Interview with Fuzzle developer

As a continuation of my interview series with leading iPhone developers, I have with me Christina, the developer of Fuzzle from Candy Cane Apps in Estonia.

I’ve played a lot of puzzle games, but have never quite seen anything like Fuzzle before. What other puzzle-type games have you regularly played and which were your inspirations for Fuzzle?

I’m glad you like it :). The concept of moving colored balls to get five in a row isn’t actually new, just not too well known. I came up with the idea of adding rainbow balls and bombs, and also added the levels + timer to try to make the game exciting, so that it starts easy (at least on easy difficulty) but gets slowly harder and thus doesn’t go on forever. I think a lot of players want a quick game for iPhone, which they can for example play on the tube/bus. So we tried to cater for them, as well as people looking for a longer, slower game by adding the different modes.

I like most of these kind of puzzle games that come mostly from Japan, such as some games by the Japanese company that invented SuDoku. I’m working on another game now that’s based on one of these. I also tend to prefer multi-player games, as gaming can otherwise tend to be somewhat anti-social. I even have some ideas about adding a two-player mode to Fuzzle, but I can’t promise anything there yet.

Why did you decide to develop it for iPhone? Have you developed on other platforms before? If so, how does developing for the iPhone compare to what you’ve developed before?

The iPhone for me represents the first platform where I can make a simple game and be provided a platform to be exposed to potentially millions of customers, and thus can sell it cheap and hopefully still make a bit of money out of it. I think its a revolution for small game developers. And it is the perfect platform for these kind of puzzle games like Fuzzle.

I previously only developed on Windows. Apple has a nice setup for iPhone development so it wasn’t hard to adjust. We faced some challenges, but on the whole it was a good experience. I find the touch screen the most interesting thing – it provides challenges for some games, but also provides an opportunity for new game ideas and possibilities.

In the latest Touch Arcade article mentioning Fuzzle, they note that “Mikael Suvi” was formerly listed as the seller and some therefore speculate that you were simply the girlfriend of the developer used for the Fuzzle YouTube video. However, my girlfriend is also a programmer, thus I know it is possible to be a good programmer and attractive. :) In any case, we were wondering, what is Mikael’s role in Candy Cane Apps?

Yeah, Mikael owns the company and he’s a Mac expert. So I designed the gameplay and programmed it in C++, while he dealt with most of the Mac/iPhone issues and wrote the Objective-C code. We tried to keep most of it in C++ though so it should be easier to port to other platforms in the future. We also have another guy who designed the cute graphics.

Being a female iPhone developer isn’t unusual, as we all know of Erica Sadun (author of The iPhone Developer’s Cookbook) and Eliza Block (developer of 2across, which made $2000 per day for the first month). What is the state of women computer programmers in Estonia? Also, do you know many other female iPhone developers?

In Estonia computer programmers are highly sought after – we have a very small population and some big tech companies like Skype are employing many programmers, so it’s an attractive career path for many people, thus I think you’ll find more women computer programmers here than in most countries. I don’t know any other female iPhone developers – the iPhone only just officially arrived in this country a month ago actually.

My girlfriend regularly plays Galcon, Spore and Wurdle on my iPhone. What is your impression of the female iPhone gaming market?

Well, we have had a lot of feedback from women and even some reviews like this one – … so there seems to be a few of us out there.

As we all know, the freedom to change prices is making the App Store an interesting “experiment” in the free market. What was your reason for making Fuzzle free for a limited time? Does this strategy appear to work well?

Well, the reason we made Fuzzle for free for a limited time was to generate publicity and get a lot of users playing and talking about it – if we hadn’t done this, Fuzzle might never have been noticed among the 1000′s of applications in the App Store. I think it did quite well in this regard – we had over 100,000 downloads in just three days, and a lot of reviews in blogs etc. And now we have recently released a Fuzzle Lite version which hopefully also gives a lot of users a taste of the game.

One thing that happened when we switched to paid is that Fuzzle jumped to the number one selling paid app, until Apple removed it from the top a couple of hours later. I think there’s still some things Apple needs to sort out here, because a lot of applications have done this switch, and while ours was removed from the top almost instantly, some others – both prior to, and after, our switch – were allowed to remain at the top for days. So it’s a bit like a lottery. The apps that make the front page – the top apps, the what’s hot and what’s new etc – can receive 10-100x as many purchases as the rest, and the current system for putting apps on the front of the App Store is untransparent, and largely up to Apple’s whims.

So we’re talking to Apple to try and clarify this issue – we felt that what happened with Fuzzle was quite arbitrary and unfair of Apple initially, but now we’re just focusing on our next release, which we hope you will enjoy as much as Fuzzle. :)

Thank you for your time. Now that I’ve finished posting this interview, I can get back to playing Fuzzle some more!

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