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November 25, 2012

1

Planning to develop an iOS game.

by Reza Shirazian

Four months ago I started researching for my first title. As I was browsing through the App Store I came up with a set of requirements that formed my overall framework going forward. Some of these requirements were based on the fact that I had a limited budget and other were based on what I had seen on the App Store and what I believed  would be recipe for a successful title:

  • Must be able to complete in a few months (6 months max)
  • The engine should be reusable in other titles.
  • The game should be balanced between consumable and re-playable.
  • The finished product should offer something new and innovative

Just like any indie game developer I had a very limited budget. And what I did have was enough to buy me time. Time that I can spend behind the computer doing something I love as opposed to fixing someone else’s problem. And a limited budget translates into a limited timeline. Because of that I couldn’t spend too much time on a single project. It was important to pick something that can be done in a short period of time and have it retain a high level of quality. I’m not interested in cranking out an over the weekend product or something that’s going to take years to complete.  My goal was to reach an equilibrium between quality and time spent on the title.

My one man office where all the magic takes place!

I had only worked with Objective-C for a few months and this was my first time using cocos2d. Naturally I would probably spend more time trying to figure my way around a problem than actually solving it. So to make up for the learning curve, I figured the engine behind the first title should be reusable. Regardless of how successful the title ends up to be, the experience of re-using the same code base in a different title is something that I want to have under my belt. So as my second requirement, I wanted to write something that was generic in its core. Something that could be plucked out of this game and reused in a different title.

This brings up my third requirement  I believe every games falls somewhere between absolute consumability and absolute re-playablity. For example titles like Bioshock or Call Of Duty (The single player campaign)  are all consumable titles with little to no replayability. It’s like watching a movie or reading a book. For the most part, once you finish the game, you’re done. There is little to no incentive to play the game again. On the other end with games like Tetris or Bejeweled, they are so re-playable it’s very difficult to find any reason to buy the new Tetris or Bejeweled II. I believe it’s important to  fall somewhere in the middle, where the product is consumable but at the same time provides enough incentive for the player to go back and play the game again. Angry Birds employs this very well. They’ve been able to sell the same game multiple times yet you can always go back to a level and try and approach it from a different angle.

And finally, among all the competitor who have done something similar, it’s important to provide something new and innovative. To see where they have cut corners or missed out on an opportunity and capitalize on it. Most game ideas have been done many times, if you have an idea that hasn’t been done, it’s probably not a good idea or it’s probably not feasible. Also with more than half a million apps, the App Store is extremely saturated. It will be challenging to stand out. This is where I believe quality and innovation is a must, even if it’s applied to an idea that’s been done many times. To stand out, you have to do it better than everyone else.

These made sense for me. I think it’s important to sit back and think about what you want to do, how you want to do it and research how it could be successful.  Having  solid yet flexible  requirements brings an overarching sense of  discipline that can form the overall approach to the project. And everything is a learning process, if something that you thought should be done one way, turns out to be a bad idea, change it. I didn’t have to change much while working on “Around the world in 5 differences“, except having to extend my deadline from four months to six. You won’t get everything right the first time around and should be able to accept that. I will find out about how correct I was in my other assumptions upon releasing the game and seeing how it performs in the App Store.

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