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Archives for: August 2014

There were 6 posts published in August 2014.

Stories Behind the Apps: Galaxy Dash


Tell us about your game! We have recently released our debut title called Galaxy Dash: Race to the Outer Run. Galaxy Dash combines the excitement of an endless runner with the thrill of space combat! In the game you play as a star captain and privateer who is navigating through the Outer Run, a dangerous but lucrative smuggling route on the edge of the galaxy. Your goal is to blast obstacles in your way, collect tons of loot, and survive as long as possible to become the most infamous smuggler in the galaxy!


How is the game different from similar apps? Galaxy Dash is a hybrid between an endless runner and space combat game. While Galaxy Dash shares a similar core loop and control scheme as other 3D endless runners, our key differentiator is the infusion of combat in the game. Players can shoot asteroids, enemy ships, and other space hazards to earn bonus score and loot during their run.  This creates an exciting balance of dodging and combat, reminiscent of classic games like Star Fox. We also have a fresh visual take on space games, featuring a vibrant and colorful atmosphere to explore.

Tell us about the app design. Galaxy Dash features a whimsical cast of characters in the form of aliens, robots, and humanoids. We wanted to highlight these characters in the app icon, so our current icon features the character Helix, who is one of our favorites aliens in the game.  With regards to the user interface, we spent many months creating layouts and mockups for the various screens, and testing them as grey-scale in the game.  Once we were happy with the general layout and user flow, we hired a friend and talented UI designer to help push us over the finish line with their visual style and UX tweaks.


What resources assisted you in building the app? We built Galaxy Dash in Unity 3D and have utilized several plug-ins from the Unity Asset Store.  Key plug-ins include the Toon Shader for our visual style, NGUI for our user interface, and Prime 31 for many of our SDK hookups. We’ve had fantastic support from the indie gaming community, who have provided feedback on the game and tips on the startup journey.  We also recommend playing Galaxy Dash with the sound on, as we have fantastic music tracks from our friend Brad Griffin, and a ton of entertaining sound effects from Andrew Kim at Level-up Audio.

What lessons did you learn using these tools? I think a key lesson has been that it’s okay to ask for help. The Unity and indie community are incredibly supportive of each other, and people are willing to share all kinds of advice to help you create your game. We’ve also had many friends who have both contributed to the game and playtested the game over the course of our development. Having their involvement has made the journey even that much more meaningful.

What would you say went right and wrong with the release? Overall, the game’s development was a positive experience for us. We had a clear vision for the type of game we were making, which allowed us to move quickly and efficiently against the goal. However, our speed did make it difficult to pivot on some key items, which led to some tough compromises later in development. With regards to release, our ability to iterate on the game post-launch and maintain a solid update cadence has been awesome. But it has been challenging to drive installs without a large marketing budget, so we’re doing our best to improve on getting the word out.

Who is on the team and what are your roles? We have a three person team here at SuperMoon Games. Simon Armstrong is our Technical Director and lone engineer, and all the functionality in the game has come from his fingertips. Kyle Van Meurs is our Art Director, and has been responsible for bringing the visuals of Galaxy Dash to life. I’m focused on both game design and studio operations, and implement our level design and balance into the game. The overall creative vision for Galaxy Dash has been a team effort, driven by our backgrounds as passionate and avid gamers.

What were you doing prior to building the app? Prior to forming SuperMoon Games, we were working at larger game companies such as Electronic Arts and Zynga. We found ourselves playing tons of games together, and realized we shared a mutual passion for indie games and space games. When brainstorming what game to work on as our first title, we decided to take the opportunity to pursue an idea that would be difficult to greenlight at larger publishers. Thus a game about flying spaceships was born.


What other games do you play or inspire you? We play a ton of games here at SuperMoon, and I’m constantly inspired by the work from other indie developers like Vlambeer and NimbleBit. Perhaps my favorite app is a game called Dungeon Raid, which I easily sunk over 100 hours into and still have installed on my device nearly four years later.

Head over to the iTunes App Store to download Galaxy Dash.

