Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Place You Come To...

It has happened to me in about every venture I have ever encountered. The wall. It is the place that forces you to stop and take measure of your own size.  It is a place that holds you where you stand and makes you aware of just how human you are.  You know your limits, not in a depressed way, but in a realistic way. I just know that beyond this wall I must rely on something bigger than myself to move forward. I imagine for many, this wall is all too real.  For our friends in Japan that wall metabolized in to a very real, very scary earthquake & tsunami. For many, that ‘wall’ was their end. My wall is more metaphorical... It is more of a day to day wall.

Its a great thing for a person to start a venture supposing that he himself can conquer the world. It’s a catalyst to one’s own evolution. As time lashes you with life lessons, that notion of 'going vertical’ in your own personal development forces you to go horizontal instead.  Now you rely on the power of friendships.  Those can take you pretty far.  But even the power of our dearest friends is finite.  You realize this before the end of that wonderful momentum you friendships provide you. Beyond friendship there needs to be something of a higher nature to help you become what you know you must.

In the world of app development you realize pretty quick that you are in the stock market of ideas and that there are all differing types of players. Even if you rise to unbelievable heights you will encounter many inevitable lows.  There is no such thing as perpetual growth by any cleverness you can devise on your own.  You can take the advice of even the smartest of friends and success stories, and still you will fall short.  Mother Nature is bigger than your plans. If there is a force that governs all of us we see it best when we try to combat its authority most.  If you want to know the power of the wind, run into it.  Feel the surge of what a current is by swimming against it. See how long your well-trained muscles can resist its force, a presence that will not falter. Good luck with that.

At some point you will hit that very wall, and when you do you have a choice. You can give up or you can go with it.  The wall won’t move for you.  Now, I never suggest giving up entirely. The trick is to change your point of view. Realize that there is a power greater than you at work here. Call it what you will. I call it God.  That power called you on this venture, didn’t it?  It stirred you like the moon stirs tides.  It called, then you answered, and instead of being a humble agent of its calling you fell into a trap- you claimed authorship. That’s a bad choice.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned in this bold venture of creating something new is that I can’t create anything truly unique by myself. Something bigger drove me to create, and it’s not my job to guide that idea’s ‘life journey’ or to define its purpose.  Every mother or father knows this all to well when they realize the limitation of parenthood. You do your best, but one day you will have to let your child live his or her own life.  It’s the same with ideas, companies,  and apps.

It’s time I let my app be what it is, and I will go along with it.  It’s a good app.  I trust it can go far.  I will offer suggestions on its direction but it will go where it wants and help whom it wants to help.  It is, after all, just a thing.  Its worth is nowhere near the importance of one person in Japan for example.  My hat is off to that Nation in a gesture of humility and of awe of the Japanese’s amazing resilience and strength.

So on Friday April 15th, every cent we make will go to Red Cross efforts. The wave of devastation that hit this proud nation reminds us all that we are in fact small in this world, and our plans are best given up to a Higher Power than plotted over, like some sort of scheme for world domination.  Please join us in our small effort to support Japan.  We won’t save the world, but every little bit helps. Tell your friends, tell everyone about our efforts & join us in helping Japan this Friday.

Thanks for your time & support,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's The Wild West In Here!

Well pilgrim, be forewarned.  You can find gold in the Apps Store Hills. Ya may find a lot.  I reckin’ you saddled up to start your first app thinkin' all you have to do is look pretty and tell a good ol’ tale and that there gold would come a rushin’ in. Well here’s what I figured in my first month in this wild, wild country. I pass it on free of charge...

I seen good apps shot dead in there first weeks. Maybe its because they didn’t now how to get the word out that they was comin’ to town. I also know that there be folks playin’ a hand with an ace up their sleeves too!  Cheats, snake oils sales men looking lookin’ to steal you customers by speakin’ ill of ya on your reviews page. They do it without even trying your app out.  WHY? They do it to convince people that your apps no good, even if it is.  You’ll know its when it’s them they write lies on your reviews. Nobody else knows they are lies but you.  But what can you do? Ya can’t complain to the Sheriff Jobs. You see, the sheriff, he don’t, maybe cant, regulate all these crooks. The know it too. Tey do all sorts of foul play in the open daylight. Sometimes buy their way to a top ten spot simply by gifting hundreds of apps to friends.  Its not illegal to do it, but it aint an honest way to make a livin’ either.  Heck there ain’t much law here anyhow no matter how decent you try to be.

I came to this here land to make a new start for myself.  I wasn’t all that naive, but I will admit that I did think that there would be some law.  Something that would make me feel like I could raise my kin in these here lands without the worry of bandits hijackin’ me at every turn.

You see if your competition thinks that you have claim of land thats got gold on it they will do what ever they can to run you off your land. Thats just the way the Wild West is...

