How To Develop an App Like Angry Birds

by Carter Thomas

How To Develop an App Like Angry Birds

There is no question that Angry Birds, the mobile app that has grossed over $500M and is stupidly addictive, has become a cultural phenomenon recently. Grown adults are obsessed with the game and have a hard time breaking How much does it cost to develop an app?away from it once they start playing. Of course, there is money to be made in developing apps for the iPhone and other devices, so it only makes sense that lots of people are interested in getting into the app business. Taking it a step further, I’ve had people asking me how they can not only find a developer to create an app like Angry Birds, but how they can get in the game. If you can spare the time and patience to learn the basics of app development, you can easily bring in an extra $100K a year from residual income.

Some people just like to create free apps while others are getting into it for the financial gain. When you think about how many people are searching for new apps each day, you can see how quickly that money can add up if you create a popular paid app. Game apps offer an escape from the everyday rigors of life.

Original Ideas with Copied Gaming Logic

Something else to be careful about is that you are not copying another idea without realizing it. For example, don’t just replace the birds in Angry Birds with monkeys. After playing lots of video games over the years, it may be easy to mix and mingle other ideas that have already been done. Try to be creative and think outside of the box. Make sure your idea is not so complex that your Average Joe couldn’t play the game. You want something with mass market appeal and not a game that only rocket scientists can play. Angry Birds was first to market with their overall game structure and relies less on the creative side and more on the actual game play – get creative in how you design your game so that people keep coming back and have to build up a skill that requires time and play.

If you are serious about developing, you need to invest in a Mac. As the iPhone is a product of Apple, it uses a variation of the Mac OS. Since iPhone development tools are only available to Mac users, you will likely need a Mac to get it into the iTunes store. I’ve used the SDK on PC’s and it’s just not comparable to running it on my iMac. The interfaces and overall structure really can’t keep up and the integrations are weird.

Registering As a Developer

The next part of the process is registering as an Apple developer. In order to work with the SDK and iTunes Connect, you will need to sign up as an Apple developer here. You can register for free by filling out some information and agreeing to their terms. This area of the Apple website has tons of useful information to guide you through the process of developing an app. There are development tools to create apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch including an interface builder and iOS Simulator. It’s going to ask you for things like your company name and EIN number so make sure you have a company that you can apply under. If you are an individual you can use your Social Security number. One thing to note – once you set this up, you can’t change it, so make sure you do it right the first time and choose the name you want.

The iOS programming guide explains how to implement the features of the iPad into your app. You can also use the iOS Human Interface which will help you to design a great user experience. There is sample code available so that you understand how to properly build your app using their technology. This is a HUGE improvement from the original Apple iPhone developer kit releases and actually makes it feasible to get up and running in one day. Mess around with it and understand how the interface works, along with functionality like swiping, user interface, and speed.

Outsource What You Don’t Know

I think it’s important to remember that by now you don’t necessarily have to build the app yourself, especially if you are technically challenged. There are a variety of programmers online who would be glad to build the app for you for a fee. I remember when Facebook came out and I thought it would be pretty sweet to learn PHP so that I could build my own social network. Obviously that didn’t pan out. Going through that process, however, was extremely helpful in understanding exactly what I needed to ask for and how programmers went through the process. There is a lot of coding and technology involved in building an app, so it may make more sense for you to hire this task out to someone on a freelancing site such as Odesk.com. There are some very competent professionals on these sites who are reasonably priced. If you go down this road, check out their feedback and portfolio before hiring them.

If you are going to continue down the path of building your own app, the next step is downloading the software development kit for the iPhone. The download is huge (4GB or something) so make sure you have enough space on your computer and time to download it.

You will then need to download Xcode 4. According to Apple, this is the “complete developer toolset for creating Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Xcode IDE, performance analysis tool,s, iOS Simulator and the latest Mac OS X and iOS SDKs”. Xcode is the kind of thing where you look at it and feel overwhelmed, then you start using it and realize how sweet it is.

Now that you have your app drawn out on paper, you need to develop it using the templates in the SDK. You may have used Photoshop as part of your design process as well. There are many templates available within the SDK, so you should have plenty to choose from. Again, this is highly simplified, but it’s a learning process. You’ll figure it out as you go. Definitely reach out to message boards or developers you know to ask questions.