Hey you app devs!  Wanna be featured like Galaxy Dash? Be sure to check out


Stories Behind the Apps: Powerslyde


Tell us about your app and the idea! Brett Bauer (BB): My friend Ken Robinson came to me with the original idea behind Powerslyde.  During Christmas, 2011, Ken and his children were on the east coast visiting extended family. All the kids received iDevices as gifts that year. The kids began to download and play apps from iTunes. In a short time, they all started asking the others “what apps do you have?” and tried to search the app store to find the apps.  Even though the kids were all of an age where they could read, they were searching and looking to match the icons. That is where the idea was born.

Ken then came to me with the idea looking for assistance. We spent over two months thinking of what it would look like ultimately, not just as an app, but as a business. Once we determined the path we wanted to take, we worked together to make it a reality. Even though both of us love technology, neither of us could code and so we needed to use outsourced development to begin the process of creation.


How is the app different from similar apps? Ken Robinson (KR): Powerslyde is a unique social app sharing app, it answers the questions what apps do you have and allows you to see and share great apps from your friends and people whom you follow. Powerslyde is different because it helps you find the apps that your friend and influencers actually have on the device.

BB: Powerslyde is social app discovery. It populates the database of apps with the apps that people have taken the time to download and that remain on their device. Our approach was to be anti-piracy and direct people to the app store(s).

One of the things we analyzed was the path that a user went through to download an app, as well as the various means of app discovery. We found that while search ranked first in terms of method used, we knew from experience and research that it was also an inefficient method. The second most used method was referrals from family and friends. While word of mouth is more effective, the greater challenge is remembering the name of the app if you don’t take the time to download it at the time when it is mentioned. So with that in mind, we created a shortcut to the app store to eliminate those barriers and make it easy to find the exact app.

Powerslyde detects the apps installed on a users device. When Powerslyde is running, only the apps that the user has installed on their device are displayed. We respect the privacy rights of the user and allow them to “hide” any app they have installed on their device, that they do not wish to share with their friends.


When a friend installs Powerslyde and they connect with their friends through the app, they are able to see the apps that each other has installed, with the exception of any that they may have hidden from view. They can see all the apps own in common and those they have that are unique. At any point in the process, if they are interested in an app a friend has, they can easily see if it is paid or free, get a description and screen shots or go directly to the app store to download the app.

If they install a new app, their friends are notified through a feed, if their friend recommends an app to them through the sharing mechanism, they also receive a notification in their feed.The networks are created through the tight network of friends and the loose connections created through friends of friends. The entire system is built on human interaction, and the relationships that have been created to emulate real life as much as possible.


Tell us about the design and UI. KR: The icon was truly an experience in creativity our design team at Clockwork couldn’t have done a better job incorporating all the feelings of motion and ease of use into the simple display seen on the device it intones all the freedom of sharing that the app itself does so well. The user interface acts as well as the icon looks. It was designed to put the minimum number of steps needed in order access all the functionality within the app.  We approached our design solely from the user experience and not with a specific user in mind. Our mantra was the simpler the better.

BB: In the end, the final design came about as a result of three factors. First, we had a different name originally for the app we discovered we could not use. We were in love with the name and the icon that was created.  We failed to check to see if it was available. Second, as we were working with contract developers as Ken mentions, there was a second icon that we were presented with that due to time and budget constraints lacked inspiration, was unimaginative and was being forced on us in order to stay on budget – theirs not ours. I was willing to let it slide, Ken wasn’t. He also wasn’t vocalizing his true feelings in meetings, so in a meeting to discuss it with the whole development team, I had to get Ken to open up. He and I knew the designer was capable of much better work, because we had seen it. In the end we agreed to pay the difference to create the icon we knew the designer was capable of. Eric was his name, and he did a fantastic job.


What tools or resources assisted you in building the app? KR: Our first try at making an app out of a simple idea was met with little appreciation from a contract developer…they just could not see reason for the app.  We found this to be the case from most people in the tech field- as they are normally pretty technically efficient they didn’t see app discovery as a problem. But this app was built for the masses which quite frankly need help with even simple functions of today’s powerful smart phones and tablets. Our attorney Yoichiro (Yokum) Taku at WSGR provided the most help in creating the company behind the app and the fantastic design team and technical professionals at Clockwork in Minneapolis provided the right amount of guidance and insight to bring the first version of the app to life.