Just hold tight Pilgrim. Do updates often. Address all the concerns you can. Get your beloved happy customers to review you newest updates often. Be the best gold miner you can be, because these hooded varmints who try to hamstring you can’t stay around for long. The only reason they take shots at you is because the curs are scared of you. Scared of who you are, and what you bring to the table. So cowboy up Pilgrim, and show those lilly nannies what true grit is all about!

Monday, March 28, 2011


I see it everyday with my app.  A very large disproportionate number of people who buy an app actually rate an app.  If you are like me, and I suspect many are, rating seems like a pain.  "Why should I rate an app? It seems like work.  I already gave this app company money now they need a pat on the back! Or if not that a slap on the wrist, I don’t want to do that its just mean.”  Why rate?

The answer, I’ve found, is if we don’t rate, we don't effect the kind of change we want to see at in the app store to make it a better store.  Look at it it this way.  When a movie comes out like, My Big Fat Greek Wedding many people who went to see it loved it.  They told friends.  Sales soared.  The amount of money spent to make and sell that film was pretty low, but the word of mouth on it allowed us all to have a fun night at the movies watching a movie we might have otherwise missed.  Conversely, if someone had saved me money by telling me that the last Superman movie was not good, I would have been grateful for not having had paid IMAX ticket prices on it!

So many of us don’t know the power word of mouth has on the iTunes store.  It has a HUGE impact on sales. HUGE.  What does that mean for you though? It means if a company makes a dud they need to be told so.  Why? Because if they are not told so they will keep going on making duds thinking people like the duds.   What if an app is good, but it can be better somehow? Give it a three stars and tell them why you did.  The app you spent your hard earned money on in a store that allows you to talk to the producer directly to say how they need to improve what they make. Don’t be surprised if you see an update making the app three times better because of your comment either.

When I worked for Big Idea making Veggietales and we saw harsh comments on Amazon regarding what we were lacking in, we took it to heart.  We know that every one comment might as well have been a thousand comments.  The great thing about the App store is its like being in a restaurant, getting bad food, and its okay for you to tell people all around you “Don’t get the pasta it’s waaay undercooked!”  Don’t think for a minute the cook wont change how he does things.

You have the power to make the app store better for yourself and others.  Rate things. Be honest.  Get your money’s worth.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nothin’s Over 'Till The Bell Rings

I love Rocky.  You know what I love about that guy? He takes his hits, he puts it all on line to to do more than just box. Most of the times he is fighting something inside himself rather than the guy in the ring.  He has something to prove to himself.

In a world that is full of people who are in tough spots and know they have a voice if they can only fight the nay-sayers to have it heard; you have have no choice but to fight for yourself to say ‘I Am.”  The fight to get an app noticed is very much about that.  Sure there is competition (tons of it) but who cares.  Fight your way through it.  Put fear on the back burner and see how far you can push forward.  You don’t have to be a jerk about it.  You just have to believe deep down inside that you have what it takes to make it to the last round.

My friends, its a tough world. So much is beyond our control.  What is in our control is how we react to the blows that hit us. They will knock us down. You will feel like a failure for a moment.  Dust yourselves off, stand up, and FIGHT BACK!  Many people give up.  Don’t.  Failure can’t be an option.  If that were the case we would have no success stories. You have to fight for whats yours in this world.  You fight for your family, to keep a home, to take a chance, to sell an app.  Its not about success in the end though, its about character.  Prove to the world that you will always rise to your feet no matter how hard the blow!  Show people that they can too.  Inspire the dream of America.  An underdog can win if the actually have the heart that it takes.  We all want to believe we have that fire in us.

Light a match and let it burn!

Fight the good fight, and dare to say to the world, 'I am!’

Never loose heart!  The second you believe you are done... you are.  Don’t believe that, fall on your ideals and  fight back. Fight well. Fight fair. And listen to the roar of the crowd.  They will roar because they want what you have...Fire.

Go forth and conquer!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Hello I’m a Mac.” “And I’m an Idiot"

The iPad 2 is days way from release.  I just watched the video of all the new and cool things it can do.  I was watching it on my ‘old’ iPad. It feels like I’m a kid enjoying a Wonka bar on brisk sunny morning, and this kid runs by me shouting loudly that he has a Golden Ticket.  "Lucky punk.”  I continue eating the chocolate bar, but now it doesn’t taste so good.

Technology moves so fast these days! You can hardly wear out a computer before someone wont even give you ten dollars for it on Ebay.  I accept it. I know that thats how it goes, but this time around I feel like some of the features could have been done on the last iPad.  The camera comes to mind.

Now, this new iPad is way faster, and it seems to have a bunch of iLife stuff on it.  Pretty cool, but I hope we can ditch some of those built in programs we don’t usually use them to free up space though.  I liked on the last iPad that it just had the essential programs. For me, Garage Band is cool, but if I had to choose between that and another large app that I want to put on my iPad;  I will want to get rid of it.  I’m not much of a 'music guy’.

