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 Moonbot Studios.
Name: John Cannon
Developer Name: Moonbot Studios
Country: United States
Website: Moonbot Studios official website
Google + Profile/Page: Moonbot Studios official Google+ page
How many people on your team? 48, but a smaller team works on apps about 6-10 depending on the project.
Tell us about your company
Moonbot Studios is a secret, zero-gravity colony inhabited by interstellar beings in Shreveport, La. Our mission is to create the best books, films, apps, games, and entertainment in the galaxy. Award-winning artists and filmmakers William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg, and Lampton Enochs cofounded Moonbot Studios in 2009. Since then, we’ve produced an Academy Award®-winning short film and three bestselling apps, The Numberlys and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and Chipotle Mexican Grill’s “The Scarecrow”. For more information, visit Moonbotstudios.com. We just released our first app for the Android market, called Lollipop 3: Eggs of Doom. It’s a casual multitouch game where you have to catch eggs falling from the sky and hold them until they hatch really cute creatures.
What level of experience do you have with coding and development?
I started programming when I was 13… so 16 years. The first project I worked that I really connected with was the Matroska (MKV) project, an open source media container format, which is used now used by Google. I’ve been working at Moonbot now for almost 3 years and our team has been working with Unity since then. Lollipop 3 has been my favorite project to date.
What languages do you know? How and where did you learn them?
What level of experience do you have with design?
Actually, not much. Before working here, I was a web programmer. And before that I did data visualizations. I’ve done some design work on most of our apps, an app for Ford, The Numberlys, our app for Chipotle called “The Scarecrow” and now Lollipop 3.
What apps have you made?
I’ve worked on nearly all of our apps at Moonbot, including an app used to premiere the 2013 Ford Fusion, The Numberlys storybook app, an app that’s a companion to our animated short we made for Chipotle Mexican Grill called “The Scarecrow,” and now Lollipop 3. It’s been really exciting and rewarding to bring Lollipop 3 to Android.
How do you monetize your apps?
Most of our apps are pay to download and that’s worked best for us. Lollipop 3 is our first free-to-play app and we’ve learned a ton about how to motivate users to make purchases and what types of purchases excite our players. We hope to bring that knowledge to future apps and continue to refine Lollipop 3. Also, we look at our apps as one of many projects that support an “IP” or story. So, we’re always looking for ways to extend the experience into things like books or films.
Do you consider yourself successful?
Of course! Everything we do at Moonbot revolves around a strong narrative and when we see our users engaging with that story, it’s truly rewarding. We’ve also had some business success with our apps. Our first app in the Apple App Store, Morris Lessmore, is in the iTunes Hall of Fame. Our work for Chipotle was just nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Oh, and we won an Oscar back in 2011 for an animated film called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. That was really cool.
How difficult is it to make money as a developer?
Our team has learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work for app monetization – for us. The types of products we create are different than a typical game company or app developer. We don’t look at a project as just an app, we look at it in many mediums so we’re always reaching our audience in different ways. It’s fun to be creative and be able to have a successful product.
What can Android do to improve?
One of our biggest hurdles is the variety of texture compression formats. We have to do different builds of the same app for all the different GPU types in order to keep the app looking good and hitting the mark that the artists set. The art team has a high standard in everything we do, so that’s sometimes challenging on Android.
Why did you choose Android? Do you develop for other platforms? What are the differences between them?
Up until now, we’ve primarily only published for the Apple App Store and it has been a great experience. We kept hearing from our users that they really wanted to see our work on Android and Kindle. Both platforms seem like a great fit and working with Unity makes publishing across all of these different platforms really easy.
What are your thoughts on iOS and Windows 8?
We obviously like iOS. Windows 8’s user base seems small, but we’ve considered bringing our apps to it anyway.
What do you think of the Android design guidelines?
I’m not really sure how to answer this because we approach each project with a custom UI system. We take guidelines into consideration of course, but most often it’s a happy coincidence that we meet those guidelines.
What are your favorite apps?
Kathryn Hardey, one of our developers is more qualified to answer this and she says:
- Weather Underground
- reddit sync
- my HTC remote control app for my TV
- Dexter (Pokemon Pokedex)
- Google Keep
What has been your experience been like working with Google?
It’s been really nice to submit updates anytime and in general we are able to get our apps out quicker.
What does the future of development look like?
Wearables like glass and watches are exciting. I could see us creating something really interesting for those. All of the new affordable consoles like FireTV and Ouya are exciting too and we are hoping to be able to develop for those platforms.
What tips do you have for aspiring developers?
Learn functional programming. It’s fun! Go to game jams in your area. Just start making games no matter how small.
We want to thank John and Moonbot Studios 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.