BB: As Ken mentioned, we used third party contractors. They were a firm that had a reputation for quality.  Quality was a more important criterion than price.  In all there was a fantastic team who were able to understand our vision. They had the bench strength to help us get it done. One of our requirements was that there could be no open source software used in the coding, because we wanted to make sure that we had something original that we could protect if necessary.

What lessons did you learn and went right/wrong with the release? KR: That expert help is quite expensive and on the development side too many voices can cloud the vision.

Being new to the development process was one of the biggest advantage and biggest frustration. As novices in app development we were uninhibited in dreaming up what should be done and not limited by what could be done and we didn’t entirely fit the mold and systems that our development partner had in place. Often times people say “you can’t do that” because they only know what they have done already. We found that this may also have been one of the problems in dreaming bigger than what the team had the limits to develop. In the end a great product was produced and I couldn’t be happier.


BB: First lesson is to make sure the name is available. We spent lots of time building with a placeholder.  Coming up with the first was hard enough. Coming up with a replacement was even more difficult. Next, because of the technical knowledge that the team brought, they were able to execute on a number of things we could not afford to hire for at the time. They allowed us to accomplish a great deal more than we would have been able to left to our own devices, but there are disadvantages in that you lose control of timing. Because they were managing multiple client relationships, the amount of time they were able to commit to our project was less than we wanted and as a result it took much longer than anticipated.

The last lesson, because I was functioning as the leader of the company, I attended many conferences and was fortunate to hear how others had built their businesses and as much as possible take the advice they proffered. One of the greatest was to bring development in house. We did that as soon as we could once we submitted the iOS version of the app.

Development took much longer than anticipated and the complexity of the app was underestimated. The design, UI and UX was designed to be super simple and easy to use. Because of that, the back end was super complex, very robust and required a great deal more time than anticipated. We submitted the app originally in early December 2012 for approval. It wasn’t until early March 2013 that it was approved.

Who is on the team and what are your roles? KR: Brett- CEO,  Andy-CTO, Fred- CFO, Peter- SVP of roduct & Marketing, Ed- Lead Developer, Ken- co founder/ advisor.

BB:  Ken did a good job explaining that, although we have also hired others for short term engagements as needed, typically when we are in development mode.

What were you doing prior to building the app? KR:  Prior to my foray into app development I have been a paperboy, a doughnut maker, a gas station attendant, a US Marine, and airplane mechanic, an avionics technician, a landscaper, and a stay-at-home dad.

BB: I had been in the investment sales for most of my career.  In 2004 I started working with venture backed and early stage companies focusing on capital raising, due diligence and strategy. I was working with early stage companies assisting with due diligence and getting them ready for investment.

What other apps do you use or which inspire you? KR: I’m inspired by simplicity in design and functionality among my favorites: Kahn Academy, Flipboard, Dropbox, and Noteability…and of course Powerslyde.  My current favorite games: Charades by Fat Chicken Studios, Blek by Konabi brothers and Logo Quiz v2.6.  It may be true that the smartphone has eliminated boredom; I’m just not sure that’s entirely a good thing.

BB: I have had a smartphone since the Treo. Of course at the time, you couldn’t get apps easily. For me, the smartphone was a productivity tool and a phone all in one. I don’t believe that has changed.<

Since 2007 when I obtained my first iPhone, there has been a core of apps that I work with. The apps I use most often are the ones I use in daily life – LinkedIn, Starbucks, Delta, my banking apps, IHG, FItbit and dropbox. I would consider these all lifestyle apps even though some are not categorized as such. Since we are constantly meeting developers in our business, I usually download and play their games. A couple of my all time favorites are racing games, anything that is mindless and helps me decompress, like Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies.

Head over to the Apple App Store or Google Play to download Powerslyde.

Hey you app devs!  Wanna be featured likePoweslyde? Be sure to check out


How Curved Screen Technology is Making its Way Onto the Market

In the world of consumer electronics, it seems like there are new innovations all the time that make their way onto the market. In screen technology, the most recent innovation is curved screens.

Of course, if you are familiar with going to the movies, curved screens is nothing new. Cinema screens are often curved due to the way the picture is projected onto the screen. Curved screens are now making their debut on a much smaller scale, like the television and smartphone market.