So, I committed the cardinal sin as many of you have, I bought first run Technology.  It’s crazy I am behind the times already, but then, I am not alone.  The other night my wife asked me “If your app sells well, and we pay of all our debt; what will you buy for yourself? “  I said, “I’ll get us dinner,” She smiles.  I add, “Then we head over to the Mac store and I get an iPad 2. I’m a Mac junkie and its a write off.  For me.”  She smirks.  She’s right to.

For all of you that bought a holiday iPad at Best Buy, do you really wonder why they were running all those adds for selling back outdated items 90 days after Christmas for new and improved versions.  It wasn’t for TVs I don’t think.  Pretty clever.

Anyway.  Apple did need to draw a line in the sand however because of all these other iPad knockoffs out there.  It did the same with the iPod. It dominated that market.  It will dominate this one too. I wish I owned stock in Apple right now.

Next up, I hope Apple improves its iPhone.  That Droid is getting pretty darn popular.

Well, as I am going to bed I know there is some one walking over to a mall.  They are setting up a tent.  They have called in sick to work.  They must be the first to have that new juicy Apple product.  I’ll wait a little longer this time around... heh or maybe I wont.  I’m an easy sell.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Launching an App...

There is a sense of something dangerous, new and exciting about launching an app.  From the outside looking in, you might say, "Big deal".  Trust me - it is.

If you were me, you'd find that months of your life and a lot of your money all hinge on how well you executed your ambitions and fulfilled your dreams.  You have made concessions to accommodate reality, but you still feel like you have reached the highest point you can reach given all you have learned. You'd think, "This is it. This is what people will like."  And you'd pray to God you are right.  In the end, there are only a handful of times you put it all on the line.  I have gotten a look of disbelief from people who have heard that my partner Tod and I have self-funded this ambitious project.  People sometimes give us this kind of Are you crazy? look. I wonder if those people ever believed in their own visions enough to risk as much themselves. I hope they have. You see, you don't have to live your life on crutches.  We are each our own people. The limitations we place on ourselves are fears with an excuse. I want to try walking on water to see if I can,  to swim with sharks to see if they bite, and to dream a dream to see if it's real.

At the end of my life my family will be the only thing of importance to me. I'm making this app for my daughter, Alairyn. I hope she likes what her dad made.  I hope your kids will, too.

This is Joe Spadaford signing out.  Till next time, Space Cadets.

 Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Money For Nothin’ and Your Apps For Free…

I was talking to a friend of mine about a reasonable price to sell my app for.  I was doing it strategically, basing our price on what the market would bare.  What do our competitors’ apps price for, and what exactly do we at Brain Freeze offer?  We’ve finally honed our research down to a price that seems right. So, after having done all the typical calculations that any businessman would do ~ figuring out my break-even point & hoping for a profit ~  my friend asks me, "Why should I buy your app when I can get all the apps for free on the Droid?”  OK ~ major road block…

First of all: NOT all apps are free on any mobile device.  If they are free at the start, the creators are going to find a way to create a revenue stream, either through in-app ads or in-app purchases.  Some of the really high selling apps (mostly games) will start out free, but eventually they will want to upsell you into a paid version.  This may work for the gaming apps, but when it comes to books, the model just doesn't hold up.  I invest thousands of dollars and countless hours of my time and effort to make my customers a high quality app for their children. So, I really don’t think is too much to ask to put a price tag on it.

That being said, there are people out there who price their apps far too high for the content given.  For instance, a lot of history apps price-out high at the start, based on the expectation that teachers will "pay through the nose" to educate their students in a new and engaging way.  I know that because I’ve bought a few of those and I know others (teachers) who have, too.  However, it turned out that the educational content we paid $9.99 for, was, in the end, equivalent to about one chapter of a book. Sadly, this is other end of the spectrum, where some apps are overpriced, and you have no way of knowing that until you've made the purchase.

Next, my friend poses this question, “Shouldn’t all apps just be free?” Well, in a perfect world, I would gladly give all my stuff away for free.  In that world, I could go to a store and buy groceries paying only with a smile.  My daughter could afford college simply on a hope, and I could pay my mortgage by wishing on a star.  I do wish we lived in that world, but this is capitalism.  Just look at the price of gasoline, or the money we’ll pay to see one film in a theater on date night.  I know the value of a buck.  People ought to get their money’s worth at all times, but why do so many people still think things should just be free?  If you want quality entertainment, you’re going to have to pay for it.

As a remedy, I think that our ‘Lite’ version of the app is a very good option. It’s the perfect way to try before you buy. And in the app world, I think a lot of folks agree that you ought to be able to taste the food before you know if you want it.  Many a time, I wish I had the opportunity to do that before I carved into a $25.00 steak.

