TIPS and TRICKS for outsourcing app development.

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by WhatItTakesGame, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK
    Hi guys,

    After 12 long months, we've just finished development on our first game, What it Takes, for iPhone and iPod Touch...


    What it Takes is a round-based social word and number game, the gameplay of which has roughly the same complexity as Words With Friends and Scramble With Friends, but is more expansive in the sense of having 3 different round types, personal profiles, and it allows players to earn XP points.
    For reference, please check out our video trailer here:

    Because the project didn't go as smoothly as we naively hoped that it would, we thought we’d write about our experiences, so inexperienced people can gain some extra insight into mobile game development, and in particular; outsourcing to places where work is cheap. We made a fair few mistakes along the way, so hopefully this thread will help any budding game developers to avoid making some of the same mistakes we did. We certainly don’t consider ourselves experts, and any criticism or advice from other Touch Arcade users will be graciously accepted. We’re still learning ourselves, so any further information on the subject will most probably be useful and is definitely welcome.
    In the beginning we were incredibly naive, as probably most people with no experience of game development or outsourcing are. Basically, we believed that after writing the requirements, the only work we would have to do was testing and marketing! This wasn’t, and from our experience will probably never will be the case.

    We have omitted the names of the poor quality companies from this post as it is not in our interest to publicly ruin a company’s reputation. If any of you wish to know the names of these companies please send me a personal message. Obviously we’ve left in the details of the good companies we worked with.


    Make a round-based social word and number game with the following criteria for less than £7,500 by outsourcing development and design:

    1. The game must have 3 different round types.
    2. Players must be able to earn XP points for playing well in the game. XP points then amount to badges, titles and levels.
    3. Players must be able to complete challenges during gameplay.
    4. The game must contain a personal profile where player statistics and challenge awards are recorded.

    OUR EXPERIENCE (split into sections):

    1. Requirements
    2. Obtaining Quotes
    3. Design
    4. Development
    5. Game Sounds
    6. Creating a Video
    7. App Icon Design
    8. Marketing

    1. Requirement writing...

    You've got an idea for a game? Great! First thing you need to do is write the requirements for it.
    Use a wiki. We found that using a wiki to write requirements was the easiest way to do things. A wiki has a nice layout and allows more than one person to work on the requirements at the same time (from different locations). Due to the nature of the wiki, it is extremely easy to structure the requirements and split up the different aspects of the game.

    You can get started on creating a wiki here:

    For an initial proof of concept we created mock up wireframes using a program called Balsamiq, and added these to our requirements in the wiki. The program allows you to create your own ‘screenshots’ by providing you with small graphical assets which you can add to create a rough pictorial image of what the actual game might look like. Because of the minimal 'sketch' style of these assets, they work really well as they act as guidelines to allow you to use your imagination to create mental pictures of how the game might look.
    Balsamiq worked really well for us, but it might not for everyone. Luckily you can trial the program for 1 week before you commit to buy.

    You can check it out here:

    When writing your requirements, make sure they are as detailed as possible. Any screen that you imagine there to be in the game, include it. This is essential for a few reasons:

    1. When attempting to outsource your work, companies will read your requirements and base their quote on that (well they should in theory - but we didn't find that for the majority of people we outsourced with. Good, respectable companies will though).
    2. Because the companies will base their quote on your requirements, it serves as the perfect document to prove that certain work must be done - many times the developers we outsourced to would 'complain' saying that we were adding additional requirements. Having a 100 page requirements document allowed us to quickly quash any complaints they had.
    3. It's important for you to understand your game (and game flows) inside out - Only when you fully understand your game will you be able to get a true feel of whether it'll work or not.

    2. Obtaining Quotes...

    At the start of the project, the only place we were aware of to acquire cheaper development and design work was from, a site that allows customers to connect with freelance developers and designers from around the world. For those of you who don’t know, Elance has become extremely popular in recent years as it brings affordable development and design to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it.
    Whilst obtaining quotes, our main concern was the possibility of getting our game idea stolen. Because of this we were quite cagey for a little while about what information we allowed people to see. Our worries were basically futile - there are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of somebody stealing your game idea, but really, if someone wants to steal it, they will. An idea is only an idea.
    However, all is not lost, and the chance of you having your idea stolen is extremely slim. Firstly, it is incredibly unlikely that there is someone out there willing to make a game purely off the back of a game description from an unknown indie developer – the risk is too great, and a simple game description really doesn’t convey what your game is about. They might steal your idea once you have a working prototype, but stealing the idea before its birth is highly unlikely.

