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Spirits of Spring - Tackling Bullying and Encouraging Empathy Through Gaming

Posted by Jennifer Allen on September 24th, 2014

Out October 2 is Spirits of Spring, an adventure game that features an anti-bullying, pro-friendship message, and there’s a very important reason why you should be excited. It’s from Minority Media, the makers of Papo & Yo, a great game that focused on the tale of a young Brazilian boy and his abusive, alcoholic father. It’s touching and powerfully done, demonstrating how games can tackle some very serious issues. Spirits of Spring looks set to offer a similar experience, this time focusing on Chiwatin, a Native American hero from northern Canada. The boy is tormented by evil giant crows, until he decides to face them in order to restore the balance of nature.

With Spirits of Spring set to be released on the App Store very soon, we took the time to talk to creative director Ruben Farrus to learn more.


148Apps: What was the inspiration behind making Spirits of Spring?
Ruben Farrus (RF): I see video games as a great way to express ourselves and to maturely explore complex human situations within a safe environment. Having experienced bullying as a teenager, and having discussed it with my colleagues at Minority, I realized that many of them went through it as well. And like me, many of them had to deal with dismissal when they first tried to discuss it as teenagers.

So, I started imagining an engaging story based on our experiences with bullying. While I was looking for the right setting for this new game, Ernest Webb, a co-founder at Minority, told me some tales from his hometown, located in the Canadian North. Ernest is a Native Cree, and the legends he shared with me involve these profound characters that live in a snowy world. Soon, I realized that these characters and the challenging environment they survive in would make great metaphors for this story.

So, it's these elements – interesting characters, a fascinating wintery landscape, and bullying – that became the core of Spirits of Spring.


148Apps: The game is said to not be too preachy or overt about its message. How hard was it to maintain that subtlety?
RF: From the beginning, I wanted to create a world and characters that players care about and empathize with. From my experience with our previous empathy game, Papo & Yo, I knew that if we can make players feel emotionally invested in the story and its characters, they can find meaning and value in it for themselves.

Bullying is a complex phenomenon – it's not black and white – and we are not experts in the subject. So, what matters to us is to offer an experience that can help players of all ages explore bullying from several perspectives – the bully's, the bullied's, and the bystander's – so that they can come out of it feeling more capable of discussing it openly.


148Apps: Do you think indie studios are best equipped for dealing with empathetic games and subjects, or do you think such themes could spread to AAA games?
RF: In my experience, it is easier to discuss and explore difficult subjects in a small and open-minded team than it is in a large one. As a result, it is also easier to organize a small group around a common vision, because there are less competing interests.

So, when we come up with a story, we are in a good position to design mechanics that help players empathize with the characters in our games. Many larger developers still work the other way around: creating the mechanics first, then dressing them up in a story, making those games mostly about skill and technical difficulty, with characters that are often disposable.

148Apps: Having looked at addiction with Papo & Yo, and now bullying with Spirits of Spring, what difficult subject do you hope to tackle next?
RF: We are currently experimenting with ways to apply our empathy game design model to virtual reality experiences. We will have more news on that down the line.


Thanks to Ruben for taking the time to answer our questions. Spirits of Spring is set for release October 2 and will be priced at $4.99. We’ll be sure to have more on it when it’s out.

Stupidfast - How Taylor Martinez Switched From College Football to App Development

Posted by Jennifer Allen on September 2nd, 2014

How do you make an Endless Running game more than just another Endless Running game? By adding real life prizes to it, of course! That’s the thinking behind StupidFast: a game designed for football enthusiasts, and the brainchild of former college football star and current NFL free agent, Taylor Martinez. It all came about due to his career path changing quite drastically and suddenly.


“This past season was my senior season. I tore a ligament in my foot and separated my shoulder - both in the first game. I ended up not finishing the season as Quarterback. After the season, I entered into the NFL draft. I did my pro day at Nebraska and waited for draft day," explained Martinez, "I ended up going to the Philadelphia Eagles. I went down there and they took a MRI and X-Ray on both [injuries]. They said that they weren't going to take me any more. My dream was crushed and I didn’t know what to do. I decided to make a football app, and this is what I came up with.“

“I [have] been building apps for four years now," he elaborated, "I love doing it and have a lot of passion doing it... Stupidfast is different than any other app because it allows users to earn rewards and prizes. This concept is the first of its kind and would allow users to compete and earn rewards.”

