We know that a huge part of the Chupamobile community are gamers and indie game devs. Believe me if I say that you are going to love this interview (plus we have an amazing present for you at its end!! Don’t miss it!).
Today we have the pleasure to interview a gamer with almost 20 years of experience in game programming. John Bura, that’s his name, is also one of the 10 highest grossing Udemy instructors and has founded a development studio that produces games for XBOX 360, HTML 5, ad-games and, of course, iOS and Android!
Yes, I can’t wait to pose him a thousand questions about a thousand topics so… let’s start!
Melissa: Hey John, thanks for being with us today! I’m sure many of our readers have taken your courses and, probably, some of them actually got started on game development thanks to you. But, for those who don’t know you yet, let’s give them a short self-introduction about you
John: It’s a pleasure to talk with you today. My name is John Bura and I am the CEO of Mammoth Interactive. We make games, apps and training content. The training content has been well received and I am one of the top 10 selling instructors of all time on Udemy.com. People from all over the world are enjoying the courses I create and it’s all very exciting.
M: Let’s talk about Mammoth Interactive. Do you have any game you developed that you’re especially proud of? Why?
J: My XBox 360 game Circa was one of my biggest accomplishments. Developing for consoles can be difficult and I got it on the store. It came after working for nearly a year on an Adventure RPG game about time travel. I wanted to get something out there and I did. It really got my career moving. The other is a game called Flashes of Color for iPad. The game mechanic that I used was changing the background color to solve puzzles. It was an elegant fusion of action and puzzle solving that I am really proud of. Currently, we at Mammoth Interactive are developing a sci-fi first person shooter. Stay tuned at Mammoth Interactive for developments on that game and other gaming news.
M: I know you develop Educational Apps and Games as well. We are aware of their importance on the App Store and we see a huge interest also amongst the Chupamobile community. Do you have any tips for creating and marketing Educational Apps?
J: One of the biggest tips I can offer you is to not make them free to play. There are two reasons for that. The first is that some parents will not download free apps for their kids because they don’t know what ads will be in them. I have had much more success with a paid model. If you are going to do a free to play model, I would have a demo or lite version of the app that features a paid app. With education apps, you have to remember that you are targeting kids and Apple recently changed the restrictions about apps that target kids. The second reason is that parents will spend money to make their kids better. If you make a math app that gets a kid higher math scores, parents will spend money on that. It’s a slightly different market for education apps. Education apps are an investment, not really a consumer purchase, so design your apps and business model accordingly.
M: I guess you made the right decision – 150,000 students cannot be wrong – but I would like to know why and when did you decide to start teaching instead of keeping your focus on the development part?
J: It’s really unbelievable. With the amount of students and sales of other products such as books and apps, I wake up in the morning and sometimes I can’t believe it all happened. Although, it didn’t happen over night. I have been a freelancer since I was 17 and sold my first products when I was 21. Mammoth Interactive has gone through many phases. When I started this business in 2008, back when it was Woolly Mammoth Productions, I was just focused on games, apps and consulting. In 2011, everybody was asking me how do you make apps and games. It was usually the first thing they asked me about when I told them my occupation. On a whim, I decided to make a 35 hour course on how to make HTML 5 games. It was very well received and people wanted so much more. This would be the start of Mammoth Interactive and what I like to call Mammoth 1.0. Since then, I’ve created a lot of courses and apps as well as consulted on occasion. We are coming to the end of Mammoth 1.0. There are a lot of really awesome products we are going to be rolling out. Mammoth 2.0 is going to be amazing and I am very excited about it.
M: Do you believe anyone can learn game development? How do you recommend wannabe-devs to get started? Any specific language that you would suggest?
