting a “Pilot” which would allow us to stretch our creative wings and try some more experimental projects within the studio. At about the same time, Graham was pitching the idea of creating a brainteaser puzzle type of game set in the “Grickle” universe of his comics and popular YouTube videos. It was a perfect match! Graham gave us a lot of freedom to develop the story and characters while he focused on character animation and overseeing the general art direction.

4. Could you elaborate a bit on the story and the features?

Nelson Tethers is the sole agent with the FBI’s Department of Puzzle Research. He gets an assignment to investigate the small town of Scoggins, Minnesota to unravel a mystery that occurred at the town’s eraser factory. The story is loaded with dark humor, inspired by the likes of David Lynch, the Coen Brothers and X-Files. The townspeople of Scoggins all seem friendly, but you always get the sense that there’s a dark secret they aren’t letting you in on.

The gameplay is inspired by the Professor Layton and Dr. Brain games. Instead of traditional point & click adventuring, the player will be solving a series of self contained brainteasers to progress through the story.

5. You have just announced that you’re working on two new series, namely, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future (which, incidentally, is my favourite movie trilogy of all time). Are these also going to be adventure games? Are you planning to roll them out on the iOS devices as well?

I am currently working on Jurassic Park, so I can speak a bit to the nature of the game design on that title. We are focusing on the best way to present the cinematic thrill ride that is Jurassic Park.


More interviews with various developers right here at TMA:

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Jay Freemen aka Saurik gives an interview to Make It Work – iPhone 4 Jailbreak, the Dev-Team and much much more [video] http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/07/26/jay-freemen-saurik-interview-make-it-work-iphone-4-jailbreak-the-dev-team/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/07/26/jay-freemen-saurik-interview-make-it-work-iphone-4-jailbreak-the-dev-team/#comments Mon, 26 Jul 2010 16:32:34 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=36505 I don’t think there is anyone left in the iDevice community who hasn’t heard about Jay Freemen, aka Saurik. Author of the legendary Cydia, a software application that brought a new era to the iDevice jailbreak app distribution and made Installer obsolete, he rarely makes a public appearance. But somehow the folks over at Make … Read more]]>

I don’t think there is anyone left in the iDevice community who hasn’t heard about Jay Freemen, aka Saurik. Author of the legendary Cydia, a software application that brought a new era to the iDevice jailbreak app distribution and made Installer obsolete, he rarely makes a public appearance. But somehow the folks over at Make It Work have coerced him into coming in for chat.

I strongly advise to watch the full interview with him below for a glimpse at an authentic jailbroken iPhone 4, as well as some in-depth info about the Dev-Team and jailbreaking scene as a whole.

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Devsisters – Coffee with the App Store’s Harold and Kumar http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/04/16/devsisters-coffee-with-the-app-stores-harold-and-kumar/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/04/16/devsisters-coffee-with-the-app-stores-harold-and-kumar/#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2010 08:31:05 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=31375 Ever sat across from a bloke who can Hulk-smash through – yes, through - an elevator door? Until yesterday, I hadn’t either, but then again, Devsisters, a feisty Korean iPhone/web developer, may well just be a super hero of sorts. They’re a smart, but casual group of mates who have set out to turn the App … Read more]]>

Ever sat across from a bloke who can Hulk-smash through – yes, through - an elevator door? Until yesterday, I hadn’t either, but then again, Devsisters, a feisty Korean iPhone/web developer, may well just be a super hero of sorts. They’re a smart, but casual group of mates who have set out to turn the App Store on its nose with fun and unique apps. The eleven-person company sent its bouncer, Jibong (G) Koo (right), and its snake, David Ryu (left – a man whose Korean name bleeds secrecy like a Free Mason’s handshake) to my neck of the woods to chat, to laugh, to threaten, and to keep things off the record.

