We were thrilled when solo Indie Game Developer and Academy Member Marcus agreed to answer some questions about his life and journey as he shares his game developer story.
Marcus has achieved so much including Apple App Store “Game of the Day” for his game AstroBlast along with multiple Apple Home Pages Features in “New Games We Love”.
You can see all of Marcus’s games over on his website Here.
Marcus Dobler – Indie Game Developer Story
Q: Aside with recently being awarded multiple Apple features, you own 7 night clubs! As a successful businessman, what first drew you to game development?
I started programming on the Commodore 64 in my childhood. As I grew older my interests shifted and I began working as a DJ and opened my first club with two partners. Now I am partner of 7 clubs with capacity up to 2.000 people per club.
As you can imagine running clubs is a loud and hard business. Therefore I was looking for a hobby to bring balance to my life. Then I remembered my favourite childhood activity, coding and making games so I tried it out and it was a success.
Q: I know you’re a fantastic coder, your games are all highly polished and of great quality, which software engine is your preferred tool for all your game creation?
Thank you very much!
I use different software tools when I’m developing my games.
I create all my 2D designs by working with Photoshop and Illustrator and recently I’ve started using Affinity Designer more frequently too.
For my 3D designs I use Cinema 4D. This is an awesome app that had made its debut on the Commodore Amiga and I have been working with this ever since it first came out!
When working on promotion videos, I use Apple Motion.
My SDK is Xcode and the code is written in Swift, Apples’ latest programming language. Swift is perfectly structured and fairly easy to learn. SpriteKit and SceneKit are used as frameworks which are both developed by Apple.
Since I don’t consider publishing my games on any other platform but Apple / iOS, I choose their native developing tools to make the best games possible. It always goes down well with the Apple Team also.
Q: Do you start off creating your games with a strong vision in your head or do you experiment with concepts and prototypes until a game comes together?
Developing a game is always a process. I usually have a very basic concept and then work it into a fun and enjoyable product. When I first started out creating games, I was satisfied as long as myself and my friends had fun playing.
However recently I have been developing games geared toward the Hyper Casual Player. I have made this change by looking at trends and evolving as a developer.
Q: What’s your goto place for research and inspiration when coming up with the next unique game idea. Do you play a lot of games yourself that maybe spark new concept?
My greatest source of inspiration is my library of around ten thousand retro games!
Whenever I have the chance, I play these for inspiration and relaxation. I also enjoy watching Retro youTube channels like “Game Sack“ or “Sega Lord X“.
However, as most of these retro games require too much investment for the Hyper Casual Player and mass market, I can use parts of these classic games in my new creations.
The world of mobile gaming is forever evolving and a lot of focus in the market place at the moment is in the hyper casual style and aimed at a young audience. Do trends like this influence you to build specifically for what the market wants, or do you focus on making games that you love to build?
For me, commercial success is confirmation of a good performance, usually in terms of downloads and reviews. In order to achieve this success, I try to keep a keen eye on the market and stay up to date with current trends. Research is critical here.
To know all these trends the Academy is my main source especially the weekly Live App Store trend analysis sessions. So in summary, yes, I try to follow the hyper casual style in most of the games I’m building right now!
The trends right now tend to lean towards 3D and include levelling systems. With all that said though, I still try to create something unique and if my heart leads me on a particular route, I always trust my gut instinct I’d still build it anyways.
Q: Once you have a game idea in your head, what’s your next process?
Firstly, I’ll open Photoshop or Cinema 4D and create some simple characters. These are usually simple forms in the appropriate sizes so I have assets to work with. I’ll then start to code the prototype and bring the general idea to life. The details of the design are part of the development process and I’ll look to continually work on these as the project progresses.
Featured by Apple in “New Games We Love” & “Daily Brain Training.”
Q: In any Game developers Story there’s that moment when you struggle or have doubts, at what point do you reach out for feedback on your game, or do you wait until your idea is rock solid and you’re happy with it before showing anyone?
