Welcome back to our Meet the Devs segment! In this piece we take a little time to get to know the people who really make Android what it is today and that is the app developers. In this week’s developer interview, we are talking to Matthew Breden of Neverlift Studios.
Name: Matthew Breden
Developer Name: Neverlift Studios
Social Media Profile/Page: N/A
How many people on your team? 3
About your company?
Neverlift Studios is a mobile software developer company based in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. Hipster Dave was made by the owner – Matthew Breden, the artist – Jennifer Read, and the musician – Stephen Gibson. There, now that the professional part of it is out of the way, here’s the real story: Neverlift Studios is about two siblings and a friend trying to make a go of app creation, in a learn-as-you-go kind of way. It started in 2011 as an idea to make a simple app for iPhones, which quickly turned into making games for Android. December 2014 marks an important step forward for the company, as their first game was released – Hipster Dave.
What level of experience do you have with coding and development?
I started coding for a game called Operation Flashpoint back in high school (10 years ago). This was using their built-in language, which is extremely simple and limited. The real programming began in 2011 when I realized I wanted to make apps. After realizing Android was the way I wanted to go, I picked some books up on Java and started teaching myself. Oh god was it frustrating. But hey, here I am!
What languages do you know? How and where did you learn them?
Java. That’s… About it. Yeah. Completely self taught from books and online resources – through strong will power I struggled through it. And hey, I think I made something that actually works on some devices. Pretty neat.
What level of experience do you have with design?
If we’re talking about graphical design – my drawings make grown men tear. It’s that bad. As far as technically goes, absolutely no professional experience. Hell, I was a laborer working in warehouses when I dreamed the idea of making an Android game.
What apps have you made?
Hipster Dave! A hipster (named.. Dave) falling through the sky collecting vinyl records and avoiding unwound cassette tapes. There’s cat hats. Each record he collects plays a note in a song unique to the level. It’s pretty.. Hipstery.
How do you monetize your apps?
So far I’ve signed up as a merchant in order to sell apps and in-app purchases, but I haven’t used this technique yet. I went with banner ads for Hipster Dave to see how they do. I don’t want ads or purchases to hinder the gameplay too much, if at all. Which is why during gameplay I hide the ads.
Do you consider yourself successful?
I consider my original plan to be successful. That is to make a game from scratch, using my own custom engine, and have it available on the Play Store. All without a dime invested. It is too early to see if it brings financial success!
How difficult is it to make money as a developer?
Honestly it’s still too early to tell. I haven’t had any overhead costs involved other than setting up the business accounts and such, so I have no real pressures. On the other side, I don’t have any real budget to advertise the game either. Initial ad clicks show promises. That is, if millions of people play the game and click the ads then maybe I can stop eating ramen noodles?
What can Android do to improve?
They’ve honestly improved a lot since I started programming. And what I mean by that is, the developer information and resources seemed kind of scattered everywhere. Now everything seems to tie in together really well with how to get started in things. However, at my level, I still find myself googling examples of how to implement code that I can’t wrap my brain around on the Android developer site. Perhaps they could explain things to me like I’m 5, that’d be better…
Why did you choose Android? Do you develop for other platforms? What are the differences between them?
Honestly, the funny thing is, I started out my plan with developing for iOS. Once i started doing some research into the language, the developer support etc, it seemed daunting. I heard reports that the code was really hard to learn, there wasn’t much for support, you had to pay quite a bit even to get started, etc.
Android really appealed to me because Java is easy to learn and implement, the documentation is immense, and it was free to start out with. Once I decided on Android, I got myself a Galaxy Nexus and went to town.
What are your thoughts on iOS and Windows 8?
I like iOS, I really do. It’s fast, simple, and there’s not a million different kind of devices. I think I will eventually develop for it. Honestly though I’ve never tried a Windows phone. I’d like to one day, just never had the opportunity. Although I did do a crap-ton of programming on my Windows 8.1 desktop. I love 8.1, its stupidly fast.
What do you think of the Android design guidelines?
Pretty straight forward. I mean, because I’m focusing on games I don’t have as much guidelines to follow. I have a bit more lee-way involved. Their policies are very well thought out though, no complaints from me.
What are your favorite apps?
Obvious choice but flappy bird. That game is what I strive towards. The immense viral popularity, the money the guy was making, how addictive and simple it is. Everything about it is awesome.
What has been your experience been like working with Google?
Really positive. Things like signing up to be a developer are really smooth, their process of uploading the games to Google Play and such have worked flawlessly. Really good stuff.
What does the future of development look like?
In-App purchases are huge, and I don’t know if they’re a fad that will go away. At least not with mobile games. Other than that, I think the future is going to grow and grow. It’s a massive market with a ton of opportunity. If someone out there is thinking about starting out now and is daunted by the time invested – don’t be. It took me three years to get to the point I am, of off and on. I’d go months without even looking at the game. The market is substantially better than what it was three years ago and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
What tips do you have for aspiring developers?
Stop browsing reddit, Facebook, etc. And pick up a book of programming. Seriously, power through the basics and everything else. Also, if you’re unsure how to do something, Google the hell out of it. Just don’t lose hope. There were times I was so unbelievably frustrated that I quit for a few months, but I kept coming back. Just cram as much basic information of how the language works, of how Android works. Don’t try and memorize complicated things – I sometimes forget how to do the simplest of things that I haven’t done in awhile. It happens. Also, if you’re developing a game and have any questions about game engines – look up Replica Island by Google. That basically taught me how to write my engine.
If you are struggling and don’t know what to do, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Developing a game for Android has been a goal of mine for three years. Today it finally came to fruition. I couldn’t be more stoked and proud of myself and my small team. I just want to say thanks to everyone in my life who has supported me.
And thanks to everyone who plays Hipster Dave! Also, the picture that we posted of the team – that was the only one I had on hand when I made this. I’m sorry Stephen, you got Photoshop’d in.
Developer interview wrap up
We want to thank Matthew for chatting with us in this week’s developer interview! If you’re a developer and this looks like something you’d like to do, check out our Meet the Devs form! We look forward to hearing from you!