How Curved Screen Technology Works

On a curved television, the image projected onto the screen is obviously rear projected and provides a much wider field of view than a standard flat screen television. The goal of a curved television is supposed to be to provide a cinema-like experience on very large televisions, like th 78-inch UHD TV from Samsung.

The curves bend outwards on the side of the screen. The further you are away from the television, the less you even notice that the image you are watching is being emitted on a curved screen. The actual curves are only noticeable when you are within a few feet of the screen, but from any viewpoint, the picture quality is extremely sharp. On some of the television screens, there is a way you can switch to a flat screen if you prefer, by simply pushing a button.

While smartphones certainly do not fall into the category of “very large” screens, there are certainly benefits to having curved phones or tablets. The curvature on a smart phone reduces any reflections that diminish from the screen’s brightness, contrast and color. The curvature also directs ambient light outside of your line of sight.

Curved Screen Devices Currently Available

Samsung and LG have led the way when it comes to curved screen technology. Both companies released curved television screens at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The two companies also released curved phones within the last year. One of the most prominent curved smartphones out on the market right now is the LG G Flex from T-Mobile, which is indeed flexible. This phone’s screen quality is pinpoint sharp.

When you first look at it and hold it in your hands, you might think it’s a broken or fake phone, but it’s not. According to LG, the phone may be bent flat up to 180 degrees and you have to be careful not to bend it inward or twist.

You may be thinking that it might be too difficult to hold a curved phone or find a case for it or even store it flat. A curved phone might actually fit into your pocket easier than a flat phone because it can use the curvature of your leg to sit. And if you store it in your purse, it would be a lot easier to find than a flat phone due to the probable amount of flat accessories you keep in your purse as it is.

Electronic manufacturers know that this is the year for curved screen technology. The next time you walk past a television or smartphone display, you might need to take a second look. An electronics device with a curved screen is no joke, it’s actually one of the latest developments in technology.


Stories Behind the Apps: Crowman & Wolfboy


Tell us about your game! Crowman & Wolfboy is an action/adventure game about two shadow creatures searching for happiness in a dreadful world.  In attempting to find a mysterious race of creatures, called “humans”, and to escape their own nature, Crowman & Wolfboy begin their journey to flee the shadows. An ancient Darkness is displeased with their intent to leave and rises up in pursuit.

Use intuitive swipe controls as you navigate through dangerous terrains and attempt to escape the ever persistent Darkness. Collect light orbs throughout the levels to knock the Darkness back. Maneuver past hazardous obstacles and enemies by learning new abilities as you progress. Along the way you’ll collect hidden items, unlock ancient knowledge, save innocent babies and even travel through space and time!

Forest_Ability Collect

The game is currently out on iTunes and will be coming to Android soon. We’ve also been Greenlit to release on Steam – that won’t be going live until next year (though we may do Early Access this year). We are still developing content for Crowman & Wolfboy and are releasing it in parts or episodically.

How is the app different from similar games? Our goal in creating Crowman & Wolfboy was to sort of fill a gap we saw in the mobile market. There didn’t appear to be many “hardcore”/challenging games that where story driven. I believe we succeeded at this goal. I feel like Crowman & Wolfboy can stand out from similar apps because it’s much more of a “game” and less of an “app-game”, if that makes sense. So the story is pretty deep and the world is quite large. A lot of time went into creating the artwork, animations, music and sound. A lot of attention to the details. Our approach to designing C&W was to look at it as a game first and an app second. As a result, I feel like we will have a mobile game that has far more depth and content then most other mobiles games out there.


Tell us about the design. The app icon is a condensed depiction of the games essence and was designed to showcase the core elements of the game in a single image. You have the characters – Crowman & Wolfboy jumping (an action you perform frequently), the Darkness chasing them and a light orb they are reaching for.

The user interface we’ve actually redesigned a few times, as the game content expanded. The latest iteration of the UI is built to be the most convenient for users by leading them forward with visual cues and keeping relevant information right in front of them. One thing we wanted to avoid was having to navigate through too many pages. This was a challenge because our game has so much content. So some pages had to have a good amount of buttons on them; the key was to consider the priority of each button and utilize basic visual design  to make higher priority buttons stand out more.

