Academy Spotlight – Interview with Solo Indie Developer Marcus Dobler

We were thrilled when Indie Game Developer and Academy Member Marcus agreed to answer some questions about his life and journey as an indie game developer.

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”.

Marcus Dobler - Indie Game Developer

You can see all of Marcus’s games over on his website Here.

Games Made With Passion Marcus Dobler

Aside with recently being awarded multiple Apple features, you own 7 night clubs and you are successful businessman in the gastronomic industry. So what first drew you to this crazy world of 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.

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.

iOS Game Icons - Made With Passion - Marcus Dobler

Do you start off creating your titles with a strong vision in your head of the direction you want to take your game, or a particular type of player you’re aiming for. 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.

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 concepts, are there non-gaming inspirations such as architecture, films or music?

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.

Once you have a game idea in your head, what’s your next process? Do you draw / sketch out rough plans and concepts the old school way, maybe put together a mood-board or palette ideas? Or do you jump straight into your software and mock up ideas on the fly?

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.

Dream Bubblez™

Featured by Apple in “New Games We Love” & “Daily Brain Training.”

Download From The Apple App Store

Dream Bubblez Game iOS - Apple Featured

As developers, there is always that moment when you struggle or have doubts with whether an idea is any good. You build the prototype and are still unsure, 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.


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.

Download From The Apple App Store

AstroBlast - Game of The Day in Japan

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!

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 Academy Thanks 🙂
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.

All iOS Screen Resolution Sizes 2019 for Game Devs ( iPhone XS, XS MAX & XR )

New iOS Screen Sizes - iPhone XS - iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

Each September brings new iPhones and as game developers, that also means brand new screen sizes to deal with too!

Here’s the low down on all the iPhone screen sizes you’ll need to cater for in 2019 including the brand new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR.


Device Portrait dimensions Landscape dimensions
12.9″ iPad Pro 2048px × 2732px 2732px × 2048px
10.5″ iPad Pro 1668px × 2224px 2224px × 1668px
9.7″ iPad 1536px × 2048px 2048px × 1536px
7.9″ iPad mini 4 1536px × 2048px 2048px × 1536px
iPhone XS Max 1242px × 2688px 2688px × 1242px
iPhone XS 1125px × 2436px 2436px × 1125px
iPhone XR 828px × 1792px 1792px × 828px
iPhone X 1125px × 2436px 2436px × 1125px
iPhone 8 Plus 1242px × 2208px 2208px × 1242px
iPhone 8 750px × 1334px 1334px × 750px
iPhone 7 Plus 1242px × 2208px 2208px × 1242px
iPhone 7 750px × 1334px 1334px × 750px
iPhone 6s Plus 1242px × 2208px 2208px × 1242px
iPhone 6s 750px × 1334px 1334px × 750px
iPhone SE 640px × 1136px 1136px × 640px


026: Hyper Casual Games – Retention, Mobile Publishers and the Domination of Hyper Casual Mobile Games.

Game Dev Podcast - 026 - Hyper Casual Games & Retention

It’s certainly official, Hyper Casual games are dominating the App Store Top Charts.

In early 2017, we saw the rise of Hyper Casual games going main stream with publishers like leading the way with their smash hit

Apple recognised the genre in their 2017 roundup by including the Hyper-Casual Trend in gaming.

Apple 2017 Trends of the Year

Apple Trends 2017 - Hyper Casual Games


These usually lightweight games, consisting of nothing much more than an addictive core loop on launch, are typically a few steps ahead of a MVP ( minimal viable product ) or prototype. Mostly monetising through Ads rather than IAP’s, it’s unlikely you’ll see many of these games in the top grossing ranks, or indeed often even the publishers are not recognised as top performers as those charts are traditionally curated through platform revenue, but this is super big business.

Pushed heavily via social media / influencer campaigns ( Snapchat / Instagram / Facebook ) top mobile publishers can achieve extremely low CPI’s ( cost per install ) and thus propelling these simple, small mobile games to the pinnacle of the App Stores with a relatively modest budget.

