The Tiger And The Spider: From AAA To App Store
November 11, 2009 Page 4 of 6
You're talking about hoping to find someone to essentially be an art director for the project. Do you think it would be important to fill those roles? That has a sort of studio ring to it -- like you want to have the game have an art director and a technical director and like a creative director.
RS: We're very extremely multiple-discipline. We're very much generalists in this field. I wrote code for the game that populated the levels because we didn't have a level editor. David did design work. He like came up with a lot of the ideas for the insects, and the game modes came really from him, and so forth. And I did a bunch of the art that shipped for the game and so forth.
What we really want is somebody who's like that, but with the focus on art. David focuses on programming, I focus on design, and we want somebody that focuses on art, and then we have sort of like a holy trinity of predictability, where things move forward at a pretty predictable pace. And then our other collaborators would be in like a halo of contributing and improving quality. That would be the ideal.
DK: The hard part, though, is that the market is such that adding a third full-time partner would potentially made it more difficult for us to recoup costs.
RS: Unless we didn't do a game like Spider...
DK: Unless it scales up -- the value of our next game.
Many developers seem unhappy with the "race to the bottom" on the iPhone. But you also often hear, "But you've got to do it," either temporarily or permanently.
RS: I don't know if I hear anyone but us saying, "You don't have to do it." I think we really wanted to say, "You don't have to do it," in our presentation, and I haven't heard that echoed. I don't know if it's straight up disagreement. We're not getting into fistfights with other [developers]...
DK: Especially because I don't know with 100 percent confidence that our decision to stay at $2.99 is ultimately the right decision.
Yeah, I don't think that doing constant price drops and price manipulation is really good for the market as a whole. People are chasing short-term profits at the expense of a long-term, healthier platform. That's the nature of the market right now.
One thing Apple can do and they actually just did is the "By Revenue" charts. I think that sort of information helps people who are making products make better decisions about whether or not a price drop is actually worthwhile, and maybe we'll see prices kind of swing back upwards over time.
RS: The one I want is a Ratings chart. This is even for my own selfish reason as a consumer. I really like music apps, so I always go to the music category. I'm like, "Oh, I want to buy a little hand synth toy or something." You see one that sounds promising, you browse in and see that it's got like two and a half stars, which basically means it's poison on the App Store. If anything gets less than 3 stars, it's probably not very good.
So, I'm like, "Well, where's the good ones?" I just want to be able to sort by rating. "Oh, here's a cluster of them that have done really well in the four and five range. Which one of these do I want to buy?" That would help a lot, too, to drive something in the App Store based on perceived quality. That would be pretty good.
DK: It seems potentially dangerous because you can game that system a lot more easily than you can game sales.
RS: That might be the reluctance, there.
DK: And also, how do you balance games that have only been reviewed a small number of times, versus stuff that's been reviewed a lot? But yeah, still just more searching capabilities helps consumers make more informed decisions and I think will ultimately help the business owners make better decisions about how to price their product.
You were talking about the expansion of the development cycle for this game. Was it primarily because you couldn't find the art solution that you wanted? What contributed to that?
RS: It was all the reasons we talked about. I think the long haul was content. It was level art. And so we had a very complete alpha, with very strict definitions for the phases, which doesn't often happen in triple-A studios. We had an alpha two thirds of the way through the project. We knew every single level we were going to design, develop, and art up. It just took the rest of the project to finish that.
And there were a couple of little things that trailed in at the end, like the insect animations that we had to figure out how to get done. But mostly it was the level art. It was partially our inability to predictably schedule how long things would get done on the art side because we're trying to work with this group of artists, [instead of] someone who is full time in the art capacity.
Partially the quality creep thing I was talking about, where it's hard not to do a little bit better when you know how to do a little bit better. It was like this urge to make like everything as good as possible.
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