You might remember a couple of weeks ago that awesome pipe-building game that had you starring at your iPhone hours on end. It was called Toobz, and his creator, Jason Haslup from Off Center Software has agreed to talk to us about how he started developing for the iPhone, what he did with Toobz and what else he has planned for us.
1. Tell us a bit about Off Center Software, the values and team that hold it all together. What drives and motivates you? How long have you been in the business?
Jason: Currently, I'm all there is at Off Center Software. It's my "at night and weekends" job. Initially my motivation for Toobz, or any iPhone application, was that I thought it'd be fun to get an App in iTunes and see if people liked it. I never really expected more than that, nor do I now even though Toobz has had a recent upswing in popularity. That's driving me at the moment. The motivation is what all developers hope for: people using their software and enjoying it.
2. What does it take to succeed on the market?
Jason: With the iPhone and all of the applications that are available for it, you really need to grab the customer when you can. As an independent developer, just about the only time I can grab the customer is when my app is listed "By Release Date" in iTunes or on the iPhone itself. I think people caught a look at the snappy icon, then were drawn in by the screen shots and, I hope, the description. Another key, just as or more important, is the free version of the application. People want to try things before they plunk down their money for an app.
3. What made you develop for the iPhone?
Jason: The iPhone came out and, for me, it just plain worked. It's hard to explain it, but it all came together for me in that one device. I could sync my music. I could listen to podcasts. Surf the Internet. Everything that I struggled to do on previous mobile devices, was there and ready. After the App Store was announced I bought an iMac, downloaded the SDK and started working with it. I hadn't done development on the Mac in quite some time so it was fun re-learning things.
4. What do you think sets you and Toobz apart from competition both in the App Store and the general market?
Jason: Toobz is the type of game that I used to spend hours playing. I just like the subtle strategy and thinking that you can do to get your score higher. And it's a little bit like development... you have a beginning point and you need to drop things into the right placement in order to be successful. It's logical, takes some planning ahead, but when that timer gets close to 0:00 things can get crazy and all the rules are out the window.
5. With the new SDK released, a whole new world opens up for developers such as yourself. What can you expect from the market and how will you respond to more expectations from your Toobz app?
Jason: The new SDK has some really cool features in it. The biggest thing I'm looking forward to, as a gamer and a developer, is the Bluetooth-based networking for ad hoc gaming. There's a lot of potential there for gaming, even for casual games like Toobz. I do think people will have higher expectations of games in general now that iPhone OS 3.0 is out, and that includes Toobz. It's going to be difficult as an independent, off-hours developer to reach that potential, but I have very high expectations of Toobz, myself.
6. Do you plan to release any updates for the app, or do you have any prepared?
Jason: I definitely have updates planned. As I type this I have version 1.3 of Toobz waiting in the queue for review. After I released the new graphics in April I actually got a few comments from players that they preferred the old graphics instead. So I added those back in. The other big update for version 1.3 is the ability to tweet your scores to your twitter account. I think this will be a lot of fun and hopefully a good stop-gap until I can get online high scores in place.
Right now I'm hard at work on version 1.4 of Toobz which will add the most-requested feature so far...rotating the pipes. It's part of a new game type and I'm hoping to get that done in the next month or so.
7. What was your favorite thing about designing for the iPhone and iPod Touch? The biggest challenge?
Jason: My other favorite thing is just how easy it is to get your app up and running on the iPhone device itself. I love the fact that my app runs on these computers, really, that you can carry around in your pocket. My biggest challenge, apart from my inability to design my own graphics, was and is just writing a game. It's a lot different than the development I'm used to so it was a real learning curve getting up to speed on just plain game development. Even now I'm struggling trying to balance this new game type I'm working on. Keep it fun, make it challenging, but don't make it too easy where people will give up because it's boring. Oh, and make it simple so someone can pick it up immediately and for five minutes at a time. For someone who hasn't written any games before, it's a challenge.
8. What other apps do you have on your iPhone or iPod Touch? What’s your favorite?
Jason: I have a ton of applications on my iPhone. I don't think a day goes by where I'm not in the App Store downloading something. My most-used applications are InstaPaper for offline reading, Tweetie for tracking all the iPhone devs, and I use Amazon's Kindle app a lot. MLB's At Bat is really nice -- they just added live game video which just blows me away.
As far as games go, for a while I was addicted to Sextuple Word Challenge (from way back in 2008), and I thought SlotZ was a really great concept. I was on an iShoot kick for a while, too, and I couldn't resist Peggle at $0.99 recently.
9. For our readers, please describe Toobz in just one word.
10. You’ve made quite an impression on us here at Appbite, our readers and the users in general. Your Toobz app was high in the charts. So what’s next for Off Center Software?
Jason: Next up for Off Center is a few more Toobz releases. While it's still somewhat popular I want to see if I can keep growing my user base. Plus, I just have so many ideas for Toobz that it's hard for me to stop working on it. I have a few other game ideas I've been thinking about, too, but they're at least a few months out if I'm lucky. I still enjoy working on Toobz, so I see that occupying most of my free time in the upcoming
Jason: A huge thank you to everyone who has downloaded Toobz and Toobz-Free. It's been a blast just watching it grow over the past seven months.
We thank you too Jason for taking the time to answer our questions and the best of luck in any feature endeavors. We're looking forward to seeing more of Toobz and more games like Toobz available for download in the App Store.