I like to always finish things! Of course there are ups and downs during the creation process, but even at my lowest points, I will always complete every project.
Usually I only show nearly completed games to family and friends. This way I manage to stick with my original concept and not have my ideas watered down by critics during my creative process.
This doesn’t mean I do not appreciate constructive criticism, nothing could be further from the truth, however, for me, it’s crucial to choose the right point in time during my creative process to receive exterior ideas.
An exception to this are the Academy’s TestDrives, the videos and comments help me to refine my product even at an early stage.
Good game design is all about keeping the players attention and ultimately returning to play your game time and time again. It’s about designing an interactive world for players with rules to follow to achieve the end goal. What’s your process when you start your game design ideas for keeping players attention and game progression?
I once read an interview with Sergio Miyamoto, legendary game designer at Nintendo, in which he said the most important thing about a game is having fun playing!
This is just like the way children like to jump and run, just for the sheer joy of it, because it’s fun.
I think that’s what brings players back day after day is if they enjoy the activity and they simply love to play. I always try to achieve that!
Also, giving my players simple, small goals coupled with some enjoyable tasks. I build in “unlockables” or “level Ups” where possible along with usually including “High Score leaderboards” in my games.
Q: The majority of your games are in the meditation/ brain training and puzzle genre, do you play these types of games yourself, or do you purely enjoy the creation of this type of gameplay?
Tetris is definitely my favourite games. I actually consider it the be the best video game ever invented, so yes, I play my fair share of puzzle games.
As already mentioned, I don’t really have a strict plan when developing my games, but often they’ll have some kind of puzzle element to them. As the designs and details evolve during the development process, it’s a pretty organic process and so my games naturally evolve too!
The market for puzzle games is a tough one.
Generally speaking, due to the natural complexity of puzzle games, it’s a difficult balancing act to reach the Hyper Casual Player with them. Right now I am focusing on creating simpler games for the Hyper-Casual market that can potentially reach a wider mass market along with broadening my creation skillset and giving me a personal challenge.
Featured by Apple in “New Games We Love” & “Game of the Day” in Japan.
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a novice developer just starting out in the world of game design? Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started in games?
I think the most important thing for a novice developer is to gain experience.My best advice would be to start out with small projects and aim to actually finish them!
The biggest mistake you can make in my opinion is to do too much and not finish anything.
When I started out, I simply began programming and I didn’t know anything about recent trends and the situation on the market. I would have saved a lot of money spent on senseless marketing actions if I would have known earlier about the Academy.
I really wished I had been a member of the Academy back then when I first started out!
Q: Lastly, we’ve been honoured that you’re a huge part of the Academy family and it’s been a pleasure to watch you grow. What’s your favourite part of the Academy and what would you say to any game developer thinking about joining?
The TestDrives are its best feature. Kevin & Jilly actually play your game whilst recording the whole session on video. They give you invaluable tips on how to improve it and it’s massively insightful and helpful to get their perspective.
This is so helpful to me and has supported me in refining every single one of my games.
It doesn’t matter if you are new in game development or if you are already successful in the market, the Academy is most definitely the place to be.
They provide you with an endless supply of resources including videos, tutorials and a ton of fantastic community posts!
You can also find ideas for your next games as well as they help you to get a publishing contract. They also advise you on how to get your games featured by Apple.
The Academy has helped me in every stage of my creational process and it will help you as well! I highly recommend you to join.
A Huge RisingHigh’ Five and thanks to Marcus!
We’d like to thank Marcus for being so generous with his time and sharing his thoughts and experience with us, he’s seriously a class act!
It’s been an absolute pleasure to share a small part of his game development journey so far and it’s super exciting for us to see him reach the much deserved success on the App Store, especially as we get a glimpse of what he’s working on.
As we’re sure you’re aware, game dev can be a tough gig so it’s always heartwarming to see a fellow indie dev reach their ultimate goals through incredible hard work and wonderful talent.
We can’t wait to see what Marcus creates next and we wish him continued success in all his endeavours.