Published on October 8th, 2014 | by Patrick Garde0
Interview with Zach Barth of Zachtronics
In this interview, we took a little time to get to know Zach Barth (@zachtronics) of Zachtronics. We love their game, SpaceChem Mobile, which we named as one of the best Android tablet games in our recent post. Hence, we wanted to know more about this indie game developer. Zach answered several of our questions regarding his studio, favorite games, free-to-play business model, challenges as a game developer, and the future of Zachtronics.
Hi, Zach. Could you tell us something about yourself?
I have the most ridiculous job in the world: I get paid to make video games! Wait, you already know that…
How did you come up with the name Zachtronics?
It’s kind of embarrassing, actually. Many years ago, when I made my first website, I used “Zachtronics Industries” as my moniker. I kept using it, even when I started making commercial games, and now we’re essentially stuck with it. We recently dropped the “Industries” part because everyone just called us “Zachtronics”, but that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing and ridiculous.
When did your game development adventure start, and how?
I’ve always been interested in making games, but it wasn’t until college that I started picking up the programming skills to do it in earnest. I had a friend in high school who wanted to make video games, so we started learning about it and I basically never stopped.
What inspired you to be a game developer?
Playing games, I guess? I never wanted to be a game developer per se; I just wanted to make games.
SpaceChem Mobile is one of your popular games. We even named it as one of the best Android tablet games in our previous blog post. Did you expect to receive a favorable response from critics?
Not really. SpaceChem itself is a somewhat divisive game, as it’s very abstract and very difficult. Although it worked well with the PC gaming audience, which is typically characterized as being rather “hardcore”, I didn’t think it’d be as popular with the “casual” mobile audience.
How much has SpaceChem grown since its launch on 2011?
We imagined we’d sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 copies. We’ve sold many, many more.
Do you have any favorite games that served as an inspiration?
SpaceChem is probably more inspired by my older puzzle games than games that I’d played from other developers. It’s mechanically very similar to a Flash game I made years ago called The Codex of Alchemical Engineering.
How did you come up with the pricing of your games?
On both PC and mobile platforms we determine our pricing by looking at other games that are already released. Prices on mobile platforms are distinctly lower than on PC, but we also release on mobile much later than on PC so that ends up being okay.
What are your thoughts on free-to-play business model?
I used to be strongly against it, but now I think I’m less idealistic and understand the need for it in certain circumstances. I’m still skeptical of people who make games just for the purpose of making money, but as someone who runs a business I absolutely understand the need to do so.
What are the challenges you’ve faced as a small, indie game studio?
Making money can be a challenge, especially when projects take a long time and represent a significant gamble when you don’t know how well something will do. But that’s a challenge that every studio faces, from single person indie studios to massive AAA studios.
One of the more subtle challenges of running a small studio is a lack of experience when considering the team as a whole. When I worked at bigger studios in the past, there were always tons of veterans that you could go to for help when you didn’t know what to do. For us, we’re sort of on our own.
I see you have recently released Ironclad Tactics on Google Play. Are there extra works required to port your games to Android?
Absolutely! In order to bring Ironclad Tactics to Android, we actually ported the game from a custom engine to Unity. It might have been simpler than porting our engine to Android, but it was still a lot of work! There were also a handful of Android-specific bugs that had to be fixed.
What can fans of your games expect from your new game?
We’re currently working on an unannounced puzzle game that I unfortunately don’t have much to say about at this time. However, if you like SpaceChem you’ll probably like this game even more, so I’d recommend people sign up for the mailing list on our website (http://www.zachtronics.com) to learn more when it’s announced in the next few months.
Do you have any advice for game developers who are just starting out?
Go make games! The only way to get better at making games is by making them, finishing them, and letting people play them.
What are your final words to our readers?
Check out Ironclad Tactics for Android on Google Play:
And, if you liked SpaceChem, sign up for our mailing list:
Our next game is going to be flipping awesome!