Will Perl, one half of the company Naquatic, has a new game that's already snowballing towards success in the App Store. Here he chats with AppCraver about his experience with Touch Ski 3D and 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?
I started developing last October, just after I got my iPhone. I've been a hobbyist programmer for a number of years, but I did not have any experience with iPhone or Mac development.
What / how many apps have you made so far?
Naquatic has made three apps: two games and one entertainment app. Our first release was Turtle Bounce, a small-scale game with a few levels and unlockables. Then came Corners, which is based on the Windows screensaver where the icon bounces around. I had spent way too much time in my life transfixed by that screensaver, so I knew it would make a cool iPhone app. Corners has been downloaded nearly 100,000 times. Finally, there is Touch Ski 3D, easily our biggest and best app to date. It's a fully 3d skiing game with "realistic" controls (one finger controls each ski), a ton of courses, and a Ski Jump mode. It has been our most successful app by far, after just five days in the App Store.
What type of apps/games/software inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
I've always been interested in games that are very pick-up-and-play; easy to jump in to. That was the main motivation for Turtle Bounce and Corners... both allow you to quickly get going and see the fun in the app. That said, I'm a gamer too, and I love the big games just the same. There aren't enough large-scale games for the iPhone, and we wanted to help fill that void with Touch Ski. As for where the ideas come from... Naquatic is always on the look out for ideas that we think would work well on the iPhone. We like to take advantage of the iPhone's unique features (such as the touch screen and accelerometer) in new and interesting ways. I think too many App Store games try to push conventional gaming controls on the platform without considering ways they could be improved. Touch Ski started by thinking about cool, innovative control schemes that could take iPhone gaming in a new direction.
How do you settle on the price point for your apps?
Unfortunately there are not a lot of options to consider. Pricing seems to break down to three groups — free apps, $0.99 apps, and more expensive apps. App Store sales are based largely on impulse buying, and you don't get a lot of that with anything more than $0.99. Corners is simple, so we gave that out for free. I would have liked to sell Touch Ski for a bit more (I don't think I've seen another 3D game, let alone one with so much content, for less than $2.99), but it is too hard for a game to get noticed at a higher price. That said, we have a few Touch Ski 3D updates in the works that may lead to a price increase, so buy it now while it's cheap!
What has been the best thing about designing for the iPhone?
My favorite part of developing apps for the iPhone is the marketplace. There are definitely a few kinks to work out with the whole process (the approval process especially... there is no clear guide on what you can and cannot include in your app), but I think the App Store has been a tremendous success for developers, customers, and Apple. A year ago I figured my career path would include working low level at a random company, and *maybe* if I was *lucky* getting the chance to start my own business some day. But now, thanks to the App Store, the hard part is gone. We can just focus on creating cool apps, put them on the App Store, and not have to worry about the normal distribution problems that accompany other kinds of software development.
What has been the biggest challenge about designing for the iPhone?
I think the most frustrating parts of iPhone development are the weaknesses in the App Store. As I said before, the App Store is definitely a good thing overall for developers, but there are still problems that Apple has not addressed. The difficulty of succeeding at a price above $0.99 is something I would like to see changed... too often developers have to sell themselves short, or worse, abandon large-scale projects because they can't charge a reasonable price and hope to succeed. Touch Ski is no exception; it pains me to see something we worked so hard on go for just a dollar (but at least the customers enjoy it!), and it is really too bad that any higher of a price would have been a "risk." In addition, with so many apps coming out every day it, is hard for developers to get their apps noticed. We got very lucky when TouchArcade.com picked up Touch Ski 3D on their own and gave it a great homepage-featured review.
Is your company venture backed or privately held?
Naquatic is privately held, owned by my brother and me. The company operates out of San Diego, California. My brother and I have been close our entire lives, and it's cool to see it all come together with Naquatic.
Do you have any other apps in the works?
The trouble with being a small developer is that we have far more ideas than we would ever have the time to build! We do have a couple of very cool apps in the early stages of development, but they have been put on hold in light of the tremendously positive response to Touch Ski 3D. In the near future, Naquatic is going to focus on adding new features to Touch Ski to share with our beloved players.
What apps do you have on your iPhone?
I have six pages of apps on my phone, but only a few that I use on a day to day basis. Pocket God and Tangram Pro are probably my favorite games... I love that Pocket God is regularly updated, and Tangrams gets me through any few minutes of boredom. Also, Sway is a great game... I love the controls, but the real reason I bought it was the awesome sound as you fall off the map. It's a classic "Aaahhhh!" for sure. For non-games, iSports is one of my most frequently used apps, and To Do's by AustinBull Software is a nice, simple, and clean To Do app for free. And, of course, Facebook is a necessity.
What do you like to do when you're not coding for the iPhone?
There's nothing better than a nice meal at a quality restaurant with friends. But when I've got some down time, I always enjoy a good game of Halo.
One Last Thing:
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported Touch Ski 3D. We spend lots of time hanging out in forums and chat rooms, so keep the suggestions coming and we will hear you!
And now watch Touch Ski 3D in action: