As a child, I used to enjoy programming computers. Growing up in the 1980’s and early 1990’s with the raft of 8-bit and 16-bit computers that were around at the time (my personal favourites being the Atari and Commodore Amiga) it was an exciting time. There was a sense that anyone had the potential to create a hit computer game from their own bedroom.
Nowadays, of course, Video Games are big business – Hollywood Movie Blockbuster like budgets are assigned to games and the market is dominated by big players. Breaking into that market is virtually impossible for the individual programmer.
The age of the App
But then along came Smartphones and with them, Apps. The Apple AppStore and Android Marketplace have hundreds of thousands of apps priced at a few pounds and under – and in many cases, free of charge. Suddenly, it’s not quite as impossible to put together a Smartphone based Video Game and make it available to the masses.
But it still takes time and money to put together such an app. Juggling developing an app with a full-time job can be a challenge, as Paul Chambers, a Brit living in New York with his new wife Zoe, found out.
Paul and Zoe have spent the evenings and weekends of the last six months, and the first six months of their marriage, developing their first game for the iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone – Islands of Diamonds.
Paul explains the project came out of an exercise on his part to learn some new software (it’s Unity 3D for those who are interested) and a mid-career, “I should do something else” crisis.
Thus, the couple founded HappyMonitor – an independent Video Game studio based in New York.
“Islands of Diamonds” asks players to guide a perfectly round coconut called Seamus through a group of thirty islands of physics puzzles in an effort to reach every last diamond before the time runs out. Paul and Zoe are on target to release the game in the Apple AppStore in early March, but this comes with another challenge – how do you get your game noticed in a sea of 100,000’s of Apps?
Crowdsourcing to raise funds
One way to raise awareness of your game as well as raise funds to help with development is the web-site KickStarter.
KickStarter is a site that provides the tools to allow creative entrepreneurs to attract micro-transactional funding with a crowd of supporters raising money for the project, and then give thanks to those supporters in the form of creative rewards for their contribution.
It’s not just Video Games that KickStarter supports. A quick browse of the KickStarter web-site shows Film, Art, Design, Food, Publishing, Music and Technology with some examples including recording a CD, putting a play together and producing a short film.
Simply put, you list your creative project on KickStarter along with a description, a video and a target funding amount. There’s no charge to list your project, and KickStarter only take a fee if you reach your target.
If you attract enough pledge money to meet your target by the deadline you’ve set, then you get the funding and away you go. If you don’t raise the right funding by the deadline, contributors keep their money.
Paul and Zoe have listed Islands of Diamonds at Kickstarter with a $3500 goal with the intention of porting their game to the Android marketplace. I’ve pledged – and many others have too. Here’s a short video from Paul and Zoe to explain more.
Quite apart from the pledges though, using KickStarter as a platform gives your app visibility. After all, without KickStarter I might not be writing this blog post talking about Islands of Diamonds!
Contributing to Islands of Diamonds
I personally love the KickStarter concept, the visibility and the leg-up it gives to many small developers like Paul and Zoe.
If you’d like to pledge to their project, visit the KickStarter page for Islands of Diamonds and if you’d like to find out more about Islands of Diamonds then you can visit the Islands of Diamonds homepage or the Islands of Diamonds Facebook Fan page. You can also find HappyMonitor on Twitter.
Good luck Paul and Zoe – I hope to see Islands of Diamonds on my HTC Sensation Android device soon!