As part of GameSalad's Community Love Week, we will be profiling and interviewing several key developers within the GameSalad community. In today's installment, we interview GameSalad Sous Chef, Kyle Sanderson (@Eastbound). He discusses his game development with GameSalad, his game Alpha Swarm, and why marketing is such an important part of game development.
GameSalad: Hey Kyle! Thanks for this LONG overdue interview! I know we originally contacted you last summer and wanted to talk to you about your story. And now, thanks to Community Love Week we have the perfect chance to revisit things and talk more about you and your game, Alpha Swarm!
Kyle: Thanks! I was glad to hear that the blog feature was back on!
GameSalad: Let's get started! Tell us a little about your background.
Kyle: I am a Computer Science major at Texas Tech University.
GameSalad: What were you doing before you discovered GameSalad?
Kyle: I was trying to teach myself xCode, so that I could make iPhone apps, and actually made a few basic ones before I found GameSalad. I would spend my summers making games that only a handful of people would even see, so I had a lot of time to improve my ability in both the art and programming aspects of game design. And the computer science courses in high school and college certainly don't hurt!
GameSalad: What made you interested in game design?
Kyle: I think I've always had a fascination with creating things. I was really into Legos as a kid, and I eventually started to experiment with making games around age 12. After seeing my creations come to life on the computer, there was no way you could stop me from making games!
GameSalad: How did you discover GameSalad?
Kyle: I was researching different development kits when I became frustrated with learning xCode one night. I experimented with GameSalad and picked it up very quickly. On the first day of development I was able to see my prototype running on the phone, and I knew this software was too interesting to not explore further.
GameSalad: Thats awesome to hear! Tell us about the types of games that you like to make.
Kyle: I've worked with quite a few genres, but I always find myself returning to making 2D shooters. I like my games to have guns and explosions! My most recent game, Alpha Swarm, is a pretty complex 2D shooter and was in development for 7 months. Next I'd like to explore the world of casual gaming a bit. There's so many options in the world of game design that I really want to get my hands on every type of game at some point.
GameSalad: What else inspires your game development?
Kyle: To put it simply: everything. Other games, my day to day interactions, sports, tv, movies, books, everything. There are so many small events that trigger an "Oh that would be a great game idea" thought that I sometimes struggle to write them all down! Sleepless nights are definitely when I have the most inspiration, though.
GameSalad: I want to go back and talk a little more about Alpha Swarm. How did you first get the idea for that game? Any particular inspirations for it?
Kyle: To be honest, I'm not totally sure. I had the idea for selecting platforming abilities and weapons to strategically complete levels a couple of years ago. The rest just came together from jotting down ideas when I had them and slowly building the game from there.
GameSalad: Tell us about the development process. What roadblocks did you encounter? What parts of the game were you excited or proud of?
Kyle: I encountered my largest roadblock during alpha testing when I first had other players playing the game. The controls were hard for players to use, the camera didn't move to show more of the levels, it was hard for players to judge jumping distance, etc. A lot of changes were made after that round of testing.
I was most proud of the original concept. I think it's a pretty cool premise that integrates a lot of different genres, and I haven't personally seen another quite like it.
GameSalad: What was the initial reaction to Alpha Swarm when you published the first version?
Kyle: It had great reception, it just didn't have many downloads. I think the icon, screenshots, and some of the more complicated gameplay mechanics hurt its sales. But most importantly, I didn't spend enough effort into marketing from early on in development.
GameSalad: Tell us about the decision to overhaul the game and relaunch it. What did you learn from the experience and how did that knowledge effect the game development decisions that you are making for Alpha Swarm (and for future games)?
Kyle: The decision to overhaul it just came from my displeasure with the sales performance, and the nagging feeling that I could make it so much better than it currently is.
Like I said earlier, advertising is so important. You aren't guaranteed a featured spot on the App Store, so exposure is hard to come by. Marketing is usually the last thing a developer wants to do, but it's too important to be ignored.
GameSalad: Thanks so much for sharing with us Kyle. We are excited to share your story with the GameSalad community, and best of luck with Alpha Swarm!