AppCraver recently heard from Don Arnel, the creator of Galactic Invasion. He answered our questions about developing games for the iPhone and iPod touch.
1. When did you start developing apps for the iPhone?
Don: I bought my first Mac ever, a MacBook Air, back in May of this year. Having never used a Mac before, It took a about 2 weeks to get comfortable with the OS and Xcode. I immediately started working on a Texas Hold’em app for the iPhone which was tossed aside in June when Apple opened the App Store. I saw the Apple version of Hold’em which blew mine away. I then fooled around with several other ideas before settling on Galactic Invasion in late August.
2. What was the inspiration behind your app?
Don: When I was mentally blocked at times I would play a game called Desktop Tower Defense (www.handdrawngames.com). I then found an entire web site devoted to tower defense games and that’s when it clicked. I decided to do a space version.
3. How did you settle on your price point for the app?
Don: There are several kids in the neighborhood where I live who own iPhones, so I asked them what was the maximum price they would paid for an average app. That settled that.
4. Roughly how many units have you sold?
Don: About 150 as of this writing. Contrary to popular belief, you are not an instant millionaire upon app submission. There is marketing work to be done.
5. How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? Is there anything missing?
Don: The first SDK left a lot to be desired. No Interface Builder, no OpenGL in the simulator, and the sample code was very daunting for a newbie Mac developer like myself. Not to mention I had never developed for a mobile platform before. The current SDKis a breeze to work with and you can get a pretty good idea of how your app will look and function with the simulator. Most of the nitty-gritty low-level stuff is already written so you basically just tap into the underlying architecture to get some amazing stuff done in a reasonably fast time.
6. Is your company venture backed?
Don: Privately owned by me, myself, and I. No venture backing.
7. What are some of the other iPhone apps that you like?
8. What kind of features should Apple implement in future versions of the iPhone / SDK?
Don: As it stands right now any decent programmer should have no problem putting together an app with the current SDK. The number of app submissions since the June opening of the App Store provides testimonial for that. I really can’t think of anything that I would add or change about the iPhone or SDK at the moment.
9. What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?
Don: The hardest thing is coming up with an idea that is unique. Then you have to move on it quickly. When I first came up with the idea for my game I checked the App Store and there was only one other tower defense game. At the time I submitted my app there were about a half dozen.
Laying down the foundation of your code is the next hardest thing. Then there is debugging, tracking down leaks, and performance tuning. Once the main concept has been implemented and tested you can begin to work on the details. As the development progresses you are always coming up with better ways to do things, or one idea will lead to a dozen other ideas. But, at some point you have to say “Hey, no more cool features. We have to get this thing out the door.”
The next thing to do is put Ad Hoc copies of your app on every iPhone or iPod touch you can get your hands on. Get some feedback, make more changes, more debugging, etc. Then comes the day you submit your app. To me this was both exciting and terrifying. I was excited that my app was finally completed and ready to go. I was terrified at the thought of the multitudes of iPhone users who might install my app. I was terrified because what if there was a nasty bug I had missed, or what if I put all that time and effort into this project only to have Apple reject it.
As it turned out, my app went on sale about three days after submission, and so far I am happy to report that the only nasty bugs are the ones emerging from the hull of the alien ship. Whew!
10. Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?
Don: Nothing in the near future, but I have some ideas. I will probably spend a lot of time polishing up and adding features to Galactic Invasion.