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More than a flight of fancy for Space Kiwi.

Summary: In October, ABI research predicted that there would be 29 billion apps downloaded in 2011, up from nine billion in 2010. That's a lot of apps for a lot of things. According to 148Apps.biz, at Apple's App Store there are a total of 556,793 active apps and of those, "Games" is the most popular category with 96,187 active apps. The category grew by 118 per day last month.

Enter, Space Kiwi by ORRO Inc. for the iPhone and iPod. In Space Kiwi, the player is a little creature who needs to dodge rocks, objects and dangerous enemies to make it to the next level. In actual game play, gyro tilt-controls help Space Kiwi avoid obstacles and collect rewards. Alert aim-and-shoot ripostes counter oncoming creatures' attacks. Space Kiwi needs adept maneuvering to avoid simultaneous enemies of different powers and from all directions, with each of the 60 levels harder than the last.

A review from Appadvice.com noted that, "The artwork is as adorable as can be. Backgrounds consist of pastel hues with puffy imagery. Space Kiwi himself looks like Q-Bert with a kawaii (Japanese for cute) makeover. The electronica soundtrack fits perfectly with the design and theme of the game. Overall, this universal game is entertaining and challenging. The cute factor is so high that even the most hardened of hearts will melt, but the action is so good that teenage boys won't be embarrassed to brag about their high scores."

The concept for Space Kiwi came from 16-year-old Boston-area high school sophomore Eli Bock who thought that the App Store could use an accessible shooter game.

"There aren't that many shooter games that are easy to pick up and play casually," he said. "I'm definitely a player of video games, mostly the Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft Xbox. I also play casual games on the iPhone. So I knew what was out there before I jumped into this project."

Bock described the work to take the game live as a "labor of love." Hundreds of hours went into creating all the backgrounds, animations and characters.

"The first thing I did was to plan out everything," explained Bock. "I organized all my ideas on paper and figured out what the game was going to be. Once I had everything straight, I started on the artwork. I used Adobe Flash for most of the artwork and Adobe Photoshop to do advanced coloring of the characters. I've been using various Adobe software products since sixth grade. This is an interest of mine. I'm pretty much self-taught although I have gotten help off the Internet. We are exposed to such software programs at school, but I never particularly liked the way it's being taught in our classes because kids don't get the chance to discover everything that these programs can offer."

So, through Bock's animations, the Kiwi, a flightless bird, found a way to take off and fly in outer space. With the characters finished, it was time to move on to actually creating the app. Bock doesn't yet have the skills for the advanced coding required in Space Kiwi, so he went to Elance.com and hired a team of app developers to do the coding work for the project. He gave them directions for what he needed and then provided criticism of the outcomes, overseeing the entire project until the app was as he'd envisioned it. Now Space Kiwi is on the App Store (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/space-kiwi/id484106153) selling for 99 cents.

The total amount Bock has spent on Space Kiwi is about $8,000 - without counting the 300 hours he put in on the artwork. That's a very reasonable development cost because according to Tomi Ahonen's blog, "Communities Dominate Brands," the development of a typical app is priced at about $35,000. Bock paid for the development costs through a part time job and with help from his parents. They've also been helping him with some of the business aspects of ORRO Inc., which Bock admitted are a lot less fun than creating the game.

"I found out that marketing Space Kiwi is much more complicated than I thought it would be. It's pretty hard to get attention for the game, even though it's a great game, because there many other games out there," Bock said. "We've done a lot of social networking. There's a Space Kiwi Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Space-Kiwi/143308272434833). We've been giving out free t-shirts and held contests. Now we're thinking about throwing a party at a public event where people can bring Space Kiwi and play it together."

All the hard work can be worthwhile if the game becomes a hit. Time's Techland "guestimated" that Angry Birds, which is a 99 cent download, has taken in $250 million in revenue for a game that cost Rovio about $137,690 to make.

Bock commented that creating and bringing Space Kiwi to the App Store has been an experience that taught him a lot and of course, learning is supposed to be the primary focus of his teenage life. He gets A's and B's at school and recently he's found that he's very "in to math." It's still about two years before he has to decide what his focus will be at university, but he does have an interest in studying software development or graphic arts.

"Ideally, I want to learn as much coding as possible, and I definitely want to continue to do the concept and art side of application development as well," the teen said. "Lately I've had a chance to use my skills to create artwork for advertisements and that's been interesting."

Bock's parents and friends have given enthusiastic support to Space Kiwi, which has encouraged him to power through to the end of the project. He admitted that the flattering reviews have made him happy, too. While he is a typical teenager in that he goes to school and hangs out with friends, Bock clearly has the internal drive to be a success.

"Space Kiwi is my pride and joy," he said enthusiastically. "I've got six or seven projects that I've been tossing around in my head. I haven't actually figured out which one I'm going to do next but I've been getting all the ideas down on paper. Usually when I have some downtime just for myself, I want to work on something. It keeps me amused and I feel good when I'm getting work done. Next, I think I'm going to do a platformer game where the characters will be bouncing around. I know that people always want something new when it comes to gaming and that's great, because there's a lot more to come from ORRO."

View an animated storyboard that's been created by Bock about Space Kiwi at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkxRP7QwA-E&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Jan 25, 2012
Words:1166
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