AppCraver caught up this morning with the developers of the wildly popular Koi Pond application, Bill Trost and Andy Skirvin of development firm The Blimp Pilots.
AppCraver: When did you start developing applications for the iPhone?
Bill Trost, Designer: We love the iPhone as users so very shortly after Apple announced the plan for 3rd party iPhone development, several of the Blimp Pilots thought it sounded like fun and bought our first Macs. We signed up for the program and then the waiting game began. Being professional game developers in real life, we hoped to be allowed into the program prior to the launch of 2.0, but that didn’t pan out. So, our development stalled for a little while until Apple opened the floodgates upon the release of the 3G.
AppCraver: What was the inspiration behind Koi Pond? Did you ever think it would be this popular?
Bill Trost: I live near the beach in California and go for walks in the morning. I was on the Oceanside Pier looking down at water; staring at the caustics. It just clicked. At first, the idea was just the water. Just making the iPhone look like a surface of water that you could touch and play with. That was our core idea which we were initially calling iWater. We have since been very careful to not add anything that takes away from that first simple idea of playing with water. We are blown away by the reaction to Koi Pond. We thought it would be something people would want to show friends, but we never thought it would take off the way it has.
AppCraver: How did you settle on your price point for the app?
Bill Trost: We just thought $0.99 sounded fair. We really love Koi Pond and wanted as many people to see it as possible. We didn’t want price to be a barrier. We certainly didn’t want people to feel ripped off by The Blimp Pilots. We would much rather have people feel like they got a bargain and tell their friends about us and maybe even check out our future releases.
AppCraver: How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? Is there anything missing?
Andy Skirvin, Engineer: Coming from a PC/console game development background, working in the Mac development environment was a huge change. Xcode is very different from Visual Studio .NET, but we were able to be productive with it pretty fast so we can’t complain too much. Interface Builder is also a departure from what we’re used to on Windows, but it was more of a pleasant change. We were able to very quickly construct our UI elements and rapidly iterate on changes using IB. There are a number of other tools included with the SDK, but with Koi Pond being such a simple application we haven’t had to use those too thoroughly yet.
AppCraver: Is your company privately owned or venture backed?
Bill Trost: The Blimp Pilots is privately owned by our five members in the fine tradition of garage development.
AppCraver: What are some of the other iPhone apps that you like?
Bill Trost: We are huge fans of Shazam and Pandora. Aurora Feint is also an exciting and very polished experience with tons of potential.
AppCraver: What kind of features should Apple implement in future versions of the iPhone / SDK?
Bill Trost: The big one would be the ability for apps to have access to your playlists and music.
AppCraver: What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?
Andy Skirvin: For us, the development cycle for the iPhone is just like any other piece of software but rapidly accelerated. We determine our feature list, develop asset lists for our art/sound departments, and programming begins to prototype the application’s features as the assets are made. As features/assets start coming in, daily builds are demoed and critiqued among the team members. As we get close to completion, beta builds are distributed to the team and installed on all of our various Apple devices for testing. We don’t have a formal test procedure, but that will most likely have to change if we go on to develop more complex iPhone applications. For Koi Pond, a good portion of the development cycle was spent in Apple’s application approval queue!
AppCraver: Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?
Bill Trost: We are working on several new apps that we are very excited about, but it’s too early to talk about them right now. We’ll be sure to let you know all about them when the time is right.
However, fans of Koi Pond should know that Koi Pond 2.0, our first free update, has been submitted to Apple and should be available soon! We think it is a HUGE improvement over the 1.0 release and contains many frequently requested features as well as a few surprises.