The mentality that I am trying to emphasize is this: if a parent will hand-over $16.99 for a hardcover version of a Dr. Seuss book, then what’s the issue with paying $4.99 for a fully interactive children’s book? A book that teaches your child reading while you are in the other room cooking dinner for them, doing the laundry, or checking your email. To me, at this price the app is a steal.  For a few bucks, you’re getting A LOT of content in return.  I have to say that the only thing missing is the new book smell.  I’d put a money value on that; how does 10-12 dollars less sound?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Here's The First Look at Goosed Up Rhymes Folks!

Goosed Up Rhymes Goes To New York City

It’s official- Brain Freeze is heading off to the Toy Fair in New York City!
What is Toy Fair, you ask? Well, the definition they give is this:

“Toy Fair is the largest international toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere where the newest and hottest products in the children's entertainment marketplace are exhibited. It is the premier meeting place for manufacturers, retailers, importers, licensors and reps from around the world.”

  But what I prefer to think of it as is the gathering place of grown-up daydreamers discussing their visions for the future of our children’s playtime. The unique thing about this year’s Toy Fair is that the iPad/iPhone apps will now be represented for the first time.

  Why are apps now being represented at a toy fair? Well, given that last year at Christmas, thousands of parents were buying iPads primarily for their children, it immediately made sense that the iPad should now also be considered a ‘toy’ in the market. This is not, of course, a slight by any means to Apple. Indeed, it is actually a compliment. No other product out there can be utilized by businessmen, high-schoolers, gamers, and children alike, as a means of amusement and time-killing fun.

  In closing, our hope in this venture is to be able to meet up with as many fellow app developers as we can, and give them a glimpse into the new age of children’s apps we hope to be a part of.  If we happen to see you there, you’ll get a shot at being one of the first to play around with our Goosed-Up Rhymes app. For those of you who won’t be able to make it, there will be a teaser trailer posted up shortly for a sneak preview of what this interactive app offers.

  So, everyone please wish us luck. We hope to make some new friends there at the NY Toy Fair! Happy Toy-Fairing!! 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Marketing Lessons I've Learned From Big Idea

Back in 2001, I started at this wonderful company called Big Idea. I spent my time creating Veggie Tales stories for your kids.  It was, believe it or not, a pretty tough job.  With demanding schedules, many fellow artists to try to keep up with, and the pressure of making something that millions of people would see, it was a scary start for a 23 year old.  But my years there were a blessing, and I loved every second of it.  

I walked away about ten years later having learned a few things about pleasing an audience, such as don't expect them to be overjoyed with everything you do. We put out some shows that I personally thought were the best-of-the-best, but only received a luke-warm reception from our audience.  That left those of us in the development side of things a little stunned. On the flip side, we would put out a show the development team only felt luke-warm about; and in contrast, the audience loved the show and wanted more of the same! 
Why was that?  I now think that having a show full of fun, simple humor was a must for a positive reception with our niche audience.  Speaking of our target audience - I was shocked when I found out from the marketing team that our audience was somewhere between 3 and 6 years old.  There were so many jokes written for the shows that we, as adults, thought were quite funny, but many of those jokes must have gone far over the heads of those 3 to 6 year olds. It was a tough balancing act to catering to the kids, while still making sure the parents enjoyed some good laughs, too.

Another lesson I learned at Big Idea was to avoid paying too much attention to what the media was saying about our shows.  Many years ago there was a bit of a scandal about NBC making the "Veggie" shows more mainstream and removing some of the Christian content. NBC required that we make some minor changes to our shows in hopes that it would reach more of their audience. Many fans were confused and alarmed at this news- why had we gone from God to Sponge Bob??  The edits we had to make were fairly insignificant. And there remained a strong sense of 'God's presence' palpable with our show.  Another show that aired on NBC called "3,2,1 Penguins", actually depicted our characters praying to God - on public TV!  I thought that was pretty ground-breaking for our little show. Unfortunately, the message that got out was not that we had remained true to our core principles, but that we had sold out to appease the network.  People obviously didn't do the research, and many just assumed we had lost touch with our audience.  The results were damaging.  

I'm learning that the app arena is really no different.  The same rules apply: 1) have a mission and, 2) get to know your audience. Try to please them as best you can, while realizing  you can never please them all.  Goosed Up Rhymes will come out and many people will love it, and I mean LOVE IT, but some people will find little things that make it a problem for them. I can already hear a parent telling me it wasn't "educational" enough for their child; clearly, they would be overlooking all of the educational aspects we are putting into our app, such as 'touch-based' reading, and other things kids seem to find intuitive.    

I've been warned to 'not sweat the occasional one-star rating' from a disgruntled customer.  You can't make everybody happy. Unless, of course, there are a LOT of those one-stars; then you might really want to look into that. Good luck to all my fellow app developers out there!

