Indie Game Developer Interview: Julian Crooke (Boo Radley Games)

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I was on a holiday in Singapore for the past 3 days but now I’m back, lets get things started (well this is the second post since I’ve gotten back, the first being the Merdeka Raya thing over here) with an Indie Game Developer Interview with Julian Crooke from Boo Radley Games.

This awesome chap has been kind enough to answer our infamous 5, now 6, interview questions with insights on what drives him, the inspiration behind his game PubbleBop (check out the review here) and some healthy dose of advice to all you aspiring game developers out there:

Nine Over Ten 9/10: Tell us more about yourselves and how you started developing mobile games?

Julian Crooke (JC): Boo Radley Games is currently just me with a little help from friends when they are available. I started developing games at the age of 14 on the Commodore 64, and worked on console games in the late 90s at Tantalus Entertainment. After completing my degree, I left the games industry to work in anti-virus for some years.

But once you’ve got the bug for making games, it won’t let you go. So about 5 years ago I left the anti-virus industry to have another crack at it. I started working on a PC title, then that moved over to mobile, and then it was finally put on hold for various reasons, and work on PubbleBop started just under a year ago.

9/10: What was the idea behind PubbleBop?

JC: I was hoping someone would ask that! There was a vertical 2.5D shooter (yet unreleased) I was making in my own time when still working at the old job. It had 3 different colours of gems to collect as you play, as suggested by a friend at the time. The different colours can buy different categories of upgrades/supplies.

Then I decided as an experimental sub-game aspect to make those gems create more gems if you collected the same colour in a row, so if you controlled the ship skillfully you could generate more gems for yourself until they petered out much the way Pubbles might. This is where the PubbleBop idea came from, and even the popping distributions are not much different from that game 5 years ago!

9/10: How has the response been to PubbleBop on the iTunes App Store?

JC: I’m still a naive games developer and not a marketing person, and even though I had a plan, there was a lack of advertising and coordinated promotion when PubbleBop was initially released. In the iOS games market, indie games are competing for discovery with offerings from much bigger and more established game vendors. Soon after the first major update, there will be a Lite version released which should boost sales.

Luckily, positive reactions from players and reviewers have kept me going so far, but I’m looking at other marketing strategies to increase awareness.

9/10: Could you share with us a little on what you’ll be working on next?

JC: Games have and always will be my first love. I gave up a career and a comfortable lifestyle to be able to do this. My dream is to continue making games, and at the moment I’m really enjoying working on PubbleBop to make it the best game it can be. When PubbleBop is at a point where I’m happy with it and it’s standing on it’s own two feet, then another game will be on the horizon.

Maybe a platformer or shooter, or maybe another action-strategy-puzzle or whatever kind of thing PubbleBop is! Whatever it is, it would be something unique and special, defying and crossing genres, with sensibilities from both modern and vintage gaming.

9/10: What are your views on iOS games piracy and how has that affected you and your fellow developers?

JC: Piracy on iOS is not a huge concern to me, as most users probably don’t jailbreak their devices, and players appear happy to pay the reasonable prices for games on that platform. Piracy would be a bigger concern for me if I were still developing for PC, and is also one of the major reasons there are no plans for porting PubbleBop to Android at this stage.

9/10: Any words for aspiring game developers out there?

JC: To be a games developer, you have to be passionate about what you are doing, and be prepared to do whatever it takes to make your games great and something to be proud of. I’m still coming to grips with it all, but here’s a few things I feel important to mention:

Remember that everything is subjective in entertainment. Work hard and love your game, but don’t be deluded about how cool or catchy it is. All testing feedback is useful. Even when it’s your non-gaming father saying he doesn’t know how to get past your easiest obstacles on level 1, the issue will probably turn out to be trapping other players too.

Player reaction is very important to observe as this will help you fine tune or even make broader scale changes. It’s easy to lose perspective when immersed in development of something so personal as your game, so try to be open to all potential modifications.

If you’re designing a game in a genre that isn’t your favourite cup of tea, then you can aim to meet half-way and bend it a little bit into something you really enjoy. I don’t really play many match-3 games, but PubbleBop is a match-3 game I enjoy because it has attributes that I like such as continuous smoothly scrolling action and the fact that nothing is locked into a grid like in most traditional match-3 games. Clones are boring, and maybe this is one way to make unique styles of gameplay without going too unconventional for player tastes

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