Programming Meets Design

Once you have the wireframes designed, the programming part enters the picture. Again, you can outsource this part or do it yourself using Objective-C. This would require you to learn some programming language and skills if you don’t already know that information. For more creative types, this part may be quite difficult which is why outsourcing may be attractive. You will need to test your app in the iPhone Simulator – which runs an instance of an iPhone on your computer and creates a simulated version of your app. Totally sweet. You will simply load your app and test it. This is where you are looking for glitches and bugs that could derail your app. Use it in as many ways as you can imagine a customer would. You can also export the application to your phone as a test environment if you want to see it on the actual device.

Once you have worked out all of the kinks, you will need to shell out a bit of cash. There is a yearly member fee of $99 that you have to pay to load an app into iTunes (this falls under the umbrella of the developer account). After you pay, others in the community can test your app and see if they run into any problems. Remember that a lot of these people in the app community are self appointed “geeks” so they are happy to mess around with your new creation to see how it works.

You will then have to submit your app for approval to iTunes. The approval process may take some time, so be patient while the team looks over your new baby. Once your new app shows up on iTunes, you are now the proud owner of your own creation! For more information about the entire process of developing your own app from start to finish, take a look at the developer area on the Apple website as it will walk you through each stage of the process in depth.

It’s Not Easy and It Makes You Lots of Money

Coming full circle, it’s important to keep in mind that Angry Birds is not the most complicated app out there, but it does have some of the best gaming psychology – it’s built on points and unlocking levels, forcing users to play more to receive a larger benefit. Classic capitalism, right? This is not going to be a quick process – the above is a top level breakdown of what you would need to do if you wanted to develop the app yourself with the help of some developers and designers. I strongly recommend going through at least part of the process if you are serious about apps because it will save you time in the long run. You’ll be able to understand the process and how to communicate to the developers much more effectively, something I find to be worth it’s weight in gold. Or birds.

I’ve developed relationships with some app people around the country – I’m going to start keeping a list of their info on my posts if anyone is interested in getting some work done.

If you’d like to hear more about getting into the app business, sign up for my newsletter and download my free ebook by clicking here.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexis Brille July 2, 2011 at 1:31 am

A beautifully written starter’s guide for those interested in #iPhone programming; and it describes everything that one needs to know to get started.

These 2 lines from the article say it all:

“Make sure your idea is not so complex that your Average Joe couldn’t play the game.”

“[...] get creative in how you design your game so that people keep coming back and have to build up a skill that requires time and play.”

May I also elaborate on the design process that was mentioned in the outsourcing section of the article, that the visual and audio effects incorporated in the Angry Birds game increase the level of immersion for the user; this is one of the other factors that keeps the game addicting, aside from the ones discussed in prior.

Continuing on the topic of “mass market appeal” (I love this term) from the article, the visual and audio effects also need to be designed in a way where it would appeal to a notable amount of audience.

Regarding the statement, “Grown adults are obsessed with the game”, the visual and audio effects may also have a significant contribution since the graphics and sound effects were not too childish or too adult-oriented, thus, appealing to a wider market.

Just a great article.

Cheers

Laura Zickus August 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Excellent article with valuable insight. As a web developer, I have been wanting to move outside my comfort zone and develop an app for awhile now and can’t decide if I want to outsource or learn a whole new language. Am kind of opting for the outsourcing at this point. Did you ever post a list of your contacts for app people?

Carter August 12, 2011 at 12:36 am

Laura,

I faced the same problem with some advanced PHP and Jquery when dealing with Wordpress. It can be very liberating to outsource, but it’s hard to give up that piece of the project. The biggest hurdle is to find someone you trust since as a developer you hold your work to the highest standards.

I have a good relationship with a developer team and I’m going to email introduce you. Please keep me in the loop and I’ll help however I can. I have a few other people I can introduce you to if needed.