PS.  Big Idea has book apps out there.... check them out! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

To Humor or To Educate..? That Is The Question.

I watch The Daily Show, CNN and Fox News.  It's all a form of news to me.  And, in a way, all a form of theater. I would humbly argue that one is not better than the other.  The news industry has become a multi-media experience, giving all of us the ability to see, hear, smell and feel the news as it unfolds before us, causing us to engage with the story on a more personal level. It's a whole new way to get the news - one that reminds us of our commonality - the human experience.

When we think of education, can we agree that laughter can and should go hand-in-hand with the traditional teaching methods?  Why must anyone view education as more important than enjoyment?  Is it because many of us have to do jobs that we don't like in order to earn our weekend fun? Is this our life view?  There is work and then there is fun. Period.

I, for one, sit here in my office working and (God bless my wife) I don't get much of a weekend. But, we still manage to enjoy our days and weeks together.  How?  Love, work and even learning are all affected by your state of mind.  If we find ways to make the drudgery of life enjoyable, by having a positive outlook, then we can get through even the most mundane or difficult of tasks more easily.  Not only can we get through them, we can enjoy them, and we can even remember them fondly afterwards.

We all had that one teacher in school we remember as being our favorite: the 'great' teacher. Maybe, he or she did something to make us laugh while we learned. Maybe, they spoke with such conviction that it made an indelible impression upon us. Maybe, what we liked most about them was that they simply seemed to care about our needs and desires as individuals.  They just let us be kids for a moment or two, even if it was college and we were twenty-one.

I took a children's book writing course after I graduated college.  In that class, the teacher showed us various children's books.  They ranged from the very silly to the very serious...but no argument was made to convince us that one style or approach was more effective than another.  Winnie the Pooh remains a classic of children's literature without having a serious word in it.

For example, I would go so far as to say that Mark Twain would never compare his work to Shakespeare. In his mind, his work simply represented his humorously ironic outlook on life.  His most beloved and serious work goes largely ignored by the public; it was a book about Joan of Arc.  We love to be entertained, not necessarily lectured to.  Now, if we can find a way to educate in an entertaining way, we may have discovered the perfect pairing.  Like peanut butter and jelly, or banana peels and pratfalls.  Some things just work better when they are put together.

I personally choose to make books that endorse a comical outlook on life.  I want to make kids laugh, because I know the world will inevitably throw them some tears. I believe that there is a educational value in knowing you can curl up with a good book and find solace from the world and its many complications and evils.  I want to create a place where children can just be themselves, and be silly. I hope parents will come along with me in teaching the value of laughter to their children.  As I prepare to release Goosed Up Rhymes, I hope it will create great memories for you all, no matter your age.

Thanks for your time.


Monday, January 31, 2011

An Overwhelming Market!!!

The App Store is truly a competitive marketplace.  It's a grocery store full of similar foods where the aisles go on forever.  There are over 332,000 "Active Apps" in the App Store right now.  Every 2.5 minutes, another app is submitted. Over 3 billion apps have been downloaded.  The average app buyer has 65 apps. He has spent approximately $80.00, and 65% of his apps are free.

This is a lot to take in!  If you think that you can just go to the App Store and submit an app with no marketing... well, I hope you are pursuing development as a side venture and using some rich guy's money who could care less how you spend it.  Without marketing, you can almost be sure your app won't be seen, and therefore, won't be bought.

"But, what if my app was selected as a Staff Favorite, or the Top 10 or even Top 100?" Once again, that would be so cool, but you have a lot of completion out there and it is much more likely your potentially awesome app would go largely unnoticed.

How do we make an app that hits big?  That's the million dollar question.  I like to think that if you go to the trouble of developing an app, you should make it an app that you would love to have for yourself.  Create an app that would really make your life a lot happier, more efficient or easier.  Chances are there are a lot of people like you out there who have similar needs or wants.  You can do all the market research you want, but in the end, create something you love.  J.K. Rowling was asked why she chose to write about such dark subject matter for her Harry Potter series.  Did she realize that could scare kids? Her response was that she was writing Harry Potter for herself and that it just so happened that kids liked it, too.  She never lost sight of why she was writing her books. She created something she genuinely loved.

This has been the common theme shared universally among popular artists.  From Michelangelo to Pixar, people admire an artist's passion to create something that resonates with everyone.  So, when you make your app, make an app you are passionate about.

BUT THEN MARKET IT!  We artists and programers hate thinking about this kind of thing.  Marketing is for other people; we just want to create.  I wish I lived in that world, but the competition is so fierce these days. Marketing is a skill that should be considered as fundamental, as important as the idea, the art, and the programming itself.

If you have a truly great idea, then it should be realized.  If your app is not getting noticed, start doing some heavy research about internet marketing.  Get involved in Facebook, Blogger, Twitter and YouTube.  See what's on people's minds; particularly on the minds of the people you want to sell to. Talk to them. Be a social butterfly.

