In this the first part of our access all areas interview with "indie" developers Paper Plane Studio, we chat to the guys about the challenges they faced getting their games, Uggy and Doodle Pubbox noticed in an increasingly crowded App Store, future projects, favourite games, and much, much more.
The main ingredients of Paper Plane are Stephen and Jack. They are 2 silly guys from Hong Kong, with dreams of developing games. Jack is the programmer of the team, while Stephen takes the role of game designer. The team was formed in late August, 2009. At that time we both had full time jobs as mobile game developers, so we can only develop games in our leisure time. This was especially harsh in Hong Kong since we always have to work for over 10 hours. Therefore, not much time left for our own games.
We used a paper plane as our symbol, because we think that paper plane is something that everyone should have played with in their childhood. That simple flying toy gives a feeling of dreams and hope. And developing game is our dream since we were young. We hope that the paper plane could carry us, with our childhood dreams, and lead us to success.
Let’s talk Uggy; what were your inspirations for the game?
The idea beneath Uggy comes from a simple game made by a Chinese developer 15 years ago called “A boy going down stairs.” In the game, you simply control horizontal movement of the boy and travel downwards. The game doesn’t have any item system, with one level only. We decided to expand the idea on iPhone, add items and multiplayer, with more platforms and levels.
I hope you don’t mind me bringing this up, but you mentioned you’re quite disappointed with Uggy’s performance sales wise so far. Why do you think it is the game failed to find a wider audience and what have you learned from the experience?
Originally, we hoped that Uggy can earn enough for our living, so that we can quit our full time job and focus on Paper Plane Studio. When Uggy is finally released, we realized that it is not such easy to get into the rocket of App Store. The game failed at first because we didn’t really know how to market it. But then we did quite a lot of research on other successful examples, and this gave us some ideas on marketing an iPhone app. 2 months after the game released, we prepared an update with lots of new elements and joined the websites for announcing free apps. Finally Uggy was boosted up to over 200,000 downloads. This really inspired us to keep updating the game.
You’ve been incredibly quick to implement fan’s suggestions into updates (notably extra control methods and a rather brilliant multiplayer mode). Can we expect more improvements to follow?
Actually we are going to submit a new update this week, which includes a new item that makes Uggy become invisible. A new calculating system on score and battle ranking has also included at some players request. You can expect more updates in the near future. We have a long list of creative designs waiting to be added.
I particularly liked the central character in Uggy, he’s a charismatic little chap and oozes cuteness. Have we seen the last of him, or are there any plans for a sequel…perhaps a full-blown platformer?
Actually Uggy does have its own universe. The game “Uggy” is only a first start of revealing its universe. For our future games, we will try to reveal more about Uggy’s story in order to complete the universe. Please keep an eye on our future creations; I’m sure you will meet Uggy again in the future.
As the App Store evolves and iDevice hardware gets more powerful, do you think it’s getting harder for the indie developer to compete with the likes of Gameloft and EA as complex 3D games and established franchises become more commonplace on the platform?
Compared with indie developers, the large companies such as Gameloft and EA have more resources and sufficient funds for the game developments. But on the other hand, the high quality products from large companies are always priced at a higher standard.
Since most users of iPhones and iPods are not hardcore gamers, they might not expect to spend too much time and money on a single game. That can be an advantage for indie developers with games at a lower price. Therefore, I think there are still enough spaces for us to establish our own franchises on App Store.
You followed Uggy up with a puzzle game (Doodle Pubbox), what other genres interest you?
We are interested in a wide range of genres. Jack loves puzzle games more, while Stephen loves action games. And both of us enjoy tower defense, castle defense and RPG games. Oh, and we are always heavily attracted to games with mixed genres! These games are always creative and inspire us a lot!
In fact our second game – Doodle Pubbox is the individual creation of Jack. Stephen was busy at that period. And Jack does love puzzle games very much. Inspired by another famous puzzle game called OrboxB, he takes the spare time to make Pubbox and share with people who also love puzzle games.
On that note, can you reveal whether Paperplane are working on any new projects?
Yes, we are working on a new project already. It will be a mutation of a “defense” type game, and we are going to mix the game with other genres. That will be a cool combination that everyone should fall in love with it. Please be patient with the next game, we will reveal more as soon as possible.
Given your experiences with Uggy and Doodle Pubbox, what advice would you offer to any aspiring app developers thinking of releasing a game?
App store is really crowded now. Don’t be surprised and don’t give up when your first release get buried in a very short time. As an indie, we need to learn how to market our game. Try to learn more from successful examples. That is also what we are doing so far.
What other developers do you admire and what are some of your favourite iPhone games?
Stephen: Minisquadron, Plants vs Zombies, Mr. Space
Jack: Meteor Blitz, Plants vs Zombies, iBlast Moki, Blocked, Sway.
*A huge thank you to Paperplane’s Jack and Stephen for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out part two of our interview to witness Uggy’s evolution from a crude (and it has to be said, ugly) doodle to the charismatic little monster we now know and love…