Carter

Laura Zickus August 12, 2011 at 5:18 am

Thanks so much Carter, I appreciate the introduction. Will keep you posted!

iPhone App Creator November 4, 2011 at 1:00 am

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Sahil Aggarwal March 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Very informative article, I am very interested in developing an ‘app’ and this article as well as many others on this website have opened up my mind in the costs and difficulties of creating one. I would like to get into contact with developers and find out as much as possible about apps and hopefully release one to google play and the app store.

ciaran hughes March 14, 2012 at 3:57 am

I’ve developed relationships with some app people around the country – I’m going to start keeping a list of their info on my posts if anyone is interested in getting some work done.

I would consider myself very technology minded but having youtubed how to build your own app I think for the first time I feel it would go over my head :)

I am looking to get some apps made up.. can you help me out by linking me or sending to my email, ones that are good at creating a sports minded arcade game as well as action and a soundboard,

Thanks very much.
Ciaran

Sahil Aggarwal March 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Hi Ciaran do you think you could give me these app people’s contacts also try contacting Icon games, they are a small game development business for ios,PSP and other platforms.

Kees t'Sas March 23, 2012 at 4:14 am

Carter –
I really enjoyed this article. It definitely puts in perspective the road to becoming an app developer. I had a few questions regarding your connections with trusted iPhone app developers, and am wondering if you could email me some of their contact information/talk more about app development personally.
Thanks

Chad April 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Carter,

First off, great article. I have one question that I wanted to ask- if you register as an “individual” developer and want to charge for your app, do you need to obtain an EIN? You mentioned that you can just use your SSN, however, just wanted to clarify. Also, is there any benefit to using an EIN vs. SSN? From what I have researched, people suggest setting up a seperate banking account to keep your app dollars seperate from your personal dollars. Any insight would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Chad

Carter April 9, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Hey Chad,

Good questions. Here are the answers:

1. You do not need an EIN to charge or to collect ad revenue. You can have that come straight to your personal bank account and count it as income for tax purposes.

2. There are two benefits. The first is as you said – organizational. Having an EIN and company allows you to keep your revenue separate from your SSN. By the same token, it gives you a legal shield between you and your personal assets. From Apple’s standpoint, there’s no difference. It’s kind of the difference between having a sole proprietorship vs a single owner LLC or something like that.

The second benefit is how you appear in the app store. As a SSN/individual, you’re going to look like an individual in the store (Your Name as the seller). You can do a Copyright for another company, but you can’t change your own name. If you have the EIN, you’ll be able to use whatever that company name is. So if you start an LLC and call it Chad’s Rad Apps LLC that’s what will appear in the app store. More of a brand move, especially for long term app development.

Hope that helps.

Carter

David Blakeslee May 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I can help anyone who wants to develop an app. Please fill free to contact me for a consultation
512-963-2928

bowen July 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

hello i want to make a game

App Mockup Tools September 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm

You can start with Apple Keynote with makes easy app prototypes. Just use some pre-designed fully editable iOS GUI Element Kits: http://www.appmockuptools.com/collections/types?q=iOS+GUI+Elements Or even strt by drawing it out first: http://www.appmockuptools.com/collections/types?q=Sketchpad

Anil September 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Thnxx for this grt articl.but sir is it a secure that the app that i make will be mine not of company?
Sir i have a game idea but i am not sure with whom i share it . I don’t have more knowledge about how to share a app and i am of 17.
So what should i do sir?

Adam November 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Hello all. 
I’ve been developing a couple of games for the app store for about two months now and I’m ready to move onto the next step of the development process. I have a couple questions. 
1. I want to have a company to upload my games under and I’m curious as to how to go about getting that started. I’m Canadian so I don’t think I can have an EIN number because Canada does not collaborate with the IRS. What are the steps as a Canadian to get that sort of company started? And will it cost me any money?
2. Is there any way for me to test a programmer before hiring them to see if they can handle the type of programming I require?
An info would be greatly appreciated! Hopefully see you all in the app store soon.

Carter Thomas November 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Hey Adam,

I’m not entirely sure about Canada’s onboarding process other than they require different contracts than the USA. If you are just a developer who’s looking to get started, register as an individual, not a company. In USA you only need to provide a social security number – not sure what the equivalent is in Canada. It looks like you may have to incorporate (though this is a little dated):

Developer Enrollment in Canada

2. Sort of, yeah. You can do small pilot projects to see how they work. Your best bet is to see their existing portfolio – you’ll be able to quickly see what kind of programmer they are.