Because if this, they are highly scalable and massively sharable and can often go viral pretty fast.


Hyper Casual Games

7 out of the Top 11 Free iPhone Games are Hyper Casual as of 30th July 2018.


This really is a Win/Win for both Publishers and Game Developers alike. Publishers can measure retention metrics to see if the game has potential fast and cheap, whilst developers can produce games way faster than normal as these stripped back games generally have little actual content or depth.

As Jilly was sadly unwell today, I stripped out a section of a recent webinar we held talking all about Hyper Casual Games, the retention benchmarks the Top Mobile Publishers are looking for and how, as game developers, we go about tracking this data.

Top Hyper Casual Game Publishers


Crazy Labs | TabTale –


Hyper Casual Game Retention Benchmark Metrics

We go way deeper on this subject and deconstruct some of the most successful Hyper Casual Games in our Course “Seriously Snackable” but there’s some real actionable content from the webinar too. I expand on some of the ingredients we need to put into our games to elevate our chances of success.

Whilst in essence this all sounds rather easy and fast, achieving these numbers is super tough. The winners are the games that you generally look at and think “jeez, that’s so simple why didn’t I think of that!”

We’ve yet to try and build a Hyper Casual game ( ours all fit into the Casual genre ) but we’ll soon be on the case and it’s super exciting.

If you want to dive deeper into all this, be sure to check out the Academy where there’s tons of great video content, courses, detailed deconstructions and epic game dev conversations going on.


Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

021: Why designing under constraints will make you a better game designer.

Game Dev Podcast - 021 - Game Design Constraints

Working under constraints, especially in a creative field, can be a challenging but highly effective way to build up your inventiveness. Often when starting out a project, setting some kind of constraint can force you into action and get your brain thinking in a different way.

For instance, it’s time to start a new game project. “Let’s now build a game.”

You’re at your workspace.. Cool… erm… yeah… so… yeah… erm…

Now, let’s imagine you put some constraints on the project:

“Let’s build a game with only 2 colours” or
“Let’s build a game in 48 hours” or
“Let’s build a game with only Triangles.”

By starting with some constraints in place, whatever they may, can be a hugely powerful jump point to get those creative juices flowing.

One story sprung to mind as we started discussing the topic today. Supposedly Ernest Hemingway bet some friends that he could write an entire story in just six words. Impossible you may say and this seems like quite a dumb idea. However, here’s how Hemingway did it:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

How long it took him to choose those six words is anyone’s guess, but this does demonstrate that often seemingly impossible briefs can get you thinking outside of the box and force you to flex your creative muscles.

When it comes to designing games, constraints are often a fantastic way to generate unique ideas and push beyond boundaries. You need to be a problem solver and stretch the normal, which typically can end up with extraordinary results.

Here’s 4 ideas to apply to constrain your next project:

Theme / Time

Game Jams are a great way encompass these constraints. Game Jams are usually set over a 48/72 hour period and that immediately enforces the time you’re able to complete the bare prototype.


“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

– Parkinson’s Law


It’s amazing how much you can actually accomplish when you work to deadlines. Often as indie game developers, especially if you’re making your game as a side hustle, we don’t have any fixed deadlines, it just takes as long as it takes. This is a sure fire way that most likely your game will take way too long or worse still, never get finished at all.

By enrolling in a game jam and taking it seriously, the condensed time frame forces you to take action and think sharp. Even if you’re never going to make a masterpiece in this amount of time, the exercise alone is well worth doing.

Fun Fact:

Chameleon Run ( Apple Design Winner 2017 ) was born in a game jam ( Ludum Dare #26 ).
Ján Ilavský could only use one working hand during the game jam after breaking his arm in a kickbike accident shortly before. Ján is colour blind and relied on his wife, who went on to pick the pink and yellow look of the game.