It’s doubtless you’ve heard of Devsisters. The App Store spots eleven of their apps on its muscle-bound servers including the unique 3D RPG, Dark Shrine. But yesterday, Oven Break Infinity, a thumbs up jump/slide platform game stole the show AND nearly all my time on a brand-new iPad! Funny that – I explained to G and David that I really suck at games – that I had five left thumbs – and they insisted (you never say no to a man who can tear apart an elevator) that I play. I’m glad I did.

Devsisters, Com2uS, Gamevil, NCsoft, and a number of other clever software designers may have a tough time at home – the Korean App Store lacks a game category and the market is still rather small – but they’ve no lack of quality, especially as it comes to coding things for us to buy. Korea is a virtual software juggernaut; its 45 millions probably house more game programmers than any similarly-populated country in the world.

But rather than just porting established titles, Devsisters have built from the ground up for the iPhone and now… the iPad. They are also dipping their fingers in the online gaming and readily searching out new markets to conquer.

We sipped great Juleno lattes, ate stiff ‘Japanese’ うどん and played games. And despite the fact that David, can rip into elevator doors like most normal men rip into a Christmas presents, I didn’t feel threatened. Even G, the bouncer, was a nice (but tall) lad. They play each other like a couple of competent (and contemporary) comedians. Think Harold and Kumar – it’s easy to see where their games get their fun edge.

What can I say but, “I look forward to good things from the sistas, yo!”

Be sure to check out our other dev interviews and pay special attention to the excellent Korean iPhone scene thanks to developers such as Devsisters, Com2uS, and Gamevil.

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iTête à iTête – Interview with Frédéric Aloé from Coladia – We need to do a more casual game on the iPhone http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/03/22/itete-a-itete-interview-frederic-aloe-coladia/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/03/22/itete-a-itete-interview-frederic-aloe-coladia/#comments Mon, 22 Mar 2010 15:06:57 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=29696 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 … Read more]]>


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?

Opportunity :-)

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?

nothing :-)

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?

Yes!

That sounds great. Any specific dates already?

2011 :-)

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?

Currently,

Games:

Apps:

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.

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iTête à iTête – Interview with Arto & Peter from Dicework Games – Rimelands: Hammer Of Thor was actually the game we originally wanted to do. http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/03/02/itete-a-itete-interview-with-arto-peter-dicework-games/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/03/02/itete-a-itete-interview-with-arto-peter-dicework-games/#comments Tue, 02 Mar 2010 17:29:40 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=28924 Despite there being over 150 000 apps on the AppStore, many of which are games, quality RPGs are few and far between. And even fewer of them don’t go the Japanimation console style RPG route. Frankly, only three come to my mind – our own shigzeo’s favourite The Quest with its many addons, the excellent … Read more]]>

Despite there being over 150 000 apps on the AppStore, many of which are games, quality RPGs are few and far between. And even fewer of them don’t go the Japanimation console style RPG route. Frankly, only three come to my mind – our own shigzeo’s favourite The Quest with its many addons, the excellent old-school Undercroft (TMA Review) and, of course, the much hyped Diablo-clone Dungeon Hunter (TMA Review). And don’t even get me started on Ravensword: The Fallen King (TMA Review). But they should beware, because it seems a new contender to the RPG throne is in the works. I’m talking about the game that came to my attention recentlyRimelands: Hammer Of Thor. Intrigued, I immediately contacted the developers of this ambitious project and secured an interview to learn more details.

Dicework Games is a small company located in the city of Tampere in Finland and consists of the CEO and lead designer Arto Koistinen and the talented graphics artist Peter  Finnberg. Having been laid off during company negotiations just 1.5 years after THQ Wireless’s acquisition of Universomo, they decided it was to go solo and started their own company. Their first game was the critically acclaimed Diceworks which was a test of both their skill as well as how well they could do at the AppStore. And now they are steadily finishing up the project they originally conceived when their company formed – a classic Rogue-style RPG game titled Rimelands: Hammer Of Thor. And today I have both of them on the line to talk about it!

As usual, my questions and comments are in modest bold.

1. Arto, Peter, thank you very much for joining me today! Could you tell me a little bit about yourselves and Dicework Games?

