Today we shine a light on Distinctive Developments. In this interview, Nigel Little answers a few questions to give you an inside look into iOS development. Read on to find out about their games and what it's really like to be an iOS developer.
AC: Tell us a little about Distinctive Developments and your background in app development.
Nigel Little: We started Distinctive way back in 1994 as a console games developer working on PS One, Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn. However as a small independent developer we saw that it was going to be difficult to compete with the larger developers on Playstation 2 and Xbox. Therefore, in 2001, we switched to developing for mobile phones.
At that time phones had 2 color (black & white) screens and very low performance but we started with simple games like the official Space Invaders game and as the phones got better we got the chance to work on more complex titles such as Tomb Raider and FIFA Football / Soccer.
Then when Apple opened the App Store, and changed the mobile games industry forever, we started making our own range of games that we could self publish.
AC: What are some of the apps you've created? How many have you released to the App Store?
Nigel Little: Our first game for iOS was released in 2009 and since then we’ve released 14 games. Many of our games have been sports games such as Hockey Nations, Rugby Nations and Football Kicks, but we’ve also tapped into the vast creativity in the office for more off-the-wall concepts such a Dead Runner and My Army. However, we’re really excited about the imminent release of Downhill Xtreme, which is a free-to-play Longboarding game.
AC: How do you get your ideas for new apps?
Nigel Little: The initial concepts typically come from Nigel, our CEO, or Nick, our Creative Director. But, once the game is in development then the team has a lot of input on how the final game comes out. Our goal as a company is to be ‘distinctive’ so we try to find games that nobody else is doing and produce unique games rather than copy existing concepts.
AC: What does it take to make a great app?
Nigel Little: To make a game that has a good chance of success is very difficult. You have to find a concept that will stand out from the crowd (500,000 apps and counting), create visuals that have an immediate impact, the quality has to be spot on and it has to work flawlessly across a number of different devices. The only way you can do this is with a great team with a lot of dedication, time and money.
AC: How do you balance design and function during app development? Do you think one is more important than the other for an app to be successful?
Nigel Little: In games, to a certain extent, design IS very much part of the function. It’s about the entire experience. This is probably true of apps as well since apps not only have to be functional but also entertaining – even with the most mundane apps it helps to include some wow factor.
AC: How long does it typically take to get an app from idea to App Store?
Nigel Little: Our development times continue to get longer as the quality of apps continues to go through the roof. As a minimum we are now looking at four to five months of development. However, something like Downhill Xtreme is a year’s worth of development – with a team of 5 to 6 people.
AC: What excites you about the current development atmosphere for iOS devices? Where do you see the platform a year from now?
Nigel Little: What really excited me is the amount of innovation and the fact that it’s not just existing brands that are succeeding on the App Store. I think Apple has done an amazing job to keep the App Store a level playing field for all developers. It’s a real game changer!
In a year’s time, no doubt, there will be better devices and quality levels will be even higher. It’s a fast moving ever-changing industry and, even though it’s hard work, it’s really exciting to be a part of it.
AC: What are the biggest challenges in iOS developemnt? Is there anything you'd like to see added to the platform in future updates?
Nigel Little: The platform is really very good. In all our years of development we’ve created games for lots of different platforms and the tools, technology, documentation is all exceptionally good. There are problems that need to be resolved but these tend to be small problems.
The bigger challenge is keeping up with the capabilities of these devices and to continue to generate the new ideas that have the chance of being the next big thing.
AC: How do you get the word out about your apps? Do you have any marketing tips you can share?
Nigel Little: We believe that making a good game is the key to everything. No PR will help a bad product so the game will always have to come first and be fun to play. If you are enjoying the game, you are more likely to recommend it to your friends. All the more better if you can actually play the game against your friends, which is something we are now building into our games as standard. We also run challenges, competitions and are always on the look out to bring something extra to our gamers.
We have been developing sports titles for years now and as a result, we have built up loyal following of sports (and gaming) fans whose ongoing feedback has been invaluable for us in the development process. We all know how passionate sports fans get about their chosen sport so if we get thumbs up from the toughest audience possible, we know we’re on the right track.
We also work closely with games media demoing our games, cross-promote with other developers and even engage in a bit of advertising from time to time.
AC: Besides your own of course, what is your favorite app right now?
Nigel Little: Our latest discovery was Fibble by Crytek. It is a nice mix of technology and casual gameplay that works well on an iPhone.
AC: What apps do you use on a daily basis?
Nigel Little: Apart from games, there are a number of utility and social media apps we use on a daily basis, such as Facebook, Hootsuite, Skype etc.
AC: Do you have any new apps in development? What can we expect to see from your company in the near future?
Nigel Little: We have a number of games in development at the moment and the next one down for release will be a baseball-themed title. There will be sequels to our popular games, brand new sports games and even a couple of surprises coming out in 2012 so stay tuned.
AC: Any last words? What else would you like our readers to know about your company?
Nigel Little: We could go on about our company and games until the cows come home, but the best way to see what we are about is to try out one of our games. You can see our whole catalogue of games on our website. We are always keen to hear from our gamers so you can get in touch with us through our website, Facebook and Twitter. We appreciate you taking the time to read about us and we wish you all a great 2012!
Contact Nigel Little of Distinctive Developments
Nigel shared some great insights into the development process and what goes on "behind-the-scenes" at Distinctive Developments. Please take a moment to say thank you by sharing this article with a friend to spread the word about their apps. If you have additional questions, ask them in the comments and we'll get you the answers!
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