Tiger Shark Games just released their debut app, Word Smith. Here's what Kevin Fairbairn, Creative Director, has to say about his experiences developing apps for the iPhone and iPod touch.
When did you start developing apps for the iPhone? Did you have previous experience as a developer?
Tiger Shark began as a company in January '09, with myself and Carl and Kevin Lloyd. We started initial development straight away, with production ramping up significantly when our fourth team member, Luke Giddings, joined in February. Carl, Luke and I have all previously worked in the games industry, having met whilst working for Traveller's Tales on the LEGO series. The three of us worked on varying combinations of LEGO Batman, LEGO Indiana Jones, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga and LEGO Star Wars 2 as Gameplay Programmers, with Luke taking the role of Lead Programmer on Batman. So we have a fair amount of commercial development experience between us on a few high-profile titles. We hope it serves us well!
What / how many apps have you made so far?
Word Smith is our first, and currently only, game for the iPhone.
What type of apps/games/software inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
I'm inspired by really solid gameplay. You don't have to make the most original game in the world to impress me, it just has to have some tight gameplay mechanics. Although doing something fairly original can be good, too. Just make sure it's fun! Also anything with a great story. I love being told a good tale. As for where I get my ideas, my stock answer is always: the shower. As a source of inspiration, the shower is still underrated in the world today. Mostly, though, it's just absorbing yourself as much as possible in your subject matter. For me, it's playing lots and lots of different kinds of games. You learn to pick up what works and what doesn't in certain titles, then it's just a matter of learning WHY that something worked and how you can apply that to your design process. Flashes of inspiration shouldn't be completely discounted though.
How do you settle on the price point for your apps?
I think it was mostly a case of what is the best price for an app with the features we have over the development costs we incurred. We wanted it to feel like good value for money, and also put it at a price point where people are likely to just 'give it a try'. We believe $1.99 is the sort of price people will part with without worrying too much. And we think the quality of the game is worth that. Also, I would be lying if I said the prices of our competitors didn't help steer our decisions somewhat.
What has been the best thing about designing for the iPhone?
The fact that the iPhone is still an emerging platform for games is pretty exciting. There's a lot of talk amongst some big name developers about the importance of the iPhone in the coming generation of gaming, and to develop for something that's still very new and interesting conceptually is great. And with a load of new features coming in with the 3.0 SDK, it's only going to get better. It's also an interesting platform for testing out new ideas and experimenting with new controls and gameplay mechanics. Having no built-in control scheme to utilise means re-thinking the way the player interacts with your game, and leads to some interesting design challenges.
What has been the biggest challenge about designing for the iPhone?
One of the biggest challenges was definitely trying to impart all the required information through the iPhone's (relatively) small screen size. Having previously worked exclusively for PCs and consoles, having to work with a strict limit on screen size took a bit of a getting used to for all of us. The other issue was keeping the loading times as low as possible. Ensuring that the player wasn't waiting around on a static screen for too long was a very important point for us.
Is your company venture backed or privately held?
We are currently a completely self-funded venture.
Do you have any other apps in the works?
Our next game is currently being developed for the PC/Mac market, and is significantly larger in scale, scope and ambition than Word Smith. But now we have the technology and experience in place to develop for the iPhone, I would be very surprised if Word Smith is the only game we bring out for the platform. In fact, I think an iPhone port of our next game would work quite nicely...
What apps do you have on your iPhone?
What do you like to do when you're not coding for the iPhone?
I wish I had an interesting and exciting hobby to talk about here! Like jumping buses on a motorcycle while base-jumping. Sadly, I'm a gamer through and through. My time is mostly spent playing as many games as I can, always designing our next title or the next feature. I like to think of it as part of my job! Otherwise it's the usual stuff of watching the latest Blu-rays, listening to some rock, reading a good book; anything to unwind after a hard day.