    Still, being protective over your idea is good, it shows passion. So, if you're still worried, there are other safeguards you can employ too:

    a) When creating your pitch on Elance, don't give away any of your major game details. e.g. For our pitch we noted that it was a 25 screen, social word and number game, with recorded statistics and XP points. At no point did we ever describe the mechanics of the rounds - it was just a loose, generic pitch.
    b) Obvious, but when companies quote, check out their portfolio. Any work you like the look of, try and contact the owner of the game, and ask them for some feedback on the developer/designer. That way you can verify their legitimacy. It also gives you a decent idea of the company's abilities, allowing you to make an informed decision about the company that you decide to pick.
    c) After choosing the company, insist that they sign an NDA. An NDA is a Non-Disclosure Agreement which is basically a statement of intent- by signing the company agree not to use or share any of your requirements that they read. In reality, an NDA is practically worthless at this stage because you have nothing more than an idea. Unless your game was copied exactly, these companies wouldn't be doing anything legally wrong, only morally. Despite this fact, you are lucky in the fact that most (almost all) companies do not operate in this manner, and as an addition, the NDA seems to act as a decent deterrent, regardless of it not actually carrying much weight. Another simpler reason that an NDA is useless to an indie dev, is that you simply would not be able to afford the courtroom fees when attempting to take legal action against the plagiarising company.
  2. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK
    Part 2...

    3. Designers...

    So you've written your requirements document, and finally got removed your fears of having your amazing game idea stolen, so the next step is to get yourself a designer.
    We succeeded only in doing this cheaply. We failed at doing this efficiently or at getting top quality graphics. We used Elance, and firstly chose a design company from Mumbai, India. They were reasonably priced, and had a decent portfolio, so we chose them. Big mistake. After 4 weeks it was evident that they would never complete the graphics - they had only completed the company logo and around 40% of the game’s splash screen (there were 25 screens to design!), so we complained to Elance and our money was refunded.
    You might wonder why we waited 4 weeks to officially complain... Well, it was simple naivety. They were fairly adept at making excuses, and being the first time we'd outsourced (or done anything like this) we weren't 100% sure where we stood. We did complain often to the design company throughout these 4 weeks, but were always left wondering whether this is the way outsourced freelance work often goes (due to time and cultural difference etc). After around a month we finally decided that this definitely isn’t how outsourced work should go, reported them to Elance, and terminated the contract.
    Eager not to waste anymore time (perhaps too eager), we immediately chose another company from Elance, this time from Canada who were a little more expensive but still reasonably priced. We chose them because the guy had been attentive with his messaging over Elance and it was evident that he would be able to do the work quickly. They didn't have much experience with iPhone app design but their normal illustrations were awesome, so we convinced ourselves that they should be able to do the job.

    This wasn't really the case. They did get the job done quickly, but our previous fears of them not being able to produce suitable iPhone app graphics were quickly realised. After going back and forth a few times with our suggested improvements it was evident that we would have to make the improvements ourselves. Despite the reasonably poor work quality, they did provide a starting point, and all the screens were done, albeit undesirably, so we paid them for the work and started trying to improve the graphics ourselves. We didn't have any experience with graphic design so progress at first was slow, but after a month or so we got to grips with it and were able to make the graphics look decent. Eventually we created all the graphics ourselves.


    1. If you've agreed a timescale with the designer and the timescale is obviously not going to be met, speak to them to see if there's an issue. If you sense bullshit, terminate the contract, get your money back and look elsewhere.

    2. Familiarise yourself with whatever design tool your designers will be using. There's a high chance that the design you receive won't be 100% to your liking (especially if the designer is quite cheap), so it's easier for you to touch things up yourself.

    3. At least have some idea about how you would like your game to look. A cheap designer will most probably be able to do the work you ask them to do, but won't be particularly creative. We found it difficult at first to envisage how the game should look, and only really gave them a few pointers (e.g. We wanted a clock in the game logo, and wanted it to be blue etc), but after a couple of iterations we gained a better understanding of what we wanted and we could be more specific. If we'd have had a clearer idea in the first place we could have saved a little time, and maybe got some assets that we actually wanted to keep. I'm still not convinced a massive amount of quality would have been delivered in our case though.

    4. Choosing a developer...

    Despite the bad experience with the Indian designers, cost dictated and we chose yet another Indian company from Kolkata. An old work colleague of ours actually lives in Kolkata, and acted as a mediator by finding this company for us, and negotiating a lower price. In hindsight however, we could have probably used a company from Elance for similar money.

    Again, it didn't start particularly well - they spent almost a month perusing our requirements, only to send us back a project plan that was basically the titles of each of the sections of our requirements, with timescales for each one!
    Initially, we decided to pay through Elance for some payment security, but after a couple of months, we decided to avoid the Elance commission by paying our old work colleague directly. He was taking his own cut from each payment we made, so we were convinced it was in his interest to not take the money himself. At that point, the payment plan between us became a gentleman's agreement, where we would pay at the end of each completed milestone. This was definitely not the correct way to do things, but it would help us to complete the project on our low budget. This left us both vulnerable, because at any point the company could just walk and discontinue working, taking the code with them, and conversely, we could walk at any moment without paying for completed work.

