The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Penny Poker

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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Penny Poker
Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, we're featuring Paul Perry's iOS app and excuse to write off trips to Vegas, Penny Poker.

What's your game called, and what's it about?

Penny Poker is a mobile video poker. It contains six styles of video poker: Deuces Wild, Jacks or Better, Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Tens or better, Aces and Eights, Loose Deuces and Joker Poker. It has Game Center support with global leaderboards and achievements.

The same app purchase gets you both iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad versions. For iPhone 4 Retina HD graphics are included. The game is really gorgeous. My girlfriend is an artist extraordinaire -- she also has an MFA -- and she is really able to create some incredible visuals. Each version has different background graphics. On top of that, the sound effects are really appealing.

Do you feel like you made the game you've always wanted to play?

The game I've always wanted to play becomes the next one on the board. I'm always increasing my abilities, learning new things, and after I create the game I always want, another game I always wanted to create comes to me!

What are you proudest of about your game?

We looked at all the ways to improve what is basically a game which is sort of a commodity (poker rules are always the same). We went to Las Vegas to look at all the machines in the casinos and figure out how ours could be better.

Do something you love. The mobile market, especially iOS, is a very exciting place to develop for.

We looked at little things that we felt were done poorly on App Store versions. We saw people complaining about certain things like the size of cards (too hard to read); we made wild cards and even added instructions for those who are not familiar with how to play, as a couple of examples. We really polished every detail to make it the most playable game around. Even though there is no real gambling going on, it is very addictive. I've had emails from people who have said how well much they like it.

Anything you'd do differently?

Penny Poker was initially released for iPad only, and then we added support for the iPhone, which required new graphics, as well as a reworking of some visual aspects to make them fit (Apple refers to this as a Universal App). Unfortunately when an app is extended to a new device, it does not appear in the "New" section of iTunes the second time around, even though it is new to that device type.

I like the idea of giving people more value by making the same app run on both devices (Universal Apps are specifically designed for both devices, and don't just emulate the iPhone app in the center of the iPad screen). For the next project, we are going to release two versions for iPhone/iPod Touch and another for iPad.

How did you get started in development?

I'm a long-time software developer. I first got into game development when my girlfriend wanted some technical assistance on an indie iPhone game she was working on. I started digging into Objective-C and Xcode and all that comes along with it. I figured I better do a small project of my own, and I would be prepared to help her. So, I started developing some apps. I gradually did more complex ones, learning more each time, and recently developed Penny Poker. It took about 6 months of combined effort to create.

Why do you want to make games?

Games are fun. They are also a big challenge, in that games have always pushed hardware more than most any other type of software out there. I love creating things and it is pretty fantastic to create a piece of software which in turn makes other people happy and they can have fun with.

Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else?

Well, one is always better off when they can control their own destiny and work on their own projects. There is nothing wrong with big companies, but a small independent group of people working together can get things done much quicker and more efficiently than a large organization, which by definition is filled with bureaucracy.

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get your game?

If you like video poker, you'll love Penny Poker. If you've never played video poker, Penny Poker is the ideal place to start.

Any suggestions to new developers?

Do something you love. The mobile market, especially iOS, is a very exciting place to develop for. However, it's tough to make it work when you are earning a small amount on each app. If you don't start out enjoying what you like, it is going to be hard to hang in there when the going gets tough, which it always does.

What's next?

I always have several ideas going on at any one time, all in various stages of design, prototyping or development. I have always loved working with words, and have a cool idea around Word Games. Some people find word games boring, but I think they have just played the wrong games. I've got some great ideas that I'm prototyping and focusing on making a really fun word game that has a lot of depth along with great visuals.

If you're feeling lucky, put some Vegas in your pocket with Penny Poker, available through the iTunes store.

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.
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