Still no sales? Think further: maybe you should change your logo, publish an update, do a press release... a REAL press release.  Contact podcasters, reviewers, mommy bloggers and family-themed groups, Churches or your local newspaper...absolutely any place your app might find a voice.

If you have a great idea don't ever give up on it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Importance of Family In Creating Apps

We developers can do so much in the realm of making apps.  The possibilities are endless. We can do amazing things graphically. We can make any kind of media we want for mass distribution. But the question that ought to enter our minds as developers and creators is, "Should we?"

There are so many developers making content that that is a high school boy's dream come true. Often, extreme violence or sex appeal take the front seat in much of app creation. It's all about what drives quick sales. I love that Apple has as of now banned XXX content.  I am sure the adult film industry is banging on their door with loads of money, and they would make loads of money if Steve Jobs chose to lower his standards in this area.  If that were to happen, who knows what our kids could be exposed to?  How much more would we have to protect them?  This is, of course, an extreme scenario, but there are so many apps out there that blur the line between right and wrong.  Apple has, of yet, no rating system.  Perhaps it is time they implemented one.  Many people bought iPads for their kids this year.  I think a rating system is necessary to warn parents of adult content.

Our desire at Brain Freeze Entertainment is to create content that we can enjoy with our own families.  With this in mind, it's easy to stay well inside the line.

I encourage other developers to ask, "Why?" before they ask, "How?"

Thanks and have a great day!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Innovative Apps Don't Allow For Shortcuts In Coding

I remember getting into the nuts and bolts of HTML back in1999.  I knew Dreamweaver and Flash.4 amongst many others were available as 3rd party software applications to help me avoid all the heavy coding .  But I wanted to learn coding in its purest form.  Then came Java scripting, and a bevy of other heavy coding languages... So, as a young kid wanting a cool website, I folded. I went straight to using Dreamweaver and Fireworks.3. It was a question of time.

Yup, it was fast.  Super fast.  But then I found my imagination was stifled by the 3rd party development software.  These programs could not keep up with my day dreams.  Those 'What if' moments that are what makes an app stand out from all the rest. Its makes the app revolutionary!

When designing Goosed up Rhymes, we thought, "Hey, lets use GameSalad, Corona, or Coco3-d."  All of them could not keep up with our daydreams.  3rd party developers are fantastic for making games and apps that are already out there.  Use them for that. A game that kind of feels like other games but looks different in some fun way.  But, if you want to make something thats all new... you need to do straight up  X-coding.  There is no way around it.  The possibilities are endless. Always ask your potential developers if they use 3rd party software.  Many do, because its fast to learn. You are good to use them if the app you are making is simple.  But if you want to make and app that nobody has every seen before STAY AWAY!  Learn Xcoding.  If you don't have time for Learning it the go to oDesk and find someone who already knows it.  We at BrainFreeze believe in pure X-code.  Ask your programer if a thing you dreamt up is possible 3/4 of the time the answer is yes. Maybe even more often than that.


Monday, January 24, 2011

This Is My Baby!

Go check out http://www.gooseduprhymes.com/ to see what my little app is all about!

Very soon there will be videos and a Youtube commercial for this book. Its such a fun, entertaining book; I cannot begin to tell you about its interactive factor.  We set out to 'Make Reading Hilarious,'  and every day I see it, and I think yeah...Yeah this is funny stuff!  Imagine Monty Python, Bugs Bunny, and Sponge Bob all telling you Mother Goose Rhymes in their own crazy and fun way.  That's what it is.  If you expect to see traditional, old-fashioned storytelling then you will be shocked. We hate boring.

The voices of the characters are hilarious, too. We have great music that's designed to get kids into the mood of reading. Another fun thing is the hidden 'treasures' that are dropped throughout the book. Not to mention, there is full-blown animation, and a few games that link directly to the stories.  All told, we did eight rhymes, and there will be more to come. Each page just has so much on it that you cannot ask for much more from a portable app.  It's a book but also an interactive, animated reading experience.

This app is a real 'game changer', and we hope it will be approved by the end of next month so that you all will get the chance to enter the world of Goosed Up Rhymes!!!

Against The Clock! Apple's Approval Process

Everyday, hundreds of apps are submitted to the app store...  I do mean hundreds. I'm sure there are days where they come close to the 1,000 app mark.  Long gone are the lazy days of putting an app out there and hoping that it sells. Unless you actually still do that... Bad idea... market the thing!

There are books well written on the subject.  For the most part, the people looking to make money quickly will walk away angry, "What a waste of money!"  This process is really is a marathon.  Sure, there are your quick success stories, but for the most part the App Store is a puzzle to us all since Apple does not share sale figures.

