iPhone App Developer Spotlight: Keith Shepherd and Imangi

I hope you’re enjoying the iPhone app developer interview series, dear reader! I’ve had a lot of fun learning more about the experience of developing a program for what’s probably the hottest delivery platform around! This time we have a highly polished game written by a professional iPhone app developer, Imangi, written by software developer Keith Shepherd…
Q: You wrote Imangi. How long did it take you? How many lines of code is the program?
The first release of Imangi™ was developed in about a month and half with one senior software developer working full time 40-60hrs a week. This release was around 2000 lines of Objective C code. This includes everything from learning objective C and getting up to speed with the iPhone SDK API to writing the actual game code, developing the graphics, testing, and polishing everything for release.
Q: Tell us a bit about the application, including your target market and what problem or problems your application solves?
Imangi is a unique word puzzle game that challenges your vocabulary and spatial reasoning skills. Some people have described it as playing Scrabble or Boggle on a Rubik’s cube. Our main goal in creating Imangi was to develop a fun and original game that would mesh beautifully with the iPhone’s touch technology. Imangi accomplishes this by combining a brand new word puzzle concept with a unique piece sliding motion.
The ultimate goal of Imangi is to create the highest scoring arrangement of words possible. Players accomplish this by sliding rows and columns of letters on a 6×8 Imangi board to form words. Words are formed across and down in crossword fashion and must appear in a standard dictionary. We found the game dynamics to be very natural for the iPhone and the sliding motion adds a new layer of complexity to traditional crossword puzzlers. Many combinations of words are possible for each game, and Imangi is sure to be challenging and fun for puzzlers of all ages.
Q: The iPhone Software Development Kit has been written about quite a bit, but I’d like to know your opinion: was it easy to get up to speed with this SDK? Is it sufficiently complete that you weren’t stumped as you developed your application?
Apple iPhone Application Store: Imangi GameThe iPhone Software Development Kit is a dream to work with. Prior to working on Imangi, our professional experience was primarily with Java, C++, and C. We had never done any work with Objective C or the iPhone APIs. There was a bit of a learning curve, but the documentation and example code that Apple provides with the SDK are outstanding. We were able to get a basic working prototype built and running on this new platform in about a week.
Q: Tell us about the experience of submitting your program to the iPhone Application Store and how long it took to gain approval. Did you have to demonstrate that you weren’t accessing external data like the Address Book? What else was required for your app to show up in the public store?
We submitted the final Imangi software about a week prior to the opening of the App Store. The submission also includes all of the marketing materials that the end user will see in the App Store (High resolution icon, screenshots, application description, etc). Our application was approved and available for the grand opening of the store.
We don’t really have any visibility into what takes place in the review process, so I can’t really comment on that.
Q: Did you develop all the graphics in the app yourself or contract with a designer to create the look-and-feel of your application?
The look-and-feel and graphics for Imangi were all created in-house.
Q: How much is your application, and how did you decide on a price-point?
Imangi is currently on sale for $3.99. Prior to the opening of the store, we had very little information on how other similar applications would be priced or what prices the market would bear. The only price points that we had were the products announced at the Apple World Wide Developers’ Conference.
We knew that Super Monkey Ball would sell for $9.99 and we decided that any price under $5 would be a fair price for our game. We decided to go with $3.99 and after the store opened we were able to compare our price to others. The price still seemed fair, and perhaps even a bit low compared to other apps. We decided to keep the price, and we’ve had quite a few customers comment on what a great value Imangi is for the price.
Q: Are you inspired to write more iPhone applications? What’s in the pipeline?
Absolutely! We are currently working on a major update to Imangi, which we hope to release sometime in the next month. This will be a free update to all of our existing customers and will include the following:
1) Speed Imangi – A timed version of our puzzle.
2) Daily Challenge – A new Imangi puzzle will be available every day for each language we support. This puzzle will be the same for everyone in the world. You can play and submit your score to the online leader board as many times as you would like within the 24hr window.
3) Friend Challenge – Challenge a friend or a group of friends to an Imangi puzzle.
4) Online High Scores – You will have the ability to submit your score for any completed puzzle to our online leader board.
5) Internationalization – We are planning to release Imangi in additional languages.
We plan on releasing a free trial version of the game as well.
We have a number of other titles in the works, but I can’t comment on any of them yet at this time.
Q: If you’re not a full-time iPhone application developer, what’s your day job?
Full-time iPhone Application Developer.
Doesn’t Keith make this sound fun? 🙂 Thanks for your candor and for sharing your experience with us, Keith. And a final tip: if you’re still learning about your iPhone, my companion Q&A site has tons of free iPhone help for your edification.

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