    The problems we had we these developers were numerous and varied. We’d never be able to list them all, but here is a rundown of some of the standout issues we encountered:

    1. They always say 'yes'. Never take 'yes' for an answer as quite often, 'yes' means 'no'. They agreed with everything, even when they didn't understand. Eventually we always made a point of (after explaining the requirements) making them repeat back what we wanted, and we gave them tests to see whether they actually understood things.

    2. They very rarely ask questions - Don't ever assume that just because they are working, they are working on the correct thing. We wasted at least 8 weeks of project time by allowing them to work without constantly holding their hand. Unfortunate for us, they didn't understand the requirements and developed entirely the wrong thing! We never made that mistake again.

    3. Always be explicit with your requirements. A few times we didn't write exactly how we wanted something developing and just assumed that they would do it properly - they rarely (never) did. For example, when a player finishes a game, that game tile goes into a 'Game Over' section, so that players can see their previous results (win, lose, draw). A player can also resign from a game, obviously (to us) resulting in a loss for them. The developers didn't see it that way; they didn't really know what to do with it and didn't think to ask, so they just made the tile disappear completely from both players screens! Great user experience.

    4. They copy and paste most of their code, meaning that if you ask to make a change in one place, don't expect that change to be made in another. e.g. Our game has 2 different game modes, Single Player and Online. Both contain instructions pages. These instructions were misaligned and so we raised a generic 'Instructions misaligned' bug expecting it to be fixed on both. Nope! Only in Online Mode. There were countless incidents of this happening, it was insane!

    5. Expect things to go wrong on completely unrelated code. After every build we would regression test the whole thing - despite them only having apparently worked on something totally unrelated. e.g. A few times they'd be working on something in the game rounds, which would then somehow cause the game to crash when trying to create a new account! Again, mental.

    6. Where possible, always insist on a daily build. Similar to point 2, you can't let them develop something for a long period of time before you get a look at it. The longer they develop without you seeing something, the greater the chance something will be incorrect. In fact, after every build you can expect some development to be wrong - getting a daily build allows you to find the issues early before they become a big problem.

    In the end, after months of delays and very poor quality of work, we were forced to cancel the arrangement with the developers and rewrite the code entirely from scratch. You might think this was an insane thing to do after spending so much money and time with these developers. However, we weren’t willing to have our idea spoiled by terrible implementation. We knew that he code was so poor we would have no hope trying to maintain it when something went wrong (which was guaranteed). As with the graphics, if you want a job doing properly, you really need to do it yourself, or be incredibly careful when taking the cheap option.
    In fairness to them they did a half ok job of developing Single Player mode, but Online mode was a mess. Anything requiring internet connectivity is going to be a problem for these guys. If the game you want to develop doesn’t require internet connectivity, is conceptually simple and/or a clone of a well known offline single player game (Angry Birds etc) then you’ll probably be ok. If your game requires internet connectivity, i’d recommend you look elsewhere, and pay extra for Western developers.
  3. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK
    Part 3...


    As with any development project, you are inevitably going to find some defects in the code (in our case there were 764). Keeping track and prioritising all those defects becomes almost impossible without proper bug tracking software. I mean, how would you effectively manage them? A spreadsheet? Email? Keeping track of 764 defects in such a manner would have been impossible!
    There are plenty of bug tracking tools out there, all with varying degrees of complexity. Thankfully, a decent amount of them are free (or very cheap), so this is one less project cost that you’ll have to incur. Choosing the right bug tracking software is purely based on the project you want to lead. We looked at a couple; JIRA and Mantis, and decided that for us, Mantis was the best option.

    Without getting into too much detail, JIRA is excellent (it costs $10 for 10 users, which should probably be enough for most indie projects) – it allows you and your devs to accurately plan out each sprint’s (milestone’s) work by splitting it into small individual pieces of development, including estimates, which gives you a perfect picture of where your project is going. When a piece of work is completed the testers are automatically notified, and testing can commence. In short, it’s a great tool for project management and Agile development, but it would have been pointless for our project. We wanted to use it, but getting the devs to use it properly would have been impossible, and a waste of time.
    So, we looked for a simpler bug tracking tool, where we could just raise bugs and set their priorities – something easy for them to learn to use. We went for Mantis. Mantis does have some minor reporting features, but it’s basically just a bug tracker. It’s incredibly simple to use, and the developers from Kolkata didn’t have any problems using it either. Oh, actually, i tell a lie there – they only ever read the description of defects, and never read any additional comments. Our work around for this problem was to write the additional comments in CAPITAL letters in the defect description, hahaha!

    So, all in all, if you have competent devs who will use your project management software correctly, and you want to manage the project efficiently, i recommend using JIRA. If you don’t have competent devs and need a simple bug tracker, i recommend Mantis.

