Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Android indie game developer interview: Gokce Balkan from Mind Drawer

Here's another interview featuring a person I met during the Apps World conference in London. Two more interviews are in production right now. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do. Enjoy.

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

Gokce: I'm Gokce Balkan, living in London. I'm a freelance Unity Developer working on mobile games, AR and VR applications.

Bartek: When did your Android adventure start and how?

Gokce: I was at the beginning of my game development career. I left my first short contract job with HTML5 game development and was looking for another related to web technologies. But I wanted to focus more on games rather than web. After a couple of unsuccessful interviews, I decided to change my path, learn Unity and make mobile games. Android was an easy choice since I had an Android phone and Android had been dominating the mobile market. But that doesn't mean I won't go for other platforms, especially after being able to develop for multiple platforms with Unity.

Bartek: Do you work full time on your games? If not, what's your current occupation?

Gokce: I work full time on my games if I don't have any contract work. At the moment I'm working on a 360 degree video virtual reality project, I'm spending less time on my game.

Bartek: How did you learn how to create games? What resources were you using?

Gokce: I watched all the Unity tutorial videos on Unity's website and YouTube. I was finding my solutions on the Unity forum and Stack Overflow. Meanwhile I was reading general software engineering and game development books to improve my skills, like Head First Design Patterns, Game Programming Patterns, Code Complete 2, Game Coding Complete, Refactoring, Clean Code, etc.

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

Gokce: Unity. The cross-platform publishing ability, huge community, lots of resources and demand of Unity developers on the market are the reasons. I might try other engines or tools later, but I aim to excel at Unity first. Unity is in its golden age with its expanding usage in industries other than gaming such as integration with augmented reality and virtual reality APIs and devices.

Bartek: Where do you take game ideas from? How do you know if they have a chance to be successful?

Gokce: Usually I tend to look at successful apps or games and visualize them in a different perspective. For example, if it is Tetris, I would think how it would work if the bricks were 3D objects. Some of my ideas stem from problems based on real life experiences and thinking of appealing solutions for them which brings fun to the user, such as a scuba diving game/simulator I thought about after I had dropped my weight belt around 30 meters underwater. Even if the idea is a different representation of a successful concept that may give an intuitive idea of the app's potential success, I can't know the chance of success until I test a prototype with people and hear them saying "I would definitely like to play it when it's finished". I think a successful app/game is based on a successful implementation of multiple brilliant ideas around a concept, not just the concept idea itself.

Bartek: Where do you get resources from?

Gokce: Usually I get the graphics from Unity Asset Store, but a friend of mine helps me with models as well. I get my sound and music from AudioJungle. Lately I worked with a music composer Rob Northcott. He did a very good job with the intro and the cut-scene music of my game.

Bartek: What other programming tools do you use?

Gokce: I use Git with Bitbucket for version control, Trello for organizing my tasks, MonoDevelop or Visual Studio for my code work, Unity Remote app for immediate testing on my device. For profiling I use the built-in profiler of Unity.

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

Gokce: It depends on the content of the game. I and a friend of mine worked on a small word game for which we had a clear road map. It took 6 weeks to complete and release. On the other hand, I am working on a memory game which is changing throughout the development with new features and ideas. I have spent more than a year working on it and still there is some more work remaining.

Bartek: How do you test your games?

Gokce: If the game is in the alpha/beta testing stage, I do my testing with my testers in Google Play Alpha/Beta testing. Before that stage, I send the apk files to a few friends and get feedback from them. Personally, I test my apps with my Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy Note Tab. For screens with different resolutions, I see the results in Unity's Game screen after setting different resolutions. Also I test my progress on an Android device with Unity Remote app.

Bartek: Where did you find your Google Play beta testers?

Gokce: I show my game to my friends, people I meet at meetups or conferences. If I see anyone showing a genuine interest in the game and would like to play it after it's released, I ask them whether they would be interested in testing, and add them to the testing group if they say yes.

Bartek: How do you plan to monetize your games?

Gokce: My monetization model will be based on interstitial ads, rewarded video ads, offer walls and in-app purchases. I will decide on the ad networks later when I finish working on the core game experience. Probably it will be a combination of many.

Bartek: Do you want to release your game on Google Play only or other app/game stores as well?

Gokce: I'm planning to release on the App Store as well. I haven't decided about the Windows Store yet.

Bartek: What are your favourite Android games?

Gokce: Monument Valley. It's like a piece of art, Esher's work presented as a game...

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

Gokce: I can't give a site focusing specifically on Android, I read more general game/app industry sites. Rather than having a regular read, I receive new posts from Gamasutra, Develop,, UploadVR, etc. from their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages and read the most interesting ones for me. Otherwise, I can get lost in the news and reduce my productivity during the day.

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

Gokce: First I would like to come to a position where I can generate sustainable income with my apps. Then I would like to slowly expand my business focusing on games, AR and VR apps that bring the best value to the users.

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

Gokce: I would advise them to focus on their skills, start small and listen to the users. Focus on the skills because you definitely need them for your super idea that makes people's lives better. At the point when you think you have learned enough you may discover how inefficient you are and how much more you need to learn. Start small because life was difficult for me after I started with my very ambitious game as my Unity learning project. It was an amazing learning experience, but now I think it could have been better for me if I had worked on smaller tools or tutorial projects for developers and had published on Unity Asset Store. I could have improved my portfolio and it could have been a more sustainable business with less effort and marketing. Listen to the users because you want them to download your app and use it as long as possible. When you confidently think your app/game has very good features and strengths and you enjoy using it, your user may struggle to understand what is going on and get confused with too much information, which happened to me. You won't want them to uninstall your app after a frustrating experience.

Bartek: Where can people find you on the Internet?


No comments:

Post a Comment