When it comes to the in-game HUD (or Heads Up Display) we wanted to keep the screen as clear as possible. Originally, Crowman & Wolfboy was built using a virtual joystick on the screen. To simplify things, the decision was eventually made to axe the joystick in favor of auto running. This not only helped to clear up the screen but also to give the game a much smoother rhythm. The only permanent HUD elements that remain on screen are the players health (represented with hearts) and the pause button. Any other HUD elements, such as number of collected orbs, attack meter and tutorial text, appear only when they are needed to be seen

Forest_ Watch Out

What tools or resources assisted you in building the app? Our team uses the Unity3D game engine. It’s a great development tool and I always highly recommend it to anyone looking to get into the trade. The best part is that there’s a free version! Unity handles all the back end stuff like rendering, loading, running code and so on. Having a game engine as opposed to building your own saves on a massive amount of time. Instead of wasting time building basic framework, development can be focused more on the design of the game itself.

Another tool we use is TestFlight. It’s a way we can send out builds of the game, remotely to different testers. This is especially useful because playtesting is an integral part of development and TestFlight helped to make it a more convenient and expedited process.

What lessons did you learn and went right/wrong with the release? Before we began working in Unity, we were using a different game engine. A lot of progress was made with that first engine and despite it’s obvious flaws, production continued because we had already invested time and money into it. That was a mistake, we should have pulled the plug on it as soon as the flaws began to show; would have saved ourselves countless hours of work. The switch to Unity was painful for that reason (throwing away so much work) but ultimately the best choice we could have made. Unity was leaps and bounds beyond what we were previously using. It actually has good documentation, an awesome community of developers, and it just worked… all things the former engine was lacking. Two lessons we learned from the switch: 1) if something is not working, it’s probably better to come up with a new solution rather than wasting time trying to work around a broken system, and 2) the hard reality is that sometimes hard work gets thrown out. It’s never easy to lose progress but the best thing you can do is to look forward, not backwards, and keep on trucking.


So, the engine switch I talked about was one of the biggest things that went wrong. During that period of time we were also developing another game, which we eventually canceled when we realized the team was just too small to work on two projects at once. As our focus adjusted to Crowman & Wolfboy 100% we ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise a little funding for software. The campaign was successful and we even past our modest goal of $4,000 and raised just above $6,000 (this was at the tail end of 2011, before the big Double Fine project that started the KS storm). Of course after Kickstarter/Amazon fees and backer prizes, the money earned for development was much less but this helped us to get some of the software we needed. The funds also allowed us to showcase our game at PAX East 2012.

A big lesson we learned through the process of developing our first independent game – don’t give a release date until the project is getting close to being done. The date always changes. Our original release window was the end of 2012. Crowman & Wolfboy launched in October of 2013. Not only did it release much later but we also had to break up development of the game into chucks and release it that way. The decision was made to break the game up into  parts so that we could get content out there to fans and so that we could hopefully pull in more money to continue development. We were over ambitious with our initial goal to say the least. When our whole team has to work around full time jobs and build the game in their free time, progress is hindered in a big way. Things take a lot longer than they would if we were developing full time.


With releasing, there were a lot of things that we didn’t figure out until it was too late. One was that developers are supposed to send a Roadmap to Apple, outlining their app features. This is crucial because getting featured by Apple is everything and you can’t get featured if they don’t know about your app. Think of it like being on a store shelf as opposed to in the back stock room – people go looking for your game unless they know it exists, and no one knows your game exists if your an indie dev without connections and/or the right resources (i.e. most indie devs). So that definitely hurt our launch numbers.

Going to conventions and getting your name out there is also an important part of the process. So we’ve tried to do as much of that as we can with our small budget. Recently Crowman & Wolfboy was officially selected for the PAX East 2014 Indie Showcase, Too Many Games 2014 Indie Showcase and nominated for “Best Mobile Game” in the Indie Prize Showcase of Casual Connect USA 2014.

We learned a lot through working on Crowman & Wolfboy about producing a game, running a business, working with app marketplaces, marketing, managing a small team and so on. Wither Studios is much stronger now more than ever. I think our fans will be impressed with the new content coming for Crowman & Wolfboy and I know that our future projects will be even more amazing.


