Venan Entertainment is the creator of the recently released Space Miner: Space Ore Bust, which we absolutely loved in our review. Space Miner is the first game from Venan, but we liked it so much that we decided to feature them in this week's developer profile.

Brandon Curiel, the CEO of Venan, was kind enough to agree to be interviewed by us, and I got the chance to find out a little bit more about him, his company, and his games.

Touch Arcade: Could you give us a brief history of the company? How did you start off?

Brandon Curiel: Venan started in the summer of 2002 in my spare bedroom. We had just left a dot com bust, and having worked in games prior to that, the five of us we decided we wanted to get back into that market. Our initial target was the Xbox, and we spent a year working on a game demo and shopping it around, but didn’t have much luck. So with our savings getting low, we decided to switch gears and aim for something more modest – mobile development. Our first game, Super Putt Classic, got sold into Sprint by Mforma (now Hands On Mobile) and from there they started offering us contracts to do new games. One game led to another, and to another, and eventually we built up our business being a third party mobile developer.

We got started on the iPhone pretty early with a contract from EA to bring Monopoly over, which we had done on mobile and the regular iPod. It was like a breath of fresh air after having to deal with the fragmented Java/Native landscape for so long. Since then we’ve done four iPhone games, three for EA and one for Sega, but Space Miner is the first one we’ve developed as an internal title. We’re hoping to be able to dedicate more resources to internal titles going forward.

The Venan Entertainment crew

Touch Arcade: What was the inspiration for Space Miner?

Brandon Curiel: Space Miner is an interesting story, because there was no direct inspiration for it. Initially we were just trying to prototype a control scheme. The idea was to use the accelerometer to determine the device orientation such that when the user turned the device, we’d take the world and pivot it around the player. Seeing some of the success smaller developers were having, we thought we’d knock out a quick game with this nifty control scheme idea, so we brainstormed for some ideas that might work. Eventually we settled on a classic asteroids style game.

Since we’re not talking about the game I just described, something obviously didn’t work. To be blunt, the whole idea was a colossal mess. I can say that, since it was my idea! There were so many problems, like not having anywhere to put a UI, getting tangled up in headphone cords, and the undeniable fact that flipping the device around like that was just not fun and liable to get it dropped. So, having developed an asteroids “engine”, we had to rethink what exactly we were going to do with it.

Having to start over again I think made us take a deeper look at the App Store to figure out what exactly was out there and where we could be different. What we found was that there were a lot of “snack” type games, but not a whole lot of the type of deeper games like those you’d find on the DS or a PSP. So, we decided to be different. Instead of going in the same direction as everyone else on the App Store, we decided to do back to our roots and just blow out the whole asteroids concept into something we’d want to play. And that meant narrative, RPG elements, and all the things that you see in Space Miner now.

Space Miner, the first game from Venan

Touch Arcade: What's a game that you'd love to make in the future?

Brandon Curiel: Dark Blossom. It’s a name that means nothing to anyone (it shouldn’t at least), but it’s a classic fantasy RPG we’ve had kicking in the background in one form or another for at least five years. Prior to Space Miner, we had been working on it as an original DS title, but gave up because the market there is very tough if you aren’t Nintendo. I’ve personally always wanted to make an epic fantasy RPG, so hopefully we’ll get the chance someday to port it over to the iPhone and try reviving it once more.

Also, Space Miner II. First since that will mean the first Space Miner was successful. But really we always have had a plan for a sequel and have tons of ideas we couldn’t get in the first one.

The Venan Entertainment offices

Touch Arcade: Who wrote the dialog for Space Miner? Can you tell me a little bit about the decision to make the game humorous in nature?

Brandon Curiel: The story was primarily a collaborative effort between me and Alex Kain, an associate designer here. I dealt more with the story elements and the arc, and Alex handled the actual writing (and re-writing) but we both did some of the other as well. We also brought in an extremely funny writer we worked with on Ninjatown, Robbie Telfer, to help “funny it up.”

