You want to be a Movie director? star on the red carpet? Your name in lights, well here is your chance to do just that. Thanks to Staffan and Linnéa, developers of “Pixely People, Making Movies” on IOS. I caught up with them to talk about how the game was developed and how other people could make such a game. Awarded “new and noteworthy” on the Apple App Store, Pixely People has launched very well as the first independent release from the Swedish couple. Read on to find out more, it’s a great read…
Please let us know a bit about yourselves. How long have you been making apps? What made you want to start making apps?
Staffan: I’m 36 years old and have been working in the gaming industry for 10 years or so as a special effects artist. Linnéa and I started Nekomata Games a year ago. After working in big offices so long we wanted to try out how it felt to do something ourself, that we had complete control of.
Linnéa: I’m 31 and a programmer. I’ve been wanting to create apps for the app store ever since Apple announced it actually, so it was about time to try it out now! The great thing about it is that you’re making something completely on your own and to be able to sell it directly to your customers and see their reactions to it. It was also a bit of an adventure for us, we moved away from Sweden to Vietnam while working on the game – that was a great way to both save some money and to get rid off a lot of the distractions we have in our “regular” lives.
There are two of you in your team, do you think a team is beneficial when creating apps?
Staffan: In our case I didn’t have much choice since I can’t code, haha. But seriously I can’t imagine working alone because the possibility to share your ideas and brainstorm are so important. I have done the most of the design on the game but there are tons of things in there that I’d never come up with without discussing things with another person.
Linnéa: Yes, I think it’s a good idea to have a team in one way or another – as Staffan said it really helps to have someone to discuss things with, sometimes you have to talk about some game mechanic for hours and come back to it several days in a row before you figure out something that feels like it’s working. It’s also good to be more than one just because more stuff gets completed in a shorter time. If the project takes too long to complete or you don’t feel like you see any progress it’s much easier to give up before the app is finished.
What is your game “pixely people” all about?
Linnéa: It is about running your own movie studio. To create movies you must help your employees (that would be “The Pixely People”) to work as efficiently as possible. It’s all about them being in the right place at the right time.
Staffan: Pixely People Making Movies is all about dragging and dropping workers to different floors in your movie studio. A gaming session consists of choosing what kind of movie to make and in order to get as a good rating as possible you need to move your workers to different departments depending on what’s going on in the studio. The workers all have good and bad traits too, some get angry and will affect other workers so you need to isolate them, and one worker hands out cupcakes now and then that makes the employees work super fast and you want to see to it that everyone gets this bonus. So it’s a point collecting drag and drop fast decision game. A sort of mix between Game Dev Story and Diner Dash.
How much planning went into the game? How long did it take you to create?
Staffan: It’s hard to estimate the planning since you can’t really make a big fancy plan and then execute it and then you have your finished game. The reason is that during the time you make the game you will find that some ideas you had turned out to be boring, and you got to adjust that. You will also have moments where you realize that something that seemed as a bad idea a month ago would be awesome right now. The game took 10 months to make, but we also worked on other projects during this time.
Linnéa: We actually planned to make a very different game from the beginning. So we worked on that for a couple of months, then my computer broke down and we couldn’t really work on that game while it was being repaired – instead we started to talk a lot about games we would like to do and we kept coming back to the idea of this movie making game. When I got my computer back we had a rough plan for it and we couldn’t resist making it instead of the one that we originally planned to do.
I took a look at your trailer, it’s great, how important do you think a trailer is when promoting an app?
Staffan: The trailer is super important. Many potential users that are curious about your game wants to see what it’s like actually playing it. They might have seen screenshots of it but they want to see it in action before they make the decision to buy it. So the trailer is a make or break thing. It has to show gameplay, it has to explain what the game is about but at the same time be entertaining.
Linnéa: I also think it’s very important. You probably only have a couple of seconds before the person watching decides if this is of any interest to him or her so the beginning of the trailer is probably especially important. One mistake that I think some game developers make is to start the trailer by displaying their own logo and then the logo for the game for a really long time – I have a suspicion that a lot of viewers stop watching before you get to the gameplay part of the video that way, which they might have found interesting!