Arto: The company was founded about a year ago, the official date is about the end of April, but we started working on our first game around March. We were both working in Universomo, a mobile game developer owned by THQ Wireless before that. I was a game designer there and we worked together on a couple of titles. We both ended up being laid off during company negotiations, and decided that this would be a good time to go on our own.

2. Why did you decide to go into the business of developing games for the iPhone?

Arto: At the time the iPhone App Store was growing up fast and it seemed like a perfect platform for a small developer, which I think it still is, even if the competition has grown a lot tougher.

3. Your first entry on the platform was Diceworks – a dice/poker/puzzle game. How did you conceive the idea?

Peter: Actually it started as a test game first. We wanted to learn how to work with our platform Unity.

Arto: It’s an idea that was bouncing in my head at the time, I wanted to make a simple, approachable puzzle game.

4. Are you happy with how it turned out? Has it done well in sales?

Peter: I think it’s still a bit rough around the edges. We could have done a lot more with the concept.

Arto: It did well in reviews and I’m pretty pleased with the basic mechanics, but we could have done some things differently.

It didn’t sell very well, we didn’t get much attention for the game, mostly because there are so many puzzle games on the market. Also, I think it looks more hardcore than it actually is.

5. Rimelands: Hammer of Thor – your upcoming game is a full-fledged turn-based RPG, which is quite a leap from the puzzle genre. Why have you chosen to go this way?

Peter: This was actually the game we originally wanted to do. At the time there weren’t that many good RPGs for iPhone.

There still are only a handful of decent titles :) But please, continue.

Arto: Actually, one of the founding ideas of the company was to make RPGs for iPhone. A year ago the RPG market in App Store was a lot smaller and we thought there would be a lot more potential. But we didn’t want to go for an RPG as a first game, it was better to learn the ropes with a simpler game. After Diceworks we had a number of different ideas we prototyped and the RPG one was the one that took off the ground.

6. Could you describe the setting of the game a bit? The world, the races, the way of life?

Arto: The setting is an alternative future, you could say. The premise is that in the 19th century an ice age began, lasting a thousand years. The people went under the ice into gigantic vaults and during their time there, they discovered Steam, a kind of semi-magical substance that could be used to propel machinery they’d only dreamed of before. Now, the ice is slowly melting and people have begun to resurface, to find that the world has truly changed and all sorts of magical creatures are living there too.

As for the races, in addition to humans there are magical creatures, though not your standard fantasy tropes, but more the kind found in mythology.

Could you name a few just to set some common ground?

Arto: Faeries, giants, spirits, that sort of stuff, we don’t to go into much detail yet. As the title already suggests, there’ll be a lot of Norse mythology stuff and some other things, but we don’t want to spoil that surprise :)

7. What will the storyline involve? Who will be the main character?

Arto: The story will be about searching for the titular artifact, of course. There are other elements too, relating to the player character and her past and position the in world. The main character is a girl, under the tutelage of her grandmother, who searches the now abandoned vaults for treasure.

8. Could you talk a bit about the gameplay? How big will the accessible world be, how will the player move in it?

Arto: The game’s world map covers Northern Europe, and will include a number of dungeons and wilderness levels to explore. As the game advances, new locations will be available on the map. A part of the locations will be pre-designed and some will be random generated. There will be both levels related to the main quest and optional side quest levels.

Peter: The game is also designed so that we can easily expand the world and add new locations after the release.

Are you planning on expanding the game as free updates or do In-App purchases?

Peter: Yes, we already have some plans for that.

Arto: We’re planning to do both, but all the essential stuff will be free, we don’t want the players to feel they have to pay for something that should be in the game already (like the DLC quest in Dragon Age).

How are you planning to do the overall movement? I know the combat will be turn-based, but the out-of-combat movement?

Peter: It’s basically real time although you still move through the tiles. Once an enemy spots you it will go to turn based mode.

Arto: Out of combat, the movement is “real time”, under the hood, there’ll be turns under the hood, but it’ll feel real time.

