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Bowrun: Viral High School Game Development

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    Sam Schooler

Update March 2015: I’ve change the name from “Runbow” to “Bowrun” for legal reasons.

Hi my name is Sam Schooler and I’m an app developer.

I have been working with code since I was 12, and I made a gaming website, a few Minecraft plugins, and a ton of incomplete side projects. I have always wanted to create an iOS/Android app, and now, at 17, I’ve complete that goal.

I made a game called Bowrun, and I’m proud of it. Usually when one creates their first app, its… bad, however I feel, even though it is a simple concept with simple graphics, it still is an acceptable game.

I made Bowrun with LibGDX, a cross platform game framework enabling me to write the majority of the source in Java.

I got the idea for the game at 2am at my friends house, and proceeded to program the engine to generate the tiles of the top-scrolling game. Over the week following I created a menu screen, and a game over screen, I also implemented ads in hopes of breaking even with the $99/year I need to pay to be on the App Store. I uploaded it for approval on February 17th, and it got approved on Sunday, February 23rd around midnight. I released the Android version simultaneously in order to have the optimal effect. On the first day, I had 700 downloads; first week: 2.5K.

Welcome to the High School; A Pressure Cooker of Apps.

This brings me to my advantage. I go to school. In a high school. With the same 2000 people. Every. Single. Day. An upwards of ~90% of my peers have smartphones, and almost all of them are either a iPhone or Android. When I was in 9th grade, I saw Snapchat take my school by storm. One week no one knew what it was, the next, everyone had it. This was when Snapchat was in the bottom 50 of the top free apps, and the spread of Snapchat was largely powered referrals through one friend telling another, over and over until most people had it, or knew about it. This is the incredible power of high school.

When my game was released, I went in full on marketing mode. I played my game anytime we had downtime in class, and because of the flamboyant colors, people were curious. They downloaded it, and played it. By Friday, 5 days after it was released, I figured 1 in 3 people at my school of 2000 had my game. We Need to Jump Ship.

As downloads started to decrease everyday, I scrambled to find a way to maintain my high download rate. I figured, if I could find a way to get my app to another school, I could have the same thing happen. I learned that day the high school kids must have told their younger siblings, who also downloaded it because both middle schools now had it. But I was still only in my school district, so I needed to find a way out.

I had a real job once, and they have a Facebook page which is used to swap hours, and chat. I posted Bowrun on the page, and it was spread to 2 other schools, and 2 colleges. From there I left it alone to see what happens. The second week I got 1.8K, less than my debut week, but hey, from what I’ve heard, that a little bit more than most games made by high school students. GUYS!!! I BROKE THE TOP 1000! … IN FREE GAMES! in the US. in the.. arcade.. section :/

Okay so maybe breaking 1000 in a specific game category isn’t that hard, but I was excited! This was my first app! As of this writing, Bowrun’s peak rating was 725 in US-Action Games, and 665 in US-Arcade. This was mostly aided and coincided with Bowrun being featured as a new app in these categories. Everyone would love to make it to number 1, but this gave me a perspective of the difficulty, and luck that goes into it.

I also at the time had already garnered sixty 5-star ratings, and only one joke 1-star rating. These were mostly from friends, but they are really funny to read.

Going Forward.

I am implementing a Dots style high score system which links scores to Twitter accounts, and showing scores from your Twitter friends. I am also going to fix the performance of the app, which is dismal on Android… I am going to try and take the concepts I learned from this simple app, and use the knowledge in order to create an app I’ve wanted to make for a while. Eventually, I will decode the gibberish (to me) that is known as Objective-C, if you have any recommended resources, I would love to know about them!

Pitch. Be My Friend!

Oh! Hey! I know you! We went to pre-school together! No? Oh, okay well you should download my game Bowrun on iOS here.

If you are a cool kid like me, and opted for an Android, you can download Bowrun here.

I would love to hear any feedback you have, or tips. You can email me, or follow me, @samschooler, on twitter here. Also if anyone asks, my high score is 40.8.