iPhone Developer Spotlight: Hasan Edain, NPC Unlimited

AppCraver recently spoke with Hasan Edain, CEO of NPC Unlimited. He shares his experiences developing for the iPhone and iPod touch.
When did you start developing apps for the iPhone? Did you have previous experience as a developer?
We began doing our first iPhone application in January 2009. Prior to that I had 20 years [experience], started at Reed College writing tools to help physics students write their theses. Stops at Boeing, AT&T Wireless, and several startups. Over the years I have worked on computers from a card punch scheduling machine to a Timex Sinclair ZX81 (the mighty 1k of RAM) to Apple IIe and PC, and Mac. I have used Basic, C, Pascal, Objective C, Java and some others I can’t admit to in the mixed company. I have a long time fascination with languages that are represented graphically.
In 2003 a friend and I (Jeffrey Goetsch) formed NPC Unlimited, at that time dedicated to making Macintosh Games. We spent years working on a Java framework for creating 2d sprite-based games (Sprite 2d, check out the website for more details). We created many demo applications, and a few got far enough to show in public: The NintyNine Effect (a card game), Germ Patrol (an asteroids clone), Sunday Search (a word search game), Slide Puzzle (an updated 15 square puzzle). And one just for kicks Happy Hippie Acres (6 people 24 hours, LOTS of caffeine, and this are what we came up with.)
What / how many apps have you made so far?
For the iPhone, 3 in the App Store today, several in the pipeline, and a growing list waiting until I learn how to live without sleep. Bouncy Ball is a toy developed to answer the question, “What is the smallest interesting application we can make on the iPhone?” Affirmations provide a user with 365 different images and phrases focused on helping people concentrate on the good in their lives. Confidence is an application focused on improving self-confidence. With a database of 100 images and quotations, a user receives a unique positive message each day.
What type of apps/games/software inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
My lifelong dream is to write the next Role-Playing game, but those folks at Blizzard have set a pretty high bar. I am intrigued by complexity arising from simplicity, and my creativity in unexpected places. Delicious Monster was a really good example of that (Use a camera to read a barcode and put the resulting book in a database). I still remember the first time I saw Mac Paint on a Mac 128k! At that moment I knew where I wanted to take my programming talents.
Favourite game of all time: Civilization II, great game balance, ate more hours than I should ever admit. Favourite application of all time: Photoshop, finally a code geek like me can pretend to be an artist. Favourite enabling technology: chat. I am now able to simultaneously work on a daily basis with Andrew Bush (a collaborator in New Zealand), and make plans with my wife for dinner.
Every aspect of my life is the inspiration for applications. How can I make this moment better with technology? I have worked for several years with Jeffery Goetsch to develop “On-Demand Creativity.” A process whereby we can take a word or phrase and develop an application or game based on the idea. Turns out that ideas are not a problem, it is much more about the execution and timing.
How do you settle on the price point for your apps?
We started with an “advanced dartboard” approach. Seriously, we looked at the price of applications we felt were similar to ours, and choose prices close to that.
What has been the best thing about designing for the iPhone?
The sense of possibility. It feels like you can do anything on this device, and you have an opportunity for people to see the work. I really enjoy how good images look on the device; it makes it a lot of fun to see your work.
What has been the biggest challenge about designing for the iPhone?
Apple. Working with signed code, especially when collaborating. Getting code tested is more complex because the testers have to jump through hoops to install the application on their device.
Is your company venture-backed or privately held?
We are completely self-funded. With Apple taking 30% off the top, we decided that we would try to maintain control of our destiny. This has the downside of only being able to work evenings and weekends, which stretches delivery schedules, but we are happy with our decision so far.
Do you have any other apps in the works?
We are working on an application that will provide a convenient and fun way to dial on the iPhone. And we have just signed a contract to write an application that a Seattle-area restaurant plans to use as part of its marketing. We have another 5 in the early stages of planning.
We try to keep updates to existing applications on a regular basis, and two applications are in active development at any given time.
What apps do you have on your iPhone?
I am up to 8 pages, some favourites: Sales tracker: shows me how many units sold. Showtimes: What movies are playing near me? UrbanSpoon: What restaurants are near me? IM+ Lite: chat client. Sportacular: follow my favourite teams. SFNetNews: what is happening in the open-source and technology fields? SolFree: Solitaire TapDefense: A desktop tower defence clone. Enigmo: a really cool physics toy game. AFII Lite: Really cool take on a match-three game.
What do you like to do when you’re not coding for the iPhone?
I play way too much World Of Warcraft (PvE), juggle a bit, cook, watch movies and plays, read science fiction and fantasy, and obsessively look for the next great computer game.
One Last Thing:
We are always looking for great people to collaborate with, so please get a hold of me if you have a passion for the iPhone.