9. A question from one of our Forum members:
Will there be a party or will it be the single character like the screenshot suggests? I mean round based fights allow to get some tactics into the game but without a parts it’s kind of pointless.

Arto: It’s single player, but there’s a lot of tactic to it.

Peter: We have a quite flexible talent system that lets you customize your character for different play styles and strategies.

10. You wrote a bit about combat in the blog post, but maybe you could elaborate?

Arto: We’re going for a somewhat boardgamish feel in the combat. We’ve been inspired by dungeon crawling board games as much as the digital ones. Personally, I think that board games feel more involving than many digital games because of the fact that every player knows the underlying mechanics, we’re aiming for the same kind of involvement in the game, but with the fluidity of not having to actually remember all the rules and calculate things.

11. What is the planned character development and customization possibilities? Classes, levels, stats, skills, inventory? Many of the so-called RPG games on the AppStore have serious issues in this department.

Peter: You can progress your character via paths and talents tied to them. We have currently three paths which are for melee, ranged and magic combat styles. Stats will be increased through paths and items.

Arto: Each path gives you talents and stat increases relevant to that combat style but they’re not exclusive in any way, so you can have any combination you want. Naturally some items will be geared towards certain combat styles, but other’s will let you compensate not having a said path.

Am I correct in understanding there won’t be separate classes in the game, rather the player will decide what path to develop?

Arto: Yes. You can build a pure warrior or a pure mage, or you can have a warrior with a lot of skill in ranged weapons, or a mage that’s also really stealthy.

Peter: The design goal was that you can build a class for yourself by choosing the talents you want. For example you can build a paladin style class if you go for melee and magic path.

That sounds fantastic. :) Could you give a rough estimate on the number of skills?

Arto: You won’t be able to get everything in one playthrough, so there’ll be replayability in that. Let’s say over 30, but not how much over :)

Peter: I think we have currently something like 15-20 skills, but you can also modify those skills via buff talents that change how the skill works. For example we have a healing spell that heals you once you use it, but if you buff/boost it will also place a heal over time effect on the character.

Sounds very cool :)

Arto: One of the main guidelines in the design was to have talents that really change the way the game plays. So they’re not only more efficient attacks, but they bring a variety of new tactics into the gameplay.

About inventory – are you planning a lot of slots for equipment? Will there be possibilities for enhancing existing equipment (enchanting, socketing, upgrading)?

Arto: We have four slots, plus an engineering system that lets you build new items.

Peter: Engineering is based on blueprints that you can find around the world. You can also share the blueprints with your friends

Does this mean there’s going to be multiplayer?

Arto: No, not as such. The blueprints are a community feature, and they can be exchanged via codes, so you don’t have to connect to the friend’s game to share them.

Are you going to use some kind of a social networking platform, like OpenFeint, Crystal or Plus+?

Arto: Probably, yes, but we can’t say which yet. We’re focused on making the game great first and implementing social networking later.

12. The graphics on the screenshots look very impressive. Are you using an in-house engine or a licensed one? How will the game run on the older devices?

Arto: We’re using Unity3D. We’re making sure that the game is smooth on older devices too.

13. One of the most common issues in many iPhone games usually have to do with the interface. What are your plans in this area?

Peter: I think most of the problems come from the game being a port from other devices, buttons being too small or controls not being responsive enough.

Arto: I think the interface is a very important thing, so we’re taking efforts to ensure that it feels smooth and natural on the iPhone. One of the ideas behind the game was to make a game that feels natural on the iPhone.

Peter: We’re spending quite a lot of time tuning the interface and it continously changes during the development. I think we’re getting pretty close to the final one now. :)

Arto: yeah, I think it’s finally coming together :)

14. What would you say were the main challenges you faced while developing Rimelands?

Arto: I think the interface was one, actually.

Peter: It’s hard to decide what to leave out from the game. There’s so much that we would like to add, but we just don’t have time to implement. It kind of grew a lot larger than we originally intended.

