Four Months

It’s been four months since my last post back in November. I know I said I’d keep blogging, but that just didn’t happen. Luckily, it’s been so long that it’s my turn to do iDevBlogADay again. Due to the new rules, this means you can expect me to post every other Sunday, although I’m actually planning(*hoping) to post every week.

I figure the best way to re-start blogging with is a summary of the past four months, in semi-chronological order, so that’s what this week’s post is gonna be.


I finally finished my job at the end of the year. I was employed at Indusblue for over five years, basically since graduating college, so it was bittersweet to leave. I worked with some really awesome people there, learned a ton of stuff, and just generally had a great time. As much as I loved it, I knew it just didn’t make sense to stay there if I wanted to have a career making games, and so the end of the year was a great time to start fresh.


I did a Christmas sale that started a couple days before the 25th of December. I dropped the price of Trainyard to $0.99 from $2.99 and made a couple videos to tell current Trainyard players about the sale. The video that went to the regular players basically just explained what was going on with Trainyard, what was in the new update, and was was coming up in the future. The video that went to the free players was more of an upsell video, trying to explain why they might want to buy the full version.

The sale wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped, but it worked pretty well. A week before Christmas, Trainyard was making around $800 per day, but on Christmas it made $1500. All in all, it made over $1000/day for the first 10 days of the sale. I definitely can’t complain about that.

People to watch

One really sweet thing that happened is that I was featured in a Toronto Star article called “People to Watch 2011″. Going to the photo shoot for this article was fun, as I got to meet a bunch of interesting people in all kinds of fields. After the article was printed, I received lots of encouraging messages from old friends, family, and school teachers. The whole experience was very cool, and I was honoured to be chosen for the list. You can view the full article if you click the image below.

Toronto Star - February 3rd

Click on the image to view the full article

Starting a company

In January, with my old job out of the way, I officially started my new company. It’s called Magicule. People seem to either love or hate the name. I go back and forth on it every day, sometimes I hate it, sometimes I kinda don’t mind it, hah. It’s meant to be a portmanteau of “magic” and “molecule”, because games are like mix of magic and science, or something like that. I still haven’t bothered to get a logo made for it, but when I do, I’m hoping it’ll help to convey the meaning.


For some reason, I decided to make an app for the Blackberry PlayBook in January. I used to be a Flash developer before I did iOS development, so making a PlayBook app was actually really easy to do, and it helped that Blackberry has a deal where if you make an app before the PlayBook comes out, they’ll give you one for free.

My app is called Scorekeeper. It’s a really simple tool for keeping track of scores while playing party games or board games with friends. I’d show a screenshot here, but it’s really hard to appreciate until you see it in motion. I don’t expect it to make very much money; I just made it for fun, to do something completely different for a while.

I got to present my app at the FlashInTO user group here in Toronto. RIM brought a PlayBook to the event, so I got to try Scorekeeper on a real PlayBook. The device was pretty impressive, and ran my app at a smooth 60fps. It’s a great product. People keep saying it’s not an “iPad killer”, but I don’t think that’s what RIM is trying to be at all. The way I see it, they’re targeting it solely at current Blackberry users, and I think they’re going to do really, really well with that audience.


At the start of March, I finally got to attend the Game Developer’s Conference. Of all the conferences I’ve wanted to attend, GDC was at the top of the list, and it didn’t disappoint. There were lots of phenomenal sessions, and it was awesome to get to meet with the rest of the “indie iOS” community. I highly, highly recommend it.

One of the best parts of GDC is just that fact that it’s in San Francisco. The food is great, the people are nice, and the scenery is fantastic. I spent my second day in San Fran up in Berkeley hanging out with Jonathan Mann. In my opinion, Jonathan is the most under-appreciated person on the internet. Seriously. He writes a new song and posts it online *every single day* and he’s been doing it for 808 days straight. How crazy is that? And some of them are really, really good. He wrote a bunch of songs you’re probably heard, like the iPhone Antenna Song, the Pocket God Update Song, and countless (well, 808) other songs. One of my favourites is String Theory, or if you want to see my cameo from the day I was there, check out his song on Settlers of Catan.

Where did the time go?