Game Jam Entry:


Official Trailer:



A good game jam theme is generally a concept that can be interpreted in many ways be it mechanics, design, game theme – It should be open to allow ultimate creativity. If you’ve never considered entering one we’d highly recommend it to push yourself out of your comfort zone. What’s the worst that could happen!

Artwork – Shapes

Setting yourself boundaries in terms of graphics is also a great exercise. Limiting the shapes you use to construct your games can really push your creative muscles. The first few worlds of our game Impossible Caves ( Worldwide Apple Feature ) consisted of just 3 triangles! This has now become somewhat of a meme between myself and Jilly, however, the level design ideas that came from that was just awesome.


One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.

– Jeff Bezos ( Founder Amazon )

Artwork – Colours

Restricting your colour palette can also be a challenging and fun process. 2 bit maybe? The use of colour is always a super important factor when it comes to building games, it sets the mood, tone and feel. Try it and you’ll be surprised how much influence the colour actually has on your game design! Often we use colour almost without thinking, it’s an easy way to define areas, show baddies and re-enforce win aspects.

Limiting your options visually here can spawn interesting ideas and create unique design challenges.

I hope that gives you a few ideas to try and build up your creative intelligence, let us know! Constraints Breed Creativity.

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

014: 5 Ways to Make Money with Games and the best way to Monetise Your Mobile Game.

Game Dev Podcast - 014 - Making Money with Mobile Games

So you’ve built your game, spent countless hours crafting each and every pixel, polished it to the end degree and now you’re ready to launch it to the world! But, just how are you going to make money from your brand new mobile game?

You should be thinking about monetising your mobile game from the moment you start to build, and this can have a big effect on how you actually end up constructing your projects. As game designers and builders, it would be absolutely fantastic to serve up our games with no ads, but as small indies, we need to earn money!

Ads are a necessity in our world unfortunately, but if done with the least amount of intrusiveness and a little thought towards our players, we can still monetise well. Let’s go over some of the popular monetisation methods open to us indie game developers today and ones we’ve used ourselves in our hyper casual / snackable games.

Simple eCPM Equation

eCPM = ( Cost Per Mile Historically ) How much per revenue per x1000 impressions.


The eCPM is $5.00.

For every x1000 times the ads are displayed, you receive $5.00.


Interstitials can be shown after game over, so for an endless running game these serve purpose from the off. Just how many game overs is acceptable? In theory you could show these after every single character death, but this obviously depends on how ‘brutally’ hard your game is. If your character dies often, your player is going to end up being bombarded with ads and this will almost certainly end in a game ‘delete’ from their device. As a rule of thumb, interstitials set at every 5 – 7 game overs is much more digestible and a little more friendly to the player.

Banner Ads

UI Screens: A great way to monetise for both portrait and landscape games and typically set at the bottom of the screen.

In Game: Again, typically placed at the bottom of the screen for portrait games  Most players, including ourselves find this method of advertisement the most unobtrusive and ‘comfortable’ just make sure you don’t unfairly place your in game play button too close to the banner placement! Players will feel cheated and you may well end up with another delete on your hands.

Banners can be set at the top in a portrait game depending on what your gameplay is all about, for example, if you have a downwards scrolling or static play game. It’s possible to make banner placements on a landscape game as long as they don’t effect gameplay.

When we’re thinking of ideas for a new project, being game developers of mainly casual, snackable games, we will always try to head for a portrait version if it fits, because of the great benefits banner ads offer.

Rewarded Videos

Players love rewarded videos because they offer complete choice and remind the player that they are in total control over whether they watch an ad or not. The option to watch a short video for the reward of double coins, or time, or an ‘instant’ character or world unlock, is utterly at their command. Most players will embrace that ‘get it now’ offer, where some will prefer the challenge of completing objectives of the game knowing they have done so without a quick fix.

Rewarded videos can potentially increase retention in your game, players know there is a way to achieve game advancement without the grind of playing for weeks to get the same rewards. It can be the difference between getting bored with the grind and deleting, to unlocking a great new character or power up that refreshes the interest to play further into the game.