Arto: Yeah, that’s certainly true, but the game’s a lot better now for that too. Getting the mechanics right was one too, we wanted to have a game that was as simple and easy to learn as possible, but at the same time supported a lot of complexity and choice

15. If you went back to the start of the project, what would you’ve done differently?

Peter: I think from technical point of view we could have done a lot of the things faster now that we know Unity better.

Arto: I think we’d start to concentrate on content earlier, we now only had only a couple of test levels for a long time and were concentrating on adding features and tuning the interface. Yeah, on the code side I’d done a lot differently if I’d known Unity as well as I know it now. I think I’ve wholly redone the GUI part three times now :D

16. In any project there are lots of funny stories. Could share one or two of them from your projects?

Peter: Well we’ve had a lot minor funny things happening. Like character animation bugging so the player character has a sword going through it’s head. I have actually a good picture of that too if you would like to add it. :) Not sure if the things are actually funny outside the dev team. ;)

17. You recently announced that you will be partnering with Crescent Moon Games for the finishing and publishing of Rimelands. Why did you make that choice and not one of the major publishers like Chillingo or Gameloft? After all, Crescent Moon themselves went with Chillingo for the release of Ravensword.

Peter: They’re actually helping us to develop content to the game, not just with marketing it.

Arto: It was, basically, because we found Crescent Moon to be a really good fit to us. They’re a similar team and they’re also using Unity3D, so they can help us with the development of the game. They share our views on how the game should be and how it should be marketed, so it’s really easy to work with them. I think it should be stressed that it’s more of a collaboration than just a publishing deal.

Don’t tell on me, but I was really disappointed with Ravensword mainly due to the fact that it went too light on the RPG elements – turning it into a 3d person slasher rather than the iPhone’s Oblivion it was marketed as. But I trust in your discretion and hope you’ll take only the best from them.

Arto: I think they also know that people were disappointed on that and they’ve learned their lesson :)

18. You’ve already got me super-excited about Rimelands. What the current target date for the release?

Arto: hopefully soon :D we don’t have a release date yet, as we want to be sure that the game is as good as possible when released. but we’re not Blizzard so we can’t sit on it endlessly.

Yeah, their “it’s ready when it’s ready” is classic. But you must have at least some idea?

Arto: While I’d like to give some date, I don’t want to make promises we can’t necessarily keep. Let’s just say I hope to get it out before I turn 30 :)

Peter: Rough estimate might be around 2-3 months.

19. As part of the iPhone community there is simply no way you haven’t heard of the iPad. What do you think about it? Will you be getting one?

Peter: It’s really interesting device from design point of view.

Arto: We’ve been thinking about it a lot, of course. I think it’s still much of a mystery, since it doesn’t really have a precedent. And yes, we’ll probably getting one for the company, but haven’t yet made any decisions whether to publish for it specifically.

20. So, will you make a special version of Rimelands for the iPad?

Arto: It’s still too early to say, it depends on how the market will turn out. Even with the multiplatform capability of Unity, it still takes time to churn out a version for the iPad, so we’ll see if it’s worth the effort.

21. Do you think the iPad will be a success on the market?

Arto: Damn it jim, I’m a game developer not a market analyst :D I can’t say, honestly.

Peter: It’s really hard to tell at this point.

You must have your own opinion :)

Arto: I believe it’s a great device in its own right, but I’m not sure if there’s a need for it. I mean, I still wouldn’t buy a chainsaw even if it was the best chainsaw around if I don’t actually need a chainsaw. But, of course, some twenty years ago none though they’d need a cell phone :)

Well, Apple has a habit of making you want something you think you don’t need :)

22. What do you think about Jailbreaking? Do you do it?

Peter: I can understand it if people want to customize their iPhone, but I can’t understand the piracy side of things. iPhone games and apps are really cheap anyway.

Arto: No, we don’t. I don’t really have an opinion on it. I think it’s really the same to me what people decide to do with their phones, but of course I’d like them to buy our games instead of pirating them. Yeah, with prices raging from 1 to 6 dollars, “it’s too expensive” is hardly an excuse.

23. 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?

Peter: I think the numbers aren’t true at all. At least the ones that I’ve seen.