Right now when I look back over the past three months, I wonder what I was doing the whole time. I’ve definitely done some work, but it sure doesn’t seem like three months worth. I guess time flies when you’re working for yourself. Doing business-y stuff also gets in the way and just seems to suck up infinite amounts of time. I’m quickly learning that when you’re working solo, it’s more important than ever to carefully structure your time and hold yourself to strict deadlines.

What now?

I’m still working on the Trainyard “Engineer” update, which should be pretty sweet when it finally comes out. Along with that, I had a cool idea for a game on the way back from GDC, so I decided to prototype it. It’s an indie-style pixel platformer that I’m making in Flash (Flixel, specifically). I’m not really sure what I want to do with it, I might just release it as a webgame in its rough form, because I don’t see a good way to make it into a “real” game without a ton more work, and I’ve already got way too much to do.

I’m also working on another iOS puzzle game (or two?), and a game that’s very hard to explain. There’s definitely way too much on my plate, but I’m trying to tackle it one thing at a time, so I’m sure it’ll all get done eventually.


So that this post isn’t completely useless, I figured I’d throw a couple tips in:

Form a corporation before you sell a game on the App Store

Not incorporating has given me so many headaches. It’s really not that hard or expensive to create one, but it’ll save you from so many hassles later on.

Give yourself very strict deadlines

You need to treat each one of your own projects as if they’re for a client, or else you’ll never get any of them done. I’m really bad at this, but I’m working on it.

Don’t use Twitter or email or Reddit during the day

This is something I struggle with, but it improves my productivity a ton when I do it. Yes, even ignore email. Unless you’re a sysadmin (you’re not), then you’re probably not getting an urgent email. At the very least, don’t check Twitter and email first thing in the morning, it sets a horrible tone for the rest of the day. And if you’re not on Reddit already, don’t start, it’ll suck your time away like an evil meme-filled vacuum.

Make a goal for your company

This was the key message I got from Arash’s talk at GDC. All the decisions you make for your company become a lot simpler if you know what you want your company to become. You need some kind of mission statement, some kind of idea of what your purpose is. I think this applies to individuals as well. Spend a couple hours and really figure out exactly what your goals and ambitions are, then write them down and put them somewhere visible.

So with that, I think I’ll draw this post to a close. Many thanks if you’ve actually read this far. I promise the posts in the weeks to come will be a lot more interesting, so don’t forget to come back next Sunday!

This entry was posted in iDevBlogADay, Meta, Trainyard. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Four Months

  1. David McGraw says:

    “Form a corporation before you sell a game on the App Store”

    Could you elaborate? Should you wait until you see some success or is it just better to form at the get-go? I’ve been at this since 2009 and really haven’t seen a reason to do such a thing since I have yet to really succeed. But if one of my projects found success I might actually consider it to reduce some liability.

    • Matt says:

      The big pains for me are with taxes. It’s not a *huge* deal, but it complicates things a lot from an accounting perspective. I’ve also found that it’s easier to handle NDAs and make deals if you’re acting as a company rather than as an individual.

      • Perhaps the tax laws are significantly different since you’re in Canada, but it feels like having a Sole Proprietorship would work out best for an App developer. Have you found reasons why the hassle of incorporating makes sense?

        Fantastic post by the way, thanks for the tips and the update!

        • Matt says:

          It’s not as much about the tax laws, but the tax rates. Tax rates are much lower for corporations than individuals, at least here in Ontario.

          • Kyle Newsome says:

            But aren’t you subject then to double taxation? Wouldn’t you need to pay corporate tax PLUS income tax which doesn’t sound better than a sole proprietorship at all?

            The benefit of incorporating is that your company is its own entity , the downside is that entity pays tax before it becomes your taxable income.

          • Matt says:

            Yeah, that’s a good point. In my case, it definitely made sense because the amount of money was quite large, so it would have been a really high (50% ish) tax bracket, whereas corporate taxes are only 15%. Yes, I’ll get paid that money eventually, but it’ll be spread out the course of a couple years, rather than all at once, and therefore won’t be in such a high tax bracket. So you’re right though, for some people, it isn’t worth it. In my case, it was.

          • Matt says:

            Thinking about it again, maybe it’d be better to create a corporation in advance, but not put money directly into it, unless you make a lot, or something like that.

  2. Doug says:

    Great to see you back!