I searched your game in google and you are on 100s review sites, how did you achieve this?
Staffan: First we sent out about 40 promo codes to prominent review sites together with a carefully written email. One interesting thing here is that only one of those sites actually replied. For a while nothing happened. In the meantime we had a thread on the forum on toucharcade.com (one of the biggest sites for iOS games) where we had a little competition where we gave out promo codes for the game. This thread turned into a discussion about the game and we got a lot of suggestions on what to add to our game, what’s unclear in it and so on. The activity in this thread lead to us being mentioned in Touch Arcades podcast. A week after that we got a full review on Touch Arcade and by this time the other reviews started to appear. So I guess one of the most important things for us was to engage in the community.
Linnéa: Yes, talk about your game as much as you can with as many people as you can I guess. Don’t just announce stuff, talk about it with people.
Have many people downloaded your game as a result of your promotion?
Linnéa: So far we have about 3000 players and we’re still getting new people playing every day, it’s fun to see when the game is “discovered” in a new country and a bunch of people start playing it there.
Oliver: What tips would you give for getting your game reviewied?
Linnéa: Just to try to write a really good e-mail to send out to potential reviewers. We are not journalists but we think that it’s better to write an e-mail with a more personal feel to it than to just sound like a generic press release. Put a screenshot somewhere at the top of the e-mail so that they can see what the game looks like immediately and try to make the reviewers life easy by giving them everything they need to review the game in that one e-mail (screenshots and so on).
Staffan: Reviewers gets a ton of e-mails from app makers that wants to review, so you need to be effective in your language and form when you email them. For instance if you have an RPG game it is more relevant to tell them that your game is about throwing monsters at princesses than explaining the backstory of the old country of Princessia. Try to find the hooks of your game that makes it different from the other games.
Oliver: How has being selected as “new and noteworthy” on the appstore, helped your marketing campaign? What did you do to get selected?
Linnéa: It has helped a lot we’re sure. But it’s also difficult to know when people buy your game if it’s because they’ve read a review about it or if they just spotted it in the app store. We got a lot of positive reviews of the game at the same time as the game was selected as “new and noteworthy” so some of the new players might also have been because of that. As to why we were selected – only Apple really knows. But again, I think the reviews might have helped in getting Apple to notice the game as well.
Staffan: I think it helped a lot but it’s hard to tell really when we have nothing to compare the numbers with. We can’t say what our sales would have been without it.
Oliver: Do you plan to make any more games/apps?
Linnéa: Yes absolutely. The Pixely People will go on to do other things besides making movies. They might travel into space, start a rock band or bake cakes in the future!
Staffan: Oh yes. We are trying to decide what the Pixely People will do next, and we might do something completely different, like a cat-tracker app or such in between.
Oliver: What did you use to make pixely people?
Linnéa: We used a framework for games called Cocos2d – as you can tell by the name it’s specialized for making 2d games and it was great to work with for me. For the graphics
Staffan worked in Photoshop. Staffan: We also used http://www.redmine.org/ to track issues. I think even if you are just one person on a project, using a issue tracker will help you greatly.
Oliver: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start making their own mobile app/game?
Linnéa: Start working on it and don’t give up. The most difficult thing is probably to get started if you have never made a mobile app before, there is a lot to learn in the beginning. A good idea is always to start small first, so if you have a great idea for an app that’s complex enough to take some months to develop – make something small first just to get started and see progress fast.
Staffan: Don’t make your dream app be the first one you do, especially if it is a game. Make something that you can complete quick with the real focus being learning how the interaction with apple and the app store works. This will help you tremendously the next app you do.
Oliver: Can you make a living from making apps?
Linnéa: We hope so! In our case it’s a bit too early to tell. Some people certainly do, but most of the app developers do other things as well besides making their own apps. One thing that’s pretty common is to develop apps for other people (clients) as well as selling your own apps.
Staffan: We can’t really tell yet but the possibility is certainly there.
Oliver: Good luck with your future projects.
Thank you, we wish you the same!
Staffan and Linnéa
Check out Staffan and Linnéa’s website http://nekomata.se/.
For the oldies, who might remember this, I was just reminded of it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_Movie_Maker)