Miguel, from Stratogon, discusses iPhone game development
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Interviewer: I’m here at the Austin Game Developers Conference and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Miguel: Hi, I’m Miguel De La Cruz, Lead Programmer for Stratogon.
Interviewer: You guys are doing iPhone games now. What iPhone games have you guys done?
Miguel: We have released Wild Wild Trains and Warp Defense, and any of the current games we’re working on we’re told not to talk about them.
Interviewer: Sure. How did you get into iPhone games? What inspires you to do it because you guys were doing console development before, right?
Miguel: Yes. We used to be doing 360, PC and were dabbling in Wii and DS.
But, basically, clients really wanted to start iPhones because everybody is searching and we noticed they were getting a lot of sales on that. So, they came with us, “Hey, do you make iPhone games?” And so, we’re like, alright, we don’t now but give us a week, and then a week later we’re like, “We have somebody”. Then, he knew and he taught the rest. So, now we can all do iPhone games. It’s pretty easy. We just Objective C, and it’s pretty close to C. As long as you know how to release, and call [?] on all your things you are pretty set.
Interviewer: So, you started iPhone game development. You were doing it primarily for clients, or you were thinking about doing it for your own studio, too, because you must have heard about the Gold Rush and all this other stuff.
Miguel: Oh yes. Basically, we didn’t even think about it. We just went for the clients, and once we noticed how easy it was, especially with the Unity engine, we started thinking about ourselves. Well, all these clients are making all this money off of us. Shouldn’t we make something? We are currently also making a few other things which is one of the games we’re working on.
Interviewer: Was the Unity engine really helpful in terms of actually getting the games done, or is it on par or whatever, because we actually interviewed the Unity people and we had some contests. I wasn’t sure. It’s nice to meet a developer who is using it.
Miguel: Oh yes, it’s tremendously useful, especially for prototyping. The client shows up to us and says, “We want a plain game and it goes through rings or something”. And so, four hours later we show this, “Is this how you want the game to be?” He’s like, “Yes, perfect”. “Cool, it would take us two months or something”. We upcharged them and the guy still ends up making a lot of money.
Interviewer: Awesome. So, can you talk specifically about the games that you did do, that you’ve released so far, and how they did, and how you promoted them and stuff like that?
Miguel: Well, I’ve only been here for two and a half years in the industry.
Miguel: So, I’ve only released Lost Treasures of Alexandria for PC, and the rest have just been in the works. Like I worked in Gorilla which is a company in Orlando and worked in two games there in Wii and DS, and then Xbox 360 was never actually accepted into Xbox Arcade. A good six months lost there; I was, “Ah”.
Interviewer: And you talked about doing a train game or something else for the iPhone. Can you talk more about that? How well did the games do? You mentioned one of the games going into the Top 100. How did you guys do that?
Miguel: The train game-I don’t know how it got to the Top 100. I know it was a very fun game. I guess it was because it’s different. There’s no train game. It was very colorful. Also, we did have some pre-hype. Basically, there’s a tied up woman who was wearing lingerie and such. She was in the train track, and so that got a lot of hype. A whole bunch of people said, “I’ll just buy it for the picture of her”, so just from that.
Interviewer: Then, you said it went off the Top 100. Why do you think that is, and what could you have done differently to actually make it in the Top 100, you know, keep staying there.
Miguel: Well, according to the talk we were just at, possibly updating it. So then, I don’t really know what I could have done different in order to keep it up there, like add different reasons to play because we only had about 35 levels.
Once you reach the 35, there’s no reason to continue playing, and maybe word of mouth would continue it and keep growing. If we updated it and added some new levels, that could have probably given us some hype back, if we doubled the number of levels. It was pretty easy. We had a level editor, so we could have made twice the amount of levels and said, “Hey, media, update for free, double the levels”. Maybe, that would have kept it going.
Interviewer: What are your favorite games on the iPhone then?
Miguel: On the iPhone. Well, I don’t have an iPhone. There’s a bunch of iPhones at my job but not me. I would say there’s a Mira Gonzalez game, you kind of hide and he points and he shoots. But, besides that, Geo Defense. That was one of our competitors for Warp Defense, really, really good game.
Interviewer: Can you talk about the prototyping process on the iPhone? How are you actually developing these games? How long does it take to actually focus on the game mechanic itself versus the polish?
Miguel: Well, whenever we prototype, we expect to throw this code away. We can’t use whatever we prototype because it’s just to show the client the idea or to test out ourselves. We will go straight up, just like if you were to talk code. Let’s say if we use Unity. If we need the guy to run across the floor and then jump ditches, we would just create a floor, plain and make a hole there and have the guy move on the zeno full collision, no additional things that will go into full game.
So, then you could see how the game would run without adding the additional bling like, you know, hills.
Interviewer: Nice. Do you guys have a site that developers, maybe, can visit to even check out your games or buy some of your games?
Miguel: Sure, on Stratogon.com you’ll be able to see that.
Interviewer: And how do you spell that?
Miguel: S-t-r-o, no, no. S-t-r-a-t-o-g-o-n .com.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.