Developer Profile: Bolt Creative’s Dave Castelnuovo and Allan Dye

Of the few iPhone games that have made an impact outside of the App Store, Pocket God is one of the biggest. To kick off our new Developer Profile feature, we interviewed Dave Castelnuovo and Allan Dye, the developer/artist duo that brought pygmies into our lives. Read on for a look at the future of Pocket God, their plans for the iPad, and information on their newly released comic.

Pocket God is a game that, early on, helped define the App Store. It revolutionized episodic updates with 33 episodes already released and more to come, with no end in the foreseeable future, according to Dave and Allan. It also brought millions of players enjoyment out of continuously killing and reviving little islanders through a multitude of cruel methods’¦ virtually, of course.

Dave (left) and Allan at Comic-Con.

We’ve seen Pocket God appear on other iPhone games, in TV news, and even as the subject of controversy. At this point it isn’t less than a global phenomenon. Just ask the three million individuals who have (legally) downloaded Pocket God in the past year and a half.

Last month, we spoke to Dave and Allan at Comic-Con to hear about how Pocket God has changed their lives. Now, the Bolt Creative team is working on expanding their franchise of lovable pygmies. One such development is the Pocket God comic series, the first episode of which was made available last week as a digital download on the App Store for $0.99.

‘Ape Entertainment contacted me about 6 months ago and we jumped at the chance,’ Dave told us. ‘It’s always nice when someone comes to us because they like our property and they have a vision to take it to a different medium. I am also a huge comic book fan so this project has been really exciting for me.’

The story arc of the first four-issue series will explore some of the lingering questions in the Pocket God world, such as why the pygmies are immortal and the merciless nature of their cruel gods. However, there will always be room for the inappropriate bathroom humor and comical sacrifices that have always made the series so appealing.

The storyline had actually been a subject of discussion within the Bolt Creative team prior to the offer from Ape Entertainment.

‘After working on Pocket God for over a year, Dave and I had tossed around story ideas because we thought we might actually do animated shorts, so when Ape came along, we had some basic character descriptions and story concepts but wanted to make sure we didn’t just do anything,’ Allan tells us.

Of course, there are other, smaller stories that Dave and Allan had envisioned in the Pocket God world, both whimsical and mythological. Examples of these include stories exploring the origin of the pygmies and laser shark. Each print issue of the comic will include a few of these.

At the moment, only the four-issue miniseries has been announced, but Dave alluded to the possibility of more miniseries or possibly even a recurring comic. ‘The first four issue arc will represent a self-contained journey for the Pygmies,” he said, “but we will be adding deeper elements that will unravel in future arcs.’

At the moment, you can check out the first issue on your iPad and iPhone through iVerse’s Comics + app or the standalone Pocket God comic app. Future digital installments will be available as in-app purchases for $0.99.

Those who want to wait for the print version of the comic will get their wish a month after the issue is made available digitally, and their patience will be rewarded with bonus content. You’ll be able to pick up the first issue at your local comic book shop in September.

High-tailing it back to the video game sphere, Dave and Allan have been working on their iPad-exclusive sequel to Pocket God, entitled Pocket God: Journey to Uranus. This takes the pygmies into space, where you can fling them around planets and access these planets for minigames and other surprises.

‘When the iPad first came out, we knew we wanted to do something for it but we wanted the time to do something special that takes advantage of the bigger screen, faster hardware and more touch points,’ Dave said. ‘So we came up with the idea to bring the Pygmies to space where we would have different planets, mini games and fun interactions that might be out of place in the main app.’

Just like the previous Pocket God game, you’ll have plenty of sandbox environments in which to manipulate your pygmies. The ‘hub environment’ is the galaxy itself, which doubles as the game map.

The space setting gives Dave and Allan the opportunity to explore ideas that simply weren’t possible with Earth’s gravity. New features will include tossing pygmies into orbit around planets, burning them up in the Sun, and exploring gravity wells and wormholes.

‘When I saw the pygmy floating helplessly among the stars and could throw him around in free fall, it was pretty funny to play with even though it didn’t do much yet,’ Allan said of his first experience with the new environment. ‘I knew it was going to be a fun concept.’

The space sandbox is just half of the experience, though. Players will also have access to each planet’s unique environment and minigame.

As Dave explains, ‘We loosely set the theme of the app based on the fact that Pocket God is a god game, and the planets are all named after the Roman gods, so each planet is themed with that Roman god in mind. Earth, the first planet, is a reinterpretation of the original sand island in the original app. Uranus is the Roman god of the sky, so we have a cool interpretation of what a sky island and minigame would look like.’

While we don’t know how many planets will be available at launch, each update will have a new planet and minigame.

Journey To Uranus is exclusive to the iPad, since the larger screen allows them to expand upon ideas that would have felt cramped on the iPhone. Each island, for example, will offer a larger playing area and more detailed graphics. Dave has also implemented shaders, particle effects, and subtle 3D graphics such as rotating planets and depth to Earth’s ocean.

‘The not so obvious thing has to do with the way you hold and interact with the iPad as opposed to a phone,’ Dave said. ‘The iPad is like a big window that you can lay flat and share with other people or turn upside down in your hands without losing focus on what’s happening on the screen. We are looking to adding this kind of functionality that feels right on the iPad but would probably feel forced on the iPhone.’

At the moment there isn’t a set price on the game, but they are trying to have the game out by October for the holidays. Dave expects the game’s size to be around 80 MB.

With the comic series and development of the sequel in full swing, you may think Dave and Allan will end up sacrificing the pygmies on your iPhone for good. They’d beg to differ, seeing no end to the stream of episodes for their beloved iPhone original any time in the near future.

‘It also doesn’t appear that we are going to stop any time soon,’ Allan told us. ‘We have a vague idea of the updates that will be added down the line, but yeah, we tend to avoid the final decision on what an update will be just before we create it.’

Bolt Creative recently released their 33rd episode of Pocket God, the first in a new trilogy that serves as a homage and thank-you to comic partners Ape Entertainment. The first update includes a new location, Ape Mountain, that is inhabited by a King Kong-sized primate.

The roadmap for the trilogy includes smaller monkeys with silly interactions in the next update, and an ‘Ape themed minigame’ in the third. Donkey Kong, perhaps?

Lastly, we asked Dave and Allan if the classic Pocket God will ever be ported over to the iPad. This doesn’t seem to be a project they plan to embrace, due to the amount of effort it would take to increase the resolution on every piece of art.

‘There’s a lot of art created just for that resolution in Pocket God,’ Allan said. ‘It would be an extremely significant effort to redo all of it at high resolution. I’d rather put that energy into something new!’

This also goes for bringing Journey To Uranus over to the iPhone. However, they were much more adamant that this won’t be happening any time soon. They’d rather people experience the game in all its glory on the larger display, than have a less adequate experience on a smaller screen that feels cramped.

If either of these games gets ported to another iOS device, Dave says it’ll be as a universal binary so customers wouldn’t feel duped by being forced to buy the same game twice. This would also make it easier to support DLC bought on one device crossing over to the other.

To say the least, we’ve only just seen a bit of Pocket God’s potential. Bolt Creative has turned their App Store success story into a franchise that will very soon be escaping into other forms of media.

As Allan puts it, ‘With Pocket God, the possibilities are endless.’