Best of 2018: PerBlue's Andy Jennings Says the Key to Developing Winning Games is a Well-Rounded Team

Andy Jennings

Digital Marketing Manager, PerBlue

Next in our ‘Best of 2018’ series we sat down with Andy Jennings from PerBlue, the creators of this year’s winner for best gaming app, Disney Heroes. The ‘Best of 2018’ awards recognize the top publishers who have stood out amongst the Galaxy Apps Store’s boutique of expertly curated apps. Check out their advice on developing next-level mobile games.

How did PerBlue get its start developing mobile games?

PerBlue was founded in 2008 by a group of Computer Engineering students at the University of Wisconsin. Our first game, Parallel Kingdom, was a location-based RPG that the company was bootstrapped around. From there, the company grew into what it is today with around 50 employees and a track record of designing, developing, and publishing successful midcore mobile titles.

What were the biggest kinks you had to iron out when you first started developing mobile games?

We’ve been in the mobile games industry since the launch of the original iPhone and Android devices. The industry and mobile devices have come a long way since then. Back then, developing for all those different devices in a brand new industry presented a lot of technical challenges. The early memory limitations presented some challenges in particular, such as the 16MB heap limit on Android. We had to be very careful about what data was kept in memory. We also had to write our own implementation of Google Maps before they had an SDK.

When designing a mobile game, what is the most important UX consideration?

There are a lot of pieces to UX that we stress the importance of during the early development phase and into updates as the game grows. One of those is making sure the early player experience is fun, smooth, and gets players engaged with the game quickly. We’re constantly looking at the data to adjust the early experience and make optimizations to keep players engaged in the game and ultimately having fun.

How do you create mobile games that stand out from the crowd?

One area where PerBlue has been able to excel in differentiating itself from other developers and games is in our art and execution. That’s everything from character and environment design, to the story, to hidden Easter eggs. We also put a ton of effort into designing new features over the lifetime of the game that continue to make it fresh and exciting.

What do you think made Disney Heroes such a successful game?

There are many elements of Disney Heroes that have led its success, but one of the most important is the huge fan base of the Disney and Pixar characters in the game. We’re constantly being asked to add specific characters to the line-up. New updates are highly anticipated with speculation around which characters will be added.

What was the development process for Disney Heroes?

We started development over a year before the release with a full dev and art team dedicated to designing and developing the game. We worked closely with Disney and Pixar throughout the process to make sure the game did justice to the characters, as well as their stories.

What feature do you feel all great mobile games have in common?

A dedicated and passionate team. Making and maintaining mobile games isn’t easy work. You have to really care about the work to keep players entertained and happy with their experience. It takes a full team from programming, to art, to design, to marketing, to make sure the game stays healthy. There are many games that have the elements of a successful game, but without the team to make sure it meets its full potential, they will struggle to become hits.

What advice do you have for new developers looking to create a successful mobile game business?

Be willing to constantly learn and adapt. The mobile game industry always has and always will move quickly. It’s important to not sit back and get used to any level of success, but to strive to be better and look forward.

As a new developer, look to build relationships with experts in different areas and adapt their expertise to your situation. There’s a lot you need to know, from latest design trends to marketing techniques, and having specialists you can turn to is very valuable.

Are there emerging technologies that you’re keeping your eye on?

We’re always looking to see what the next big trends are. Popular mobile genres are constantly evolving, so we stay tuned into what types of gameplay are growing. We’re also interested in looking at how different technology trends are shaping how players play games. AI and machine learning are some of the big ones. On the gaming side, we expect to see development in procedurally generated game systems and living game worlds. On the analytics side, machine learning will make a progressively larger impact on how user acquisition and live operations are managed.

How has Samsung helped your business?

Samsung has been great to work with. You can tell they’re dedicated to Samsung Galaxy Apps, as they’re not only interested in the platform’s success, but also helping the developers and publishers on it be successful. It has been a pleasure to work so closely with an app store that is developing creative solutions to bring more players to our apps.

Thanks to Andy Jennings for sharing his insights on mobile game development. Be sure to follow us on @samsung_dev for more interviews with the Best of 2018 winners. For now, you can find out more about the program in our Samsung Best of 2018 Winners Announced post.