Taylor’s lined up some fairly big companies too, with the likes of Sol Republic, HobbyTown, Cutter Gloves, Shock Doctor Mouth Piece, and Black Fly sunglasses all currently on board. Martinez also explained how there will be different console games you can win along with other prizes, including a “GoPro Raffle for every time you share a Kamcord.”

Kamcord support should prove quite a hit with StupidFast too, given its fast-paced nature. Players tap as fast as they can to try to run away from the safety, as well as jump over pillars. A stiff arm can also be employed to break the pillars, ensuring there’s plenty to do.

Martinez explained that, “prizes will be won based on your daily high score, best high score, the achievements [via] Game Center, and playing the football game. Inside the game, if you land on a certain number, you will win that prize.”

Achievements are varied, with awards for getting tackled by the safety and knocking your helmet off, falling on your butt when you hit a pylon, falling on your face hitting a pylon, collecting stiff arms, and passing 50 and 150 points in game.

“Every time you break your daily high score you will have a chance to enter into a raffle," Martinez went on to explain, "Inside the main menu you can click Earn Rewards, and see what prizes you can win that day and what raffles you can enter into."

Thanks to Taylor Martinez for taking the time to answer our questions. StupidFast is set to be a freemium game with in-app purchases available for more stiff arms, lives, and ad-removal. It’s set for release September 7. We'll be sure to let you know when it's out.

The Rise of PicsaStock and How You Can Make Money from Your iOS Photography

Posted by Jennifer Allen on August 27th, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

We all take plenty of photos, right? That’s the joy of having a reasonably powerful camera in your pocket, thanks to your trusty iPhone and a bevy of similarly useful apps. Wouldn’t it be great to make some money out of those snaps? While your selfies might not garner much attention, there’s sure to be some great shots that will appeal to someone keen to purchase the rights. That’s the thinking behind PicsaStock, an app that allows you to sell your photos to professional creatives around the world.

Proving to be remarkably simple to do, you can connect your account to the likes of Instagram, 500px, Flickr, and Dropbox, thereby sharing individual photos with the community in the hope of selling them elsewhere. We had a word with head of Mobile Marketing & Press, Lars Poeck, to learn more.


148Apps: Where did the inspiration for PicsaStock come from?
Lars Poeck (LP): Before PicsaStock.com we founded YourPainting.de. This is a global gift franchising for customized photo paintings. During this process, we realized the complicated licensing process for photography. We also learned about a huge demand for authentic pictures - by agencies, bloggers, websites and even big brands. But these photos are hard to get. This is a strange situation. We all “produce” pictures like this everyday - everywhere. Each smartphone comes a high-tech-camera – right in your pocket. You are able to do even night shots or long exposure pictures with some photo apps.

So we invented PicsaStock.com as a marketplace and community for authentic photography. Sure, we keep an eye on good quality content. But as you [can] see on platforms like VSCO Cam, 500px, Instagram, or Flickr: there are millions of brilliant photographers out there that do even more than selfies or cat pictures. Some don’t have the slightest idea that they can earn money with their photography. We give them 50% of the sale price. So we invite them all to sell their photography. Our app also comes with features like a nice gallery mode [and] a special color search technology, so you can skip through your own gallery and discover brilliant pictures by other photographers with the app.


148Apps: How many people are currently using the service?
LP: We are a very young company. [Note: The company was founded in February 2013, with the site launching in September 2013 and the iOS app following in February 2014] At the moment we have around 25,000 users and photographers on our platform. Some upload hundreds of pictures, some just want to give it a try and upload a few pictures. But it’s amazing to see this growing every day. In our company, we all have a passion for photography. So every morning when we arrive it’s amazing to skip through the new pictures that people from all over the world uploaded on our server.

148Apps: How many photos have been purchased since the site was launched?
LP: At the moment we don’t release these numbers. But before I started at PicsaStock, I tested the service by myself and sold 10 pictures with the app. At the moment, we have 1 million approved and curated pictures and photos. Every day we get thousands of new ones. Sure, we can’t accept all of the pictures in terms of keeping up the quality standard. But it’s amazing how many people out there really know how to take a good picture – not only with their smartphones. As a tip for new users: The better you tag and name your pictures, the easier it is for others to find them.


148Apps: How is the service currently funded?
LP: As we launched in September 2013, we were supported by an investment from Slamdunk Capital and other early stage angel investors. Now we [have] some more business angels on board.