J: Game development is getting easier all of the time. I remember when I wanted to make a fully 3D adventure RPG back in 1996 in my bedroom. Back then, it was really hard and really expensive. Even since the mid 2000s, games have been getting easier to make. I think games started to get easier after Game Salad was released. Game Salad was really really easy to use and it was refreshing coming from the C++ or C# / XNA world. Construct 2 makes game development really easy. That engine is simply amazing. I love making games in it and I love how easy it is to use. Even engines like Unity 3D make the back end of games easy. Exporting everywhere with a click of a button makes life easier.
I would say that most people could make a simple game if they wanted to. Often times, I feel that the barriers to success for some people is their own self doubt. Give it a try, and if you fail don’t worry about it. You just learned something useful.
If you want to make 2D games I would go with Construct 2. If you want to make 3D games, go with Unity 3D. Make a game and publish it first with these engines before you move to more complex environments.
M: On iOS, we recently witnessed the change from Objective-C to Swift. Do you think Swift means an improvement on iOS development?
J: I actually only started working with Apple products since 2011. A year before that, I was a die-hard PC fan and loved C#. Programming in Objective-C was like hitting a brick wall. It was so much harder than C#. Swift has been a long time in the making and it is a breath of mountain fresh air. I love programming in Swift. That’s why I put out the world’s largest Swift course. I want people to know how easy it is to make apps.
I see Swift doing two things. It will make development easier. Which is great, especially if you have ever programmed in Objective-C. By revamping the entire iOS platform it will make Apple apps even more reliable than they are.
M: Which are for you the strongest points about this new language? And what do you miss about Objective-C?
J: The strongest points about Swift are that it is fast and modern. Objective-C was more of an older style programming language and I really didn’t like using it. Swift is just better to look at and better to code in. Having said that, Objective-C is really picky and you can pick out errors much more easily. Sometimes with Swift you can make some errors that don’t show up in the compiler.
M: Now, mobile developers must get familiar with Watchkit. Which do you think are the biggest obstacles they are facing?
J: The biggest obstacle with WatchKit is the SDK itself. It’s really barebones at the moment (May 2015). There are some really basic functions you simply cannot perform. You have to really make sure that your App is simple yet effective. That’s both a design and a coding issue that you must make.
M: Which are from your point of view the biggest trends on app development? How do you see the situation 5 years from here?
J: One of the most refreshing trends I have been noticing is the revival of paid apps. Apple recently promoted a pay once section of the App Store. As a developer this is awesome. Not every game will work with free to play. I have also noticed that consumers are willing to pay more than 1 dollar for an app. This is also good. I’ve noticed the gaming community has been sensitive to developers actually making money. A few big studios go under and all of a sudden people want to start supporting games. Whether it’s on the App Store or through Kickstarter.
Demand for software is at an all time high right now. I see the demand for useful apps and games to grow.
M: Based on your experience, I would like you to give 3 tips to those that want to get started on the gaming business.
J: Make a game and publish it as soon as you can. Don’t worry about making a masterpiece right away. I wanted to make an adventure RPG in the 90s in my bedroom. That didn’t happen. I tried to do the same thing in 2009 and that didn’t happen either. Just get a game out the door to get used to releasing products.
Learn something new every day. You can do a tutorial a day and there are very few excuses not to. It doesn’t have to be game related, just learn something new everyday. Years later, you will be a guru.
Get your ideas tested. There are great services where you can get people to play your game. Listen to their feedback. I still do this today. It will make your products better.
M: Thanks a lot for your time and for your amazing tips!
J: Thank you for the interview. If you want to check out what my team and I are up to, you can go to http://www.mammothinteractive.com. We have a lot of exciting products that we are going to be releasing in the next few months!
Wow! Super useful tips, aren’t they? But here it comes what you were waiting for: For this special occasion, and because we want you to be successful on your App Business, we are offering you 3 Apple Watch App Templates for free! Yes, FREE! Download them here and share with us your reskinned apps on the comments section.
One more Bonus: Mammoth Interactive is offering 5 Swift courses for free to the Chupamobile community!
It’s a limited time offer – you have until Saturday 23 at 10 AM EST to enroll for free! Start learning Swift today: here the link.