In App Purchases

These come in many forms, buying characters, coin packs, gem bundles, power ups or upgrades just to name a few. Offering your player the first couple of characters for example as a free reward for completing the first few levels or objectives in your game, can open up their curiosity to the rest of your In App Purchases.

If they have enjoyed the experience of something new for free as a bonus, then they will see further offerings as a fair exchange for making a purchase and potentially that ‘feel good’ factor. It gives the player the chance to settle into your game before being bombarded with ‘buy now’ pop ups and the like.


Although not too common in the realms of us Indie Dev’s, making partnership deals with Youtube or Instagram influencers can be a great way to leverage audiences and ultimately drive traffic to your games. Typically, these deals are secured on a revenue share basis where you’ll handle all the building and technical side and they take care of the marketing side.

Often these can be instigated via simple DM’s and generally these influencers will be open to a conversation at the very least. It’s a good idea to have something pre-built to show them when crafting your pitch, as this can increase the excitement and make the project proposition a real thing.

There’s also product placement, IP collaborations with famous brands and even celebrities to throw into the mix. However, there’s a ton more hoops to jump through to make a deal of this nature happen, but hey, thinking big never actually hurt anyone!

Highlights, Quick Wins & Takeaways:

1. Interstitial Ads – Full screen pop up ads typically shown on Game over screens.

2. Banner Ads – Ensure these do not interfere with the gameplay and/or UI buttons.

3. Rewarded Videos – Used to reward players by gifting Coins, Lives, Level Unlocks, Characters etc.

4. In App Purchases – For Hyper Casual games be sure to include a “Remove Ads” consumable IAP at least.

5. Sponsorship – Team up with Influencers or Brands for an Epic Partnership!

Links & Resources mentioned in this Episode:


Ad Network SDK’s








Reward Video SDK’s:


Unity Ads


Ad Mediation SDK’s

Fyber ( Formely Heyzap )



Ironsrc / Supersonic



Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

009: Our Top 5 Reasons why you should sign a Deal with a Mobile Publisher.

Game Dev Podcast - 009 - Mobile Game Publishers

This week we discuss the plans and goals any Indie Game Developer should follow when making games for the mobile platforms. Be it the Apple App Store, GooglePlay or Amazon, our advice is always the same whether you’re an absolute beginner or have been making games for a while, head for that Publishing Deal.

There’s a multitude of benefits for teaming up with an established mobile game publisher when launching your titles, the most arguably is traffic. Without a solid User Acquisition ( UA ) strategy in place it’s going to be a struggle to drive downloads to your game and to get noticed.

Any Publisher worth their salt already have a vast, daily active network of players within their existing portfolio to cross promote and market your game to, this is vital especially on launch day. They’ll also have solid connections within the industry especially with the platforms themselves.

They can get your game in front of the people who make the decisions on the games that will be featured on any given week on the stores ( Thursday is the main refresh and launch day ) and often have contacts in the press to get that all important exposure. They bring experience you can learn from as for the most part know what will, and will not work.

You’ll also typically earn more money from your mobile game. With downloads comes increased revenue and it’s also not uncommon for the Mobile Publishers to have special deals with the Ad Networks to ensure the highest eCPM possible for the ads that show. Although you are sacrificing a decent percentage of the total revenue of the game ( usually it’s a 50 / 50 Split ( after any UA costs ) you’ll still earn way more due to the downloads achieved.

It’s a win / win situation and we strongly believe that you should be striving to build a game and sign a publisher deal within your first 10 games if you’re serious about building games in the mobile space.

Highlights, Quick Wins & Takeaways:

1. It sets your standards high right out the gate – Average generally won’t make the cut.

2. Forces You to do your market research to increase your chances of building games the publishers want.

3. Publishers usually have great relationships with the Platform Feature Teams ( Apple App Store, GooglePlay, Amazon ).

4. They have Traffic and can drive downloads – An established cross promotion network of players to market your game.

5. You’ll typically Earn more – A smaller slice of a much larger pie generally works out better.

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy