Developers Cubed: Two Lives Left

Gizmodo's Developers Cubed series offers a behind the scenes look into Australia’s up and coming dev scene. This week: We chat with Simeon Nasilowski from Two Lives Left about the power of code, the strength of the App Store review process and learning to fail.

Developers! Developers! Developers! It's not just Steve Ballmer’s favourite sweat-laden catchcry! If you'd like to be featured in Developers Cubed, shoot a note to freelance.broughall at I'd love to hear from you.

Who are you and where do you work? I'm Simeon Nasilowski from Two Lives Left. I work with two others, Dylan Sale and John Millard, creating games and game-related applications. We're based in Adelaide. Two Lives Left is our avenue for creating and publishing personal projects that we're really passionate about.

Why do we know you? What have you created? We recently created Codea for iPad. It's an app you can use to create games and simulations for your iPad – on your iPad.

Codea really surprised us with its popularity. I initially wrote it as a side project for myself, a tool to use to experiment with game ideas. We then decided to publish it and it became very popular a few days after release, it has really grown into something much larger now. There's a very active community creating and sharing really cool projects (some examples, and we continue to enhance the application.

Codea offers a touch-oriented programming interface. It implements a lot of ideas I've always wanted to have in a coding app. The key philosophy is to let you write programs and very quickly see your results. One of the features I'm really proud of is the ability to directly touch parameters in your code to choose colours, images and adjust numbers. It's something I've always wanted to have.

We also created two iOS games. Wheeler's Treasure (2009), a pirate themed action-adventure game, and Pilot Winds (2011), a fast-paced racing game.

What platforms do you develop for? We develop for iOS. Lately with a focus on iPad titles. We enjoy experimenting with touch as a way to interact with games and applications. I'm personally very passionate about UI design and communicating ideas through computers. iOS lets us explore interesting models of interaction.

What are you working on right now? We're working on a new game called Crabitron. It's a Giant Space Crab simulation for iPad. We have a preview trailer here. It's a game with a very unique method of interaction. You basically grab the claws directly and control them with your fingers, pulling apart space ships and eating things.

We showed it off at the AVCON Indie Games Room event in July this year and it had an incredible response from gamers. It's been great fun to work on and we hope to release it soon.

We're working on updates to Codea, as well. It's getting its fifth update since release, adding new features, improving the language and fixing bugs.

How did you get into development? We all met while doing our PhDs in Computer Science at The University of Adelaide. We often found ourselves creating games together, so we decided to do it properly.

What do you think about the rise and rise of App Stores? How has it influenced your titles? Apple's App Store, in particular, is a very controlled environment. Codea was rejected initially because of Apple's policies regarding downloadable code. We implemented the requested changes in order to allow it through the review process.

I like App Stores. A lot of people seem to think they are detrimental to open software, but I don't see that. The App Store to me represents an efficient channel to get our product into customers' hands and keep them up-to-date. As someone who just wants to create software, that's a really useful thing. It encourages us to focus on creation and not the logistics of making software available.

I also like the review process, even if it negatively effects our own titles (through delays) at times. I like that someone is checking our stuff for quality and consistency.

What's your favourite app that you didn't create? For games I've been enjoying Mage Gauntlet by Rocket Cat Games, and Trainyard by Matt Rix.

On iPad I don't use very many apps besides Safari and iBooks. I have a lot of apps, but all I really want to do on my iPad is write code and read.

What phone do you use? Why? I use an iPhone 4. I have always had a thing for good, high-density displays. I also like the technical aspects of iOS interface rendering - the way its graphics are composited to the screen and Apple's strong focus on intuitive animations. Also, it works pretty well as a smartphone.

What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there? Learn to throw away ideas that aren't working. Sometimes you get too invested in something you've developed, and it's just not good. Don't be afraid to drop it and move onto something else. The faster you can identify bad ideas, the more time you spend implementing good ones.

Learning to fail is important as well. The first things we published weren't successful, and it was disheartening. Learning that failure was going to happen sometimes was important for us, and it allowed us to move on and keep creating things we love. We don't develop software for a target audience any more, we create something great for ourselves and then share it.

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