    Here are the links:

    JIRA –
    Mantis -

    5. Acquiring game sounds...

    Unfortunately, the cost of game sounds wasn't something we had budgeted for, and as a consequence we weren't able to afford them. To remedy this, we decided to try and enlist the help of some University students from a Sound Production course, on an internship.
    This worked really well for us, and in hindsight we should have tried to get more aspects of the game designed in this way. We made a simple but professional post including the game logo and game description, and explained exactly what sounds we wanted. This was then mailed to each of the local Universities in our area. The response was incredible! We had over 200 replies from students, and also a few replies from tutors who were interested!
    Eventually we chose a guy whose sample sounds were really impressive. Fortunately he was from our nearest city, so we met up with him, and discussed exactly where we thought the game was going and the type of sounds that would be appropriate. He went away and did what was asked, and after a few suggestions for amendments from us, we had a full suite of game sounds in 2 weeks. That was definitely the most painless part of the whole process, and we’ll definitely be using him again for future projects.

    His contact details are as follows:
    Harry Japp - [email protected]

    TIP – When to send the Internship mail:

    When trying to enlist an intern, be careful what time of year you try to do it. It's a proven fact that students are lazy most of the time, but at some points in the year they do occasionally have some work to do. We sent out our Sound Internship mail in March / April, which is in the middle of term, so the students have already passed that hectic first month of a new year, and have some spare time.
    We also tried this same approach when wanting to get the video developed, but found almost zero success! We sent the mail right at the start of term (unfortunately for us, this was when we needed the video doing), and got very few responses. I had no responses from any of the tutors to indicate that they had forwarded on the mail to their students, and had to send a follow up email to them all. After the follow up email Ii had a response from 2 students - neither of which were suitable. Evidently, timing is crucial.

    6. Creating a video...

    Again, we made a few mistakes here too. First of all we tried to enlist the help of an intern, as mentioned above. Unfortunately for us, our timing was poor as we needed the video completing at the beginning of term - the busiest time of year.
    After this minor setback we looked elsewhere for a company to create the video, and eventually found a Belgian company called Vetasoft. Their videos looked really stylish to us, and they certainly seemed to have the production skills that we were looking for. Naive again, we thought that because we were paying a company to create a stylish video, they would be able to do so, and create the perfect video, with very little guidance. So we sent them a shell script e.g. 5 seconds on the words round, 5 seconds on the numbers round, show challenge trophies for 5 seconds etc, and waited for our perfect video to arrive. Expectedly, we didn't get the desired results. We then thought long and hard about the style and production we would like and fed this back to the company. After a few iterations we got a style that we liked and we were decently happy with the footage, so we paid them.

    It was only after watching the video for a while afterwards, and collecting other people's feedback did we realise that the footage was incorrect. The words round footage showed words 'NUTSIER and TRIUNES, and the conundrum was TRITOMA - words that even Shakespeare would struggle with.
    To correct this we will have to go back to Vetasoft, and request some more footage to be recorded - obviously this will cost us again, and unfortunately this is money that we don’t have. We’re going to have to go with our current footage for now, which is a shame, but at the same time it still provides a good insight into what our game is about, so we’re not too upset. If only we’d have prepared fully!

    TIPS – For a smooth recording process:

    Always be totally explicit with the footage that you would like to be displayed on the video – think of this from the point of view of all customers.
    For the most part you shouldn't really have to worry about the style of the video, because you give the production company the graphical assets from your game (assuming you like your own graphics ;)). They will just take the graphics, plonk them in the video, and add some effects. We had to make a few changes e.g. Annotation font wasn't friendly enough, text was too squashed, make the text appear on screen in a more exciting manner etc, but getting the style correct wasn't really a hassle...

    What you can totally control is what footage you want recording. Think about what features of your game you would like a potential user to see. In our case we wanted to show all the rounds and cool extra features that other word games don't have, so that's what we did. Although we knew and identified what features we wanted to show, we didn't specify exactly how these features should be shown.
    We should have created a full video script with the standard; 5 seconds Words Round, 5 seconds on Numbers etc, but also specified EXACTLY what words we wanted him to make in the words rounds, what numbers to choose and how to solve the target in the numbers round, and how to solve the conundrum - including how often to shuffle etc. This would have worked perfectly. It seems so obvious now that that was the way to do things, but incredibly, it wasn't at the time!

    7. App icon design...

    We tried to get our original designer to create an app logo for us, but it wasn't to the standard that we desired, so we decided to pay for some freelance work again. Feeling a little unconvinced with the quality of workers on Elance (just from personal experience - i'm sure there are many success stories!), we didn't fancy using them again, and also the fact that we didn't have any idea how we wanted to app logo to look meant that we couldn't put all our faith in one designer - because they might not deliver the goods.
    Because we had no idea, we decided that seeing as many different designs as possible was the best step forward. Enter On you post what job you would like completing (e.g. design an iPhone App Logo), set what price you are willing to pay, and then any designers who see the job and are interested will make a design for you for free - you then pay the winning design.
    This method worked perfectly for us - about 30 designers submitted ideas, leading us to suggest a couple of changes to the ones we liked, and eventually choosing a Bulgarian designer 'Ellie' from ArtBrandInk. The quality of her work is amazing (check out our app icon) and I'd recommend her to anyone. She's an incredibly nice and humble person, who is easy to collaborate with, and has always produced great designs at an extremely reasonable price - we used her for a couple of other design projects too, and were equally satisfied.

