Interview with Dan Bourque, creator of Square Master


dan bourque- square masterAppCraver recently spoke with Dan Bourque, the developer of Square Master. He answered our questions about developing apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

1. When did you start developing apps for the iPhone?

Dan Bourque: I bought my first Mac computer on September 1st, and being a true nerd I immediately downloaded Xcode & taught myself Objective-C. I only had weekends and evenings to play with it, so I estimate I spent about 30 hours developing apps for the iPhone; much of that time was spent polishing the graphics for my game’s pieces in Adobe Photoshop.

2. What was the inspiration behind your app?

Dan Bourque: My mother-in-law challenged me to solve this physical block-sliding puzzle she’d received for Christmas. I wrote a .NET Compact Framework application in C# for Windows Mobile that implemented AI’s branch-and-binding, and node scoring techniques. There are many possible solutions to each game, but this ensures that it will guide you to the solution in the least possible number of moves. When I started playing with Xcode, I just ported the code over to Objective-C & updated the graphics and UI elements.

3. How did you settle on your price point for the app?

Dan Bourque: I recently attended a local iPhone developer’s meeting, and its topic was analytics. They showed that there’s a huge decline in sales between free apps and $0.99, and another significant decline from $0.99 to $1.99. I decided on $0.99 because similar games were being offered for that price, and they seemed to be doing well.

4. Roughly how many apps have you sold?

Dan Bourque: Very few, I’m afraid. I sold 166 copies in the first week, and 239 in the second week. Ah well, it was fun and it didn’t cost me anything. At least I recouped the $99 iPhone Developer Program fee. One lesson learned: it turns out that Apple adds new releases to their App Store in alphabetically sorted batches. This meant that Square Master was very far down the list of new releases the day it appeared. Had I known, I would’ve named it Bloxes instead. (This may no longer be true, with Apple’s recent App Store changes)

5. How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? Is there anything missing?

Dan Bourque: I love the language & the SDK, but I’m afraid I’m too inexperienced at it to know if there’s anything missing. I suspect that the few times I couldn’t find what I was looking for was simply due to my lack of knowledge.

6. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?

Dan Bourque: I’m just an individual who did this in his spare time at home. I originally had no intention of publishing the app, but when I saw how easy Apple made it, I decided to give it a try.

7. What are some of the other iPhone apps that you like?

Dan Bourque: My favorite games are Sudoku Unlimited and Solitaire City; in other categories, my favorites are eReader, Facebook, and Twitterrific.

8. What kind of features should Apple implement in future versions of the iPhone / SDK?

Dan Bourque: I doubt this will ever happen, but my greatest wish is that the SDK be refactored as an Eclipse IDE plugin or extension. In my opinion, Eclipse’s framework is much more powerful than Xcode’s, and allows for any language support and external builders to be tightly integrated. This is what Google’s Android chose, and it feels much nicer. (Hmm… I sense rotten tomatoes being flung in my direction)

9. What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?

Dan Bourque: I’m just an individual, so the development cycle for Square Master is fairly lax. I typically take a snapshot of my code base whenever I reach a milestone and have tested it to my satisfaction. When I feel I’ve added enough improvements, I publish it as an update.

10. Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?

Dan Bourque: Not for the iPhone, at the moment. I’m working on a few improvements to Square Master, and am also porting it to Google’s Android platform. iPhone development is fun though, so if I come up with a new idea that hasn’t been implemented yet, I may give it a try. I’m fond of social networking apps and I have a few unique ideas there.

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