148apps: Are there any plans for an iPad app for the service?
LP: I love the iPad and the tablet size for displaying photography. You can use our app on iPad but it’s not optimized yet for the tablet. We’ve just launched our Android app and plan some feature updates for the current iPhone app. But sure, tablet apps are something we are discussing more and more often.



Thanks to Lars for taking the time to answer our questions. The PicsaStock app is available now from the App Store.

Spacetime Studios' Greg Mueller Tells All About Battle Command's New Player-Driven Economy

Posted by Jennifer Allen on August 21st, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: BEEN THERE :: Read Review »


The recent update of Battle Command! has been quite a significant one, adding a new way of working together and sharing resources through a player-driven economy. The update adds a new resource in the form of Darium, which can be used to produce specialized troops and weapons. The unique part of this is that you can only gain the resource by working together and sharing other resources with your alliance mates. It's a new twist on a familiar format and has the potential to change a lot within the F2P empire building landscape.

Because of that, we took the time to talk to Lead Producer for the game, Greg Mueller, to learn more about how such a significant inclusion came to be.


148Apps: How did you come up with the new resource sharing system? What was the thinking behind it?
Greg Mueller (GM): Players in Battle Command! are very engaged with their Alliances. We have a boosting mechanic where players can send free production boosts and building speed-ups to their Alliance mates. This is a very popular feature in our game with close to 1 million boosts sent per day. We know players enjoy interacting with their Alliances, so we designed this new system to add even more depth and interaction to the Alliance play. We also wanted to give players a way to uniquely contribute to their friends in the game so we added the three resource types that can be shared. This way you might have Diamonds and I have Amber and we both benefit by sharing those with one another.


148Apps: In what way do you expect it to change how players interact with each other and play the game?
GM: This update will definitely add even more emphasis to being in an active Alliance. Players will be sharing more, chatting more, and helping out their friends in a variety of meaningful ways. It takes the social aspect of the game beyond simply chatting or donating troops. With this new Darium resource players will also be able to build six new offensive and defensive weapons, each of which adds a new layer of strategy to the game.


148Apps: How balanced is it? Will players now be pretty much expected to be part of an alliance in order to be successful?
GM: The vast majority of our mid- to high-level players are already in Alliances, so most players won’t have to change the way they play at all to enjoy this new system. We’ve spent a lot of time play testing this both internally and in public beta to make sure we keep the game balanced for players who choose not to join an Alliance.


148Apps: How will the story-arc be affected by this new resource and gathering method?
GM: The Darium update comes with its own original story. The update introduces a new class of units and defensive structures that all look, feel, and act very unique. We had a lot of fun with the story and artwork to make these new units feel powerful and mysterious and fun to use.


Thanks to Greg for taking the time to answer our questions.

Battle Command! is out now on the App Store.

Outcast Odyssey - An Interview with the Artists Behind Namco Bandai’s Upcoming Card Battler

Posted by Jordan Minor on August 21st, 2014

At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, fans got the chance to meet and mingle with several of the artists behind Magic Pixel Games and Namco Bandai’s upcoming card battler, Outcast Odyssey. Considering many of these artists have worked on comics in the past it seemed appropriate, and it was also the first time they got to meet each other. We spoke with two of the artists, Warren Louw and Chuck Pires, about their careers, their work on the game, and how posting your drawings on the internet can lead to bigger and better things.

148Apps: How did you begin your careers as artists?
Warren Louw: I’m pretty much just a blend between East and West. My style is a combination of Western comic artists like J. Scott Campbell, Michael Turner, and Adam Hughes crossed with some of the artists from the Far East like Tetsuya Nomura’s work on Final Fantasy VII and VIII. and Takuji Kawano who did the art for Soulcalibur. In South Africa, I got to the point where I started developing a style that was being recognized globally. Eventually I was being contacted by the bigger companies out there and started getting my work published. Things just grew and grew from there.

Chuck Pires: Around 14 or 15 I got started mostly doing comic colors. There was a studio called Hi-Fi design that did work for Marvel at the time. They were looking for comic colorists to put some stuff online and at the time all I wanted in the world was to be published so I responded. It was all just separation work, basic colors and layout, anybody could do it. But for a 15 or 16-year-old kid it was my dream come true. That got me more interested in digital art.

