Indie Developer interview: Monster Mayhem

We covered popular indie Tower Defense Shooter Monster Mayhem, a while ago and now present the exclusive indie developer interview with Taplay Limited.

Wannabee Indie iOS devs will love this one as you'll learn a fair bit about making the transition from more traditional older pc based programming to iOS developing and also learn some fantastic tips on play testing your apps. Monster Mayhem is available on the AppStore now.

Why did you choose to develop for iOS?

It sounds like this question is aiming at why iOS vs. Android or Web.  I thought that this was a hot market.  I was there to get the first version of the iPhone and first iPad and was an avid gamer myself. 

On top of my affinity for this area because I was a user of their products, this was an area that was greatly expanding and also allowed smaller developers the tools to create some really great things. 

You can take the tools like cocos2d and be up and going really quickly.  Plus – regarding iOS vs Android – the iOS was a much more controlled area that allowed for a better user experience and if we were fortunate enough to get some good games together, would allow for a much better potential revenue stream.  I've seen numbers, like there are 600,000 apps on the Apple App Store generating something on the order of $4 billion of sales, whereas there were like 400,000 apps on the Android store but they barely generated $400 million for the developers.

What is the hardest part of developing for you?

I was an old-school programmer from back in the day, having known basic, fortran, and cobol before I left day to day coding and went into management for 15+ years.  As a senior manager in several technology companies, I never was able to get back into any coding. 

The hardest part originally was teaching myself a whole new set of programming tools.  First I had to get up to speed with Object Oriented programming itself – which was a quantum leap up from what I was used to.  Then, I had to go through several books and tutorials on Objective C and the whole Xcode environment to learn how to do it for iOS.

In the middle when I realized one key feature of many games was connectivity to your peers, I had to go out and learn HTML5, PHP, and MySQL so that I could set up leader boards and other community features for my games on a web server. 

Overall, it was like going through 15 years of software evolution in 5 months. Once you get through it though, it's much easier. I'm making adjustments to the next version of Monster Mayhem to do things that I couldn't even conceive of figuring out when I started it.

Now, something that took me a week to painstakingly sort through online forum after online forum to figure out might take me a couple of hours.

Have you had a positive reaction from the app store so far?

It's been about what I've expected. Since there are so many games out there that are on the site, it's very hard to get mind share. We've had a slow but steady sales rate. What I think is great is that we have sales in Russia, Germany, the UK, and Australia. 

We've had a mini-flurry of people buying from Australia last week and it makes you wonder what in your game might appeal to that geography to cause that. The process itself was a little time-consuming to figure out, but once I got that first game submitted, subsequent versions were much easier.

How important is your playtesting?

I think the play testing is vital.  I have groups of students from two high schools and two middle schools in the Southern California area who I seek regular input from.  I will make a revised build and distribute it to them and ask them what they think. 

Since they are the exact target market for who uses iOS games, I take their feedback 100% seriously.  I think this is even better than a traditional focus group – these kids pull no punches and will tell you right off if they think a new feature sucks or is great.

Sometimes I think something would be really cool and then they'll look at me and say "Seriously?  That is incredibly lame…".  But often they then follow this up with "But if you did XYZ, it would be very cool…" That is incredible input right from the demographic that is one of the top users of iOS games. 

I also am finally able to start programming some of their cooler ideas, now that my skills are starting to get past the basic level.

Do you have any other projects planned for the future?

Definitely. I think we will continue to tweak Monster Mayhem to keep refreshing with new levels and some other new features, but we definitely have a couple more on the horizon.  We are thinking Zombies. 

One is kind of like I am Legend meets Civilization – a strategy game with need to control resources and the like. The other is a more advanced horizontal shooter – with a whole Zombie motif and a bunch of new graphics techniques.

Why did you choose this particular type of game to develop?

My play testers kind of led the way. They identified several types of games that were cool in their minds and that many of their friends were spending time on. One category they said was great was something that you could just pop open and then spend 5 minutes as they put it "mindlessly shooting away…" 

I was playing around with the prototype of Monster Mayhem at the time and showed it to a few of them and asked "Something like this…?"

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