Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Android indie developer interview: Eike Decker

In today's interview our guest will be Eike Decker from - a very talented Android game developer with plenty of experience in Flash and MMO games. As a matter of fact, he can draw and make 3D models as well as code.
Eike is going to share with us, how he transitioned from browser games to mobile and what he's created so far. He uses some unusual graphics and programming tools that might interest you. He's also a very active Google+ user, so if you like his work, you can follow him there.

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

Eike: I am a 32 year old software developer working in a company that makes browser MMO games in Hamburg, Germany. I work on my own projects in my free time, which was reduced two years ago when our first child was born - it hasn't improved since because we got another child. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy being a father and spending my time with my children. I just don't have as much time as I used to have.

Bartek: What exactly do you do in your day job?

Eike: I work at InnoGames as a software developer for games. The company is renowned for Tribal Wars, Grepolis and Forge of Empires (all strategic mmo browser games) but also for The West, an mmo RPG browser game. I have worked as a developer both on server and client code over the past 5 years, having contributed to most of those named products over the time.

Bartek: What kind of games do you make?

Eike: The games (and one app) I made on Android can be found on the play store here:
I have made 3 games so far, each was a puzzler. The current game I am working on is an action/arcade game. The first game I released, which is Recombustor was made just with the Java API and OpenGL.
Ocean Conquest and Bubble Inflate were made with Adobe AIR.

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

Eike: I started almost 3 years ago when I got frustrated about several things. I had always hoped to make games on my own ever since I was a kid and I worked hard to learn all kind of skills - drawing, 3D modelling, texturing, programming... - and I am doing quite OK in most disciplines that are necessary to make games without aid. I also made a few interesting prototypes that made people curious. But I never published anything because I was never bringing it to an end, mostly because of my lack of working out the parts on marketing, distribution and selling things - because I am shying away from paperwork. Back then, I decided I had to get a game out, no matter what. I considered that the limited possibilities of smartphones would be helping me to get something finished. And the distribution system of the Android store seemed simple enough to make it work for me. It still took me half a year to finish something... despite that I chose something "simple".

Bartek: How did you learn how to create apps?

Eike: I learn by doing. I have been learning for more than 15 years on things like rendering, making graphics etc., so using tools and to making apps was not the most challenging part - finishing them was the painful part.

Bartek: What libraries/frameworks do you use? Why did you choose them?

Eike: I didn't choose any for the first project I made (Recombustor). I used the Android libraries and used OpenGL for rendering which I was already familiar with. For the other games I got out, I am now using Adobe AIR, mostly because I have become more proficient with that technology at work. I made some other prototype games with LibGDX in between, but I never got very far (though one space game prototype started to look interesting...).

Bartek: How do you make games for Android with Adobe AIR? Does it compile to native code or do you need some runtime libraries to play the games?

Eike: The Adobe Adobe AIR SDK is free and I use FlashDevelop as an IDE, which is also freely available. It's really easy to get the simple stuff working in Flash but needs some time and setup to get it working on mobile, but still, it's relatively straight forward. The upside is that it's really easy to test on desktop systems because under hood, it's just Flash.
When compiling it for Android devices, it makes a special compilation run and produces all the stuff needed for execution. It's still running interpreted, but the performance is about as good as doing things in Java - in my general experience (your mileage will vary (a lot) depending on what you do). The downside is that the 8.5MB big Flash player is part of the distribution, so for small games, it's making up a large part of the installation; for bigger games with lots of graphics, it's not so much important.
And upside of this system is, that it's also possible to compile the stuff for iOS and it's pretty much working out of the box. And of course it can be published on the web too, as it's mainly Flash.
Bartek: Where do you take app/game ideas from? How do you know if they have a chance to be successful?

Ocean Conquest
Eike: I have no idea what'll be successful. Honestly not. Following the blogs and opinions, success is a lot dependent on luck if you can't afford big marketing campaigns. I try to make the game fun enough for me that I can play it without being terrified.

Bartek: How many downloads do your individual apps have?

Eike: Recombustor is hitting 50k anytime soon (49k so far...). Ocean Conquest has 7k installations. Bubble Inflate hasn't even got a hundred downloads. I invested about 3 or 4 days of work in Bubble Inflate - compared to the half year I needed in comparison to Recombustor, it's still quite successful I'd say, especially since it's more an experiment on how an unadvertised game app fares over time. As far as I can tell, the downloads are very constant on that app - around 10 per month on average.

