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Interview With Ryan Cash - Alto's Adventure

Alto's Adventure is one of my all time favorite iOS games. I get lost in its artistic presentation and simple game mechanic. Ryan and I cross paths on Twitter after a one of mention about how awesome Alto is. After that we've been shooting the bull over email here and there. I asked if he would let me interview him about his game. Being the awesome person he is, he said yes. You can read about who Ryan is at http://ryancash.net/colophon

Ryan. I loved the feeling of "flow" I got with playing Alto's Adventure. It reminded me of the Sega Saturn game Nights into Dreams. Just a comment about. Feel free to respond.

Glad to hear this! We actually put a huge emphasis on how the game's "flow" felt. So it's really cool that you're specifically calling that out! I think that a game's flow (especially in a game that's supposed to be viscerally rewarding) is incredibly important. We spent quite a bit of time making sure this felt right.

What technologies/frameworks did you use to build Alto?

Alto's Adventure is built in Unity3D.

How long did it take to build?

Just over 2 years, from idea to the launch.

During the sale and development of Alto, what was one of your happiest moments?

There have been a ton of happy and exciting moments, but I think the things that have been the most rewarding to see have been the emails we've received about how the game has helped people cope through an injury or tough mental situation/illness, and then on the other side of things, the photos and stories we've heard of really young kids playing and enjoying the game.

Your saddest moments?

I don't know if there have been any sad moments, but there have definitely been stressful moments where I'd wondered how the game would do before it was finished – countless times questioning myself late at night or in the shower. The saddest thing for me I think is that I had a grandfather that had seen the game in its early stages, but unfortunately passed away before the game was finished and launched. It would have been great to have shipped the game while he was still alive.

What tips do you have for those that are just starting with programming and game development?

I'd recommend just immersing yourself in it. Play games. Ask questions. Network. Reach out to people on the internet. In general, it's a great community of people willing to help out.

We may have a couple of project managers reading this interview. Any tips for them with regards to managing a project/interacting with developers?

There are a bunch of handy tools you can use, like Slack, Basecamp, Daylite, etc. – but at the end of the day, it just comes down to having a solid team. If the team structure is there, you'll make it work.

Also, we may have a couple of ad men reading this interview. Any tips for them with regards to marketing a game?

My biggest tip – start working on your marketing the day you start working on your game.

You went for a premium game as opposed to a game that was free with IAP. Why?

We just felt like this was the right fit for the kind of experience we made. I go into it a little here: http://ryancash.net/post/117092406765/the-story-behind-altos-adventure

Given hindsight is 20/20, would you have done anything differently with regards to building and selling Alto?

On the whole, I don't think so. There are always things you learn along the way, but I think we had learned a lot building and shipping five other products prior to Alto that allowed us to more or less run smoothly this time around.

I hate it when people say "your game is just like X". Do you have any thoughts on derivative works?

Most things are deviate of others. The iPod wasn't the first portable music player. I think there's a big difference between a blatant ripoff, and drawing inspiration (even heavily) from something else.

The art in your game is stunning. Any comments on the art direction?

Thanks! We really wanted something that'd stand the test of time, and something that would also stand the test of non-gamers. And what I mean by that, is that we wanted the game to appeal to people that didn't necessarily consider themselves a gamer. We also had the same goal for non-snowboarders. We wanted to create a piece of art that just happened to be a video game.

What kind of emotional rollercoaster did you go through when your game was featured by Apple?

I think the majority of the rollercoaster ride occurred in the ~2 years leading up to the release. Once we hit launch day it was mostly just a blur of excitement and sleepless nights for a couple weeks :)