Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Android indie developer interview: Wolfgang Knecht

Here comes another story of an Android developer. But, before I bring it to you, I'd like to thank you for all the kind words from comments and emails. I really appreciate all of them. They motivate me to keep writing this blog and cheer me up when I feel down. You're great!
Oh! And one more thing. I got featured on Android Weekly once again! Check out the site if you haven't done it yet and if you're coming from there - welcome and enjoy your reading.

Bartek: Tell us something about yourself. Who are you? Where do you live? What do you do in life?

Wolfgang: I'm Wolfgang Knecht, 29 years old and currently live in Vienna, Austria (originally I'm from the western part of Austria). I studied visual computing and I'm now self-employed working on apps and games.

Bartek: When did your Android adventure start and how? Why did you decide to do it?

Wolfgang: In the past I created games (most of them unfinished) for Windows. But there was always the problem that there was no way to sell them except when you found a publisher who did this for you. Beside the fact that I never got to the point of really searching for a publisher in Android I saw a great chance to publish my apps/games on my own. I did my first attempt to create a game for Android in 2009 on the emulator (the game is still unfinished ;)).

Bartek: What kind of games did you create for Windows? Can you still see them somewhere?

Wolfgang: I created a game called Sopwith Camel 3D. It was about a plane which you saw from the side. You could fly up and down and throw some bombs. And I started some FPS games which I never finished.

Bartek: How did you learn how to create Android apps?

Wolfgang: I have done programming since I was a child. I did my first tries on the C64 and learned some programming languages during the time. So switching to Android was not that difficult for me. I used the Android docs and there was also a course at the university where I studied where I learned the differences between writing an application for desktop and developing for mobile devices (like the lifecycle, activities and so on).

Bartek: How difficult do you think it is for a programmer to switch from regular desktop programming to Android? How much time does it take? What do you think is the best way to do it?

Wolfgang: If you already program for desktop it may takes maybe 1-2 weeks till you can write an app for Android. In my opinion it's very important to understand the differences like lifecycle, localization and so on.
Reading the official Android Developer Manual carefully is the best way to learn it.

Bartek: What libraries/frameworks do you use?

Wolfgang: Currently I use libGDX to create games. LibGDX is great because it manages all resources for you. You don't have to care about a context loss. It's easy to use and flexible. By context loss, I mean the OpenGL context. You don't have to recreate textures for example. libGDX does this for you. Before I tried to create games on  Android just using OpenGL. But managing textures was a pain.

Bartek: Did you have a chance to use AndEngine or some other libraries?

Wolfgang: I didn't use AndEngine. I heard about it, but it seemed to be less flexible than libGDX.

Bartek: Where do you take app/game ideas from?

Wolfgang: Ph, good question. I don't really know :) I had the idea for my game Scribble Racer because there was this Samsung Smart App Challenge I wanted to participate in. The requirement for the challange was to make an app or game that uses their Galaxy Note S Pen. So I thought about what game I could create that makes use of the stylus. Ideas for other apps just pop up here an there :)

Bartek: But how do you judge if they have a chance to be successful? Or you just write them for the joy of writing and then see what happens?

Wolfgang: If it is a small project I just start coding and see what happens. For bigger projects I talk with friends. Ask about their opinion, what they think of the idea.

Bartek: Where do you get resources from (graphics, sounds, music)?

Wolfgang: Till now I did the graphics by myself. I take the sound from freesound.org and buy music from audionetwork.com. For our current game (I work together with a friend now), we hired a graphics artist.

Bartek: Can you tell me some more about the graphics creation process? What programs do you use for this? How did you learn how to do it, and if it was during your studies, how can other people learn it as well without going to university?

Wolfgang: I'm a very bad artist. And I didn't learn how to draw during my studies. That's why we hired an artist now. But I did the graphics for Scribble Racer with the Galaxy Note. It was much easier to get good results. It was just like drawing on paper. Some highlights here and some shadows there and it looked acceptable, but definitively not perfect :)

Bartek: What other programming tools do you use?

Wolfgang: I use git and svn as well as the common Android tools like 9-patch and DDMS. For analytics I also us Distimo and Google Analytics.

Bartek: How long does is take you to make a single app?

Wolfgang: That really depends on the app. One app is done on a weekend and the other takes a few months. But the time you put into it does not definitively correlate with the amount of money you make with an app. I make more money with a weekend app than with an app that took me 4 months to develop.

Bartek: How much are you making on your apps?

