Eli Shulga of Shugo Studios is a professional developer based in Tel Aviv, Israel, who has released mobile apps across multiple platforms. In the last three months, Eli published three games in the KaiStore: Running Santa, Flying Egg, and Socks Monster. His Twitter is full of drawings and videos showing the development process for his unique sketch-style games. We chatted with Eli to learn more about his experience and future plans.

How did you start developing for KaiOS?

Justine, the Strategic Partners Manager at KaiOS, reached out to me. I have a small studio, just one man, so that means a lot. No partnership manager would contact me from other platforms! That’s one of the things I like about KaiOS and what made me want to develop for them.

What else made you want to develop for KaiOS?

First, I really loved the idea of doing something small and simple with my animation and my style. And it’s very fast from idea to production. The second reason was KaiOS’s cause — to bring internet access to people who have never had access.

Tell us about your experience developing your first app for KaiOS.

Initially, I told Justine I didn’t have time, but I decided to test things out. I wanted to see, as an artist, how I could produce a really small scope game — a real production-ready game with all the art and animation — in a really short time. In December 2019, I created Running Santa. I went from zero to submitted in four days.

How does that timeline compare to your experience developing for other platforms?

[Laughs] Well, getting my first game into both stores (Apple and Google Play) took almost six months. The second game was Running Santa. I liked the reaction it got on KaiOS, so I decided to make it for Apple and Google Play. It’s a really good comparison actually because it’s the same game, but it took me two weeks to change things and release it on other platforms.

Two weeks is better than six months! How did you prepare Running Santa for native platforms?

I had to add in a game menu and a bunch of other stuff for touchscreens – start menu buttons, game settings menu, sound and music controls – all of those things had to be drawn and coded. I do frame-by-frame animation, so I had to draw all of Santa’s movements separately. I also had some issues getting local storage to save the player’s high score.

I use Cordova to wrap Phaser* into Android and iOS apps. Building the wrapping process takes time but once you have the template you can apply it to future web app projects.

* Phaser is a mobile and desktop HTML game framework. It can be used to “wrap” web apps into native mobile applications.

Was the user response different on other platforms?

I’ve had the most success with KaiOS. Running Santa has over 11,000 downloads from the KaiStore, and I didn’t put any money into promotion. For the Apple Store, I did a paid promotion and got maybe a few hundred downloads.

How was your experience developing an app for KaiOS compared to other app stores?

With KaiOS, you really have personal access to the dev team. You just email them, and they’ll help you. Apple has a lot of guidelines and rules you have to review. You don’t talk to a human unless your app is rejected, and you file an appeal. With Google, bots are answering questions.

Getting a game app on KaiOS is simpler. The development time is shorter, and all you really need is a computer and an internet connection.

For me, it’s really important to be able to deliver an idea into people’s hands and see them play — that’s amazing. In other stores, even if you put it into the app stores, it won’t reach many people. It will reach maybe two, and you’ll be one of them.

Which of your apps is the most popular?

By total downloads, Running Santa, but Socks Monster was just released and might overtake it. KaiOS does a lot of promotion and push for you. The big stores, they don’t really help you. It’s a big plus for KaiOS — they are very supportive, and that means a lot.

I also shared a lot of the development process for Running Santa and Socks Monster on Twitter as part of the #100DaysofGameDev challenge – a Twitter hashtag game developers use to check in with other developers and share the progress of the games they are creating.

I share my process and what I know because giving back is fun. I take a lot of things I learned from the net and YouTube. I can’t point to where I learned something specific — it’s a bit from her, a bit from him — you are building yourself. Saturating yourself with something when you want to learn it, that’s a very important part of the learning process.

What made you want to participate in the #100DaysofGameDev challenge?

Part of it was to share what I know, but it was also for accountability. In the beginning, it was just for fun, but then it became a commitment. I create for myself, but the challenge was at the back of my mind. It made me go the extra mile and do a bit more.

Now that Socks Monster is live, are you working on anything else?

Of course! I just attended the Global Game Jam here in Tel Aviv and started working on a sort of follow-up game to Socks Monster called Washy. It’s a game about a broken washing machine. I’m also working on a game called Easy Dude.

What advice would you give aspiring game developers?

Just do it! Make a game as simple as possible the first time, and the only goal should be to finish it.

Other than art and app development, what do you do for fun?

I make time for friends and do a lot of sports, like Olympic kayaking. I participate in some local competitions in Israel.

You can follow Eli on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Itch.

Interested in building your own KaiOS apps? Head on over to the Developer Portal to get started, or get in touch with Asis at developersupport@kaiostech.com for any questions you might have.

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