Go to Bed - An Interview With Touchfight Co-founders on Their Nightmarish "Bedroom Defense" Game

Posted by Jessica Fisher on August 19th, 2014

Touchfight Games is an exciting new indie studio that was co-formed between game journalist and author Nathan Meunier, artist Leonard Kenyon, and programmer Jon Kenyon. Their debut game Go To Bed will be released this fall, and with all the excitement we wanted to get to know Touchfight Games a little better. Nathan, Leonard, and Jon were kind enough to speak to us about their work.

Left to right: Leonard Kenyon, Jon Kenyon, Nathan Meunier

148Apps: What inspired you decide to go from writing about games to creating games?
Nathan: I've always been a huge fan of indie games in particular. Covering indies was one of my passions early-on in my career, and it's been a beat that I've really enjoyed focusing on throughout the past 8-9 years I've spent writing in the games industry. There's something about the fierce DIY spirit and inherent creativity in independent games made by small studios that's always resonated with me.

Prior to kicking off a journalism career over a decade ago, I actually dabbled with creating small games using a much earlier version of Game Maker. Back then, the indie scene as we know it today didn't exist. It was a different world, and I wasn't equipped to do much of anything with the rough game ideas I was putting together. Given that journalism was my chosen career path, I got a gig working at a newspaper and eventually transitioned into covering the games industry full-time as a freelancer.

It's been a great run in the games press, and I don't plan to give up freelancing altogether, but shifting gears to explore developing games has given me an a much-needed creative boost that's rekindled my passion for games. Also, I live out in the middle of nowhere and am used to working alone, so having an opportunity to collaborate on projects with two other local kindred spirits and my co-conspirators, Jon Kenyon and Leonard Kenyon, has been a blast, too. It's something that was missing from my freelance routine.

Going Open Source and How Simple Machine Hopes to Inspire Others

Posted by Jennifer Allen on August 13th, 2014

A few weeks ago, LEX developer Simple Machine took the unusual step of making the code for it open-source, thereby enabling anyone with the knowledge to manipulate the code in whatever manner they wished.

At the time Kurt Bieg, CEO of Simple Machine, explained their reasoning in doing so: "we believe ownership is becoming obsolete, this is our way of inspiring young and old people to read, learn, and ultimately manipulate code that came from a studio known for taking chances and innovating puzzle games."

A few weeks into making LEX open-source, and given the rarity of this occurring, we thought we'd take the time to follow up with Kurt and see how things have progressed.

One such outcome was this:

Simple Machine's 'dream outcome' according to Kurt, with coder Bill Kendrick having played LEX then used the source code to create a variant for the 8-bit Atari system.

"We don't have any quantifiable numbers on how many people read it or anything, but this made it real for us. The first point to point cause and effect. Now we just have to buy an Atari for the office so we can play it," explained Kurt.

Enlightening us on their motivations, Kurt told us about Chupamobile: a site where you can buy game code, press publish, and effectively make money with little effort.

"I was horrified at first, then I showed some of the team, and one person, Anne Peng, our community manager at the time who has since moved on, actually thought it was a good thing. Insta-curious.

"The team ended up having an hour long discussion about the depths of open sourcing our code or not. We talked about the Threes/2048 controversy, the 1982 Pac-man/K.C. Munchkin court case, and overall where everything in this whole crazy planet is heading."


Kurt went on to compare the situation to the Napster/Metallica issues of early 2000s. "We are moving towards an ownerless society, and the current "clone craze" in games is a path where the lines between who owns what are visibly blurring. What you have is an amazing new way for games to be distributed, where the code is available for everyone to read and learn from. Not everyone has the best intentions, that's for sure, but we feel like it's very parallel to the Napster/Metallica issues of early 2000s. Here we have a band that grew to popularity by people copying their songs on blank tapes off the radio, only to sue their fans for the very same behavior a couple decades later. In my view, we've been moving towards this sharable culture for quite some time, only now do we have the technology where it has become mainstream."

Kurt felt particularly invigorated by their decision when a vote of confidence came in the form of Elon Musk of Tesla opening up their patents to the public, suggesting that Simple Machine are onto the right idea when it comes to shareable culture.


One significant issue, however, is the financial aspect of open sourcing. How is Simple Machine planning to stay financially solvent if their code is available to everyone?

Kurt explained, "The answer is, we don't have an answer yet. We believe that Simple Machine is about being a window to new ideas. With each game we try innovate in some unexplored area, like The Outcast for instance. Open source has huge benefits for everyone involved. I can't say that we've seen any profit lost from doing it. I can say that our hearts are warm after seeing some one interpret LEX and demake it for Atari. You could maybe draw a line and say that open sourcing has connected us directly to more fans and that our reputation has grown in a new direction.