Arto: It’s inevitable on any platform, and it’s all but impossible to say how much it actually hurts sales. I think that buying a game versus pirating it is not about whether you want the game, but about whether you want a sequel for the game.

Very nicely put.

24. What are your top 3 favourite AppStore apps and games for the iPhone?

Peter: The ones that I’ve played most are: Canabalt, California Gold Rush and Peggle (TMA Review). If I had to pick one I would definitely be Canabalt.

From Apps I’ve probably mostly used GoogleMaps, Facebook and World of Warcraft Mobile Armory

I find myself playing mostly the games that are fast to boot up and get to the actual game. And that can also be played in small segments.

Arto: it’s hard to say which are the favourites, though I think the game I play most on the iPhone is a solitaire game :) In addition to that I play mostly the RPGs. Of RPGs, I think the most recent one I enjoyed was Undercroft.

I wonder if I have any non-game apps… I did have a Japanese dictionary while I was visiting Tokyo… and Facebook, yeah.

Yeah, I think small segments are very important. And autosave!

25. Arto, Peter, thank you for your time. Could you say some final words for the TMA readers?

Arto: Thank you! Final words, eh? Sounds ominous :D Maybe, “keep on supporting the developers you like! And keep your eyes open, we’re currently working hard on getting the game’s site online”.

Peter: Thanks for the interview. Stay tuned for some more screenshots, concept art and video!

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iTête à iTête – Interview with ZodTTD – I found my love for porting software and learning about console emulation http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/02/27/itete-a-itete-interview-with-zodttd/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/02/27/itete-a-itete-interview-with-zodttd/#comments Sun, 28 Feb 2010 03:45:13 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=28824 For quite some time now I have been running the iTête à iTête column, doing interviews with a variety of prominent iPhone figures but one area has yet stayed untapped. I’m talking about the Jailbreaking community which, according to some reports, constitutes up to 10% of the overall iDevice users. To repent for such a … Read more]]>

For quite some time now I have been running the iTête à iTête column, doing interviews with a variety of prominent iPhone figures but one area has yet stayed untapped. I’m talking about the Jailbreaking community which, according to some reports, constitutes up to 10% of the overall iDevice users. To repent for such a huge sin I have gone hunting and bagged me an interview with ZodTTD – one of the most famous developer of Cydia and Rock apps for the Jailbroken iPhones – best known for his line of emulators, including two emulators for the iPhone: N64 and PSone.

As usual, my comments are in bold.

1. ZodTTD, could tell us a little bit about yourself?

While I tend to keep my personal details somewhat of a mystery, here’s a bit of background. I first emerged as a programmer under the nickname “ZodTTD” a few years ago. I landed up getting known as ZodTTD due to a piece of software I released. It’s title was ZodTTD, a port of OpenTTD to the Tapwave Zodiac gaming handheld. I found my love for porting software and learning about console emulation on this device.

2. What is your day job?

My activity as ZodTTD is my full time job. If you can call it a job – I enjoy it too much.

3. Does it pay? :)

A huge surprise, but yes. I live very comfortably.

4. You are best known for a line of emulators for the iPhone. Why did you choose those projects?

I tend to take things to their extremes. One of the craziest pieces of code I could think of is a dynamic recompiler, or dynarec for short. It’s translating and compiling code from one machine to another during runtime with the benefit of a cache to get a good performance increase. It takes a deep understanding of computers, their architecture’s assembly language, and compilers. It was a great foundation to learn upon. Emulation also seems to capture the spirit of homebrew software development while I get to experience very unique programming methods along the way.

5. And now a question from one of our Forum members:
I’m not into jailbreaking, but I would like to know how the iPhone architecture translates into a computing heavy task like emulating different silicon.

