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Opinion

Indie Focus: Philip Morby, Carrot Creations on PlayStation Mobile

Snakes on a handheld.

Carrot Creations, a “one man band” indie development studio with Philip Morby responsible for design, code and marketing, recently launched its PlayStation Mobile game “Snake!” It’s a relatively simplistic affair, emulating the old phone game, but it’s one that has demonstrated both the good and the bad about getting a game onto a PlayStation platform.

Morby is, he tells me, the typical “bedroom coder”, doing his PlayStation Mobile (PSM) development after his normal working hours. “I did computer games programming at Derby University,” he says by way of an introduction, “and I had just got my Vita and wanted something to do over the summer if I didn’t get a job after university and PlayStation Mobile offered me a free beta in a language I understood well.”

Philip’s first and only game out at the moment, Snake, has sold over 700 copies but the process of getting it out there was, he says, “a confusing chain of hoops to jump through.”

“While I am not in this for the money,” he continues, “I find it odd that Sony don’t take a cut of the price you dictate, instead making up a price in their head based on the amount of money you would like per sale. For example, I have asked for 45p from every sale, and my game sells for 79p. This means Sony get 34p or 43% from each sell.”

“That’s a bit more than the typical 70/30 split between developer and publisher,” he says.

“The lack of trophies and PSN leaderboards doesn’t annoy me,” he admits, “these are small mobile games, I don’t see how adding features helps, it just needs promoting.”

Philip goes on to describe how there’s a lack of communication between Sony and developers. “It’s just frustrating,” he says, “and I have no idea how bigger developers / publishers put up with it. Once my game got approved it took 3 weeks before it got onto the store, with no real feedback as to exactly [when] it will be out. I couldn’t even promote it myself, it suddenly just appeared on the store.”

Philip’s Snake! running on PS Vita.

“It isn’t rocket science,” he continues, “a bit on their Blog – even if it’s just a ‘these games are out this week’ like they do with the PSN Store – would help. I can’t even buy codes for my own game to give out to reviewers,” he adds, speaking about promoting his game, “which would help matters.”

And it sounds like it’s during that submission process where most of the issues are. “You’re given no great feedback as to why your application has failed,” Philip tells me. “It’s just a lack of communication time after time. I actually got stuck during one bit (having failed submission twice) and at my third attempt, asked ‘If this didn’t work, please fully explain where I need to put this file.’”

“This submission failed with the same reason as before, as well as the statement ‘Also, we cannot answer to questions with application review.’”

“I would say that picking C# as the main language (although again, other languages are apparently on the road map) has allowed coders who probably wouldn’t have joined (myself included) to have a go at being an indie developer,” Philip says. “The PSM SDK speaks of a roadmap where support [for] other languages will be [added], Visual Studio integration (although I’ve enjoyed learning how to use Mono Develop) and other bits and bobs.”

“They’ve all been on that list for a while, and we have no idea when anything will be added.”

However, Philip does admit that the issues with PlayStation Mobile can be fixed relatively easily, and says that he still enjoyed the whole process. “Personally, even with all the troubles, I have enjoyed the journey I have taken since taking part in the open beta last year. It’s just a shame that you can see the similarities between PSM and the Vita itself, an awesome system/store let down by poor advertising and a lack of communication.”

Snake!, by Carrot Creations, is available now on PlayStation Mobile.

We’re looking to speak to anyone making games on PlayStation platforms. If you’d like to have your say, please get in touch.

5 Comments
  1. Temascos
    Member
    Since: Jan 2013

    It’s good to hear honest feedback about the current pros and cons about Sony’s efforts. I do hope they take on this guy’s feedback and build on it in the future. But given that the barrier to entry was reduced they’re gonna be swamped with titles and not have the time to respond (Unless they come up with a standardised format response with bullet points on key issues, say for example “Too many glitches” and if the responder has time they go into some specifics).

    Comment posted on 14/05/2013 at 09:41.
  2. billsmugs
    Member
    Since: Mar 2009

    My PSM game* is currently waiting for release and I’d agree with most of the points raised in this article, especially the lack of download codes and information on release dates. I’d put more importance on the idea of trophy integration however, as I think it would help drive sales (people are forever stating their reluctance to buy older games without trophy support for example).

    I had some confusion over the wording of one point on a failed application, but the staff on the forums were very helpful in sorting it out and other than that the feedback was relatively fast and in depth enough. I think the apparent disconnect at times between the forum staff and the people in charge of registration and development is a problem that holds up the progress of the service a little, but lack of communication between departments has always seemed to be the Sony way!

    Overall though, I’d agree about still enjoying the process of development and the chance to release a game on a proper console. I don’t own (or have any interest in owning) a smartphone and I’m not a huge fan of gaming on PC, so the opportunity to make a game that can be played on the Vita is excellent for me. I hope they can grow the service with the new free licence and continue to add features. I wish they’d allow for Vita only releases (using a bit more of the system’s capabilities), though unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be a possibility any time soon. It would be interesting to know what proportion of sales come from non-Vita devices, as I would expect it to be rather low, but I could be wrong!

    *Shameless plug: http://billsmugs.com/tileogo

    Comment posted on 14/05/2013 at 11:05.
  3. Andy Torr
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    Is he… yes, he’s wearing a flame shirt.

    Comment posted on 14/05/2013 at 14:11.
  4. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Best of luck to Philip. Sounds like the idea behind it all is sound enough but Sony need to communicate more often and help things along when they might go quiet. More importantly, that they learn from this and implement the changes ASAP as it affects the platform’s respect as gaming hardware to enjoy.

    Comment posted on 14/05/2013 at 15:58.
  5. carrot1401
    Member
    Since: Feb 2012

    Suppose I better reply to my first article. Firstly, it was great to work with Alex on it, and really gives the perspective of smaller indie devs. The previous article had larger companies complain about the choice of language, trophies and stuff. Yes, it would be nice to have them, but in my opinion they are not fundamental flaws.

    After this article I actually had a developer from PSM contact me on twitter (@PMorby) for more info on what I think about PSM. He admitted that part of PSM’s own flaw is how it is an indie/community based scene which is largely automated, which to me just doesn’t work. But yes, they do care and are supporting it, which is good to know!

    And yes, it is an awesome flame shirt that cost me like…£4…about 6 years ago :-P It still fits :-D

    Comment posted on 18/05/2013 at 09:51.

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