Game developer Thomas “Reggie” Schreiber immersed himself in arcade culture as a child. He’d bike to the mall and blow a hard earned four quarters on arcade cabinets of yesteryear like Forgotten Worlds and Gunsmoke.

Those days never left Schreiber and after spending the 1990’s going to art school, he went down the game developer path. He spent six years at Capcom, a couple of years at THQ, a brief time at EA and Gaia before settling down at the mobile game company Playforge in San Francisco.

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To Schreiber, being an indie developer was a hobby. His website Pixel Licker and Slayin, the game that made it big, were a side project that was reserved for spare time. With a wife and eight-month old daughter to take care of, leaving a steady job to pursue an indie dream simply wasn’t feasible for him.

“We’ve talked about it, if [my wife] ever got some full time work then I could maybe go indie for a while and see if that wouldn’t be a feasible option for our family,” Schreiber said. “But right now that just not possible.”

Schreiber weighed the potential rewards of going indie against the risk of losing financial security. “We have some savings, but I’d rather use that on a house rather than drain it on an indie dream. A couple of guys are looking to close their businesses,” Schreiber said of friends who went indie. “ They’ve been trying to do it for a couple of years and it just hadn’t panned out to the success they were looking for. I admire what they did, I’m just too cautious to jump into that feet first.”

He was fortunate enough to be working on the right game at the right time. Schreiber started work on Slayin a year ago, basing it off a game called Drancia by Japanese developer Skipmore. The company is known for its simple stripped down game mechanics and Drancia was no different. The required just three inputs — left, right and an action button. The goal was to keep a knight alive for as long as possible as enemies poured in from all directions. Collecting coins from fallen enemies and the occasional chest replenished health.

Schreiber took that simple concept and expanded on it. He brought it to an online community of independent developers at Tig Source to test and after many iterations perfected Slayin. The game kept the simplicity of Drancia, but it now had a combo system, extra characters and a pixel art style.

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It wasn’t long before before German publisher FDG Entertainment found out about Slayin. By then, the version of Slayin that Schreiber put on Pixel Licker drew 10,000 extra visitors a month. Finding the right publisher is key to the success of a game and to a developer choosing the right one can make or break it.

Publishers provide funding, marketing and advertising for a game and are heavily invested in what a developer is doing. In the case of Slayin, Schreiber wasn’t looking for a publisher, it was Germany based FDG entertainment that found him.

“They sort of came out of nowhere,” Schreiber said. “They are a German publisher and I’d never worked with anyone overseas. I think I got really lucky.”

As an industry veteran, Schreiber came into the process skeptical of any publisher. “I have an aversion to publishers. Any studio that I’ve worked with that had a big corporate structure and they were the publisher, they would have a lot of say in what the games had in them,” he said. “I always thought publishers were bad because they were going to change your game.”

Schreiber got exactly what he wanted in the publishing deal. He was willing to hedge on the money split given his job security so long as they put his name on the game and marketed Slayin effectively. FDG went out of its way to accommodate Schreiber and even encouraged him to try new features in order to make the game better.

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“Normally, when you’re dealing with a publisher, if you’re not making a game that is going to make a million dollars then they won’t back just some crazy idea,” Schreiber said. “This publisher is looking at my game and going, ‘we want your wacky ideas so come up with some cool stuff and see what you can come up with.’”

Once Slayin hit the iOS app store, it found an audience and got featured. Featuring is when Apple puts the app on the front page of the App Store and every week they adjust what goes into the ‘What’s new’ or ‘What’s hot’ category.

“When you are in those lists, the casual gamer does not have to go digging for your game,” Schreiber said. “Most casual buyers look through those first two or three pages and if they don’t see something they like then they move on.”

It’s a big mystery on how a game winds up in that coveted spot. Schreiber said that Apple has never said how an app gets featured, but there is a window where the product has to be ready. If it isn’t or it gets rejected then you are out of luck.

“If you miss that deadline, it is over and Apple will never put you in another que for being featured,” Schreiber said. “So you have to be serious about getting your product ready and stable for review. Featuring is kind of a touchy subject with Apple.”

” I love being reviewed and being covered by blogs, but I don’t know how much that translates into buying the game.”

There are other ways to market a game aside from the featured page. Getting reviewed and featured on blogs within the hardcore community is another avenue, but there are questions as to how effective this can be.

Schreiber said his publisher believes that the traditional way of getting your game known, which is through the hard core community, doesn’t really help you get known since most people that shop the iOS store are more casual gamers.

“If you want to do well you need to focus on who the majority of people that are playing your game are,” Schreiber said. “I love being reviewed and being covered by blogs, but I don’t know how much that translates into buying the game.”

The game eclipsed the 150,000 download mark after the two week of being featured. The downloads have slowed down since then and often fluctuate from week to week.


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“The problem with iOS is that you never know when the ride is going to end,” Schreiber said. “You can never really count on that as a salary.”

Schreiber said that none of those profits aren’t guaranteed. Weekends are the prime time for iOS downloads, but even that has proven to be unpredictable.

“Some weekends it’ll be just like the weekday and some days it will spike up double. We have no idea why. Maybe some people are fickle,” Schreiber said. “Maybe others are simply shopping the app store more than others on certain weekends. It’s really hard to read.”

Slayin was a success considering Schreibers expectations going in. “I got into making Slayin for recognition only so any profit I got is just cherry on top,” he said. “I really wanted to get my games out there so people would know about Pixel Licker.”

Schreiber said he would have approached the game differently if he had gone indie. He probably wouldn’t have even attempted a game like Slayin. “If I would have quit my job and this was my insurance and my income then I would have probably turned into more a typical developer where I would be making something that I think would be a sure thing,” Schreiber said. “The only reason I can make the things I want to make is because I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. It has to be a hobby for me to be creative.”

That is not to say this isn’t to right time to go indie. Schreiber emphasized that this is the perfect time to do it, but the marketplace is one where the game has to really stand out in order to be successful.

“It just depends on your product. You need to consider that because there are so many Indies out there right now and it’s so easy to make another platformer or first person shooter,” Schreiber said. “You have make something that makes you stand out and makes you not just another one of those hobby people making another one of those mods.”

About The Author

Editor In Chief

Jose is a straight shooter who always goes the paragon route. He joined the team at Indie Haven to spread the word about indie games all across the galaxy. When not aboard the Normandy, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area playing video games and plotting ways to rid the world of games like Colonial Marines.

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