Who is on the team and what are your roles? As a fairly small team for a games developer, most of us take on many roles. For myself (Steve Gabry), I’m the Creative Director, Artist, Writer and Project Manager. Brian Turner is our Lead Programmer, Web Master and  Local Genius. John Cobb is our Technical Art Lead, Lead Animator and Artist. Doyle Daigle, II is our Artist, Composer and Sound Engineer. Mike Thomas is our AI and General Programmer. CJ Kuehn is our Artist and Animator. And last but not least, our newest team member is Joe Edelsack, who is our Quality Assurance Lead and Social Networking Lead. Together we are Wither Studios; Pittsburgh’s own Indie Developer.

What were you doing prior to building the app? Before Crowman & Wolfboy we were working on a different game that was eventually canceled. The game was a 3D adventure with some horror and sci-fi elements. I don’t want to say too much about it, it’s a project we may come back to sometime in the future. During this time and prior, we were team building. It was the early formation of Wither Studios, we had a few lineup changes before C&W.

What other apps or games inspire you? To be honest, I don’t use very many apps. I know some of the guys on the team do. I’m more of a console and PC gamer but there are a few games I have enjoyed on my smart devices. I really like Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery and Machinarium. I tend to like the artsy, indie stuff.

As far as inspiration, we did look at many apps during the process of figuring out the controls for Crowman & Wolfboy. So there are probably a handful of game apps that influenced the mechanics and GUI designs. However, our inspiration comes from mostly retro games like Mario, Earthworm Jim, Metroid and games like that.

Head over to the Apple App Store to download Crowman & Wolfboy.

Hey you app devs!  Wanna be featured like our friends at Crowman & Wolfboy? Be sure to check out

Tips to Write an Amazing Press Kit/ Press Release for Startups

Startups need press coverage. There are so many examples of how one good exposure in the media has sparked a viral story across the internet. It sounds easy, but a lot of legwork goes on in the background to make this happen. And that’s if you’ve even got the time/resources to spend ‘doing’ PR for your startup. In most cases, a bootstrapping startup’s team members will be wearing every hat in the book; coding, marketing, funding - media relations and PR can easily be pushed aside. People will tell you PR doesn’t work for startups and it’s low priority. You do need to make sure you’re laser focused on building a good, solid product/service - but keep PR in mind. It is possible to be smart about Startup PR.

Here’s how to build a great press kit that will do a lot of the work for you. (Click the image below to expand)

Also check out the PPLCONNECT Media Kit to refer to as an example.


Infographic messages expanded:

What is a Media Kit? A media kit contains resources that members of the media would need to run a story on your startup.
-Logos: be sure to include both web and print appropriate files
-Screenshots (if applicable): web and print appropriate files
-Press Releases: add these as you release them, be consistent
-Backgrounder: 1-3 page summary document (preferably PDF) with extra background information about company history & other useful information
-Awards & previous media recognition: this is the place to holla freely about your awards and media coverage to date
-Contact details for further information: writers need to know who to contact for interviews or product demonstrations. Make it easy for them!

1-2 Formula to Get it Done
1. Spend a week collating the pieces of the kit & getting them live on your website. We know your time is valuable in a startup, so grab a co-worker or a friend who might be in the PR field and some coffee and get cracking.
2. Dedicate an hour each day that week, and by Friday polish & publish the kit. That five hours will pay you back five-fold by acting as your new 24-hour PR pitch-deck. Once it’s done you’ll have a great base that will only need updates and tweaks when things change.
Tip: Find yourself an enthusiastic public or media relations student in 3rd year at a local university and get them to intern on this as a summer project #GiveAndTake #WinWin

Add your flavour. Tech companies may need a heavy & technical review guide as part of their Media Kit… If you’ve had a particularly good run with awards or previous media coverage, it’s easy to see how things can start to get long and (potentially) boring. Keep it fun where possible by adding your unique flavour to how you present and write the entire kit. The more engaging it is, the more likely viewers will spend more time there.

Edit, Edit, Edit! Have someone with a keen eye for design and proofreading take a look at the kit. Check that presentation is uniform where necessary, fix any typos and refine the layout.

