Starting today, I’ll be bringing monthly developer updates from the world of indie game development. This month, I’ll start by letting everyone in on the story so far…
Way back in 2011 I had the crazy idea of quitting my job to do two things: 1) spend more time with the kids, and 2) start up an indie developer studio.
The first one was a pretty natural extension of the fact that my Wife and I had just moved my Family up to Colorado Springs from Albuquerque, and we needed someone who would be able to take care of the kids when they are not in school (which is more often than they are in school, especially in December!). My former career in the aerospace industry required quite a bit of travel, which is no longer a viable option – the kids start getting surly when their dinner is late! Which means that I get to stay at home and wait for the phone to ring telling me to pick up the kids. In the mean time however, I would have quickly gone off the rails if I didn’t pick up something to do. Anything.
Some friends of mine had recently started up an iOS studio called Terminal Eleven, and were have a pretty good go at it, with a very cool augmented reality app called Sky View (App Store) in several stores, and having recently started making enough money off the prospect that all three of them were able to quit their day jobs and work on their projects full time. Having over a decade of developing experience myself, I figured it would be easy… right? Right about that time a former co-worker of mine approached me to start up a partnership developing iOS apps. He had heard through our mutual friends at Terminal Eleven that I was looking to start something up as well, and contacted me. So with that, we formed Gecko LLC, purchased a couple of Macs and a few iPhones, iPads, and iPods, and got down to the business of coding.
At this point let me introduce you to the team. I’m Eric. You’ll see much of the updates coming from me, as I’m a stay at home Dad who writes code in between runs to ballet and piano practice while trying to stay warm up in Black Forest, CO (it’s 1 degree F outside and snowing as I write this). My partner in Gecko LLC is Erik. Erik lives down in Albuquerque where the weather is much much warmer, where he stays up all night writing code after putting in a full day at a job that actually pays him (gasp!).
Our first project, our “Hello World” project was to be a simple timer app. We went through a good dozen or so ideas before this one, and tossed them out mostly because they were too complex. We settled on this idea because it was simple. We didn’t expect to really make any money with it, but it would serve to teach us how to work within Apple’s playground: transitioning into Objective C, working with Macs, working with the App Store, integrating the various frameworks needed, and figuring out what it would take to make some money at this. We spent about three months developing Final Count (App Store), and polishing it for release into the App Store on May 21, 2012. We learned a lot, made less money than we’d spent on equipment, and had some fun.
Our next project was a free version of the same app. We asked around, read a lot of articles, and looked at our own abysmal sales numbers, and decided that we needed something to allow us to get in front of more users. We needed a beachhead, so to speak, where we could put our work in front of people, which would in turn result in more downloads. Since we had already spent all our (pathetically small) seed money on equipment and fees, we couldn’t afford advertising. We decided that releasing a free version with most of the same features as the paid version with the addition of some ads would be that tool. We spent another month retooling Final Count as a free app, which was released as Final Count Free (App Store) into the App Store on June 3, 2012. Downloads were definitely higher for Final Count Free, and we did see a small uptick in downloads for Final Count as a result.
For our next project, we decided to go full throttle and build a game from the ground up. Erik had a great idea for a game that took the best parts of casual games like Words With Friends, and merged it back into mainstream gaming. The end result is a game that is as intense as it is fun. A game that you can pick up and play for hours straight, or for 2 minutes between meetings. A game that immerses you with great music and high speed action, but at its core is simple to understand and learn. String Theory: a Word Game (App Store) was 10 months in the making, and was finally released into the App Store on April 30, 2013.
We had learned a few things from our previous apps, and this time invested in Press Releases, Twitter and Blog Posts, promo videos, and even stooped to begging our friends on Facebook and in back corners of coffee shops to please BUY OUR APP! We sold a few copies that month, and a few more the next…
The original plan for String Theory was as a multi player game, where you could play head to head against your friends or strangers. This is the plan for our next app: String Theory: Duo. Currently in development, we’re reworking the core of String Theory: a Word Game to operate in a multiplayer environment.
Which brings us up to date… Starting next month I’ll be bringing monthly updates with our progress and issues as we continue to work towards a viable developer shop.