"Overall, we're happy some people are finding inspiration from our code and that it makes the overall developer/customer experience more than just a money transaction. It's a bit more of a two way street, and that's our ultimate goal."


It's certainly ambitious and ultimately very positive and selfless of the folks at Simple Machine. It'll be fascinating to see how things turn out in the long term for them and, of course, we'll be keeping an eye on their progress and future titles.

Thanks to Kurt Bieg for taking the time to answer our questions. LEX is available now from the App Store, priced at $0.99.

Why BitLit Could Revolutionize The E-Book Market

Posted by Jennifer Allen on August 13th, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Avid book readers will appreciate the dilemma. You want to buy a new book but do you want a physical copy or an e-book that you can more easily take with you while you're out and about? Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, making it a tough call.

There's a newly launched service that aims to solve this problem, though. It's called BitLit, and it hopes to revolutionize things when it comes to your ability to read whenever, however. Currently, over 120 publishers have signed up to the service with nearly 20,000 books available through it. A pilot deal has just been signed with HarperCollins, while other publishers such as O'Reilly and Angry Robot are also on board.

The way it works is that you simply take a photo of your book cover, write your name on the book's copyright page, take a snapshot of that, then send it through for your ownership to be validated. Then an eBook comes through in return; one that can be used on all of your devices - such as an iPad, Kindle, Kobo, or Nook.

We took the time to ask the firm a few questions to learn more about the service.

148Apps: How does the funding model for BitLit work? How do publishers gain from this approach?
BitLit: When a publisher offers the eBook for free, then it's free (as in beer) for everybody, we take no commission and the user gets a free eBook (who doesn't like free stuff). About 30% of the eBooks in BitLit are free. If the eBook isn't free, then BitLit takes a small commission from the sale -- that's how we keep the lights on and servers running.

The upside for publishers and authors is twofold: Firstly, print books that include a free/discounted eBook sell almost twice as well in bookstores than books that don't include a bundled eBook. Secondly, for books that people already own, there is the opportunity for an incremental upsale -- less than 1% of readers purchase titles at full price in both print and digital formats, 48% of readers say they're willing to pay slightly more to get both formats. Currently you can only buy print or digital; BitLit lets the author capture value on the reader who wants both.

148apps: Are there any plans for it to be possible to validate your purchase without writing in the book?
BitLit: We ask our users to validate the book by writing in it is so that the book can't be returned to a bookstore. But we know that readers sometimes don't want to have their messy writing in their book. For these folks, there's the option of using an Ex Libris book stamp to mark that the book is theirs.


148apps: How long does the process take before you can download a copy?
BitLit: If you have neat handwriting the process takes about 30 seconds. If the automated algorithms can't recognize your hand writing, then it might take up to 15 minutes for a human reviewer to validate your print edition. We deliver eBooks via email download link, so even if you use BitLit on your smartphone to validate the book, you can be reading on your iPad in less than a minute.

148apps: What plans are there for expansion to cover more titles?
BitLit: We have a dedicated content acquisition team whose job is to get in touch with publishers. We already have some great publishers like HarperCollins, O'Reilly, and Angry Robot on board... and we're in talks with a lot of other great publishers that we hope will be joining soon. Stay tuned.


Thanks to the folks at BitLit for answering our questions. The app is available now and is a free download. To check what books are eligible, you can consult the BitLit website.

Simply Legal - Talking with Abe Geiger. About Shake, the Legal Document Assistance App

Posted by Jessica Fisher on June 24th, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Abe Geiger

You can lose yourself in contracts with fine print and hundreds of pages legalese. Abe Geiger, Ceo of Shake Inc., wanted to simplify it all and make legal documents less scary. Shake is an app that creates legal documents by offering templates or allowing users to create their own by answering a few simple questions. The app is designed to walk small business owners through the process using simple language and allows the parties involved to sign the document electronically.

In a day and age where people sell items on Craigslist or want to loan a friend some cash, not everyone can find the time or the money to hire a lawyer for every small transaction. Shake makes these smaller contracts possible. The Shake blog also offers a ton of educational posts about legal issues and contacts.

After learning about the Shake app at the Northside Tech festival in Brooklyn, we had the pleasure of speaking with Abe Geiger. about Shake's history and its future.

