Ever wonder what it's really like to develop your first app? Meet Mike Mulholland from pixelZapp. In this interview, mike mulholland answers our questions and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what it was like to create Puzzle-Rocket and get it released into the App Store.
AC: Tell us a little about your or your company. What is your background?
Mike Mulholland: I’m mainly working on my apps in the evenings and weekends as I have a full time job and three kids to look after!
My background is in visual effects for films. I’ve been working in the VFX industry for 15 years, on films from Avatar to Warhorse. I’ve always done a mixture of technical and artistic work so creating a games was a perfect combination of those two disciplines.
AC: Puzzle-Rocket is your first app. Why did you want to start developing for the iPhone and iPad?
MM: The iPhone and iPad offer an ideal environment for first time developers. The tools are cheap and Apple offer a huge amount of documentation and support. The best thing is the online community – finding the answer to the majority of problems/questions is a simple search away.
AC: Tell us about your app. How did you get the idea?
MM: Puzzle-Rocket is a physics puzzle game with a Sci-Fi setting. Right from the start I wanted to create a puzzle game as it’s a genre that I personally enjoy a lot. I prototyped a few ideas – one of which was a simple line/circle collision game. I thought it had promise and it gradually evolved into Puzzle-Rocket.
AC: How is this app different from similar apps?
MM: I wanted to give the game a bit more character than games with a similar mechanic. Because of this I choose to make the bouncing balls into aliens and have the story that you needed to rescue them. I also spent a lot of time working on the curvy bspline shapes that create the environment and choose a semi-retro art style.
AC: How did you choose your pricing model -- ad-supported vs. freemium vs. paid? What influenced your decision?
MM: I chose to launch as paid mainly as it’s my first app and this was the easiest path to go down. I’m going to release a lite version of Puzzle-Rocket soon to demo the gameplay. (Editor's note: Puzzle-Rocket Lite is now available.)
AC: Do you have experience developing for other platforms? How does it compare to the iOS development process?
MM: Puzzle-Rocket was my first game on any platform.
AC: How long did it take to get your app from idea to App Store?
MM: I started working on puzzle-rocket back in January 2011 – and finally got it launched at the end of May 2012. So all in all about 17 months.
AC: What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating this app?
MM: As this was the first game I’ve ever developed there was a huge learning curve to get over. I choose not to rely on any third party libraries apart from openGL and openAL – so the game code is all my own. This was massively helpful in the learning process – but of course means there was lots more for me to do!
AC: What was the best advice you received while developing your app? Where did it come from?
MM: One of the most valuable sources I used was a book called ’learning iOS game programming’ by Michael Daley. It is incredibly accessible and really helped me when I was first starting off.
AC: Looking back on this experience, if you knew then what you know now would you do anything differently?
MM: I’d probably tell myself to try something less ambitious for a first game! I probably wouldn’t listen though!
AC: Do you have any future plans for this app? Where do you see it a year from now?
MM: I’m working on some updates for the current version. Soon I’ll release a version with a slightly gentler learning curve. After that I’ll look into adding more chapters, levels and game features if there is enough demand.
AC: Besides your own of course, what is your favorite app right now?
MM: Kingdom Rush.
AC: What apps do you consider essential to your day-to-day life? Why?
MM: It's a boring answer – but the most essential app for me is 'Mail' – I spend a huge amount of time reading/writing messages for my day job.
AC: Do you have any new apps in development? What can we expect to see from your company in the near future?
MM: I’m currently prototyping what I intend to be my next game. It’s too early to say for sure it’s going to work – but I’m experimenting with a platformer using a lot of the puzzle-rocket engine.
AC: Any last words? What else would you like our readers to know about your company?
MM: I hope people enjoy playing puzzle-rocket as much as I enjoyed making it!
Mike Mulholland from pixelZapp offered some interesting insight into their development process. Please take a moment to thank him by sending a message on Twitter or share 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!
Contact Mike Mulholland of pixelZapp
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