As for humorous, well, I think that was a natural fit. Once we hit on the mining angle, it took all of 1.5 seconds for Uncle Jeb to be created in our minds, and that character is just funny out of the box. We wanted this to be fun, light, and accessible. We were just so sick and tired of all the dark, gritty stories you see in these games that have just been done to death. So the tone was very conscious, from the UI, to the plot, to the dialog, to even doing the space station as a bobbing 2D billboard.

Here's a gameplay trailer for Space Miner:

Touch Arcade: What's an interesting fact about your company?

Brandon Curiel: There’s an ongoing agreement with the employees that if we sell 100,000 units of Space Miner, I’ll get them a pinball machine. We have a long way to go though…

App Store Link: Space Miner: Space Ore Bust, $4.99

  • http://pgigk.tumblr.com pgigk

    Great interview, I'm glad that the sequel is planned. I have no doubt that the staff will get their pinball machine very soon. =) This game had been my most satisfactory appstore purchase ever.

  • http://pgigk.tumblr.com pgigk

    Great interview, I'm glad that the sequel is planned. I have no doubt that the staff will get their pinball machine very soon. =) This game had been my most satisfactory appstore purchase ever.

  • MrSpud

    I would sure like to see those guys do an RPG! And what a great way to motivate your employees! A pinball machine! Great interview, I hope they do well.

  • MrSpud

    I would sure like to see those guys do an RPG! And what a great way to motivate your employees! A pinball machine! Great interview, I hope they do well.

  • Cause007

    It'd be great to see the same humor put into a full-fledged RPG. Many RPGs have simply added a comic-relief character that just turns out to be a nuisance, but Space Miner's humor was in the writing, using serious characters, in their own minds. I've been hoping a sequel to Space Miner was in the works since the first time I picked up the game (which turned out to be a 3-hour session). There's much more that can be done with a sequel than wasting development time with DLC.

  • Cause007

    It'd be great to see the same humor put into a full-fledged RPG. Many RPGs have simply added a comic-relief character that just turns out to be a nuisance, but Space Miner's humor was in the writing, using serious characters, in their own minds. I've been hoping a sequel to Space Miner was in the works since the first time I picked up the game (which turned out to be a 3-hour session). There's much more that can be done with a sequel than wasting development time with DLC.

  • http://www.blackboxconversation.com RUFiO006

    I am not normally a big App buyer and I certainly don't get involved in discussions about them; however Space Miner was the best purchase I ever made on the AppStore. And I felt compelled to come here just to congratulate the team on a fantastic title.

    Here's to that pinball machine - if a sequel is released, my cash may as well already be in your pocket!

    Thanks Venan!

  • http://www.blackboxconversation.com RUFiO006

    I am not normally a big App buyer and I certainly don't get involved in discussions about them; however Space Miner was the best purchase I ever made on the AppStore. And I felt compelled to come here just to congratulate the team on a fantastic title.

    Here's to that pinball machine - if a sequel is released, my cash may as well already be in your pocket!

    Thanks Venan!

  • http://myspace.com/raveinglunatics Paul

    Excellent game, played it over 6 hours now and still loving it. Keep up the good work and I hope they get a pinball machine soon!

  • http://myspace.com/raveinglunatics Paul

    Excellent game, played it over 6 hours now and still loving it. Keep up the good work and I hope they get a pinball machine soon!

  • Noman

    Have no icash at the moment, but am looking forward to getting this game!

  • Noman

    Have no icash at the moment, but am looking forward to getting this game!

  • Silverdraken

    That Dark Blossom title sounds really cool. Hoping that'll be their next title.
    Also: good luck with that pinball machine!

  • Silverdraken

    That Dark Blossom title sounds really cool. Hoping that'll be their next title.
    Also: good luck with that pinball machine!

  • Kevin

    I was so addicted to this game, I played it almost non-stop til I was done. BRAVO!!
    I cant wait til Space Miner2! What a great idea, giving asteroids a story and ship upgrades! Anyone reading this who hasn't gotten the game yet, what are you waiting for?!