Good luck!

Carter

Eric November 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Great article…at this point, though, I am looking for someone to trust with two apps. One very simple (and I probably could learn enough code to do it myself) and one only slightly more complex. Did you ever come up with a ‘trusted’ list?

Carter Thomas November 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Eric – check the bottom of the website. There’s a Mobile Apps Developer list. That’s a good place to start.

Carter

Brittney December 20, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Carter, do you have any advice as far as marking an app? I currently have an app in the App Store, but I am struggling with getting a buzz going.
Brittnet

Lana December 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm

DO you have videos where you can teach someone like me, I’m just starting, well, haven’t started, I want to start,but do you have videos or suggestions on how I can develope my own app? Thanks Carter

Carter Thomas December 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Hey Lana,

At the bottom of my How Much Does It Cost To Develop An App post, I put some links to tutorial programs you can sign up for. It might be what you’re looking for.

Good luck!

Carter

Rick Mcleod January 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Hi, i’m really looking at creating an app game, i’ve got what i feel is a game which is similar to tetris as it needs no stages etc added, what would you suggest the stages, and if i’m to outsource the all the work how would you best tackle this?

charles January 28, 2013 at 3:37 am

Carter
I have a brilliant idea for a app game but i am in need of game developers. I would appreciate it if you could forward a list of trusted developers to me at shizzyvill@gmail.com. please and thank you

Dan February 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Hi Carter,
My son has an idea for an app….yes I know you hear this all the time! I am not all that app saavy, but he has it all done on “wire frame”. He has a power point presentation that shows the game and all the “pages”. I have paid to trademark the name of the game. It is now at the stage of needing app development..coding? He has contacted several companies and has had seveal meetings. We live in the SF Bay Area. So far, all have said it is a great idea with potential but the cost to develop is very costly. Can you point us in the direction of app developers who may be a little more “hungry”. That is willing to work for a piece of the company, the project. Perhaps tell us how we might find college student app developers who might want to take on a “class” project. Thanks for any and all help Carter. Dan

Carter Thomas February 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Hey Dan,

Have you thought about something like Kickstarter? Instead of trying to find someone to build it, you might have more luck finding the money to pay someone who’s really good to build it. Everyone wins in that situation.

Good luck!

Carter

Shola March 11, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hello Carter,

Thanks for the info on your blog, I took time to read all the replies and comments. Well, I have some game ideas that i want to develop to app, that should be compatible for different OS, android, IPAD, Blacberry,thereby creating a mass market appeal. I need a competent, trustworthy app developer. How can you help, my emails sholaris@yahoo.com.

Thank you

Olivier April 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hey Carter

I am little late to the party…. I am also echo the same as other readers.

I am looking to push an IDEA on an app. Looking a trustworthy developer that can help me create an app.

Outsourcing is key for at this point,
Can you email olivier@imsnews.com

Thanks
O

nelvin June 28, 2013 at 10:07 pm

hello, i want to learn how to build an application, i am very skilled in other computer packages, but i want to create my own app. i dont know how much it would cost me, that’s why i want to find out from you how much it would cost me to learn how to develop my own. pls kindly reply me and let me know how the learning process would be.

Kez August 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

You’ve only spoken of apple , what about android apps?

Ben December 4, 2013 at 5:02 am

Very interesting stuff. But obviously for every Angry Birds, there are 99+ games that fail. And the concept of the game isn’t brilliant. What do you think is the biggest hindrance to other games being noticed by gamers?

terry February 11, 2014 at 9:15 am

Looking for a developer ‘partner’ to code an app game. Get in touch if you would consider partnering. My idea for your coding.

Corey February 15, 2014 at 4:50 am

Please Send me the contact information of any developers you may know. I would like to start A.S.A.P… (It’s tax season and I will have money on hand and I would like to do something other than have nothing to show for it).

pang February 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

hello,
I love what I am reading here. I have a game ready but I don’t know where to go in terms of the engine company. Where do I go after I develop a game? Please help.

Jett March 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Thank you Carter for this information..very interesting to read this article. Now, I know exactly where to register.

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