Appmodo Interviews Distinctive Developments, Creators of Heli Rescue
Every month, a large number of development companies enter the newly forming mobile gaming industry. Having developed mobile games for over 8 years for numerous gaming platforms, Distinctive Developments are beginning to make their mark in the App Store with the iPhone. We sat down with Nigel Little, Managing Director of Distinctive Developments, to discuss their experiences in the mobile gaming industry, how Apple and the iPhone have seriously changed how games are developed, and how working for clients like Eidos, I-play, Sega, NAMCO and Konami have helped their reputation grow.
Company Name: Distinctive Developments
Name: Nigel Little
Title: Managing Director
Company URL: http://www.distdevs.co.uk
Q: How do you think the iPhone has revolutionized the mobile phone industry?
We’ve been developing mobile games for 8 years and we’ve always passionately believed in the potential of mobile gaming. However there has always been problems with the ecosystem that prevented it from achieving that potential. Issues with customers being able to easily find and buy games, device fragmentation and the lack of phones manufactures to take gaming seriously. iPhone has, in a very short amount of time, changed all this and, whilst problems still remain, we’ve seen some really great innovative games that take advantage of this mobile games device.
Q: How do you think the iPhone has revolutionized the portable gaming industry with contenders such as Sony and Nintendo?
We’re big fans of both Sony and Nintendo and all that they have achieved in the games industry. What iPhone has done, and needed someone from outside of gaming to do this, is to create a device that is good at a number of things. The iPhone is a great web brewer, a great music player, a great video player AND a great games player. This has extended the audience for games just like Wii has. So, people buy an iPod Touch or iPhone for one reason but then discover that it’s also got these amazing games so are then converted to the idea of playing games on the go.
Q: What separates your company from your competitors with mobile phone applications?
As one of the larger independent iPhone games developer we have lots of different skills and experiences within the company that we can draw upon. Using this experience we can make high quality games efficiently with high production values. Also, our years of experience of developing mobile games gives us a deep insight into how people play games on the go and we can tailer the game to make it easier to pick-up and play.
Q: What is your company background, size (employees, developers, etc), and company inspirations?
The company was started 15 years ago as a console developer working on consoles from 3DO right through to N64. We switched to focus entirely on mobile gaming in 2001. We now employ 45 people across 3 offices – UK, Poland & San Diego. Over the years we’ve worked for most of the major mobile games publishers such as EA, Eidos, I-play, Sega, NAMCO and Konami.
Q: Do you outsource any projects or development, if so, how much?
In the past the only parts of a project we’ve outsourced has been the creation of music and sound effects. As iPhone projects become more complex and if the outsourcing company can add value to a game then we’ll consider moving more of the development to outsource companies. However, the quality of the game is paramount – it’s not purely a question of cost.
Q: Advancements in graphics and animations in the mobile phone industry have astronomically grown within the past couple of years. How much time does your company devote to graphical, animation, and sound production for mobile applications? Are there areas that you focus on?
A lot of time is spent on the creative side of our games. We start off with 2 or 3 concepts for the artwork for a game and then narrow it down to one over time. Then, once we have the ‘visual style’ locked down then the art is created and tweaked to make sure we are making it slick and that it enhances the game rather than being too visually complex.
Q: How many applications has your company planned, developed, or created at any given time?
We currently have 5 projects in development at any one time. This is a mixture of mobile phones game development and iPhone development.
Q: What do you think of the iPhone Operating System in comparison to other mobile platforms? Are Apple’s competitors finally producing a comparable product or has the iPhone already monopolized the niche market?
At the moment I don’t think anyone can claim to have a better OS than iPhone. I think that iPhone has focussed the minds of these other manufactures and they are catching up but it’s going to be at least another year before we see anyone really challenging them – especially in terms of ease of use of the device and how developer friendly they are.
Q: Is your company currently developing for other mobile platforms, if so, which ones and why?
We develop for a wide range of platform – J2ME, BREW, Symbian, N-Gage, PSP, DSi and iPhone.
Q: Marketing an application can be a very difficult task. With so many applications being developed and released on a daily basis, capturing user attention in an App Store is challenging. What have you found to be an effective way to market your products to users?
It is difficult to get noticed but there are things that can be done to make sure your games don’t become lost. Firstly, you have to engage with the community by posting to the forums and get them involved with the development of the game before it’s launched. Make sure you are communicating with the iPhone review sites but understand that they are sometimes swamped with apps to review. Having a good-looking game icon and game name is very important so that your app stands out from the crowd. All this will help give you some initial sales that might get your app into one of the charts. Then, the performance of the app is down to how good it is so you really need to make sure what you make is good quality so that the user reviews keep the sales going. If the app is good and, to a large extent lucky, you’ll be featured by Apple and that has a huge impact on sales!
Q: Following the response above, what do you think of the store review process? Is it helping or hurting your business? What are some recommendations in order to speed up this process?
Apple’s whole ethos is that all developers & publishers are treated equally whether you’re a one man band or a multi-billion dollar publisher, which is entirely right. This does mean that they do have a lot of apps to review at any one time. The thing that would help us the most is if you could see the status of your app and where it was in the queue. If you could see an expected review completion date then that would really help plan marketing and promotion. They are listening and trying to make it more transparent.
Q: What are your thoughts on the App Store user reviews and the ability to monitor them?
User reviews can be abused by developer & publishers so that taints them a little but once the game has been in the charts for a couple of weeks the true opinion of a game comes through. They have helped us to decide what features to improve in updates and that connection with real customers is very important to us.
Q: What is your favorite application?
My current favourite is either Backbreaker Football or Canabalt, can’t decide!
Q: What is your most popular application? Have you received any awards or achievements for that application?
Rugby Nations 09 has been our most successful game on iPhone so far.
Thank you Nigel Little of Distinctive Developments for your time!
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Filed: Games • Interviews • iPhone • News