  3. harry says:

    Nice to see you blogging again!

    Matt, something a bit out of topic – any reason why you prefer Flixel over other Flash frameworks? The Pushbutton Engine, for example, uses an entity based system which I think you were interested into. Anyhow, Flixel is awesome.

    Just askin’ ;)

    • Matt says:

      I chose Flixel just because I knew I was making a platformer, and that’s really where Flixel shines. I was able to create the whole game and a few levels in just a day.

  4. ron says:

    Here’s another vote against “definitely forming a company” – lots of people make no money on the appstore, or become entangled with partners who ultimately don’t end up getting along for various reasons. Unless you’re in this to really make some serious money (and by that, I mean putting some money into it, for real) then in plenty of cases it’s probably more sensible to skip signing up as an LLC or what-have-you.

    • Matt says:

      Yeah that could be true, it definitely depends on your situation. The “problem” with the App Store is that you can have a situation like I did, where you all-of-a-sudden switch from making very little to making a lot in a span of hours.

  5. Wally says:

    Great to see you blogging again.

    +1 to all the tips. Incorporating also has the benefit of shielding your personal assets from liability. It’s so easy to accidentally violate someone’s trademark (doodle, tower defense, edge, stick, etc). When the most you can lose is whatever you have in your corporation, it’s easier to sleep at night.

  6. Ben Kreis says:

    Good to see you back at blogging. Some exciting changes in your life!

  7. Scott Chin says:

    Congrats on the success and thank you for posting again! I really enjoy reading your blog and hearing your experiences. Very inspirational.

    I am in Canada myself and have been doing some app development since last summer. I was very interested in reading your tip to incorporate early. I actually went ahead and incorporated a company last fall. I stumbled through the process on my own and am interested in comparing notes. If you have any tips on this process or the corporate business side of being an indie app developer, I’d love to hear them. Most of the information I found online related to US corporation and taxation. I think this information could be really interesting for a lot of Canadian app developers.

    Thanks again for blogging!

    • Matt says:

      Yeah it’s hard to find specific Canadian information, I ended up just biting the bullet and using a lawyer and an accountant. The plus side is that I’m quite confident that everything is set up correctly now, the downside is that it cost a lot more than doing it all myself, heh.

      • Scott Chin says:

        Thanks for the response Matt. That is a good call. I am thinking that I’ll consult a lawyer and accountant soon.

        Ok keep up the great posts!

  8. Jed says:

    Hi Matt,

    Great to see you back blogging again. Since you quit your job, are you working at home now? and how is that working for you?


  9. Hey Matt,

    Congrats on leaving the job, and it’s nice to see you blogging again! Do you know approximately where TrainYard ranked in the entire games category and within the sub categories for you to average $800/day? And you would say that more people find your application by surfing through the App Store, or from external links/word of mouth/etc ?


    • Matt says:

      So for example, on Jan 18th, it made $750, and here were the ranks:

      US: 24 in board, 39 in puzzle, 250 in games.
      UK: 7 in board, 8 in puzzle, 60 in games, 95 overall.

      Yesterday I made $360, and the ranks are:
      US: 25 in board, 46 in puzzle, 247 in games.
      UK: 9 in board, 18 in puzzle, 89 in games, 157 overall.

      It’s actually pretty interesting to look at this, because my ranks in the US were almost identical, but I made $105 from the US yesterday, and $170 from the US on Jan 18th. I think that shows that the charts are lower across the board at the moment.

      Also, that should give you an idea of the percentage of sales that come from the rest of the world (it’s quite a lot). Of the $750 I made on Jan 18th, $580 came from the rest of the world.

      I’m pretty sure that most of my sales come from word-of-mouth these days, although being in the top 25 board games probably helps a lot too.

      • Very interesting and informative bit of info. You really showed how important it is to be localized, and to market in other countries.

        Assuming TrainYard was also $0.99 on Jan 18th, it is interesting to see how the overall number of sales on the App Store fluctuate.

  10. j baker says:

    > Don’t use Twitter or email or Reddit during the day

    This is the only reason i’ve managed to keep myself focused thru 10 years of self employment:

    Know you’re using windows, but there’s lots of equivalents for PC as well…

  11. Pingback: Engineering An Update – Part One |

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