  • Kevin

    I was so addicted to this game, I played it almost non-stop til I was done. BRAVO!!
    I cant wait til Space Miner2! What a great idea, giving asteroids a story and ship upgrades! Anyone reading this who hasn't gotten the game yet, what are you waiting for?!

  • Yffum

    This game has no bad reviews. Everybody loves it, so everybody who doesn't have it should!

  • Yffum

    This game has no bad reviews. Everybody loves it, so everybody who doesn't have it should!

  • mackeral

    There are far, far dumpier entertainments crews out there - believe me on that. This crowd is a cool bunch, and Space Miner looks like a hella fun game for when I get the time to delve into it.

  • mackeral

    There are far, far dumpier entertainments crews out there - believe me on that. This crowd is a cool bunch, and Space Miner looks like a hella fun game for when I get the time to delve into it.

  • Nonstickron

    Sold!

  • Nonstickron

    Sold!

  • Robert

    You'll make enough money with this game to fund other titles. Then other happy customers will start buying your company games. Before long you'll Havana entire arcade for your employees lol.

  • Robert

    You'll make enough money with this game to fund other titles. Then other happy customers will start buying your company games. Before long you'll Havana entire arcade for your employees lol.

  • Oliath

    Fantastic article. I am really enjoying this game right now and it's lovely to see the faces behind the humour.

    Anyone without this game.....please go out and get it. These guys need a pinball machine so they can brainstorm new games :-)

  • Oliath

    Fantastic article. I am really enjoying this game right now and it's lovely to see the faces behind the humour.

    Anyone without this game.....please go out and get it. These guys need a pinball machine so they can brainstorm new games :-)

  • http://www.silentrocco.com SIlent Rocco

    Thanks for the interview!
    So far, this is clearly the game of the early 2010.

    • wegmans

      It really is. It's great that it can be so engaging and also so easy to play in short stints. Well done, 5 Stars!

  • http://www.silentrocco.com SIlent Rocco

    Thanks for the interview!
    So far, this is clearly the game of the early 2010.

    • wegmans

      It really is. It's great that it can be so engaging and also so easy to play in short stints. Well done, 5 Stars!

  • Dave

    A lot of MEH games lately...this is not one of them. Great game and gameplay. My only complaint is that I was able to max out my ship fairly early on so the levels that we supposed to be hard became turkey shoots. Nevertheless it was/is fun. Just wish I had more things to purchase and more things to blow up.

  • Dave

    A lot of MEH games lately...this is not one of them. Great game and gameplay. My only complaint is that I was able to max out my ship fairly early on so the levels that we supposed to be hard became turkey shoots. Nevertheless it was/is fun. Just wish I had more things to purchase and more things to blow up.

  • JustinV

    Totally awesome game! I love it. Keep up the good work and I hope that part 2 is in the near future!

  • JustinV

    Totally awesome game! I love it. Keep up the good work and I hope that part 2 is in the near future!

  • Brandon

    Its a toss-up to me as to what the best iPhone game has been, Space Miner: Space Ore Bust or "Civilizations: Revolution", but given the quality of Civ Rev, that just speaks to how great a game Venan has developed.

    Glad to not only have this game to play but to support this developer that is getting a chance to branch into their own ip/titles.

    Very fun!

  • Brandon

    Its a toss-up to me as to what the best iPhone game has been, Space Miner: Space Ore Bust or "Civilizations: Revolution", but given the quality of Civ Rev, that just speaks to how great a game Venan has developed.

    Glad to not only have this game to play but to support this developer that is getting a chance to branch into their own ip/titles.

    Very fun!

  • HipHopTouch

    Absolutely fantastic title, there is no other app that I can think of that comes this close to perfection. The title balances it's game mechanics and storyline effortlessly, playing through on hard creates enough challenge and I have back-peddled before saving good ol' Uncle Jeb after he takes a spacecraft into the unknown. The RPG elements are amazing, at this price, seriously the biggest steal on the whole iTunes store, never mind the AppStore.

