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Indie Spotlight: Frosty Pop founder Faisal Sethi | Pocket Gamer.biz

With discoverability in the mobile gaming market becoming harder and harder, we've decided to shine the spotlight on the amazing and interesting indie developers out there.

So welcome to the Indie Spotlight, where each week a developer tells us about their life and work, and the challenges facing indie developers in the modern mobile market.

This week, we spoke to Frosty Pop founder Faisal Sethi regarding the development of pinball dungeon crawler The Pinball Wizard and why Apple Arcade felt the right platform for the title.

PocketGamer.biz: How did you get started as an indie games developer?

Faisal Sethi: Creating playful experiences is the culmination of my entire vocational, academic, and personal creative tenure. I've written and recorded albums, fabricated exhibit designs for museums, acted as the creative director among several start-ups, as well as studied games at The Art Institutes at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Any playful experiences are a natural creative progression for me.

I do one thing a day because I like to focus on a singular undertaking and want to do it really, really well.
Faisal Sethi

They combine my design, animation, music, writing, storytelling, and business sensibilities into a singular experience. Perhaps a more tangible answer is one day in 2014, I sent an unsolicited email to a generic Apple App Store email account about a game I made called Ten Large, and from there, it all began.

What is a typical day in your life as an indie?

I do one thing a day because I like to focus on a singular undertaking and want to do it really, really well. In the morning, I make a coffee, check my email (my inbox is usually pretty sparse by design), then hop on Slack to check in with our distributed team of artists and developers.

Following this, after sneaking in another coffee, I walk and chat with my partners Greg Stogdon and J.D. Ostrow. The afternoon will largely feature some design work, creative thinking, quality assurance, or research and development. One thing that is hugely important to me is that I consume a lot of information on a daily basis so try to read a lot, while never picking up my phone.

The Pinball Wizard launched on Apple Arcade on September 19th, 2019

What have been the biggest challenges you've faced so far as an indie?

A looming challenge in any creative discipline is trying to make people aware that you even exist. Be that regarding a game, a book, a television show, a podcast, an album, a motion picture or any product. Most people do not know your thing exists, and most people don't care if they do.

How do you define 'success'?

Success would be equal to having the freedom to choose what to do with your time. Time is an un-renewable resource, in a very literal sense. The time you took to read this sentence is never coming back.

What is your opinion of the mobile games market for indies right now?

Robust, challenging, daunting and exciting. The current free-to-play market is unsustainable for the majority but the premium market continues to provide us with impeccable experiences. Apple Arcade helps to facilitate this.

Could you tell us about The Pinball Wizard?

We love to play with different ideas and culture without the creative and practical business limitations of focusing on a monetisation strategy.
Faisal Sethi

The Pinball Wizard is the first of its kind: A pinball dungeon crawler. Dungeon crawler-lite is perhaps a more apt description. The ultimate goal of the game, much like an analogue pinball machine, is to "run the table". That means you want to attempt to complete all 21 levels on "a single quarter" to traverse and survive all the dungeons alongside defeating the boss in the final level without dying.

This goal can be lost on the typical dungeon crawler player. To help you on your journey, you need to level up your skills. This is an important part of the game and integral to a dungeon crawler experience.

It was challenging to adhere to the core mechanics of both genres - never mind attempting to amalgamate the expectations of both audience types. In any case, the response has been overwhelmingly positive from both parties and new players alike.

How did the partnership come about with Apple?

For the moment, those details remain in confidence. What I can say though is that the team at Apple is incredibly supportive and amazing to work with.

What attracted the studio to create a game specifically for Apple Arcade?

We love to play with different ideas and culture without the creative and practical business limitations of focusing on a monetisation strategy. For that reason, Apple Arcade is a once in a generation platform launch.

What are your current plans for the future?

We've got some new updates coming to our existing portfolio of Apple Arcade titles. Notably, we are adding an endless dungeon to The Pinball Wizard, on top of rolling out a new island map with three new speed runs to Kings of the Castle soon.

Several new game ideas and collaborations have also been percolating for some time that we hope to bring into fruition. We continue to grow our position as a design company that focusses on all forms of play. Play is at the heart of what we do and how we think.

If you had an unlimited budget, what game would you most like to make?

If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise when we ship it.

What advice would you give other developers on 'making it' as an indie?

Preserve your mental health. Be vigilant with your time, don't compromise your design, be kinder than kind.

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