To date I’ve designed, developed, and published a couple of iPhone games and am currently knee deep in a third, and as of this weekend a fourth. Whilst I don’t yet feel that I have enough experience to advise you on what to do to ensure success, I can turn it on it’s head and tell you my top 10 don’ts of iPhone game development. Here they are…
1) Don’t give up
This is easily my most important don’t. It takes vast amounts of commitment and drive to develop games independently (especially if you’re trying to hold down a job too). There will be ample opportunity to take the easy option and throw in the towel… don’t. Hopefully you’ll get lots of enjoyment out of developing and the experience of seeing your game out there should keep you going between games.
2) Don’t leave sound design until the last minute
I have first hand experience of this. Rocket Santa had a very tight development schedule and performance issues (requiring a complete refactoring of the code) made the schedule even tighter. I left sound until a few nights before submission and the result really brings down the quality of the game. Retrofitting your game with sounds is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Iterate your sound in the same way you iterate your graphics and code.
3) Don’t copy other games
Take your inspiration from other games but try to create something unique. It will help you stand out from the other games in the App store. I think we’re all getting tired of the number of clones in the App store. Its difficult to be unique but ultimately worth it.
4) Don’t leave marketing until the last minute
Marketing is so important for iPhone games. Whilst I have had exposure for both Star Fusion and Rocket Santa, I left marketing far too late on both. The result is that you drown amidst the hundreds of thousands of other apps on the store. You need to build anticipation before your game launches and then get as much exposure as possible on the day of launch.
5) Don’t do it for the money
There’s no doubt that there is money to be made on the App store. If your game is compelling and you put the work in, the monetary reward may follow. However, this isn’t always the case and banking on it could lead to disappointment. Focus on creating a great game and getting it in peoples hands, the money will hopefully follow and means you can keep doing what you love – making games.
6) Don’t expect to have a hit
Its getting less and less likely that your iPhone game will be a huge hit. Over the past year your odds have gone from around 50,000/1 to 225,000/1. There is, however, plenty of opportunity to have some success if you can get the marketing right.
7) Don’t develop your game in secret
I’m sure some developers will disagree with this. In my opinion, when you are a small independent developer, you can’t afford to hide your game away expecting it to be a huge hit when you unleash it upon the world. It works for big companies but they often have a pedigree which almost assures them a good number of sales. This ties into marketing and you should begin talking about and demonstrating your game as soon as its in a fit state.
8) Don’t listen to the negativity of others
Whatever you do in life there’s always someone out there ready to belittle you. Its a fact of life that these people are often the ones who don’t actually have the drive to do anything themselves. It takes absolutely no effort to take the easy path but it takes guts and determination to try and better yourself. Stay true to your dreams.
9) Don’t stop learning
There’s always more you can learn and in doing so you’ll grow your skills, and the quality of the games you produce will also improve. Also, I know that most people have a discipline at which they excel but you should try to learn a little bit about all areas of game production (Game design, time management, graphics, sound, code, marketing, etc). If you work with others, this will help you to be sympathetic to their plights and will give you an insight into how other areas of game production fit into the grand scheme.
10) Don’t forget what’s important
Honestly, its so easy to get wrapped up in game development that you forget about what is going on around you. I remember reading somewhere about the founder of Digg and how he ended up alienating friends and even losing his girlfriend over the creation of Digg. I’ve also read similar things from Stephen King in his excellent book “On Writing – A memoir of the craft” (if you haven’t already, read it now!). King talks about how he has a small desk, tucked out of the way, where he writes. When he writes there, that is all he does. This allows him to separate his writing from his family life. Don’t let your game development engulf your life, it’s better that it enhances it.
So there you have it, my 10 don’ts of iPhone game development. I hope you found it useful and agree with at least some of them. Any other developers out there have any “Don’ts” they’d like to share?