AppCraver spoke with Joel Rosenzweig, the developer behind the homage to vintage gaming Alien Attack. He answered our questions about developing for the iPhone and iPod touch.
1. When did you start developing apps for the iPhone?
Joel Rosenzweig: I started developing as soon as the first SDK was publicly available. I reached a wall a few weeks later when it became necessary to try the game on the target device. Unfortunately, developers outside of the beta program had no mechanism for provisioning their applications to run outside of the SDK’s emulator. I had to wait a few months until I was finally accepted to the program in July.
2. What was the inspiration behind your app?
Joel Rosenzweig: I have always been a fan of early video games. Space Invaders is one of my favorites. When I saw the form factor of the iPhone / iPod Touch hardware and learned of the accelerometer controls, my mind went immediately to the 2D space shooter genre.
3. How did you settle on your price point for the app?
Joel Rosenzweig: I wanted a price point that would give good value and encourage volume sales. I wanted to price it at a point that wouldn’t require people to debate with themselves over spending money for the game. I originally sold Alien Attack for $1.99 and within a few days changed the price to $0.99 when it became apparent that I might reach more people at this slightly lower price point.
4. Roughly how many units have you sold?
Joel Rosenzweig: A little over 1000 in one week.
5. How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? Is there anything missing?
Joel Rosenzweig: The tools are adequate. The simulator has limitations, such as the inability to play sound, and the inability to make use of the accelerometer controls. The OpenGL ES rendering on the simulator is not quite the same as that on the target device. And the performance of the emulator far exceeds that of the target. Still, it’s a comprehensive package that works relatively well. It would be good if the build tools were able to check for the proper provisioning once a build has completed. It requires an extra step to verify that the build included all the necessary pieces. When it fails, the developer has to clean the build and restart it. We shouldn’t have to do that. Xcode should handle that automatically. Downloading apps to the target is also exceedingly slow. I look forward to improvements in the SDK that drastically improve the download cycle times.
6. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?
Joel Rosenzweig: Joel’s Penny Arcade is privately owned. It’s a single person operation. I write the software in my spare time at night.
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?
Joel Rosenzweig: See responses to question 5.
9. What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?
Joel Rosenzweig: The build cycle is typical for embedded application development. The basic frame work starts with design, code, test and debug in the emulator, then progresses to test, debug and performance optimization on the target.
10. Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?
Joel Rosenzweig: Yes. I have a handful of games in mind, with one in development right now. I’ll provide you with details about it as I have more to show and tell!