Exclusive Developer Interview:How Rebuild got to the top
Its at the top of the charts on Google Play and we have an exclusive interview where we hear how Sarah Northway did it!
Zombies,addictive turn-based gaming, great story lines, lots of surprises,in- depth game play, detailed artwork and did I mention Zombies? If this game would have been developed 10 years ago, it would have been massive and produced about a million sequels. Lucky its finall out and its at the top of the Google Play charts. Where did it come from? How did it get there, and is there a way to stop this zombie game taking over the world?
We asked Sarah Northway, one of the brains ( yum! ) behind the game.
What inspired you to develop something as wonderful as rebuild?
I read a ton as a kid, in those long ago days before the Internet. I haven’t thought about this in years, but in school they had us read a book called Hatchet about a kid who crash lands in the Canadian wilderness and has to figure out how to survive there alone. I suspect it was supposed to teach us something like what kinds of berries the First Nations used to eat, but to me it was pure survivalist fantasy. Ever since, I’ve loved stories of adventure and scraping to survive, especially ones that explore ideas about human nature and civilization. So I guess Rebuild is my attempt to let you play through one of those stories.
Rebuild is a massively detailed game, how long did it take you to
write, design and then develop?
The first iteration took three months to write, and did super well as a browser game on sites like kongregate.com. So
I spent another four months with the help of an artist (EvilKris) to make an improved version then a couple more months to port it to mobile. In the past two years I’ve probably spent 50 solid weeks on the game, but cut up with other projects in between when I needed a breather from the zombies.
You have managed to get it all the way up the charts to the number 1 slot in paid? Any secrets you can share?
The main thing honestly is to get featured by Google or Apple, but there’s a fair bit of luck involved and Rebuild failed that roll when it first came out. But just recently it was part of an indie game sale called BecauseWeMay, and the combination of fresh publicity and a 99 cent sale price rocketed Rebuild up the charts. I think those top slots are kind of self-fulfilling, so any time you get a big dose of sales you get another chance to rise up there and stick for awhile.
Currently with over 1500 reviews and 5 star rating, how have you managed your users. and feedback?
It’s been a lot of work. Since the first Flash version I’ve been reading comments and answering every email I get. I added a feedback form to the game which records play logs and has been super helpful in tracking down bugs, but mostly I rely on the incredible help of players to help me improve the game. It’s been just overwhelming how much positive feedback and support I’ve gotten from fans.
Rebuild is running on IOS as well – how do you find the experience of the Apple Store Vs Google Play Store?
I just checked my revenue totals on iOS and Android since the day of the Android release – they’re neck and neck, within half a percent. The Android version has certainly been more work-per-dollar, but I would have been silly to release only on iOS and miss out on the Android market considering I use Adobe AIR and a single codebase for both platforms. I’m pretty sure I’ve been higher in the charts on Android in most countries.
Any funny stories that have come out of user reactions/ feedback that you want to share?
When I brought on EvilKris and changed the art style from my original cartoony graphics to something more realistic and gruesome, fans of the original were horrified. They said it would give them nightmares and totally change the feel of the game. I thought it was kind of funny because I’d
always considered Rebuild to be a disturbing game and figured the new style was more fitting.
For one thing it is a game about people getting eaten by the undead. And the daily events contain some pretty nasty descriptions of people’s demises, not to some other more crazy things that you wouldn’t expect in a game and so on. At any rate, I kept some of the cuteness around and since the game’s release I haven’t heard a single complaint of Rebuild giving people nightmares. Just a lot of people complaining that they’ve stayed up all night playing it.
For an indie developer, how did you find out that you were featured
on the android store ( and what did it feel like when you first
A fan emailed to say Rebuild was staring them in the face when they went on to Google Play that morning. It was right on the heels of the BecauseWeMay sale, while Rebuild was up in the charts and still offered at a discount. I’ve been kind of bitter about never getting “the love” from Apple (which I know is silly), so it felt super gratifying to get official recognition from Google.
What was the best lesson that you learned making rebuild that you
could share with others?
Well one obvious thing: finish your games! Before Rebuild I’d started lots of games but never made the effort to finish and publish any of them. I worked hard to keepRebuild to a manageable size, leaving features out so I’d have a hope of actually getting it done before losing interest. The 80/20 rule is totally true in game development: the last 20% of polish to the game takes 80% of the time to write. It can be tedious work compared to designing gameplay or hacking out that first build, but finishing and releasing games is pretty much a requirement to make a living as an indie game developer.
9. What are the next steps for Rebuild? Can users look forward to more content?
I’m still maintaining the mobile versions and thinking about a content update for Halloween. No promises though, since most of my attention’s taken up with working on my husband’s new physics puzzle game Incredipede. After that… well I’ve been tossing ideas around for a Rebuild sequel set 30 years after the zombiepocalypse and called “Rebuild: The Next Generation”. Unless that’s copyrighted I guess.
9. Have you had some thoughts on what you are developing next? Any
ideas when its going to hit android?
I’ve got this browser-based spelling game called Word Up Dog that I wrote last year, and I’ve been trying to finish the mobile versio
n ever since. It’s cute and silly, full of ridiculously cheesy hiphop lingo and an ironic dictionary full of slang and common misspellings. Rebuild fans will hate it.
10. Finally whats you favourite app on android – and who should we
Alright – this is embarrassing, but my Android phone (a Nexus One) is somewhat elderly and I hardly game on it anymore except to play solitaire (the Solitaire MegaPack by Tesseract to be precise) when I’m trying to lull myself to sleep. What I have been playing this month are some of the entrants to this year’s IndieCade festival where I’m proud to be a judge. Of course I can’t talk about them yet… but stay tuned for some great new indie games coming down the pipe.
For those of you looking to download the app head over to the rebuild Play Store Page
Its also available on the Androidbloke AppSpotter App.