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Published on October 20th, 2009 | by Ian

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Developer Interview: Big Pixel Studios

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This week we speak to the three strong team at Big Pixel Studios about their first outing on the iPhone in the form of the retro pixel puzzle ‘Piyo Block’.  Having created games for Disney and Jetix and with a plethora of Flash titles under their belt there have now turned their attention to the iPhone.

1.Tell us a bit about Big Pixel Studios and how/when you started the company?

Paul: The 3 of us (myself, Dave and James) worked for DisneyXD/Jetix, where I ran the online games department. We produced some great flash titles there and really enjoyed working together, so when we all got made redundant we decided to start up together.
We formed Big Pixel Studios in July 2009. Since then we’ve developed our 1st iPhone game (Piyo Blocks), developed our website (www.bigpixelstudios.co.uk), and are just putting the finishing touches to Big Pixel Racing, a 3d flash game.

2. What attracted you to get into app development for the iphone?

Paul: I wanted to enter the mobile games sector several years ago, but the range of handsets and the distribution models made it very awkward to develop for. The iPhone provides a standard mobile gaming platform that developers have been wanting for years – and it’s got everything needed to make great games – large screen size, good GPU, touch screen, online connection…etc

James: Because the iPhone is shiny!

3. What software do you use when creating apps?

Dave: All the standard stuff like CS4, Xcode, Flex Builder, and also Flash Develop and Blender.

4. What was the inspiration behind the ‘pixel’ games and Piyo blocks in particular?

Paul: We all grew up playing games in the 80’s and 90’s, and there were so many amazing 2d games developed back then. Pixel art done right can look amazing, and it would be a shame if that was lost and all we ever see now are web 2.0 buttons everywhere!

James: That being said, we’re not just about pixel art, and we’re keen to explore many different styles. If you check out our website and show reel video I think that shows.

5. What have you found really helpful during development?

Paul: The iPhone dev community is great, there are so many indie developers out there willing to help out, myself included.

Dave: Box2d is a great physics engine, and the contributors to that project are doing a great job in constantly improving it.

6. What problems did you encounter creating Piyo Blocks?

Paul: Getting noticed on the App Store can be difficult. Apple has done a great job with the iPhone, but the organization of the App Store, and games in particular, needs to be re-thought.
Also it would be good if Apple’s review process was a bit more transparent.

7. How did you go about marketing your app?

Paul:
– contacting a lot of the review sites
– giving away free promo codes on forums
– developing our flash mini game (Piyo Blocks Chick Hunt – http://bit.ly/TEJgz)
– word of mouth through friends
– and we will be advertising on some of the review sites soon

8. What hints or tips would you give to budding developers?

Paul: Don’t give up if you don’t succeed at first. The App Store is a tricky place to get noticed, but I believe that if your ideas and the quality of you content is good enough, you will make it eventually.

Dave: Cocos2d is also a great open source 2d engine for iPhone development. It’s a good starting point for anyone who wants to get up and running quickly without learning all the technicalities of OpenGL.

9. When CS5 arrives with flash/iPhone support will this change the way you produce your games?

Paul: I don’t think it’ll change how we produce iPhone games, but maybe give us another avenue to explore. It could provide a nice platform for developing simple games/toys that could be exported to flash and iPhone which would be great. We’ll have to wait to have a play with it to see how it performs.

Dave: If you’ve got an idea for a really simple addictive game that doesn’t require high performance graphics it could be a good choice. But if you need the best performance, developing a native app using OpenGL is always going to be the best option.

James: CS5?? I’ve just blown all my cash on CS4!

10. What other platforms do you develop games on as well as the iPhone?

Dave: We also develop web games, and are just putting the finishing touches to Big Pixel Racing – a 3d flash racing game. It’s set in Dog City, where Big Dog is holding your kid brother captive for running up massive gambling debts. You must travel through the city entering street races to win enough cash to rescue him. You can check out some teaser footage of it at the end of our show reel video on our website.

: As well as developing our own IP based games, we also provide a number of client services for iPhone and web games. Our web games are available to license, and we can also develop custom made games for both platforms based around a clients needs.
We’re already seeing some adver-games coming through on the app store to advertise say films, or a band, but 99% of them tend be poorly produced games that without the brand no one would give a second look. We want to change that, and to produce high quality games that would stand up in their own right, and have these advertise products or brands. That way the user can get a great game for free!

11. What does the future hold for Big Pixel Studios?

Paul: We’ve got updates planned for Piyo Blocks, and we’ll be letting the users vote on our blog shortly for what they would like to see in the game. You can follow us on twitter (http://bit.ly/bps_twitter) and facebook (http://bit.ly/bps_facebook) if you want to keep up to date.

Dave: We’ve also got 2 new iPhone games in development, although we’re still in the early stages so can’t show you anything just yet.

James: Dogs, more dogs!!

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