    Her contact: Elena Ivanova, [email protected]
  4. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK
    Part 4...

    8a. Non-Social Media Marketing...

    This is the part of the project that we're currently in the middle of. With regards to non-social media marketing we have almost no marketing budget, and so it feels like we're basically at the mercy of the app reviewers and journalists. If we want to get app exposure from app review sites and newspapers it's in their hands.
    Unless you're a big gaming company, know someone who works in the industry, or have an enormous marketing budget, it's extremely unlikely that you're going to get any pre-release game coverage. We have tried to contact a number of people from the press and review sites - but to no avail. Perhaps our approach hasn't been right, but looking around, it's incredibly rare to see a pre-release review of a game (Touch Arcade have a section on their site), so I won't hold my breath that someone will agree to do one. Once the time comes to release the game, I'm sure we'll have much better luck.

    On release day we plan to do the following (please comment and suggest other options – all ideas are welcome!)...

    1. Contact every app review website we can, being friendly, giving them all relevant game info, and sending them our press kit. Thankfully some people are selfless, and there are loads of app reviewer lists posted on the internet, so you don't have to search for them yourself. This is the one we are going to use as it orders the review sites by Alexa rank, which is a pretty useful way to determine a website's popularity:
    2. Contact the Press Release aggregators and send them our own press release (already written), requesting immediate publication.
    3. Contact the tech editors of certain newspapers using the same method as point 1. The most suitable UK newspapers we believe are 'The Guardian', 'The Telegraph' and 'Metro'.
    Here are the contact details of the tech editors:
    Guardian -
    Telegraph -
    Metro - [email protected]

    8b. Social Media marketing...

    Despite not really being able to do any free non-social media marketing because the game isn't released, we have been doing plenty of social media marketing - basically trying to get the word out about the game in as many ways as possible. The obvious mediums are Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and we've also posted a fair amount in various forums.

    I'll be honest, we found it pretty hard to build up a decent following at first. Other than constantly posting on Facebook and Twitter, and getting our friends to Like and Share our posts and tweets, we were pretty much stumped. As we've gone along we've picked up a couple of tricks to get a reasonably good following for both Twitter and Facebook for free. Your target audience on social media sites (and anywhere else for that matter) are the people who already like similar games. It stands to reason that if someone already Likes or Follows the page of game that is of the same genre of yours, they are probably going to enjoy your game and want to Like or Follow you. Your only problem now is, getting these people to find out about your game and to actually do it.


    Twitter is a fairly annoying social media avenue for a couple of reasons. One, you can't send people a private message unless they are following you (to promote your game) and two, you can't friend request people (like Facebook), you can only ‘Follow’ people, but this doesn't do much good because people can only see your statuses IF they are following you! So again, you're left with the quandary of needing to get people to follow you.

    First of all we went onto the pages of similar games - Words With Friends, Scramble with Friends, Countdown etc and looked longingly at all their delicious followers. We wanted some of that pie! So at first our thinking was; 'if they like these games already, surely they'll like ours, so let’s Follow them - then they'll see we've Followed them, and then they'll Follow us back!'

    So that’s what we tried...

    We went to one of their pages and just started following their fans - roughly 900 in total. This didn't work. The following morning our account had been blocked, for what we believe were too many reports of spam (sorry people). Twitter aren't entirely specific about the block because they don't want people abusing their service and doing things right up to the limit.
    Anyway, that failed. So we went back to the drawing board. The potential customers on these pages were still teasing us - there had to be another way.
    We searched around the internet looking for tips on how to build your Twitter followers, and one of the things we stumbled across was the fact that some people are so desperate for followers (why??) that if you follow them, they will automatically follow you back. This seemed like a good idea for us to get followers, but obviously they wouldn't be targeted followers, and most of them wouldn't have any interest in the game. Now we had groups of people who were willing to follow us back (so our account wouldn't get blocked), and groups of people who were interested in similar types of games. We needed to Follow the people who fitted into both groups.

    Fortunately finding these people wasn't too difficult. Many of the people who are part of these 'followback' groups actually write that they are part of these groups in their account description! Recruiting the people who cross over into both groups was easy - we just loaded up the twitter pages of similar games, and searched for the people who would follow us back. For this we used the search terms; '#teamfollowback', 'follow me', 'follow back'. After a couple of weeks doing this we quickly had 500 targeted followers.


    We've basically just done the regular things any app developer does here - created a Facebook Page, and a Facebook App page. To get people to like the page we've made plenty of regular posts about the game e.g. Latest screenshots, video updates, game challenges etc, and asked our actual Facebook friends to ‘Like’ the page and to share any of our statuses.