    This is THE app for the AppStore. I am truly wow'd and have been selling this game to my friends ever since. Fingers crossed for a sequel and also a true port for the iPad? Please, please, please!!

    Thank you Venan, you have a true love for games.

  • HipHopTouch

    Absolutely fantastic title, there is no other app that I can think of that comes this close to perfection. The title balances it's game mechanics and storyline effortlessly, playing through on hard creates enough challenge and I have back-peddled before saving good ol' Uncle Jeb after he takes a spacecraft into the unknown. The RPG elements are amazing, at this price, seriously the biggest steal on the whole iTunes store, never mind the AppStore.

    This is THE app for the AppStore. I am truly wow'd and have been selling this game to my friends ever since. Fingers crossed for a sequel and also a true port for the iPad? Please, please, please!!

    Thank you Venan, you have a true love for games.

  • Cameron

    So sad that such a great game isn't near 100,000 yet.

  • Cameron

    So sad that such a great game isn't near 100,000 yet.

  • Anthony

    I googled "pinball machineJ", in hopes that it was some type of intrestingly rolled marijuana ciggarett.

  • Anthony

    I googled "pinball machineJ", in hopes that it was some type of intrestingly rolled marijuana ciggarett.

  • http://www.mentation.nl/thanatist/ Thaurin

    Hey, Venan! I think my boss wants those hours at work I spent playing Space Miner back! ;) Good luck with your pinball machine and gods, please, make that fantasy RPG soon!

  • http://www.mentation.nl/thanatist/ Thaurin

    Hey, Venan! I think my boss wants those hours at work I spent playing Space Miner back! ;) Good luck with your pinball machine and gods, please, make that fantasy RPG soon!

  • Thinkthis

    I hate to say it but Space Miner needs an advertising budget. Sadly, word of mouth rarely works for new IP, especially new IP on the iPhone. Plants and Zombies has been out for a day and it is already the 2nd highest grossing app game on the app store. Space Miner is just as good as Plants and Zombies. I want more people to buy it so we can see this developer stay in business.

  • Thinkthis

    I hate to say it but Space Miner needs an advertising budget. Sadly, word of mouth rarely works for new IP, especially new IP on the iPhone. Plants and Zombies has been out for a day and it is already the 2nd highest grossing app game on the app store. Space Miner is just as good as Plants and Zombies. I want more people to buy it so we can see this developer stay in business.

  • blackHorse

    Oh I hope that when the sequel comes out they'll make Space Miner 1 FREE!

    • GnillGnoll

      I actually hope they don't. It's a fantastic game, and it deserves at least a small contribution from everyone who enjoys it.

  • blackHorse

    Oh I hope that when the sequel comes out they'll make Space Miner 1 FREE!

    • GnillGnoll

      I actually hope they don't. It's a fantastic game, and it deserves at least a small contribution from everyone who enjoys it.

  • bg1

    amazing game, i loved the story and gameplay. just as good as hookchamp imho.

  • bg1

    amazing game, i loved the story and gameplay. just as good as hookchamp imho.

  • Gordon

    I think that a huge part of the attraction to Space Miner for me was the tone. I love what Mr. Curiel said regarding the current state of gaming: "We were just so sick and tired of all the dark, gritty stories you see in these games that have just been done to death." I feel the same way, yet at the same time, most attempts at humor in games sucks. Space Miner nails it. It's the game that turns the iphone into a serious gaming platform - even more so than GTA Chinatown Wars. Can't wait to see what they cook up for the sequel.

  • Gordon

    I think that a huge part of the attraction to Space Miner for me was the tone. I love what Mr. Curiel said regarding the current state of gaming: "We were just so sick and tired of all the dark, gritty stories you see in these games that have just been done to death." I feel the same way, yet at the same time, most attempts at humor in games sucks. Space Miner nails it. It's the game that turns the iphone into a serious gaming platform - even more so than GTA Chinatown Wars. Can't wait to see what they cook up for the sequel.