In Apple's defense, it is a very regulated market.  It's not easy to get an app approved.  The problem for many people is the agonizing over the time it takes for the app to be approved.   On average, 3 weeks seems to be the normal waiting period. That can make you sweat, because they might not even approve what you have done.  That's three weeks of waiting to find out whether you're good to go, or you need fixes.  In some cases, that really can kill an upstart business.

The rumor is that the larger companies don't have this problem.  I don't work at Gameloft, so I cannot address that kind of thing. Just keep in mind that it's good to go through an approval process, because it means you're in a more trusted and regulated marketplace for selling apps.  But, don't be shocked when you end up having to put out updates for your app in order to calm your customer's 'bug' complaints. The more time that ticks by without 'necessary' updates to your app, the more agitated your customer base can become. Remember that it's not because of your technical inabilities to solve bug problems that the update needs to get out there, but rather Apple's lengthy waiting periods for approvals. Try using your company website to reassure fans or 'haters', and address their compalints.

Lets hope Apple makes us all spend less time waiting.

The Importance of Testing!

So many of us don't have access to tons of people to send a beta test out to for our apps.  Video game companies hire testers for all their games to make sure all the bugs are worked out... A pretty sweet job, if I may say so.

The Apple Store is a strong force for finding out if you have not tested your game well. They'll tell you if it has more bugs in it than a home on 'Hoarders'.  The funny thing about creating an app is that we all play our sample tests, notice a few minor problems and them just move on.  Very little time is spent trying to figure out how your target audience will like your game.  Kids like to push buttons or drag their fingers on the screen... They like it when things flash. It directs them.

In regards to games, people like solid controls. If you have a built-in joystick (like Pack Man for instance), make sure that it acts with accuracy.  I can't tell you how many games I have dumped when I discover another thoroughly developed app that blows it out of the water in the arena of simple game controls.  Focus less on the 'pretty' aspect and more on the stuff we have to use to move through your wonderful game.

Test on kids and friends of yours that fit the demographic that you're targeting for your game.  Even if you only have a Beta on your own iPad or iPhone, that's a great thing to give someone to test.  Carry the app around with you like a business card. Walk around generating interest: "Hey Tom, check out this App I'm making!"  Tom comes over to take a look.  Don't tell him what to touch or do!  This is a test!  This way, you'll find problems and 'bugs' in your app that you probably wouldn't have on your own.

Don't get discouraged.  If 'Tom' doesn't tell you the problems he noticed with your app, then Apple definitely will.  You don't want that.  You want a clean app out there!


It's the only way to build a clean app.

Happy New Week,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Zombies are invading my Ipad, and I am tired of it!

Remember how vampire stuff was all the rage about a year ago?... Well now it's Zombies.  I counted well over a hundred zombie apps on the iPad and iPhone. What does this say about app developers and their outlook on what we should buy?  Rule #1 with creating any new content for any marketplace should be to make it an original idea.  Plants vs. Zombies and Call of Duty: Zombies were very original at the time of release and successful. It was fun to play in that world.  I am sure a lot of developers looked at this and said, "Hey zombie stuff is selling well. Lets do that!"  This kind of creativity is what makes me sad.  Following trends is sooo boring. It requires no risk and doesn't broaden our outlooks for what can be a great 'time-killer' app. We all want them as we sit in a dentist office waiting for a root canal.

Lazy apps are the reason most of us buy apps, play for 10 minutes. and never turn the app on again.  That's not a very nice feeling.  I could have bought a movie ticket, a flower for my wife, or a nice little lunch for the cost of a zombie game that's not much fun after a while.  Not to mention, the games are often as mindless as the zombies themselves.

To all of the would-be app developers out there: try to think beyond zombies... really.  The world is full of ideas waiting to be grasped.  To marketers, think about open water concepts... don't go to the beaches and repackage ideas you see folks playing with there.  I know the temptation is to go after what the core demographic already likes.  But instead of cloning an old app, ask yourself this question: Why did they like the Zombie app in the first place?  Was it because of zombies, or because they like tension; the cartoon look of the app; or was it the wittiness of the main characters' one liners?  The reason we went to a movie like "Gladiator" and walked out saying "Wow, that was amazing!" is not because of the action or the violence- at the core it's because of something deeper. The same is true for books and games. Deep in our primal psyche we like things to go beyond the surface.

So, what's the draw for zombie games?  We like to take out aggression on things that don't make us ashamed of ourselves afterwords.  Zombies have no soul, they are funny, and really- pure slapstick.  Shooting a zombie is like shooting at cardboard.

Lesson: People want games that are a fun and funny way of letting out personal inner conflict.  Life is stressful, therefore we need a release.

 There are tons of original ways to get that premise across.  Heck, you can make a game about a monkey in a circus that's tired of getting picked on by clowns, bratty kids, bigger animals, and side-show freaks.  He wants to escape the circus, but the ring leader is a dictator that will let no animal leave at any time. Your goal is to escape the suppressive circus and bring down the Big Top once and for all so you can get back to the wild.  Its a simple idea that can be expanded upon and nobody is doing it. Wow!- an original idea that deals with similar, core anxieties people have.

