We recently wrote about Orcs, an addicting game for Android en iOS, developed by David Zobrist. Furiously tapping your screen is the only thing that you have to do in Orcs. There is a tree in the middle of your screen, which you can chop by tapping on it with your finger, to gather wood. You can buy several upgrades with the wood that you chopped, like orcs that help you, which gives the game a little more depth than most cookie clickers. Orcs has lovely style of humour, and a cute design, which really makes the game stand out. I interviewed the developer of Orcs, David Zobrist, about of course the game, monetizing apps, and the person behind the game.
Who is the person behind Orcs, and where do you come from?
I am a Swiss Dude living in Berlin since 6 Years, in a small flat with my girlfriend. Orcs was done by myself within 14 days, it went that smooth because I had already created between 30 to 40 Apps in the last 1.5 Years, doing it as full time occupation from home. There is no side job required, which I am very thankful for. I had a 6 months founding support from Berlin, which was needed to survive the time required to get profitable.
Developing so many apps in such a short time requires a lot of passion. Have you always been a gamer?
My first contact with the digital world was a grey early model of the Apple Computer. And for me this encounter triggered something within, saying: “That’s important”. I fell in love the first time and it was with a computer. The games that really shaped my idea of good games, were Zelda and Pokemon(Gameboy), Final Fantasy 7(PS1), Diablo 2 (PC) and of course World of Warcraft. Now I’m rarely caught by any game anymore,the process of creating them is just so much more exciting for me.
How much experience did you have with creating games/programming before you started with Orcs?
In the gaming industry I work since 6 years and was hired as game designer most of the time. Creating game concepts, writing and nailing down new Features and Mechanics, as well as game balancing work via Spreadsheets. It was fun and demanding. But I was a game designer, not developer. I still don’t code. And I don’t want to. My games are made with a game engine called Game salad, which enables you to create games by working with a “click together” attitude and some logical thinking and basic math.
The concept behind Orcs is quite simple, and it has been done before. What was your “special ingredient” that would, according to you, make Orcs stand out?
I think its their lovely dumb faces and the humor of the voice samples which where created by Elijah Lucian and his Crew. A big thanks to them. You can get your own Voice Over files for free by him, when he is live on air with his Twitch.tv Stream.Game Design wise, cookie clickers and idle games are high up in the current gaming trend. Look at Bitcoin Billionaire, Make it Rain or Tap Titans. Tapping/Clicking is the most basic interaction type and therefore accessible for a broad range of players. And people love to accumulate in games, even better if the progress shows off on the screen.
That is a big problem for new developers: it is hard to get noticed in the current situation that the Play Store finds itself in. Google announced recently that it will implement sponsored app results at the top of the search results page. Do you think that measures like these will help those small developers, or is there another way that Google should fix this?
Yes it is hard to be discovered but thats also has its right to be so. When you start off you think your work is really good but it really isn’t. I think the best way to get noticed and grow is to make a couple of apps and create a “more games” section linking back to your previous most successful apps. So you build your own internal pyramid of good work. Thats also how you get sure that people look at your best performing app once you land a good performing game hit.
What is your advice for other small developers?
It’s all about persistence, when I started I thought: “I am super awesome and talented and I will win the App Store in a rush”. And to be honest, I still think that. That’s the key. You just keep going. Creation wise, experiment with new things but also re-created already working models, go wild. Keep em small, goal is to bring it live in a week. And look how they perform then move on and do the same over and over again.
It is very important point that it goes live and you let it go, most indie devs I know have a serious problem with launching their work, it is never good enough for them.Evaluate the statistics after its live, figure out which concepts work best for you. Iterate on the ones that create the most downloads and good ratings. Link them together into a pyramid of your best games, so that the traffic of you apps floats to the right apps.
“Most indie devs I know have a serious problem with launching their work”
Don’t waste money on dubios pages that want you to pay for reviews or exposure. What I can recommend marketing wise is a boost via Facebook Ads type Mobile Installs.I made good results with but now I want to expand and look for a more powerful marketing partner.Which I wrote about here.
From a design perspective you want to achieve a high ARPU (Average revenue per User) by creating a sticky appealing app.If you want to survive you better make sure your app makes money. The higher your ARPU is the more you can invest in marketing and come out profitable.
Has the relative success and potential of Orcs changed you in any way, and the way that you look at creating the game and updating it?
I now have the luxury to update a game I love working on because people love to play it. It’s like I finally arrived where I wanted to start 1.5 years ago.
The game gets very positive reviews, and people praise the humor and design in the game. However, there is not a lot of content. Is that a conscious decision, to launch the game like this and add more content afterwards, or did it surprise you that people are actually finished quite quickly with Orcs?
It’s the minimal viable product, there is no points investing more time if people don’t catch on to it. Additionally the minimal approach resulted in people asking for more which creates shares, likes and general attention.
The success formula for mobile game developers seems to be free to play, with tons of ads and in game purchases. Some developers refuse to that, and ask money for the game, while others do not. Your game seems to stand in between: The app is free, but there are some pop-ups adds that the player almost automatically clicks on because he/she is furiously tapping the screen (very smart of your!). One of the orcs even makes fun of the pop-up ads, in a soundbit. However, these adds aren’t very disruptive, and the in app purchases are very limited, and the game can easily be enjoyed without spending any money. What is your motivation for choosing this approach, and how did it work out?
I created a lot of minimal high score games which got done in a week, there was no way to sell them for a full price. Full price means longer development time and higher risk. The full screen ads in Orcs are edgy because they appear in the main flow and this is not really wanted by any other party then myself. In the optimal case you would have em on screen transitions but Orcs is a cookie clicker happening mainly within one screen. And these Ads are the main reason I can create games full time.
Orcs is the game in my portfolio with the highest ARPU that I created so far, gaining the most of the money through Fullscreen Ads by Chartboost and the bought In-App purchases by the players, thanks guys! Even though a lot of players complain about the price of the in-app being to high for such a small game, they buy anyways.
The focus of mobile gaming has shifted to Android and iOS instead of the 3DS and PSVita. Do you think that these two gaming worlds can exist next to each other, or do you think that the handhelds will cease to exist?
I am not really focusing on them at all. Just saw recently that Nintendo after not wanting to develop for smartphones crippled themselves even more by reducing the ad revenue given to you tubers for featuring their games. There is an old school mindset in this bigger companies and 3DS und PSVita are appearing to me like desperate approaches to catch up with a trend they missed or simply are not part of. They should focus on their core instead.
What is the future of Orcs will there be any big updates? And are you working on other games?
Officially announcing the Orc Fridays here and now! Revealing friday for friday a new quest until the island belongs to the orcs.
Do you have anything to say to our Dutch readers?
Thanks for the support guys, you are the reason I can do this. So I will put my power into it to make it even better.