Wolfgang: I would say it's not too much but enough to pay the rent for a students' flat-sharing community :)

Bartek: So, you're still a student?

Wolfgang: No, I finished my studies. But all my flatmates are doing the PhD. And I still live somehow like a student :)

Bartek: At which point did you decide to make Android apps full time? Are you able to make ends meet this way or do you have some other job?

Wolfgang: I decided to do it after my studies. I did a halftime job to get in some money I can live off and the other half I worked on my apps. Then I was very lucky to win some money at the Samsung Smart App Challenge. I can live from that money now, at least for a few months.

Bartek: Congratulations! Was it Scribble Racer that won the award?

Wolfgang: Thanks! Yes it was Scribble Racer.

Bartek: How did you get to know about the Samsung Smart App Challenge?

Wolfgang: I participated at a local contest here in Austria. Because of this contest I got a newsletter. And they were writing about the Smart App Challenge. By the way: currently there is also a Smart App Challenge going on: http://developer.samsung.com/ssac2013/main.do

Bartek: So you already had a Samsung Galaxy Note to be able to take part in it?

Wolfgang: No, I bought a used one just for this contest. I wanted to sell it afterwards. But then I kept it.

Bartek: Are you taking part in the next edition as well?

Wolfgang: Yes, I plan to. Now I have a Note.

Bartek: Great story!

Wolfgang: Yeah, it was great :)

Bartek: How do you monetize your apps? What ad networks do you use if any? Do you have any advice on it for others?

Wolfgang: I use AdMob, In-App Purchases and I put some of my apps on the store as paid apps. Ads only make sense if you have a huge user base. Selling features and new content with In-App Purchases works better for me than selling coins for example. Selling apps directly on Google Play also works quite good for me. But having a free version of the paid app really helps to sell.

Bartek: Which ones of your apps were the biggest success and which ones were below expectations? Why?

Wolfgang: My biggest success was for sure Scribble Racer (because of the prize). But my best app in the market is GPS Widget. It's one of those spontaneous weekend projects I created because I wanted something like that for myself. It's easy to use, does what the user expects and I guess the naming is the key. The name is exactly what people type into the search field when they are looking for something like that. Also my Countdown Live Wallpaper is more successful than I expected. Below expectations was FriendFinder AR. It took me a few months to develop it. I think it's not stable enough and would need some rework. Also the naming is misleading.

Bartek: Do you use any marketing techniques or SEO to promote your apps?

Wolfgang: I try to use app names people are searching for and I try to optimize keywords in the app descriptions. I do a lot of cross promotion and I also try to build a fan community on Facebook.

Bartek: What do you mean by cross promotion?

Wolfgang: I have this 'More' button in most of my apps. It links to a list of all my other apps.

Bartek: What are your favourite Android games/apps?

Wolfgang: I like to play Auralux and Super Hexagon. And Jetpack Joyride is great.

Bartek: What Android devices do you own?

Wolfgang: I have an HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Bartek: What Android blogs/sites do you read regularly?

Wolfgang: Some time ago I visited makingmoneywithandroid.com regularly. But at the moment there are no blogs/sites I read regularly.

Bartek: What are your plans for the future? What do you want to create/achieve?

Wolfgang: Currently I'm developing a new game together with a friend. We hope to sell the game to be able to work on further projects in the future.

Bartek: Can you reveal some details of the game? What's its genre? How did you come up with the idea?

Wolfgang: It will be a runner game called "Agent, Run!". The main difference from other runner games will be that you don't control the player, but the world around him.

Bartek: Nice! Where did you get the idea from?

Wolfgang: The main idea was by my friend. Then we just talked about it and came up with new ideas together.

Bartek: When are you planning to finish it?

Wolfgang: We plan to release it in the first half of the next year.

Bartek: What advice would you give to other developers (something that you wish you had known before yourself)?

Wolfgang: Don't expect too much. Making money with apps is not as easy and fast as it seems (at least for me). It takes a lot of time and it's hard work to earn a few bucks. Start with small projects you can finish and try to create apps/games you would really like to use by yourself.
Also, create apps/games because you like to do it and not just because of the money.
Bartek: Where can people find you on the Internet? Give some links to your blogs, apps, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Wolfgang: http://www.wolfgang-knecht.com
And our upcoming game:
the agent run pages are very very WIP :)

Bartek: I like the game's style. Good luck with it.

Wolfgang: Thanks :)

More interviews along with a brand new secret project of mine coming soon. Stay tuned :)

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