Welcome back to our Meet the Devs segment! In this piece we take a little time to get to know the people who really make Android what it is today and that is the app developers. In this week’s developer interviews, we are talking to LunarCannon.
Name: Ti Kawamoto
Developer Name: LunarCannon
Country: United States
Google + Profile/Page: N/A
How many people on your team? 1
Tell us about your company
LunarCannon is a startup marketing / video production company and operates as sort of a node in a larger network of local marketing and production professionals in Vermont. I started LunarCannon Games as the official banner under which I will pursue my dream of developing games and interactive software for Android and other platforms.
What level of experience do you have with coding and development?
I come from a design and marketing background, but I’ve always been fascinated by (and likely envious of) people who can code. I’ve worked with, and as part of, startup teams and I’ve always wanted to understand and contribute to the bigger picture in a more meaningful way. The only way to do that is to learn code and I decided to do just that at the beginning of this year (2014).
I did have some baseline knowledge of concepts like conditionals and loops and tinkered with PHP and ActionScript over the years out of necessity for client projects, but for all intents and purposes, I was a noob. And I am still a noob, but way less of one than when I started.
What languages do you know? How and where did you learn them?
While I’m comfortable with Java, I know there is still much to learn. I started off with the foundational basics of computer science doing the Harvard CS50 course and making my way to Java in late February after some deliberation as to which language I should pursue first. Java was the obvious pick because I want to develop for Android and use Unreal Engine for Oculus Rift development (UnrealScript being a close cousin to Java). By April, I embarked on my first project, Nano the Cat, which I released May 21st.
There are a lot of Java game development resources out there, but when I started to implement Google Play Games Services and other APIs, I was forced to get creative. I am so thankful for Stack Overflow.
What level of experience do you have with design?
I’ve been doing digital art in some form or another for the last 20 years or more. As part of my marketing company, I do video production with a heavy emphasis on motion design and animation. I also do the occasional 3D animation as well. On top of that, I’m a huge fan of UI / UX design.
You can probably guess how happy I was when Matias Duarte unveiled a cohesive design language for Android that continues to evolve and permeate all of Google’s offerings to this day. I’m ranting now, but I take design seriously. It’s more than icing on the cake – it’s visual communication. Good design equals good communication. If your app has poor design, you might as well translate everything into Klingon for the full effect.
What apps have you made?
Nano the Cat is my first app. It is a simple side-scrolling platform jumping game with a few unique gameplay mechanics that I let the user figure out for themselves. Things like double-jumping and jump distance correlating to how long you hold down a tap are things that make the game a bit more nuanced, but I don’t spell it out for people.
How do you monetize your apps?
I have ads on the menu and gameover screens. Obviously monetization would be nice, but in all honesty, I just wanted to see if I could figure out the API and get it to work. Same with in-app billing. Yes, I include in-app purchases, but I am extremely sensitive to peoples’ objections against it so any “premium” features are purely aesthetic and do not affect core gameplay at all. Again, I just wanted to see if I could make it work.
Do you consider yourself successful?
Yes. A million times, yes. Even if I make no money off of this game.. I made a game! And people seem to really like it! When I started my dev quest, I had originally set a deadline for end of year to release my first game or app on Android. I delivered half a year early so I am successful by that metric.
How difficult is it to make money as a developer?
No idea, but I imagine it’s tough. There’s a lot of noise out there and a lot of companies using just awful, shady monetization practices. As I continue to develop my skills and hopefully make this a viable arm of my business, I will do everything I can to operate ethically.
What can Android do to improve?
I am currently using Eclipse with ADT, which works well enough, but it isn’t the most elegant thing in the world. I tinkered with Android Studio a bit and there is a lot of functionality that is still missing, but it does show promise. So more intuitive, Android-centric development tools need to happen. Also the device emulators are super-slow compared to their iOS counterpart. I’ve used the iOS Simulator before for video production and it is extremely fluid.
Why did you choose Android? Do you develop for other platforms? What are the differences between them?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Android ever since my first OG Droid (Milestone). I have done UI/UX work for iOS before, so I’m familiar with its design conventions, but I’ve never touched any code on those projects.
What are your thoughts on iOS and Windows 8
While I do respect other platforms and my fanboyism for Android does not keep me from appreciating what they have to offer, Android’s openness and tweakability appeal to me on a fundamental level. I am the guy who swaps the motor out on his car and builds his own PC from components, so having a walled garden is antithetical to my personality.
What are your favorite apps?
Pushbullet is wonderful and the devs are extremely active. I wish I could figure out more creative ways to use Tasker because that is one of those apps that really sets Android apart. And out of left field, I really like Allthecooks. It’s the best community-driven cookbook app and the design is superb.
What has been your experience working with Google?
They really do have some great documentation. It was almost easy getting the Play Services API to work. I wish their Developer Console had an app, but that’s a minor detail. In comparison, I had a disastrous time trying to figure out Facebook’s Open Graph API. Almost didn’t include that feature.
What does the future of development look like?
It seems every day people are coming out with projects that are so creative and revolutionary. It’s really amazing and the pace of it will only increase as development tools improve, costs of hardware trend to zero, and more smart people from developing countries get involved. This is only the beginning.
What tips do you have for aspiring developers?
What are you waiting for? Code is the language and skill set of the future. At times I thought I was “over the hill” at 30, watching kids less than two-thirds my age learning how to code in their diapers, but I didn’t let that discourage me. If you’re 30, it’s not too late. If you’re 60, it’s not too late. Do it, it is fun and rewarding.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Code is important. Design is important. If you’re a developer who thinks they don’t need a designer, please reconsider. If you’re a designer or non-technical founder, for the sake of your success and better relations with your team, please learn some code. It’ll really help you talk to your devs in the same language and they will seriously respect you for the initiative.
We want to thank LunarCannon for chatting with us in this week’s developer interviews! If you’re a developer and this looks like something you’d like to do, check out our Meet the Devs form! We look forward to hearing from you.