Focus on what people feel deep down.  Make a game that medicates that feeling.  BUT BE ORIGINAL in how you do it! Zombies are dying on the app store if they are not dead already.  Let's find some new ways to let people vent frustration.

Just my two cents...

Thanks for your time, and have a great weekend.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Children's Book Apps... What's worth your money?

Hey folks! My name is Joe Spadaford of Brainfreeze Inc.  Over the past year I have been working with my friend Tod Carter to make a children's book that was the next step in what we wished we had when we were young.  I remember my mother once bought me a collection of classic tales drawn up in comic book form.  Why? I was not willingly reading around the age of ten.  Had she not bought those books for me I might have never read the Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, Count of Monte Cristo, Moby Dick, and so many more.  Why did I read those books back then..? Simply, they were fun.

Reading does not have to be a labor. In fact, reading needs to be a pleasure. Teachers everywhere and everyday are looking for the best ways to get kids started on the reading path.  Steve Jobs opened a new gateway for us once he invested in the iPad.

At first, nobody I knew wanted an iPad.  I was singled out.  One friend put me on a blog called, 'Lonely people with iPads'.  I got it so I could paint or draw on the fly.  It was great for that.  But, as I was looking for new drawing apps one day I came across some children's book apps.  I won't name names, but what shocked me was the amount of gimmick apps that were out there.

As a kid, I would not have been engaged by playing with a physics engine on a machine to enhance my reading experience.  Nope, it would just facilitate my ADD, and soon I would drop the Book App.  A bunch of bouncing objects would say to me that playing with digital toys was more fun than reading the words they cover up.  Not to mention, playing with tilting your iPad gets old after a short bit of time...

I wondered why so few people, artists and writers failed to fully utilize this new technology. Then I came across an app that worked.  It was a book, and it was a story. Not one bit took precedent over the other.  It's a fine line between making a cartoony app and also engaging the reader in the words of the book. We all want pretty pictures, but we all need to learn to read.  How this guy managed to balance it took me a few months to get my head around.  His name was Frank Ayars, and his book is Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack and the Beanstalk set my engines rolling. Tod and I wanted to be the first ones out there to make an animated version of what Frank did.  We played around with different story ideas, and settled on Mother Goose stuff.  We are calling our App Goosed up Rhymes.

Now, in trying to make an app you learn very quickly to survey your competition.  Week after week I was shocked to see books that were less and less like Frank's Jack and the Beanstalk, despite its great story telling, not to mention high sales.

I did run into a few gems over the past year though.  I have no problem praising other books in the app market place.  Also, I will tell you which ones, in my humble opinion, are not worth the money or the time.

There is junk out there.

These books are NOT junk.  They are quality.

Food Fight

This book has a funny story and great illustrations. It has been updated a few times and the updates keep making it better.  The subject focuses on getting kids to eat their veggies. I, myself, had some interest in this topic since I have worked on drawing for the Veggie Tales cartoon show for 10 years.  Why is it good?  It engaging and funny.  The story is as funny as the visuals. At Brain Freeze our motto is, 'Make reading hilarious!' I think food fight does that well.

Little Bella's I Close My Eyes

This book is a lullaby. It focuses on reading alone on one page, then shifting over to a wonderfully animated sequence next.  Its sooo charming.  Thumbs way up!  Its a simple premise but works so well.  Plus, the Little Bella voice is charming as all get out!  I can't say enough about this app.

Peter Rabbit Pop Up

This is an app that brings to the table the simple charm of what pop up books gave us way back when the only technology around to stimulate us was paper tabs and pop-up pictures.  I loved those books then, and I love this book now.  When I started on Goosed up Rhymes I told Tod, 'It has to be a moving pop-up book.  The kind you watch move on its own, but can also interact with.'  Its classic even though it does have some of those gravity engines... blaahhh.

Lastly, check out Frank's newest book

Cozmo's Day Off 

What Ayars animation learned from the interactivity on Jack and the Beanstalk has been built upon greatly. What was great is now better.  You follow this little alien around in his fun space world and get the experience of interacting with a world not your own. It's a charming and funny little story that has surprises all over the place.  Kids and adults will keep going back to it for a fun tale and the curiosity of, "If I push this, will it do something?" Often times it will, and it will make you laugh.  Frank's done a great job of making reading and games interplay perfectly into the story, and has some real innovations using the physics engine that is not way too gimmicky.  One page lets you look around at a monster in space, but also gives you the option of hiding the big monster alien character from your kids view by tilting the iPad... I wouldn't though. My little girl loves this stuff!

Thats all for my first post.  Thanks and have a great day!