Game Theory: Q&A with Steve Tompkins and Dave Hakim of Movable Sprites

Aug 6, 2010
Games

Location: Washington D.C Metro Area Notable apps: Chuck Gnome ($1.99) Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad Specialty genres: Arcade, Action, Adventure, Shooter Company size: 2 Short description of company
: Movable Sprites is a mobile game and application development studio
based in Chantilly, VA. Founded in 2010 by Dave Hakim and Steve
Tompkins, the company develops software for the […]

Location: Washington D.C Metro Area

Notable apps: Chuck Gnome ($1.99)

Platforms: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Specialty genres: Arcade, Action, Adventure, Shooter

Company size: 2

Short description of company
: Movable Sprites is a mobile game and application development studio
based in Chantilly, VA. Founded in 2010 by Dave Hakim and Steve
Tompkins, the company develops software for the iPhone and iPad
 platform.

How did you and your firm get into the iPhone game development business?

Basically with one question from Dave… “Hey, Wanna make an iPhone
game?”  Dave left his “secure” full time job with the purpose of
 becoming a full time iDevice game developer. I actually still have my 
full time day gig but loved the idea of making a game in my free time. We briefly worked together at a past job and I think there was an 
understanding of how much we wanted to jump into making games. I 
received an instant message one day from Dave and he said he had
 secured a domain name GnomeChucker.com, later changed to Chuck Gnome to 
give the character some life.  It’s funny how in the world of the 
Internet one of the first things you do to validate a name or idea is see if 
that domain name is available. So we started to riff instantly on the
 concept and I made some wire frames for how the game might be laid
out. From there, while I started sketching more details of story and
 characters, Dave was busy building a prototype using simple shapes to 
test our set designs and ideas. We have spent the last six to seven
months trying to get Chuck Gnome out there with the hopes we can
 continue forward with the other four or five game ideas we have 
waiting.

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In your opinion, how has the iPhone and Apple’s iTunes App Store
changed the gaming industry?

For me it has brought me back to gaming.  As I mentioned before with two
kids and one on the way it becomes increasingly difficult for me to
spend hours playing games like I used to.  At least until the youngest
is old enough to play, then it’s bonding and not bad parenting.  The
 beauty of iPhone gaming is that I can sneak some play one minute here or
two minutes there and since the phone is the center of everyone’s
 universe it’s a traveling console right in your pocket everywhere you
go.  It also allows two guys with limited resources to make a game for a
mass amount of people.

Describe the differences between developing games for the iPhone and the iPad.

The differences for me are less in the development, and more with the 
types of games I want to develop (because I want to play!) on each 
device. I want to interact with a game differently on the iPhone than 
on the iPad. Chuck Gnome I like to play casually, one handed, looking 
down, flinging Chuck with my thumb. That doesn’t really work on the
 iPad, too awkward for me to hold that way at least. But I think games 
for the iPad can be less casual and there are tons of Minority Report
 style touch control schemes that I want to try on the iPad that I just
 would never think of using on the iPhone. I think board games, RTS and 
tower defense games can be done a lot better on an iPad than an 
iPhone, perhaps even better than on a computer.

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What factors go into how you ultimately price your games?

We looked at other games with similar amounts of content as well as
the Indie developed games in general. Next we determined what we 
might need to continue developing and add more and more free content 
to the game.  We had considered In App purchases for new levels but
 decided that we would commit to giving away new content as long as the 
game helped pay the bills for their creation.

Describe what your dream game for the iPhone would look like.

Right now all my dream games all seem to be heading towards the iPad.
 Its expansive touch screen is really just begging for board or other 
tabletop type games. Something tactile, something multiplayer, either
running on several iPads or one shared device. Like the holo-chess game in
 Star Wars where you can place a game piece and see it just clobber an
 opponent’s piece. Something where you turn the whole game map with the 
twist of your wrist or arrange cards illuminati style by dragging and 
turning. I think table top games can really take on whole new 
dimension on devices like this. Videos abound of cool things being 
done on Microsoft Surface and I think many of those same ideas can
 work and work better on the iPad.

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