The iPhone didn’t seem to be built from the ground up for gaming, let alone emulation. Obstacles that come to mind include lack of direct access to the framebuffers of it’s underlying OS. There’s a private API called CoreSurface which allows those who jailbreak to get direct access to the base video surface’s memory. But this differs slightly from a simple bitblit to a framebuffer device on Linux. Less technical, but still important is the fact there aren’t hard buttons and that it relies on touch controls. From my tests, I’ve seen a 20% reduction overall in performance when more than one finger is touching the screen on an iPhone. This adds to an already strained CPU on the iPhone & iPod Touch. While the iPhone 3gs and iPod Touch 3rd Gen, which use the ARM Cortex A8, older models use the slower ARM11 processors. Also, since most emulators use software rasterizers (hence the need for something like CoreSurface) the PowerVR chipset for video acceleration generally goes to waste.

6. I know ScummVM has been packaged with a few products distributed on the AppStore. Have you been contacted by any companies regarding packaging your products with their software?

Yes. For emulation there’s specific cases where I can have this sort of arrangement work within Apple’s guidelines, but so far each time I’ve been approached it hasn’t worked out. My video streaming software, such as Streamer on AppStore, has brought a few companies my way due to the fact it can play RTSP/MMS/HTTP video and audio streams in many different encodings.

7. Are there any other notable projects you’re conceiving?

When it comes to projects for the iPhone I have my hands full getting my existing library of software ready for the iControlPad. The iControlPad is a joypad adapter for the jailbroken iPhone & iPod Touch. Besides the iPhone I just received a fully manufactured Pandora gaming handheld to develop for.

8. Out of all of your projects – what is your favourite?

Tough decision, but I’d have to say my psx4all project. It really taught me a lot about programming and project management too. It had the first dynarec I ever programmed as well.

9. You’ve made massive breakthroughs with the BTstack team in pairing controllers with the iPhone. Do you think there is a future in external controllers for the iDevices?

Definitely! Not only via BlueTooth by way of BTstack, but by serial as well. There’s a huge demand for adding additional ways to control iDevice software. This is evident by the good amount of sales of BTstack’s Keyboard driver on Cydia Store for jailbroken users. Perhaps when iControlPad is released you will see larger companies with more pull in the industry get similar devices approved by Apple. for AppStore use. But for now we’ll lead the way.

10. It’s obvious you’re a proponent of jailbreaking. What do you think about the limitations Apple puts on the iDevices?

I don’t mind Apple’s limitations. What bothers me is the length they go to stop people from creating a jailbreak with each new firmware and hardware revision. It’s a constant cat and mouse game similar to Sony and their PSP product.

Apple has the ability to keep preventing jailbreaking. But ultimately if the consumer wants a more open device, Apple will give it to them. There’s a very large jailbreaking community out there, but not large enough to make Apple budge it seems.

11. Do you think there will come a time when they will lift them?

I don’t think they’ll lift restrictions as much as they’ll keep up to date with consumer trends. The current set of restrictions will evolve as time passes and fade away as new ones emerge.

12. What is your experience in developing apps for AppStore?

Even though I enjoy programming for jailbroken iDevices, with it’s own version of an app store well before Apple’s, I have had a great time with AppStore. I have a handful of titles available there as ZodTTD, as well as some work done with Kuyi Mobile such as Card Drop. For a fresh face to commercial software development, the AppStore provides a complete package to get you up and running for a minimal amount of money. It also gives independant developers a chance to really see their software move up the rankings and do quite well with little to no marketing at times.

Do you live off the profit you get from the AppStore or do you have income off other platform titles?

While I could possibly live off my AppStore income, it’s a small portion of my income generated. The rest comes from alternative iDevice storefronts such as Cydia Store and RockYourPhone, contract work, and other platforms.

13. What do you think about the Apple’s approval process?

It can be very tedious and at times a bit unfair. For instance why did my very own Snesty application (a Super Nintendo emulator) get rejected but the C64 emulator get allowed? Snesty was made just like Nescaline and reviewed at the same time. Nescaline, the NES emulator, was initially approved by Apple but soon pulled from the AppStore. Both of these emulators did not contain any code from Nintendo, and definitely did not contain any licensed games. We bundled these emulators with public domain homebrew games. The wait times are down to a week or less to have an application be approved for AppStore, but at least for me, when an application of mine is rejected it always takes longer. Sadly you just have to deal with it.

