Developer Interview: Mike Newman of Penguin

This week we have Mike Newman, an independant app developer for Windows Phone, for an insightful interview. Mike is the developing power behind Penguin and Fireworks. Head on past the break for the interview. 

Tell us about yourself, what you do, background around programming etc.?

Hi, I’m Mike Newman. I’ve enjoyed tinkering with computers ever since I got an Apple IIc as a young kid growing up in Florida. I really started to get into programming in middle school using Basic and Pascal, and have been making stuff ever since. Eventually, I majored in Computer Science and moved out to the Seattle area to take a job at Microsoft, where I’m currently a development lead on Windows Live.

What path(s) led you to develop for Windows Phone?

I’d wanted to build mobile apps for a while, and had toyed with Pocket PC and iOS development earlier, but ended up setting aside a few projects unfinished. Windows Phone sparked my interest again given a new marketplace, a familiar toolset, and some Microsoft employee incentives. I threw together an early version of my “Fireworks” app in a couple hours while on vacation, and went from there.

Why do you continue to develop for Windows Phone?

I’ve really enjoyed developing for Windows Phone. The tools are great… I can often go from an idea to a working prototype in less than a day, and initial release just a few weeks after that, working in my free time. It’s fun to drive a project through end-to-end and see results in the marketplace quickly. It’s cool to see that folks are enjoying my apps, and the ad revenue doesn’t hurt either. :-)

How did you come up with the idea for Penguin and your other titles?

I’ve mostly looked to see what’s already out there, either as real world games and activities, or as apps on other platforms. “Fireworks” clearly borrows from the real world as well as various apps and games. My second game “Flow” is similar to some old pen and paper puzzles but adapted for touch. And “Penguin” is based on a simple, physics gameplay mechanic that’s been used by a number of apps on various platforms.

Do you develop for other platforms, and if so how does your Windows Phone experience compare?

As far as current mobile platforms, I’ve developed for Windows Phone and iOS, although I’ve mostly focused on Windows Phone. For iOS, I’ve released a ported version of “Fireworks” called “Fireworks Arcade”. I found it much easier to get started with Windows Phone, especially given that the tools and environment were already familiar to me. The main benefit of iOS to me was its larger market share.

What’s your take on the current state of Windows Phone development?

I’m really pleased with the state and progress of Windows Phone development. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities and excitement for me. It’s been great getting back into mobile development with Windows Phone.

Where do you see Windows Phone development going in the future?

I think Windows Phone has a lot of potential going forward. I’m looking forward to the Mango software release, as well as the release of new device hardware including from Nokia. Developers will have a lot more capabilities enabling new apps and functionality, and will hopefully be able to tap into a much broader market over time.

Do you have any future projects lined up for Windows Phone?

I’ve had a pretty busy summer and have taken a bit of a break from apps recently, but I have some updates to Penguin in the works, and am hoping to start some new projects soon.

Given the opportunity, what’s the one thing you’d change about the Windows Phone development process?

Hmmm… there’s a lot that’s working really well or is already being improved with Mango. One thing I’d like to see though as an independent game developer is Xbox Live capabilities exposed more broadly. Xbox Live is a great platform but it’s not generally available to independent developers on the phone today. I’d love to be able to leverage built-in capabilities like leaderboards, achievements, and in-app purchases in my games.

Thank you so much for your time. Any parting thoughts for the Windows Phone community?

Thanks for your support. Keep playing and have fun!

There 'ya have it folks, you can check out Mike's progress with projects over at Big Duck Games.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.