Eric Hewston Interview

5 Mobile Games in 6 Weeks – Zenva Student Eric Hewston Interview

After spending 12 years as a web developer, Eric took the plunge and created his first game. Then as if the flood gates opened, he created 5 different types of games in the span of 6 weeks! For 2017, he has a goal of creating 2-3 games a month. We just had to catch up with Eric and find out how he did it as well as what tips he has for other Zenva students working through their first game in The Complete Mobile Game Development Course – Platinum Edition.

You have created 3 games in the span on a month, that’s very impressive! How did you do it?

The most important aspect for me when I create a game app is the process of time. Each project is given a minimum and a maximium length of time which for me is 1-3 days. On these days I will work maybe 2-3 hours each day alomg with my other daily work that I have to do.

Great Escape  

This way I can create a game quickly and more importantly if the game gets very little coverage on the app store I don’t get discouraged as if I had invested weeks / months on an app.

I also look at different types of gameplay apps eg puzzle, driving, kids etc and then I will try a few of them out and create my own. This I feel is a huge learning curve in making games and helps to push forward my skills.

I am still a beginner at this so the more different types of games that I can create in short bursts the better. If I get stuck I look on forums for solutions or I will take a break and a solution will eventually jump into my head hours later. This I believe will let me accomplish bigger projects as I grow more knowledgeable on the subject of phaser and javascript.

Over the past 6 weeks, I have created 5 different types of game apps and each one has taught me valuable lessons.

High Speed Cop Chase

What’s your background? How did you get into game development?

I’m a web developer for over 12 years and I have always had an interest in apps since they came out and all the buzz they can cause. Last year I picked up a book by Rex Van Der Spuy on Foundation Game Design with HTML5 and JavaScript. It was excellent and really taught me the mechanics of HTML and javascript.  From there I read his other book Learn pixi.js and created my first real game with pixel.

This was where I learned a valuable lesson – I had built my game that was in conjunction with a website I had created.  Sportszone.ie, the game had the minimum requirement of Android 5 upwards (this I didn’t realize until it was too late), I had also no idea how to get it onto the app store and had to pay for that service (knowledge really is power). It was a slow and frustrating process for me.

During this time I had seen the phaser website and when I looked at the code examples it looked quite advanced to me, I was intrigued but didn’t know where to start with it. This is when I happened across Zenva and the Phaser course that they offered.

What was the main difficulty you experienced making your very first game, and how did you overcome it?

The main challenge overall is to really dedicate time to the modules on the course and watch and learn. At first, I was overwhelmed by even the simple stuff but after I would watch and code a module, I would try and do my own version of it, and then rewatch it again. Repetition is key even if you don’t understand it just do it. It will make sense eventually.

So when I created my first app Run Oscar Run, I had seen weather effects in other games so I created my own rain and lightning effect for the game, I also created the movement of the game to increase after every 25 coins collected to give a good challenge to it. It was based on Module 6 and I was very eager to get it live on the app store and with the course, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to upload to it.

Run Oscar Run

What steps do you follow when you make a new game?

Main steps are that the max time at present to be spent on creating a game is 3 days. I use a budget of up to €20 for game assets if needed and use a budget of €80 to get exposure through Facebook / Google advertising. I aim at making small games to start off with until I get better. All games that I have released so far are based on techniques I learned from Module 1 – 6.

What tools are you using on your games and to deploy them to native platforms?

Software that I use for the games is Aptana (which if free), I use this code editor for my business and I find it great and easy to use. I use photoshop for graphic assets (I’m not a graphic designer) for intermediate stuff and Intel XDK for the final touches for building for the app store

Any advice for other ZENVA students who are working on their first game?

Plan ahead and never give up. Write down the process and goal of the game in less than 30 words and stick with it. Also give yourself a timeframe and don’t go over it. It will force you to think quicker and solve challenges, even if your game doesn’t work out don’t beat yourself about it, just go again. Failure will be part of the process. Create everything in bite size chunks and test, test and test. I save the game files under different names during the process in case I “break” a game during creation.

When I created my first Phaser game for the app store it seemed quite daunting at times. I made plenty of mistakes but carried on anyway.

Also, create a template, this will save you so much production time. I have a template structure of files and folders for portrait and landscape games eg assets folder containing images, audio, data etc with base files created inside them. Also, I have created basic structures for BootState, Preload, GameState, InstructionsState, GameoverState etc.

Sharks Tank

This saves a huge amount of time recreating a new project. For my last game Santas Grotto, I created the game in a few hours using one of my templates and I coded the game in under 200 lines of code which I was very pleased with.

I have completed the course twice now and my aim now is to learn the Zenva Advanced Phaser Course in the coming months.

Great EscapeFor 2017 my goal will be to create at least 2 – 3 games a month and broaden my experience, my overall goal will be to create larger game projects that will take a few weeks to create using the Phaser framework. In 2018 I plan to make a secondary income from game design in the app stores, I really do think there is a market out there for it.

I know it will be hard and challenging but it will be worth it.

Other stuff I learned that may be valuable to students

One important factor is stats for your apps when you launch them is that the App store doesn’t update in real time – it takes up to 48 hours to show your console.

At present, I’m only using the Google Play Store but I use an advertising budget on most games I launch

Most games on the market only get 10% install retention rate after one week (yep it is that low)

1 – Run Oscar Run (Free App) budget spent €20 and I got 150 installs – after one month 15% of user still have it on their device, 85% uninstalled. This was the best value by far.
2 – Great Escape Lite (Free App) €80 and I got 80 installs – 20% of user still have it on their device, 80% uninstalled
3 – Great Escape Full (.99cent App) €0 budget, 1 install (me !), the average stat is 0.01% for upselling to buy an app
4 – Sharks Tank (Free App) – 0 budget 3 installs overall with 1 uninstall – trying organic app search for this
5 – High Speed Cop Chase (Free App) – €80 and I get 80 installs (too early yet to see the stats)
6 – Santas Grotto (Free App) – €40 on facebook advert

Note I haven’t install admobs on any of these apps, I wanted to see what impact it will have. In my future apps, there will be ads showing so it will be interesting to see the types of revenue and retention rate.

How can people find you?

I can be reached on my current Google App page , my email address and my website.

Interested in creating your own games? Check out The Complete Mobile Game Development Course.

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