  • Mihail

    The gameplay is so addictive - I can't get enough... A REALLY great game - this is how iPhone games should be like. I hope they will be successful with this title!!

    Thanks for the hard work!

  • Mihail

    The gameplay is so addictive - I can't get enough... A REALLY great game - this is how iPhone games should be like. I hope they will be successful with this title!!

    Thanks for the hard work!

  • James

    A great interview, and I love that a sequel is coming. Like everyone else here I couldn't put Space Miner down until I was finished, and now I can't wait for a sequel. I encourage everyone to take a moment to go to iTunes and write them the positive review they deserve!

  • James

    A great interview, and I love that a sequel is coming. Like everyone else here I couldn't put Space Miner down until I was finished, and now I can't wait for a sequel. I encourage everyone to take a moment to go to iTunes and write them the positive review they deserve!

  • Caiman

    Absolutely these guys need an advertising budget. It's criminal that Space Miner isn't in the top paid apps section.

  • Caiman

    Absolutely these guys need an advertising budget. It's criminal that Space Miner isn't in the top paid apps section.

  • http://www.callboxlive.com Stan Winstone

    LOVE this game- but it's sooo short. Give us more levels, content, power-ups. And btw- best game ever.

    • HipHopTouch

      Stan, this is a £3 game, I've played it for 4+ hours and I haven't finished yet, that's less than a £1 per hour gameplay, Metal Gear Solid lasts around 10-12 hours and that game is £40 to buy, how can you complain about the content? This game is flawless IMHO, for the price.

      • http://www.callboxlive.com Stan Winstone

        I wasn't complaining about it like it was a rip off. I finished it in 6 hours and I just wanted to go on because it's so much fun. It's worth every penny. Now I'm playing again from the start...

  • http://www.callboxlive.com Stan Winstone

    LOVE this game- but it's sooo short. Give us more levels, content, power-ups. And btw- best game ever.

    • HipHopTouch

      Stan, this is a £3 game, I've played it for 4+ hours and I haven't finished yet, that's less than a £1 per hour gameplay, Metal Gear Solid lasts around 10-12 hours and that game is £40 to buy, how can you complain about the content? This game is flawless IMHO, for the price.

      • http://www.callboxlive.com Stan Winstone

        I wasn't complaining about it like it was a rip off. I finished it in 6 hours and I just wanted to go on because it's so much fun. It's worth every penny. Now I'm playing again from the start...

  • TheFamousEccles

    Aww, I'll do my part to help with the pinball machine.

    I hope Dark Blossom is turn-based, I'm sick of ARPGs.

  • TheFamousEccles

    Aww, I'll do my part to help with the pinball machine.

    I hope Dark Blossom is turn-based, I'm sick of ARPGs.

  • bstar

    Space Miner is absolutely fantastic. I hope you guys sell your 100,000 copies, you deserve it. I was a little peeved when I first saw the game because I'm working on a game inspired by Spaceward Ho!, which shares the same wild west humor, but I forgive you ;-)

    The comment about the DS is so interesting, I have no idea why 3rd parties can't do much with that device. Considering how successful it is you'd think the opposite situation would exist.

    Anyway, keep up the great work!

    • http://www.callboxlive.com Stan Winstone

      I'd guess it's purely a licensing issue with Nintendo who have had little direct competition on these sorts of devices for years and can hold developers to any crappy terms they want. Let's get that Pinball GAME!

  • bstar

    Space Miner is absolutely fantastic. I hope you guys sell your 100,000 copies, you deserve it. I was a little peeved when I first saw the game because I'm working on a game inspired by Spaceward Ho!, which shares the same wild west humor, but I forgive you ;-)

    The comment about the DS is so interesting, I have no idea why 3rd parties can't do much with that device. Considering how successful it is you'd think the opposite situation would exist.