148Apps: What made you decide to make an app specifically designed for legal documents?

Abe Geiger (AG): My background was in start-ups and small businesses in the New York and Bay area, and I saw that a lot of entrepreneurs paid a lot of money for legal documents. I wanted to get rid of the headaches of creating contracts and simplify the language using plain English. I wanted to make Shake as easy to use as possible.

148Apps: How secure is the user's information with Shake?

AG: Shake's security has high standards. Using encryption and password protection, it is more secure than most email where you would be sending a document around to be signed. We are planning on increasing the security in Shake for Business with a new feature that allows you to take a picture of the person along with their signature.

148Apps: What sort of expansions or updates do you see for Shake in the future?

AG: We are currently working on a lot of updates right now. We should have Shake available for Android coming very soon, and we are working on Shake for the web. We have introduced a pilot, business-focused mobile app for parties who already have their own contracts. We're working with 15 different partners currently to create Shake for Business with forms like photo releases and sale contracts. It will have premium features for small and medium businesses.


Thanks to Abe Geiger for taking the time to answer our questions.

80 Days: Inkle's New Interactive Story Set to be its Best Yet

Posted by Jennifer Allen on May 27th, 2014

We're big fans of inkle's work here at 148apps, even if the lower case "i" does make my Grammar Hat twitch uncomfortably. So, the news of a new project coming from the studio was bound to get us excited. That project is 80 Days, an ambitious narrative-focused game inspired by the work of Jules Verne that utilizes a fairly cool steampunk theme.

Players take the role of Passepartout as he helps (and suffers) Phileas Fogg on their epic journey around the world in 80 days. Set for release this Summer, 80 Days promises plenty of different paths to success with many decisions to take, much like in the Sorcery! series of games. Perhaps most interesting of all, there'll be a networked live feed ensuring that players can keep track of what's going on with other players, all in real time.

Fascinated by the general premise, I was able to discuss the game with inkle's Jon Ingold and Joe Humfrey, as well as the game's writer, Meg Jayanth, to learn more.

Dynamite Jack Free: Why Phil Hassey Thinks This Free Version Could Change the Way Players Play His Game

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014

After Phil Hassey's release of BREAKFINITY, the fast-paced endless Breakout game, he's taking another stab at the world of free games: by releasing a free version of Dynamite Jack, his explosive 2012 action game - creatively entitled Dynamite Jack Free. While plenty of developers are starting to release free ad-supported games thanks to Flappy Bird's success, this is one of the bigger attempts at such a release. As such, I spoke to Phil Hassey about what he's doing with Dynamite Jack Free.

148Apps: Many of the games that have gone with the free-with-ads route are simpler games: ones like Flappy Bird, and your own BREAKFINITY. Why take this route with a deeper game like Dynamite Jack? Was BREAKFINITY's performance a motivator in this regard?

Phil Hassey: Dynamite Jack came out almost two years ago, so it's sales have run down pretty thin at this point. Since I did all the work to set up ads in BREAKFINITY it was pretty trivial to set up Dynamite Jack with the same thing.

I am really curious how well it will do. It's definitely totally different from your typical ad supported game. I guess we'll find out soon enough if the free crowd is ready for this kind of experience or not!

148Apps: Why did you go with the continues-as-monetization IAP system?

Phil Hassey: I'm not really an ad monetization guru or anything, since BREAKFINITY is my first ad supported game, and it's only been out for over a month. Over the past year I had given thought to doing a F2P version of Dynamite Jack, with various ideas like "buying bombs" or whatever. However, changes like that would have seriously impacted the gameplay in ways I wasn't too excited about.

So doing the continues is nice, because it doesn't change the gameplay at all. If anything it makes the death experience sightly more intense because the penalty for death is greater than in the paid version of the game. I think the monetization will actually make the game have a slightly greater emphasis on stealth than the paid version.

148Apps: You have an IAP for unlimited continues for $4.99. Was there any thought given to making this a higher price than what the main game is available for?

Phil Hassey: About 6 months ago I changed the iOS price to $4.99 for the paid version. So the IAP for unlimited continues just matches that. I upped the price on Dynamite Jack because I think it's a solid game and people definitely get their $4.99 of entertainment out of it. Some of the players who have gotten into the game have played for hundreds of hours thanks to the community maps.

148Apps: Is there a particular threshold where you see this being worth the time and effort put into it?

