We sit down with the one-man dev behind the up-and-coming zombie killfest.
First things first; I have been good friends with Spencer Cordes, the one-man developer team behind Tread of the Dead, for many years now. Him and I formed Pyrosmile Productions many years ago, and we both wrote and produced Master Chief Theater 3000, which ran for several seasons on Machinima’s Youtube channel. We’ve been involved in several side projects since then, but I never even heard that he was making an iOS game until just a few months before he intended to launch it. I was pretty skeptical when I heard the words “zombies” and “tilt-based” thrown around, but I was pretty blown away when I got my hands on the game several months ago. I ended doing the majority of the QA work for the game, which is why it doesn’t completely suck.
Suffice to say, this is also the reason why I didn’t review the game, but rather had Dave do it instead. He gave it a 3.5, which is a score I personally think is a bit low, but it certainly doesn’t take away from the fact that Tread of the Dead is a good game, and a pretty damn impressive showing from someone who has never developed a game before!
I had many questions for Spencer when he first showed me TotD, so I figured I would share our conversation with you guys, and with any aspiring developers out there! If you have any questions for Spencer, leave them in the comments below and he’ll be sure to answer you.
Me: I know that you are an avid gamer, but what made you decide to make a game yourself?
Spencer: Well most of my life has been filled with gaming, so at an early age I knew I wanted to play a role in making them. I didn’t really start programming until I started college, though. And when I got bored during my college courses, I wanted to fill my extra time with programming. So I just started working on making an iOS game, which turned into Tread of the Dead.
Do you have any past experience in game development? How did you learn the skills you used to create TotD?
No past experience in game development. Truth be told, this is actually my first game. All the iOS programming was self-taught since my college courses didn’t cover them in the slightest. But basic programming knowledge came from a few of those courses.
Ah, good old college. So helpful! So how long did it take you to make the game? Did you have to juggle other things during development?
Hmmm…well it took just less than 2 years. However, I had a 5-6 month break in there where I just got completely sick of working on TotD, and worked on another iOS game. During development, school was definitely juggled. And sometimes schooling came second, haha.
Another iOS game eh? Hmmm…
Heh yeah… I don’t think that will ever see the light of day, considering it’s pretty much a clone of a popular game that involves running in temples. That said, it was really more of a side project to distract from the back-breaking work on TotD.
Fair enough. I think there are enough clones out there anyways. Speaking of clones, there are a lot of zombie games out there. What made you decide to make your first game about zombies?
I don’t quite know…I had the basic gameplay idea of TotD in my head, but I didn’t know how to execute it. Once I had the idea of weapons being thrown, zombies instantly came to mind. And as we all know, zombies are not overdone. Right? =/
Riiiiiiight. Well, I forgive you. Were there any specific development roadblocks that you had to overcome during the process?
I am not a very good artist. In fact, artist is a bit of a stretch. I would always be changing the artwork because I was never content with how it looked. Other than the art stuff, working with Cocos2D was a breeze. I couldn’t of made TotD without that fantastic framework. <3
What was your overall experience with Apple’s submission process? Were their any issues to overcome?
They rejected it (TotD) the first time I sent it in because it violated their gore and violence restriction. I was confused because this game is rainbows compared to some games currently on the App Store. Turns out I just forgot to add the rating for Gore and Violence. Derp. After that it was smooth sailing. Took a month for the approval though.
In addition to not forgetting to add the rating, what are some of the biggest lessons you learned during the development process?
Think ahead. Wanna make a game for multiple devices? Including Android? Well make sure you think of this stuff before you start your project. There are plenty of frameworks that will help you make your game available on multiple platforms, you just have to use them from the start.
So do you plan on bringing TotD to Android? How much work will that be?
I will have to port it and translate it to C++, line by line. So it will probably be a few months before an Android version is released. On top of that, I still need to keep working on updating the iOS version with new features and content.
Wow, have fun with that. If you could go back and do one thing different, what would it be?
Use the frameworks talked about above, instead of having to port it manually to Android myself.
What are your future plans for TotD?
In the next update, it will fix minor bugs, as well as add a touch control system, which I believe will involve swiping instead of tilting. Also, in future updates, more chapters, weapons, skins, and modes will be added. Gotta keep the players happy. And of course, an Android port will be coming. But not for a few months.
Very cool. Do you have any advice for aspiring game developers out there?
Start small. I started on this big project and it was VERY overwhelming at times. Also, try getting feedback on your game by posting in development forums and such. Getting feedback is great motivation when working on a game.
You told me that you posted on Reddit when you first launched the game. How did that go?
Very well! I did not see that coming. I was expecting maybe 100 upvotes, and at the moment it’s at around a thousand! It helped that I gave away codes for people to try out the game.
Aside from Reddit, what else did you do to make your game known?
I sent a massive amount of emails to all the iOS app sites, and I also posted on TouchArcade’s forums. I also setup a Facebook page and Twitter account as well. That’s about it!
Of course it doesn’t hurt knowing a member of one of the PREMIER iOS gaming sites on the web!