Interview with Kevin Calderone Developer of Trace

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 AppCraver had the chance to chat with Kevin Calderone the developer of App Store hit Trace. He answered our questions about developing apps for the iPhone and iPod touch.

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

Kevin: I got the SDK around mid-August. It had been out for awhile, and seeing how popular the iPhone was becoming, I decided to get in on the action too.

2. What was the inspiration behind your app?

Kevin: To be honest, when I decided to start making games for the iPhone, I did not have this game in mind at all. I had another game planned out, which is what I am working on now, but I decided to make a smaller game to get used to working on the iPhone, and that's how Trace started.

I wanted to make something simple, that would take advantage of the unique features of the iPhone. The touch screen is what makes the iPhone so special, so I wanted to include drawing. Also, the target audience for games on this kind of device is a lot different from most games, as it is all about being able to play in short bursts, so seperating the game into short levels makes it perfect for this.

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

Kevin: I had decided from the start of working on Trace that it was going to be free. I chose to make it free for a few reasons.

First of all, there are only two of us that worked on Trace. There is me, Kevin Calderone, who did all of programming, and Taylor Calderone, who did all of the music (we are brothers).

Unlike most of the people who started developing apps for the iPhone, I didn’t see this as a get rich quick scheme, I saw it as a good place to start my career. We are both college students, so a career in this is the ultimate goal. I felt that making it free would make it more popular, making it better for a resume, and build an audience for my future games. There were so many other games coming out that I felt it would get bogged down by all of the competition if I had made it a paid application.

4. Roughly how many units have you sold?

Kevin: All I'm going to say is a lot more than I had expected. Going from the rank 70 game where it started, to the rank 4 free application where it is now, the sales have risen 25 fold.

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

Kevin: The SDK is pretty comprehensive. They have really good documentation and sample code that was really helpful. The one thing that made it difficult was the NDA that was active when I was working on Trace. If the thing you were trying to do wasn’t explained enough in the SDK, you were pretty much out of luck. Sound especially was something that took a long time to figure out because of this. Now that they have lifted the NDA, it is going to get a lot easier for developers.

6. Is your company venture backed?

Kevin: Nope. I am just an individual developer.

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

Kevin: All I apps that I have on my iPhone are free ones. The ones I usually play are Aurora Feint, Tap Tap Revenge, Amazing Sudoku, and Dizzy Bee.

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

Kevin: I am happy with the SDK. The only thing I had a problem with was the NDA, and now that is gone.

One thing I don’t like is their app submission process. People have had their apps rejected after they went through all of the effort to make it. To get around this problem, they let through all the applications they can, including a lot of similar apps, and ones that are just plain bad, which just bloats the store. They need to have some sort of pre-submission process, and quality control.

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

Kevin: It was kind of hard in my case, as I do not own my own apple computer.

I actually wrote most of the game on my Windows computer, and then ported it to the iPhone using my brother’s apple computer. On top of that, I didn’t have my own iPhone to test on while I was making Trace I was stuck only being able to test it a few hours a week when I could borrow an iPhone, but in the end it all worked out.

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

Kevin: We are working on two other games right now. We are planning a sequel for Trace, which will include a lot more features than the first Trace. What we have planned so far is a level editor, with online level sharing, and online highscores for every level. Should be out around the end of the year. The other game I have not announced yet.

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