Phil Hassey: I really only spent a couple days putting this together, so it doesn't need to do a whole lot to break even on my time. But really, in terms of being an experiment with how well a hard-core iOS game works in the ad supported market, the answer to the question "Will this work at all?" is going to be worth finding out.

If it's found that you can make more heavy games and support them through ads, we might see more games going that route. Or maybe we'll find out that this sort of game just works best as a paid-only title.

148Apps: If this is successful, do you fear that perhaps it could be part of a movement where players expect more free games, monetized primarily with ads? And if so, do you think that it is good for the App Store market?

Phil Hassey: I think anything that helps indies find new ways to support their art is great! The more avenues there are to being able to make games full-time the more chances there are that great games are going to be made. Another great thing about ad supported games is how they can reach a wider audience. People who don't have the means to purchase paid games can play free ad supported games.

148Apps: Depending on how this does, would you ever consider releasing a future game initially with a free version like this? Perhaps even one of the Galcon games?

Phil Hassey: I'm still working on Galcon 2, which is going to be F2P. I'm still working out the details, but my experiences with BREAKFINITY and Dynamite Jack FREE are certainly giving me more insight into how to make it work out. I expect Galcon 2 will contain "earn more Galcoins by watching videos" options for those who want more in game currency but don't have the means to pay for it.

Thanks to Phil Hassey for his time.


DeNA and Scattered Entertainment's Isolani: Producer David Simard on the Interesting Free-to-Play First-Person Shooter Experiment

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 15th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

via Twitter
Isolani, the latest first-person shooter from DeNA and Scattered Entertainment, creators of The Drowning, is a curious game. It tries to bring a story-based FPS into the structure of games like Candy Crush Saga, particularly with recharging lives and a linear progression, as opposed to the mission-based structure of The Drowning. David Simard, a producer on Isolani with Scattered Entertainment, took some time to answer questions about the game.

dEXTRIS Creator Frank Condello of Chaotic Box Discusses the Game's Creation and Why it's Free with Ads

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 14th, 2014

Frank Condello is the solo developer behind Chaotic Box, now well-known for dEXTRIS, which has surpassed one million downloads and become one of his most popular games. Condello has been at work on the App Store for years now, but this stands as one of his biggest releases yet. Condello was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions about dEXTRIS, and what it means for him.

Chris Sawyer, Creator of Transport Tycoon: Why this 1994 Game is Premium in a 2014 World of Free-to-Play

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 9th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: ROUND :: Read Review »

Image via Pocket Tactics
Transport Tycoon, the mobile version of Chris Sawyer’s classic simulation game where players help manage an empire of planes, trains, and automobiles, recently received a big update with new levels, scenarios, music, and general improvements. With that in mind, Chris Sawyer took some time out to answer some questions about the game, and give his thoughts on gaming now.

148Apps: What was the impetus behind bringing the Transport Tycoon back now in 2014?
Chris Sawyer (CS): The latest mobile and tablet platforms were perfect for the game with their power, high resolution screens, and touch screen interface. It just made sense to bring the game to these platforms.

148Apps: Did mobile change the way that you approached the gameplay of Transport Tycoon?
CS: We set out to keep the complex and detailed gameplay as unchanged as possible because that's what's at the core of Transport Tycoon, and the technology in modern mobiles and tablets allowed us to do that. We improved the user experience with the touch screen interface and enhanced display of the game world as well as other in-game information.

148Apps: What is the one aspect of the 1994 game market that you think 2014 needs?
CS: A reliable way for players to find the good games amongst the not-so-good. In 1994, the information about new games was quite limited, but also very thorough. By reading magazines, you could find out which games might appeal and which were worth spending money on. Nowadays, there are so many games being sold (or given away) and marketed in so many ways, it's very difficult for the good games to shine based on merit rather than clever advertising or social media manipulation.

148Apps: Conversely, what would the 1994 market be improved by something in 2014?
CS: Back in 1994, there was only one way to publish games, which was selling boxed products through a publisher and distributor. Now there are dozens of ways of publishing games and most of them mean a more streamlined and cheaper distribution channel.

148Apps: Free-to-play is obviously a huge deal now, but Transport Tycoon has launched at a premium price. Why was this chosen?
CS:Transport Tycoon always was and still is a premium game. It is a game with considerable detail and depth of gameplay, and making it free-to-play with in-app purchases would have ruined the depth of the game. We wanted players to be able to become immersed in the gameplay and not be faced by frustrating restrictions or demands for payment while playing.