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

Eike: I am doing the artwork myself. For the next game, I am cooperating with some guys who provide music and sounds for free for me ( They produced a really cool soundtracks, but I still have to publish that game. An important resource for me is also motiviation. My initial motivation is usually able to keep me working like crazy for 1-2 months, but I usually need feedback then from other people to keep going. I am glad to have a game designer as a friend who provides me with help and feedback - which helps me to not lose interest.

Bartek: Is Super Marcato Bros. music free or paid? How much is it?

Eike: They kindly offered me to make everything for free - which I was not happy to accept because if money comes around, it should always be paid in my opinion. I offered them a share of revenue that wouldn't kill me but that would be fair in relation to their work's impact on the game. I don't know if the game will be a success, but still, I would share if there was something to share.
Bubble Inflate

Bartek: What software do you use to make graphics?

Eike: I use a really really old outdated version of Paint Shop Pro 5 for lots of things like basic drawing, converting formats etc. For painting, I am using Manga Studio 5 which works fine with the pressure sensitive pen of my tablet PC (which Photoshop for example can't because the Microsoft Ink API is not supported by Photoshop).
For 3D modelling, I am using Cinema4D R11 that has also a painting application called Body Paint included which allows me to paint on 3D models directly, which is often handy. I use that tool a lot as well.
Bartek: What other programming tools do you use?

Eike: So far, I used Dropbox alone for keeping the file backups and sharing it with a colleague. Adobe Scout is also a very nice tool to dive into performance issues.

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

Eike: About half a year. Sometimes longer.

Bartek: How much time do you spend working on your games every week?

Eike: I can spend around 2 hours per day on working on my stuff, but I often can't even do that. Maybe I manage to do like 10 hours of work per week on average, up to 20 hours if I can afford it.
Bartek: How much are you making on your apps?

Eike: Not much. If I subtract my costs for the server I have and other costs, it's slightly negative.

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

Eike: I use AdMob and some in-app purchases.

Bartek: Do you use AdMob banners only or interstitials as well? When do you show them?

Eike: I used them mostly for banners. I also used them for interstitials - which worked pretty well but I abandoned it as it led to bad reviews - maybe because I was a bit too harsh... I showed them like every 3 minutes for at least 10 seconds or so.

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

Eike: I haven't released enough apps to draw conclusions on that.

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

Eike: No, not really. I promote it by going through forums. After the first game I released, I learned that I needed to be more active in some social network and choose Google+ to build up some followers. I don't know how effective the next "marketing" campaign will be for the next game, but I'll see...

Bartek: What forums do you use to write about your games when you finish them?

Eike: I advertised Recombustor the most on various forums - like Making Money with Android Forum and a few similar. It's difficult to tell the others, I only remember that one as it gave me the best feedback. I advertised Ocean Conquest only on Google+ and some communities there.

Bartek: What are your favourite Android games/apps?

Eike: I played Pixel Dungeon extensively for some time. Super Hexagon is also a game I liked to play for some time. Gem Miner has also taken a share of my time...

Bartek: What Android devices do you own?

Eike: G1, Nexus S, Asus Transformer Prime 201, Nexus 4 and an Archos Tablet for testing.

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

Eike: I follow the Google+ Indie Game Community and also follow some other Android news Google+ users.

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

Eike: Making games and publishing them, hoping for some bigger success. Having fun playing games and having a community that takes part at the development. That would be awesome. I had the pleasure at work to get in touch with players who really care - it's awesome and frightening at the same time to see such dedication. It would be a really nice feeling to achieve something like that.

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

Eike: Making beats doubting. I made so many prototypes that I really hoped to push out but I couldn't finish them because of my perfectionism.

Bartek: Where can people find you on the Internet?

Eike: My Google+ profile is most active. I post regularly stuff there on things I like - the photographs of other people but also links to blogs about coding and of course the stuff I do myself.
I have a blog at but I hardly ever post there. It's better to follow my Google+ stream:
I post on Google+ about once per week about my work progress - it's otherwise littered with the stuff I find around on the internet ;)

As a bonus Eike decided to reveal screenshots from his new game, which is still in production:

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