Donut Games is the developer/publisher of well over a dozen iPhone games including fan-favorites like Rat On A Scooter XL, Comet Racer, and Cows in Space. Officially titled "Swedish Game Development Group AB," Donut Games has all of their games available in flash form on their website, where they can be played for free. With a arcade-like menu and three-star rating system for the levels in all their games, Donut Games has earned a large fanbase by consistently providing simple, quick experiences that draw players in for more, usually with a focus on increasing high scores.
I got the chance to find out a little bit more about one of the important faces behind the company, Daniel Zandelin, one of the founders of Donut Games.
Touch Arcade: What is the history of Donut Games as a company?
Daniel Zandelin: We're a small team of game enthusiasts, with roots going back to the good old days when the 8 and 16-bit gaming systems evolved. As a kid in the '80s I was quickly sucked into the intriguing gaming world of the Commodore 64, and together with my older brother, Ola, I grew an early interest of developing our own games, which lead to a bunch of quirky, buggy BASIC-games. Many years (and programming languages for that matter) later, in 2003, Ola started his own indie company to develop shareware games, and a couple of months later I quit my current job to join him.
The shareware market, which had just started to transform into the casual games market, was a blast! You could be a small team of 2-5 people and release quick, innovative downloadable games on the internet without the need for large budgets, and our titles (which we released under the Arcade Lab brand) were very well receieved.
As the casual games space and its portals grew more mature, productions grew bigger and a few certain genres got established and didn't leave much room for creativity or variety. So in 2006 we launched DonutGames.com, which started off as site for our Flash games. This project would give us our much needed room to play with new concepts and try out new ideas or whatever fun or crazy thing that popped into mind. When Apple announced the AppStore in 2008 and we started to dig deeper into the specs and SDK, we realizied this was the perfect platform for us: a device that you can carry with you anywhere you go, a store that is open for all and an excellent hardware to build your apps upon.
Touch Arcade: What exactly is your role within Donut Games? Could you tell us about some examples of your contributions to some of the company's games?
Daniel Zandelin: My role differs from one game to another, but my main areas of involvement are programming, sounds and last minute tweaking. The creation of a Donut game typically follows this flow: Ola, the concept master mind, brings up a new idea for a game, decides a theme to go with, and creates a mock-up of the basic artwork needed to get started. A programmer picks up the game and makes it playable, and we evaluate the result to see which elements are in place and what can be improved.
Once the basics are in, the level designers start working on the levels, and may eventually request more features from the programmer. In the last phase, I start working on the music and sounds. Once they're in, it's time for the final tweaking, which may or may not include additional visual effects, an extra mini game, and other last minute adjustments to make the game feel more solid. Simply put, Ola starts off the games, I finish them, and the whole Donut team is involved in the in-between.
Touch Arcade: What's the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you during your time with Donut Games?
Daniel Zandelin: This happens occasionally: When I'm sitting in a public place and a stranger next to me picks up an iPhone and after a few seconds I realize they just launched a Donut game. It's a weird feeling!
Touch Arcade: If you had an unlimited budget to create an iPhone game, what sort of game would you make?
Daniel Zandelin: Back in the '90s, me and my brother started working on a really whacky point-and-click game for the Amiga in which players controlled a crazy kid with long greasy hair called Matthew. I don't remember all of the details of the story that we came up with for the game, but Matthew owned a tiny, aggressive poodle and had a secret band in his cellar together with his best friend who owned a shabby old Hammond organ. It would play like a “Get item A to unlock item B, use item B to find item C” sort of game, but instead of logical puzzles it would involve things like flushing yourself down the toilet to find certain items. I'm not sure everyone would appreciate a game like that for the iPhone, but if money was no issue it sure would be fun to bring this old concept to reality.
Touch Arcade: What is something that you'd personally like to do in a future game release?
Daniel Zandelin: I know that this may sound dull, but I'd like to continue with what we're currently doing. We have great fun creating these games, our model works really well for us and our fans seem to enjoy what we're doing.