148Apps: Has the premium price worked out for the game?
CS: It is working out for the game, but it's proving a challenge as we're perhaps the first to try publishing such a detailed strategy game as a fully-paid app. We have also published a free Lite version with limited gameplay, which helps a lot too. The Lite version allows players to get a feel for the game before moving towards purchasing the full version. We've also found that keeping the game well-supported is important. The development team is continuing to fine tune and enhance the game with regular updates and support for players.

148Apps: iOS versus Android, what do you see as the biggest difference between the overall worlds of games on each platform?
CS: The main difference is the distribution model on each. iOS is considerably more controlled and streamlined and Android is less controlled, but each has their own benefits.

Thanks to Chris Sawyer for his time.

Bush League: Why Dirk Hayhurst, Baseball Player Turned Author & Analyst, Decided to Create a Baseball Parody Game

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 1st, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Source: dirkhayhurst.com
Bush League is, on its surface, a curious game: it's essentially a baseball take on Puzzle Quest, featuring crude parodies of famous players and figures around the sport, using performance-enhancing drugs that serve as the game's special powers. But it's the creator of the game that is particularly noteworthy. Dirk Hayhurst is a former baseball player who's become an author of several best-selling books about his life in baseball and some of the things that fans don't necessarily see about the culture. He's also become a provocative analyst, and was part of the post-game show on TBS for the 2013 MLB playoffs. And now he's a game developer, and he took the time to talk to me about this baseball parody he's helped to create.

The genesis of Bush League came about when Hayhurst noticed that "There's no good baseball game out there that kind of trolls baseball. You have all these scandals every year, but you never to seem to have a game that has all these players and all the drama they get into. And it's such a big thing right now in Major League Baseball to get caught using steroids, right? I thought, why can't we just make a game where you have to use steroids to win, and just troll the entire industry? I'm kind of like a black sheep of the baseball world anyways, and I always have kind of shown the other side of it, I thought, this is a great premise for a video game. Let's make Candy Crush with steroids."

The hook to Bush League is in the way that it tries to parody baseball. Famous players and other figures around the sport both past and present are the opponents that populate the game, and their personalities and dialogue make light of things that, say, MLB: The Show or RBI Baseball 14 would never touch.

Hayhurst's unafraid to make fun of situations that he was involved in. There's one character, Purcey Tweeps, who parodies David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Hayhurst criticized Price's performance after a playoff game he lost, and Price insulted Hayhurst's playing career and said "SAVE IT NERDS.". Purcey in the game makes reference to social media and to the nerds comment. Everything is a bit crude and over-the-top, but meant to, as Hayhurst says, "troll baseball" and "[service] that idea that baseball takes itself too seriously and needs a good mocking every now and then just to keep things even."


While Hayhurst financed the development of the game and his name is on it, he didn't just slap his name on it - he played an active role in development. "I was in charge of the art direction, the music direction... all the powers, I had to nest all the AI development, I had to decide the way it was going to look, the way it was going to feel, I had a say in all of that. At times I frustrated the guy doing the code, but it was a learning experience. And so there were things that I learned taking a shot at making a game that I never would have learned had I pursued a degree." Hayhurst says he realized his strengths were "the writing, and designing the characters and how the game should feel, and my coder had his strengths, which was taking all these wild ideas I had, parsing them down, teaching me the ropes, and making them work in the actual game.


Hayhurst doesn't want Bush League to be a static product either: he wants to, over time, update the game to incorporate other notorious events and scandals as characters and powers. He says he would love to tackle other sports in a similar way.

But given that he's created this media career for himself, is Hayhurst afraid of the blowback that could come from this parody of the sport and its players that he's created? He says "I don't think of the church of baseball as some holy sacrament that everyone has to be reverential to, especially guys like me that didn't have long careers. This kind of stuff deserves to get picked on a little bit, because it's quite ridiculous when you think about it. I have always done that. And I understand because I'm in the sports entertainment field, I'm criticizing the sports entertainment field. I'm not criticizing these individual players, I'm criticizing the Franken-player that we've made out of them by knowing very little about who they are and taking what we know publicly and hyping it up, and turning it into something it isn't. That is what I've always done, and that's what got me on TBS and ultimately keep it from it at some point, but that's who I am, and that's the style that I like to work in."

Thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for his time. Bush League is available now.