Final Advice. The important thing is to have a bare minimum press kit available at least. Right now you can start by putting a contact email address on the website for media enquiries. After that work towards getting at the very least some press releases & useful graphics that the media can use in a story. Don’t feel like you have to have the whole kit ready before uploading. When we began working on our press kit we came up with two lists, one short and one long:
1. All the press kit elements we are happy to start with (shorter list)
2. All the press kit elements we would love to have (longer list)
Get started with the first and work slowly towards the second over time.

Click here to download PPLCONNECT + also share your advice in the comments on creating a media kit!



Stories Behind the Apps: Escape From Alcatraz


Tell us about your game! Escape from Alcatraz is an adventure game where, obviously, you need to Escape from the Alcatraz prison! The game was inspired by an old Brazilian text-adventure game, and to keep the same ‘vibe’ as the original, it has retro style looking graphics.

How is the app different from similar apps? Unlike most adventure games, the game is viewed from the top, most like a rogue-like game: as you walk new parts of the map appears on screen. This actually adds to the exploration aspect of the game as it also fits the escape mood in general. Also, the game has some unique puzzles – they start very simple, but later on the solutions are far from obvious. Adding to all of that, the game features an ‘eternal’ player list: the first 10 players who finished the game, has their names forever in the high-score list!


Tell us about the design. I have a whole article on here, which describes the choices I did on the user interface. The game icon itself was designed to pass the general game idea as quickly as possible to the player: it shows the main character (drawn in blocky graphics to show the game has a retro look) against a wall with a strong light pointing at him (an holophote, to put the escape part in evidence) and the word “Escape” above – all representing the classic “image” of the prisoner escaping and being caught by the holophote while doing so.

What tools or resources assisted you in building the app? The tool I used, is something called Monkey-X, which is a cross platform game development language. Monkey actually works as a code translator, so whatever you write on its own language, gets translated into Objective-C, C++, Javascript, XNA, Java… the end result is that you code once, and you get your game on several different platforms. The community around Monkey is another great thing – people over there are always helping each other, as much as they can. For graphics, I use a really old software: Paint Shop Pro 7 – I have yet to find a better tool for pixel graphics. For sound, the tool most used by indies: Bfxr.


What lessons did you learn and went right/wrong with the release? It was the most complex game I’ve developed in Monkey, a complete adventure ‘engine’, and it was done in 30 days – so I learnt a lot about the language itself, and how monkey works internally. I could also get a glimpse on how the classic adventure games I played when young were made.

I think a lot went right in the game: it works really well on mobile and I could achieve the ‘mood’ I was aiming for (an adventure game, with retro graphics and rogue-like maps) – it was really fun reading the comments on the app stores, and even seeing friends addicted to the game. What went wrong was probably the in-game texts, which on small screens get really small and hard to read. I could also take some extra time to refine the adventure system.


Another thing is that people tend to go directly to the icons that represent objects and characters to interact, instead of first selecting an action – but this will be solved on a future update, where every object will have a default action attached to it (usually ‘use’ on objects and ‘talk’ to characters).

Who is on the team and what are your roles? Just me, José Lucio - I did the entire thing by myself from creating the whole story to programming. There are projects where I work with other people (usually graphics artists and musical composers) – but on small scale project like Escape from Alcatraz, that had no budget at all, it was only me.


Jose Lucio aka Slotman, creator of Escape From Alcatraz

What were you doing prior to building the app? Before Alcatraz I had another game released (and published) called Mahjong Max, for desktops and some small games on mobile. Most of them can be found at Icon Games website.

I’m in college (I’m 39, but never graduated, so I decided to go back and get a degree) and I was/am also working on some non-game related contract projects. I have also organized a Brazilian gaming developer event called “Joga Brasil” (something like “Play Brazil”) in 2012. Having to juggle all those responsibilities gives me very little time to make games, so as I started developing for mobile, I also ended up making ‘smaller’ games.

What other apps inspire you?  A lot of old school games – some from a 80’s computer called MSX, others from Odyssey and NES… I still have those machines working, so every now and then I’d play some old games to remember where  and how everything started :). As for an actual ‘app’, I would say the music player on my phone (the pre-installed one on WP8) – everywhere I go, I need some tunes playing in the background.

Head over to the Apple App Store or Google Play to download Escape From Alcatraz.

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