    Anyway, keep up the great work!

    • http://www.callboxlive.com Stan Winstone

      I'd guess it's purely a licensing issue with Nintendo who have had little direct competition on these sorts of devices for years and can hold developers to any crappy terms they want. Let's get that Pinball GAME!

  • DaverJ

    I've almost bought Space Miner a couple times but haven't found the time. Now after reading this write-up, the comments above, PLUS the fact that my purchase goes toward a pinball machine...

    SOLD.

  • DaverJ

    I've almost bought Space Miner a couple times but haven't found the time. Now after reading this write-up, the comments above, PLUS the fact that my purchase goes toward a pinball machine...

    SOLD.

  • http://www.journalish.com Mitchismo

    I just have to throw in my two cents to ask why developers will make such an outstanding title and then fix the screen orientation to the iPod Touch format (with the headphones on the iPhone forced towards the bottom). Reversible screen orientation makes the game playable on all devices, but playing on an iPhone rotated to the left is unnatural. The volume controls are at the bottom and the headphone jack is beneath your palm.

    It's such a simple solution to an issue that has existed since the app store has begun--but when developers fail make the screen orientation reversible--it makes the whole experience amateur and unpleasant.

  • http://www.journalish.com Mitchismo

    I just have to throw in my two cents to ask why developers will make such an outstanding title and then fix the screen orientation to the iPod Touch format (with the headphones on the iPhone forced towards the bottom). Reversible screen orientation makes the game playable on all devices, but playing on an iPhone rotated to the left is unnatural. The volume controls are at the bottom and the headphone jack is beneath your palm.

    It's such a simple solution to an issue that has existed since the app store has begun--but when developers fail make the screen orientation reversible--it makes the whole experience amateur and unpleasant.

  • Mihail

    I have convinced 3 other people to purchase this great game - I hope this will become a best-seller. Its so AWESOME! :)

  • Mihail

    I have convinced 3 other people to purchase this great game - I hope this will become a best-seller. Its so AWESOME! :)

  • http://www.journalish.com Mitchismo

    ...but don't get me wrong, the game is Awesome and highly recommended. I'll just save my perfect ***** rating until the screen rotation issue is solved (the devs say next release will have this feature and will be available in a week or two).

  • http://www.journalish.com Mitchismo

    ...but don't get me wrong, the game is Awesome and highly recommended. I'll just save my perfect ***** rating until the screen rotation issue is solved (the devs say next release will have this feature and will be available in a week or two).

  • Aeroflux

    I have to voice my support for Space Miner, have been playing it for ten hours thus far (a game this good I absolutely must clear every asteroid field before going to the next!!) and near the end...to hear there is a sequel on the mind is great! You can count on my space bucks to fund a pinball game and then some!

    Till then.... DEFY THE COSMOS!!!!

  • Aeroflux

    I have to voice my support for Space Miner, have been playing it for ten hours thus far (a game this good I absolutely must clear every asteroid field before going to the next!!) and near the end...to hear there is a sequel on the mind is great! You can count on my space bucks to fund a pinball game and then some!

    Till then.... DEFY THE COSMOS!!!!

  • Mooro

    I see that Space Miner is now on sale with a 60% cut in price. I thought the developers said that they wouldn't be reducing their price for at least a year. This is bullsh1t. This is just a kick in the teeth for people who want to support new developers by buying the game at full price in the hope it will help fund future game developement. I for one will not buy another iPhone game at full price on release again as there will inevitably be a price cut in the not too distant future.

    • Fieres

      Come on, even 5 bucks would be no waste of money for is game. don't grumble because others got it cheaper.

  • Mooro

    I see that Space Miner is now on sale with a 60% cut in price. I thought the developers said that they wouldn't be reducing their price for at least a year. This is bullsh1t. This is just a kick in the teeth for people who want to support new developers by buying the game at full price in the hope it will help fund future game developement. I for one will not buy another iPhone game at full price on release again as there will inevitably be a price cut in the not too distant future.