    Again, you're in the same boat as with Twitter in the sense that it requires someone to ‘Like’ you in order to receive your news updates - same as Twitter requires someone to ‘Follow’ you in order to receive your news updates. We were fairly successful in doing this (a couple of hundred Likes), but we're hardly going to set the world alight. Ideally we want to have a few thousand ‘Likes’ to advertise to once the game is released.
    To remedy this, we had a decent idea that wouldn't work so well in the long term, but would be fine up until release day...

    Because of the lack of freedom you have with your own app page (you can't reach out to people), we decided to create a person page. This then allows for you to simply add people that you think might be of interest. Psychologically, people are much more inclined to accept a friend request (one click), than to go and find your Facebook page, and then Like it (a few clicks) - when you're a new company with no marketing power. This also allows you to subtly push your game to people who might be interested - otherwise people would most likely be oblivious. As with Twitter, the amount of people you can add as friends is restricted, with one of the main signifiers being Friend Request declines. For this reason I don't advise adding any more than 5 people a day who you don’t know, but might be interested in your product (e.g. They have posted on pages of products related to your game).

    Another good idea we had that has got us quite a few friend requests, is to ‘Like’ the posts of people who follow related product pages. For example, I would go on the Words With Friends and Scramble With Friends' Facebook pages and like the statuses of everyone I could see (thousands), whilst also posting a comment. Our Facebook person page name is 'What-it Takes-Game' and our app icon is obviously that of a word game, so we thought that once people saw our Like in their feed history, they would check us out, and send us a friend request. These methods have been working quite well, and we'll be continuing to do this until release day.

    That's about as far as we've got on this project so far. Hopefully this has provided a little insight into some of the things that can occur during a mobile gaming project when you have very little experience. We've learnt a great deal along the way and definitely won't be making some of the same mistakes again, but we're still learning.

    If any readers have anything to add, please do - it'd be nice to hear your experiences and we might learn something that will help us to improve too.

    We'll be releasing What it Takes on January 10th for iPhone (regular and iPhone 5), iPod Touch and iPad, which is just under 3 weeks away - giving us plenty of time to do as much self promotion as possible and get more testers on board (alpha and beta). We can't wait to release it, listen to user feedback and start improving it, and then start thinking about creating our second game. Hopefully all our hard work will pay off!


    If any of you guys like the look of the game, don't hesitate to Like and Follow the game on Facebook and Twitter! Any extra support will be totally appreciated! Just in case you didn't already know, the game name is What it Takes! :)
  5. Wizardo

    Wizardo Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2012
    Starving indie developer
    New Jersey!
    Good read. Maybe I missed something, but how did you finish the code after you gave up on that Indian company?

    Anyways, good luck with your game!
  6. ThreeCubes

    ThreeCubes Well-Known Member

    Oct 13, 2012
    Thanks for this, I did notice you were good enough to give a budget you had ~(£7,500), did you manage to stick to this, and did this include your time?

  7. Black Ops

    Black Ops Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2011
    Game Dev, SEM, Analytics
    Philadelphia, Pa
    Nice Post. Shows there is much more involved in making a game than getting the sprites to move on the screen!

    SE Asia is a hit or miss affair. Many SE Asia are good, honest guys. And you cant beat the prices in most cases. But there are a couple of inherent problems.

    The first is that they work in a region that does not respect intellectual properties laws. While you can do something about it in western countries, there is no recourse for it in SE Asia.

    The second is the culture. They work at their own pace. They take abnormally long holidays and numerous ones as their culture calls for celebrating at length on most occasions. They are very passive which means that they will not tell you no and they will underestimate the time to do everything in an attempt to get business or diffuse a situation. Basically they make promises without the intention or means to keep them.

    If you were to consider outsourcing, my suggestion is look into Europe or US firms that work with Euro programmers. Certain parts of Europe still pay programmers a rate far below the rates paid in the US. Euro businesses have not adopted the app as quickly or as strongly as US market(perhaps just not as many private euro businesses? Not sure on stats). Thus you have a shortage of programmers in the US combined with massive biz demand driving the price way up, while euro programmers while busy are not in the enviable spot of being able to select their clients and set their prices due to a less demanding market. In addition, most Euro countries have laws that protect intellectual property like we do in US, and the time difference is not nearly as difficult to overcome. The Euro culture is also a professional culture unlike the more wild west nature of SE Asia development. They use Skype making video conference simple. Finally, many European countries still have a strong traditional gaming community, and many of the younger Europeans speak English perfectly.

    I am sure in a few years the price for Euro devs will start to approach US wages. The world is too small now to prevent it. But for the next few years while Europeans sort out the Euro and whatnot, there is opportunity to work with European programmers at a substantial discount compared to US alternatives. Personally, I love working with our Euro devs and artists. They are smart, well trained, motivated, and do great work.

    Outsourcing is always a moving target, but imo Europe is the place to find great game devs and artists at a fair price. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions and I would be happy to share our experiences.
  8. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your replies.