Do you think there’s any way to improve it?

While Apple thinks AppStore is working just the way it should, simply allowing those who jailbreak to continue peacefully gives consumers the option. Apple maintains a lot of control over their product line. But for those wanting a bit more, having the option to jailbreak is a nice touch.

14. Every month or so there is an outcry from the developers regarding iPhone piracy. What do you think about it? Do you think it is a real issue or is it blown out of proportion?

It’s a sad situation. There’s a huge amount of piracy, and instead of improving just the DRM, they decide to try to lock out all jailbreaking. Apple’s DRM was and still is extremely weak and they haven’t taken down the large piracy enterprises literally profiting off others work. What’s worse, due to AppStore developer guidelines in place, it makes it very hard to write efficient code for anti-piracy adding insult to injury.

The now-disbanded RIPdev team had a anti-piracy wrapper (Kali) that they claimed was both adherent to the Apple guidelines and not cracked to date. Have you heard about it? Why do you think it didn’t catch on?

I have heard of it. It may not have been cracked since not enough applications were using it. More applications didn’t use it most likely due to price as well as if it was cracked, then entire libraries of software would be up for grabs that used it. I’ve heard many developers agree upon making their own methods of anti-piracy for the iPhone in hopes to change things up on software crackers/reverse engineers. If each software title must be patched by hand one at a time, they want it to be more work than it is worth to the cracker.

Do you think there is a solution? I know Apple advertises In-App purchases as the last line of defense from piracy. At the same time according to some of the devs I talk to they don’t even support out-of-the box subscription via them.

Unfortunately I don’t see an elegant solution in sight.

15. The hot topic everywhere is the iPad. What do you think about it?

I’m very excited to see a lot of my software running on it. The fact Apple allows a keyboard to be attached to it seems like it will handle a good chunk of requests we see for external input adapters for the iPhone. Having emulators running on it would be pretty fun too. ;)

16. Do you think it will really make the impact Apple is advertising it to?

It will either do amazingly well for such a product though maybe not to Apple’s advertising, or it will fail miserably. There’s really no inbetween on this one. My bet is on it doing amazingly well.

17. Will you get it as soon as it is available?

Most definitely yes.

18. The iPhone OS 3.2 for the iPad seems to have a few neat features. What are your expectations for the next release of the iPhone version of the OS?

I’m pretty bad at predicting the future so I have no expectations beyond it being harder to jailbreak. New features at this point are icing on the cake.

19. What do you think of the future of the iPhone in general?

I should of predicted that was going to follow the previous question! I think the future of the iPhone will be tuning the hardware for gaming. I have a strong feeling that Apple wasn’t prepared for people to want to play video games on the iPhone. Now that it’s obvious by AppStore sales that they do, they need to seize the market – and they will.

Wow, you must have some kind of extrasensory powers :)

20. How would you compare it to the other devices on the market?

The only thing that can try to compare to the iPhone right now is an Android based phone like the Google Nexus One. While to the consumer these phones have their pros and cons, to the developer Apple deals a much better package. And what makes these phones so special? The applications developers are cranking out for them!

21. What are your top 3 favourite Cydia apps, AppStore apps and games?

(taking a look at my iPhone 3gs)

Cydia:

  • Music Controls (lets you play Rhapsody and other AppStore apps in the background!)
  • SBSettings (toggles for Edge/3G come in handy)
  • nes4iphone (has WiiMote controls!)

AppStore Apps:

  • Tweetie 2 (Twitter)
  • Bookmark (better way to handle bookmarks in audio books)
  • FlowChat (best IRC program)

AppStore Games:

  • 7 Cities TD
  • Pets LIVE
  • Wizzley Presto when it’s released

22. ZodTTD, thank you for your time! Could you say a few final words for the TMA readers?

No problem! I really appreciate the work done over at TMA. While I normally don’t do interviews I easily made the exception this time. Thanks so much!

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