The Moron Test Game Play The Moron Test Game Play

Team Moai: Hi Berkeley!  Please take a minute to introduce yourself and your company.

Berkeley: Sure.  We're a small video game company of 5 people.  We're hiring too! We released The Moron Test in April, 2009 and it became a #1 game.  Since then, we've been keeping the franchise going with more content and new versions of the game on different platforms.


Team Moai: The Moron Test has been a huge hit - one of the most installed mobile apps ever. What numbers can you share with us?

Berkeley: Apple showed it recently as #11 in their all time most-downloaded list.  We have over 25 million installs for the franchise.

Team Moai: What was the first device platform for The Moron Test?  Where did it take off first?

Berkeley: iOS was the first platform.  We wrote the game as a native Objective C app.


Team Moai: Did you plan to go cross platform from the beginning, or did that approach grow naturally from the initial success?

Berkeley: We are a very lean startup.  We developed the cross-platform strategy only after we saw such success on iOS.


Team Moai: What devices/platforms did you target next?

Berkeley: Android was second, then Nokia (QT), BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Intel AppUp, PC, and the Mac App Store. 


Team Moai: Did you ever do a Flash or web version?

Berkeley: No, we’ve stayed away from Web Versions – The Moron Test has really been optimized for mobile and the Lite version to paid version upgrade path.


Team Moai: Did you work with any third parties on the porting?  Or did you do it all yourselves?

Berkeley: We built and maintained the iOS version in-house.  All the ports to other platforms were done with the help of outside contractors.


Team Moai: How did those projects go?

Berkeley: They ranged from really lousy to really awesome (and everything in between).


Team Moai: What were the hard parts?

Berkeley: QA is a major issue.  It's really important to make sure each version lives up to the standard of the original.  Working with remote teams from all over the world can be hard too: late night conference calls and communications difficulties with different timezones and native languages.  Delays were a problem in some cases.  Everything, really.  The good part was that we have a very content-driven app.  There are the "tests" and then the engine that runs those tests.  So we were able to use our existing content as the smoke test for the code quality of the ports.

Team Moai: How long did the ports take

Berkeley: The shortest port was just under 2 months.  The longest one was over 6 months.

Team Moai: Did you make use of any shared code across platforms?

Berkeley: The test content was shared across platforms, we have an XML format for that.  But the engines had to be re-coded from scratch for each new platform.  We let contractors view key portions of the original code, and wrote specifications for them too.


Team Moai: You mentioned QA being difficult.  How did you handle QA across 8 different platforms? 

Berkeley: Our sample tests and acid tests were really the backbone of our testing plan.  The content is the test for each engine.  We got a collection of representative devices together and did a lot of manual testing too.  We did stress testing.  It's all standard stuff, but multiplied by 8.


Team Moai: How many updates and additional releases did you do over the life of The Moron Test 1?

Berkeley: Lots of updates.  We released 5 or 6 major updates as new sections on all the devices that proved worth the additional investment.


Team Moai: Did the porting efforts pay off for DistinctDev?

Berkeley: We learned a ton through the experience, but it wasn't a large financial win.  Certain platforms worked well for us.  Going forward we're focusing on Android, the Amazon App Store, and iOS.


Team Moai: What advice do you have for other mobile developers considering porting their mobile games to multiple device platforms?

Berkeley: I'd say it's worth looking at technologies like Moai that can help you take your core skills and get wins on other platforms.  It’s not free to support new platforms, so you should focus on getting a lot of coverage where it matters most (for us – that’s iOS and Android).


The Moron Test Game Play The Moron Test Game Play

Team Moai: You recently launched The Moron Test 2.  Tell us about the game.  How does it differ from the original?

Berkeley: It's a lot more of what players loved in The Moron Test 1.  We tried to make it delightful and awesome.  It has a lot more animation, new puzzle types, cooler puzzles that require new movements.  Also the characters come alive in new situations.  There's more of a story bringing it all to life.

Team Moai: To which platforms did you initially launch the title?

Berkeley: We launched simultaneously to iOS and the Android Market (now Google Play).  A few days ago we released the game to the Amazon App Store too.


Team Moai: Was there any special work required to support Kindle Fire?

Berkeley: For us, it was pretty much just like any other Android phone, although I understand that games using in-app purchase have to use different APIs.


Team Moai: I understand you used a different technical approach for cross-platform support in The Moron Test 2.  Tell us about the new approach.

Berkeley: We took some lessons from The Moron Test 1.  We realized that there were core platforms on which we did most of our business for TMT.  We decided to focus on iOS and Android and we wanted to build it cross-platform for those two device types.  We knew there were a lot of new technologies to help with this and looked at them all.  Moai won a fair fight across lots of cross-platform technologies.  So now we're use Moai and build the game just once in Lua (both our content and our game engine).  It’s been a huge win.  We're huge believers.


Team Moai: What were the main reasons behind the technology change for DistinctDev?

Berkeley: Even when you restrict the scope down to just 2 mobile platforms you’re going to be looking at bringing in new talent or vetting a lot of outside contractors.  We didn’t want a slower dev cycle (Xmas 2011 was extremely important), and we didn’t want to hire full time Android Developers.


Team Moai: How has using Moai and coding in Lua for The Moron Test 2 compared to writing separate native apps for the original Moron Test?

Berkeley: It’s been great.  Early on there was a little bit of a learning curve to using Lua.  But it’s really an easy language.  Development is more dynamic now.  We have faster iterations.  It’s a good time.  The simultaneous Android iOS launch was huge for us.  We never dreamed we’d be able to do that based on our initial Moron Test 1 experience.  And updates are easier too.  We tweak the game and content once and it’s delivered across both device platforms.


Team Moai: Have you made any modifications of the Moai SDK source code for the Moron Test 2?

Berkeley: We've made some small edits.  Moai got us 98% of the way there, but we did need to go into the source in GitHub and make some small but meaningful changes.  Open source was important to us and it was one of the reasons we chose Moai.  Some of the alternatives have pretty draconian licensing restrictions.  I like to say that Moai won in a fair fight against all the alternatives.


Team Moai: What advice do you have for other mobile developers considering a platform or middleware solution for reaching multiple device platforms?

Berkeley: Look at your core team and their skills.  Definitely look around at different offerings.  But I’m pretty confident that Moai will stack up well against any other technologies you look at, even if you have a default winner in mind.  It’s a pretty elegant game engine even if you’re just building for one platform.

I’m looking forward to seeing the platform evolve.  It’s changing, and there are so many eyes on it right now... I’m excited!

The Moron Test has been a huge hit - one of the most installed mobile apps ever. What numbers can you share with us?