    Yes, we did manage to stick to the budget. Not having to pay for the last milestone's worth of work with the developers, gave us some extra cash to pay for the video, app icon design, facebook graphics design, and other things unforseen that we hadn't budgeted for (e.g. because the project has taken so long we've had to pay for another Apple developer profile).

    Thankfully, despite being plentiful, our time invested has been free - so this hasn't affected our budget. As well as holding full time jobs we've been doing at least 6 hours a day on the game for most days since the start of the project - it's a good job we love the game and are totally passionate about it!

    @ Wizardo

    As mentioned, whilst working with the Indian company, there were multiple problems. We have experience in programming (but no experience in iPhone dev), so we set up SVN with the developers and started to learn Objective C so that we could try and fix some of the persistent problems we were seeing.

    After a few months of helping them out, fixing their issues, and eventually agreeing to take whole pieces of work (Facebook Integration for example), we were in a position to recode the game ourselves. Fortunately, this came right at the time when they tried to rip us off with extortionate payment demands, so our decision to leave them was simple.
  9. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK
    @ Black Ops

    Thanks for your reply - you provide some nice insights and ideas for alternative options.

    We didn't really bother looking at Euro devs in the beginning as we thought they would be too expensive! We've since heard that Finland provide quality, affordable development? Have you had any experience of this?

    We won't be needing to outsource development for anything else on this project thanks, but we almost almost certainly will for future projects! I'll add you as a contact and definitely give you a shout when that time comes. Cheers!
  10. Eskema

    Eskema Well-Known Member

    May 16, 2009
    The issue here is that you are trying to make a game (well you did), with a too low budget, thus you cannot expect ANY quality at all, like I usually say to all my clients, with that budget you will get A game, but never a POLISHED game.
    Of course you can be lucky and find someone living in a "low cost country" who is a lovely person and can offer affordable prices, but you saw what happens, too much time wasted trying different options.

    One of the things that people don't understand is the budget, games are expensive, very expensive, trying to create a 50k$ game with just 4k$ sounds like a good way of waste that money and end up with nothing but another game flooding the appstore. If you expect to create a 50.000$ game with a 4500$ budget, then hey, I don't believe in miracles, but personally I don't expect ANY quality at all from a game with such budget, maybe people is too naive and they do believe in santa claus or things like that....

    The trick to understand a budget is to ask for quotes in the same place you live, as you live in UK (thus the price in pounds), what you have to do is to ask 4-5 companies/freelances in UK and ask for their quotes. You will get different prices and you can get the middle price, let's say for your project you get quotes between 30k and 50k, then with those quotes you can start looking for freelances in elance or odesk and save up to a 50%, but that's all, don't expect to reduce the budget from 15k to 7.5k and still get a quality game.

    If instead of 15k for example (just 50% of 30k), you are trying to do this with less than that amount (your 7.5k), well you saw for yourself how it went...., wasting time with designers, programmers, and lose at least 2-3 months trying here and there and the results were...., but you wanted to stay cheap, right?, go ahead, at the end, you get what you pay for, and that's a universal truth no matter where you live.
  11. Black Ops

    Black Ops Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2011
    Game Dev, SEM, Analytics
    Philadelphia, Pa
    We have used developers in Pakistan, Ireland & Serbia. However at Spiel 12 in Germany I met developers from many parts of Europe offering affordable rates. If you can work it into your schedule I would suggest attending GDC in Cologne Germany in August.
  12. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK

    Hi Eskema, thanks for your useful input.

    What you've written is basically what we found - going incredibly cheap isn't and option when wanting to create a complex game. Up until our developers started work on the functionality that required internet connectivity and facebook integration, our game worked well. To get a fully functioning single player version of our word game would have cost us around £3,000, which should be affordable for almost anyone. The only downside up to that point was the developers taking twice as long as the time they quoted, but still the development got done. For people with limited funds this is certainly an option.

    The reason we only had a budget of £7,500 is because that is all we could afford, and it's almost certain that the majority of new and inexperienced game developers will be in the same boat. But, as mentioned, once we entered into the realms of functionality that required internet connectivity, a multitude of issues decide to rear their ugly head.

    Despite our bad experiences with the developers and designers, we still feel fortunate that things worked out the way they did. If we hadn't of naively believed that we could develop a complex game for £7,500 we most probably wouldn't have even started the project. The graphical assets, though bad, gave us a good starting point from which we were able to learn and improve them ourselves. The only real problem was the development.

    I certainly wouldn't want to totally deter people with limited funds from ever attempting to create a game, because then game development becomes an elitist notion, where only developers or people with vast amounts of money can contribute. This shouldn't be the case - it should be within reach of the majority of people who wish to give it a try.

    Getting a fully functioning single player game produced for £3,000 was totally possible. Anything requiring internet connectivity wasn't. If your game requires internet connectivity then the prices quoted by Eskema certainly look to be a good approximation. From our experience, if your game idea is single player only (no internet connectivity necessary), then as long as you're careful who you choose, there's a good chance you can get it developed at a reasonable price.
  13. Dragon Game Studio

    Dragon Game Studio Well-Known Member

    Oct 8, 2012
    Game Developer
    Bali, Indonesia
    Great read, thanks for sharing!

