May Rockstar – Tom Jenkins
May is already upon us and that means we’re spotlighting a community member that has shown commitment to helping the Soomla community. This month is Tom Jenkins, owner of After Insanity Studios. If you’re on the Answers forum you’ve probably seen him around and he’s actually probably helped you at some point. Tom’s an indie developer from Virginia making his dreams come true of developing games. We asked Tom a few questions about his path in the gaming world and here’s what he had to say:
What is your favorite game and why?
I grew up when computer gaming was in its infancy. So my first gaming love was Avalon Hill board games like Squad Leader and role playing games like D&D. Naturally, with computer gaming I gravitated toward strategic simulations. Today that genre has Creative Assembly’s Total War series, Paradox’s Crusader Kings 2, and Europa Universalis. But I don’t really have a favorite, it depends on what I’m feeling – one day I might want to play XCom and another X3 Albion Prelude.
What motivates you to participate in the SOOMLA forums? And in the Open Source community in general?
In my last game, I almost immediately saw discrepancies between the App Store reports on sales and my analytics on sales. I took a chance in that game and didn’t set up purchase verification, but that was a mistake, so I knew that my next game would need receipt verification. I also decided that my next game would need a virtual economy. I’ve used other libraries for wrapping the various App Stores in Unity, so I rated them on verification and virtual economy. My previous libraries didn’t measure up to what Soomla provided.
Soomla provides a verification server, so I don’t have to setup and monitor yet another server. They also provide a good virtual currency model and I therefore, don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Lastly, Soomla is open source, so if I want something that the framework doesn’t provide, I can add it myself. In fact, within a few days of using Soomla I realized I needed a feature for checking affordability, so I added it and pushed it up to the master repository. Since then I’ve added some things and fixed others. With a structured open source project you lower your risk.
It’s that last point, lowering risk, that has always drawn me to open source projects. I’ve been involved with various open source projects since the 1990s, some good and some bad. In my opinion, the most successful projects are those that lower the risk of usage for the target audience.
How are you incorporating SOOMLA into your game?
In my latest game, Dodging Dragons, I’m using Store to model the virtual economy, Profile to handle social networking on Facebook and Twitter, and Soomla Vungle, which handles providing rewards for players that watch video ads. I also have rewards for AdColony videos even though there isn’t a module. It was relatively easy to add reward handling to my AdColony implementation; perhaps I’ll get a chance to turn it into an actual module one day.
What do you hope will occur in the industry in the next three to five years?
I hope the mobile gaming market continues to get bigger and for the mobile gaming platforms to improve. The type of gaming experience you can provide someone changes when your draw calls, verts, and tris thresholds are raised. Just a few years back, if you were over 25 draw calls and some thousands of tris you were pushing the platform. Now, you can triple that without blinking.
I’m also looking forward to the growth of the virtual reality market. But that might be because as a kid I wanted to drive a TRON cycle.
In your opinion, what is the biggest issue the gaming industry is facing? How can it be minimized or resolved?
There are a number of interrelated things that do cause me some sleepless nights. It’s an age old issue that is going to be exacerbated by what has been happening with the game engine companies this year. There is such a low barrier to entry for developing a game; I mean it’s really low as the two largest and popular engines (Unity3d and Unreal) are now free. As we all know, there are hundreds of thousands of games produced every year. With an even lower cost of entry we may see an even larger explosion of games – arguably with not all of them being “ready for prime time.”
Also, the trend of game distribution is being concentrated into a handful of distribution places and there is a growing requirement of not just creating a good game, but also getting in front of consumers. It’s very easy to be swallowed up by the noise; your success now is not determined by how good your game is, but by how many eyes see it before it’s buried. As the cost of acquiring players increases, the probability for a small developer decreases. If distributers like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Steam ever decide on a tiered distribution model with slot fees, you’ll see a drastic change in the indie market.
Thanks Tom for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights! We truly appreciate your time and effort in the Soomla community. Make sure to check out After Insanity Studios and Tom’s Github account!