    Good luck with everything. Your game looks fun, hope it'll be a big success :)
  14. Syndicated Puzzles

    Syndicated Puzzles Well-Known Member

    #14 Syndicated Puzzles, Dec 30, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2012
    We completed a similar game called in under 80 programming hours. I have no idea how What it takes could take 1 year to build. Although we built everything in house with our company iLifeTouch in India. We are submitting the app this week
  15. Bkb

    Bkb New Member

    Dec 30, 2012
    Netsmartz anyone use or hear about?

    Hi all, first post and newbie to dev and all. I researched and found Netsmartz, they were the most friendly, professional, knowledgable and best price out of all the companies I talked to. But....
    I'm now three months in: 2 months spent on SRS, R&D and project plan. 1 month just down on design and dev and all I have to show is a Logo, basic splash screen and a few unfinished screens! Oh, and those on what they call a "dummy app first build" which doesn't even function correctly....
    It's been a tug of war and battle to get this far, all the while they are telling me good things.... I feel like I've done more work than they have. I've lost confidence in them and have no idea what is actually true anymore! Is this how it is for everyone?
    Please help and if anyone can tell me experience with Netsmartz?
  16. WhatItTakesGame

    WhatItTakesGame Active Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    Leeds, UK
    Hi Syndicated Puzzles,

    Unfortunately for us, the reasons that 'What it Takes' took 12 months to complete are numerous, as outlined in the first 4 posts of this thread. Perhaps my writing style leaves some vagarity in areas, and this has caused some confusion?

    If that is the case, could you point out which parts didn't provide you the understanding of why the project took so long? I'll then try to adapt them to make them more understandable - this post is supposed to be easy for everyone to understand.

    Anyway, good luck with your game, it seems fun!

    I'm inclined to believe however, that no matter who the developers were, they wouldn't have been able to complete 'What it Takes' in 80 hours.

    Having a perfectly working 'Online Multiplayer Mode', 'Facebook Integration', 'Challenge Trophies' and 'Personal Profile' makes those time scales impossible. Unfortunately :(.
  17. Black Ops

    Black Ops Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2011
    Game Dev, SEM, Analytics
    Philadelphia, Pa
    If you are reading this thread, then you should know your experience with a SE Asia Dev company is not unique. Try to salvage what you can and pay as little as you can until you get what you actually want. If you can terminate and not be financially devastated it may be the wisest action.

    Stay on them like a taskmaster and threaten them. They typically like to avoid legal issues and bad public feedback on freelance sites as that is their lifeblood. Find where they are acquiring business & use that to your advantage.

    Hope this helps get things done.
  18. codetiger

    codetiger Well-Known Member

    Being an Indian Company ourself, it sounds bad to see such experiences. However, we have to admit these things happen often with new studios trying to make money quickly. And this is not just for outside companies outsourcing, we too face problems when we outsource work to wrong people. I'll try to post some tips on how to choose a company here.

    1) Choose a company/freelancer who work with passion (hard to find, but this helps a lot). Find the key people in the company and check his background. Check if they have contributed for Open Source projects etc.

    2) If they promise for an end to end solution, better don't believe them unless they are very big studios with more than 100 people. Choose the one who is focused. In India, there are not many studios are good at everything (Programming/Design/Art/Music/SFX). But they usually promise for everything to be made in-house. Find what they are good at, and just use them for those.

    3) Do some research on what they've already done. Know what skills you need for your project. Find the one who already has done something similar, and decide on the quality of their earlier projects.

    Self Promotion:
    Our answers to my own questions.
    1) We work passionate in game development. We've contributed to various open source game engines (iSGL3D, Irrlicht). We've an in-house built cross-platform game engine. I am a programmer myself and I go by the name 'Codetiger' in many forums and open source communities. I have participated in Google AI challenge 2011 and ranked #1 in the country and #127 World wide. (

    2) We usually accept only programming part of the projects. If the client insists, we suggest people who worked for Music and Art works in our in-house games. We do not offer end-to-end solutions. We've a strong programming team and we project ourselves around this skills only.

    3) We work on outsourced projects for clients only when we do not work in any in-house projects. So our main focus is building good games in-house. And in between in-house projects, we work for other companies. You can check our games in our website. (

    Harishankar Narayanan,
    CEO, Smackall Games.
  19. CroRock

    CroRock Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    Thanks for posting all this! It helped me a lot, really.
    I wish you the best with your game!
  20. Syndicated Puzzles

    Syndicated Puzzles Well-Known Member

    We are at 100 hours now. Letterlicious will be submitted at the end of this week. We have all the functionalities you are describing as well. Pretty much a fully loaded app. Working on a total budget of 5000 US gives us a fighting chance to make our money back.

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