Developer Interview: Ronny Gydar of Trine's Hangman

If you're not fully aware as to who Ronny Gydar (and Gydar Industries) is you must be still hiding in that cave of yours as he's the brains (and developing power) behind Trine's Hangman, the popular leaderboard-supported hangman game for Windows Phone.

Head on past the break to read the superb answers Ronny provided us in the interview, it's truly worth the read. We'll also chuck in a few pics to show how his workstation at Gydar Industries has evolved through development.

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

I live in Oslo, Norway, are 42 years old, and I got my first computer when I 12. It was a Spectrum 48K, which I programmed Basic on, and the next 7-8 yers I went through a lot of computers. Coding on my sparetime was however something I only did in my teens.

My professional life has been almost only in IT. I loved learning new stuff, and started in service management on UNIX, OS/2, PC's and database management (Sybase, Oracle and SQL Server). Later I got into programming (VB, C++, PL/SQL, Java and .Net) and then integration (mostly Oracle Integration and MS BizTalk). I have had a very wide and exiting IT-background.

But 5-6 years ago I decided I wanted to become a little more specialized, since I felt tired of knowing "a little about everything, and not really be good at anything". I decided I wanted to try to become really good in Java or .Net, and after a short "thinking-period", I decided to go the .Net route. One reason for that choice was simply because on the Microsoft platform more choices were obvious, like tools to use so forth. If I chose Java, there would be even more things to decide...and I wanted to start specializing "right now" :)

But coding was still something I only did "at work", and not at home.

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

Two things things actually.

One was an long passion for PDA's and what you could do with them. I got an HP 95LX in 1995 I think, and used it for everything, I was one of those weird geeks who read e-books back in 1995 (on the 95 LX). I played with the thought of making some apps for my PDA's, even downloaded some SDK (=developent tools) sometime...but I never got further than downloading an SDK or two. I just was not motivated enough to go through the first painful months of learning the ropes.

The other reason, the actual trigger, was my ex-girlfriend, Trine Nesland, her Samsung i600 and her sync-problems.

Her contacts, appointments and tasks was duplicated and tripled I think, and was ready to throw the phone out the window. And I got the idea that; "Heay, I could make a program to fix this!", and I downloaded the SDK's, read up on the web (it was a lot harder to get started in those days), and made a little app for her that I called "TrineFix".

It solved her issues brilliantly, and she was just so happy about "her" little app. We both worked on improving the app, with new cool ideas. After some friends and colleagues used it, and ended up just as enthusiastic about it as Trine was, I decided to put it out on XDA-developers so others could use it. I got really hooked, and worked nights, weekends, even whole vacations on making and improving my apps. I actually have worked the whole of the last 3 summer vacations on my apps.

The name TrineSeries, Trine's Hangman and so forth is a tribute to Trine, since I know very well that without her, I would not be doing this right now. And for that, I will be forever grateful to her.

Why do you continue to develop for Windows Phone?

Three reasons, one was the positive feedback I get from people using my apps, it really makes a difference when you feel that you make something that a lot of people use and are happy with. That is an important factor that motivate me.

The other is that I love it, truly love it, and feel that I have found "my thing". I have gone down to 80% position in my regular job, and hope that one day I can live of this. I still work nights, weekends and vacations, and I probably will do so for quite some time, before I can work more like "normal people".

I am confident that I will be able to earn a living, and a good living, making apps, if I continue the path I am going now. Making top quality apps, and putting in that extra effort so that my apps stand out.

The final reason is that I am only one person, have a daytime job, a big mortgage on my apartment, and need to focus on something that I already are good at, and not start learning another new thing, like iPhone- or Android-coding.

And I also believe WP7 will prosper in the future, so I think it is a smart platform to be on from the start.

Trine's Hangman is extremely popular, what's the secret to your success?

Hard work, plain and simple, hard work and dedication. I am not the best programmer, I know that. But I make it up in determination and sheer willingness to work on it till it is at the level I "see in my head".

I am also not afraid to rewrite the whole app in the middle of the process, if I see that something can be made better. I never think about how much work something can be when I develop, if I see something during the development process that would make the app better, I almost always do it, regardless if it means I have to spend two extra weeks on something that could have taken 1 day if I "cut some corners".

My "core strategy" is plain and simple; "make great apps". My mantra is that if I make an app, it should be as good or better than the best app of same type, period. be honest, the goal is actually to make my apps a lot better than the best competitors...but one can't say that out load, people would think I am cocky :)

I strongly believe that when I have say 10-20 high quality apps, people will really start to notice you, and when they do, there is a big change they will try out some of your your other apps just because they know that "if he's made it, I know it is worth trying out". Thats the idea at least :)

Actually some of the reviews for my old Windows Mobile apps had statements like; "I bought this app since I knew that this developer always make top notch apps, and I want so support him by buying all his apps". Statements like that just warms a hard-working-developers heart :)

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

No, if I shall have any chances of making apps at the level I want to, I need to focus and specialize on WP7. I do however have plans about porting my apps for Android and iPhone in a "more distant" future, and then maybe letting someone else actually code those apps, with me supervising it so that it is at "the right level". But right now, it is WP7 night and day.

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

I think it is great, and that it just gets better. The market aren't so big yet (number of sold phones), but Microsoft is dedicated, and have the money and staying power to make this happen. We all know that the OS is great, so it is mostly about letting word of mouth, Nokia phones, and time do it's thing.

The actual development stuff, is pretty brilliant, and even more so with all the Mango-stuff, it really is up to the developers now, to make some fantastic apps.

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

WP7's biggest problem is the tarnished reputation of Windows Mobile. Just about anyone who gets to know I have a Windows Phone, wrinkles their face and says something like; "Yuck, windows phone? I had one of those, and it sucked! I will never buy one of those again!"

But even those people will get a change of heart when they actually SEE a WP7 device, and discover that it is just the name that is the same. Everyone who has seen my phone, and not just heard that it is "one of those laggy windows phones", seems way more than "a little interested", and just about everyone proclaims that "I will get one of those when they are available".

Problem is that WP7 is not launched in Norway yet...but that is just weeks or months away now. My mum even wants one, and I have to keep telling her that you can't buy one yet, since it is not released in Norway. I am afraid it will ruin my mums life though, since I can see her getting really hooked on Trine's Hangman :)

Like Trine, who plays the game every day.

I expect WP7 to be one of the 3 big ones in about 2 years time, and would not be surprised if WP7 is number two in 2-3 years. Apple will still make a huge amount of money if they are number 3, so I don't think iPhone users should loose any sleep, and everyone can guess who I expect to still be no 1.

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

Right now I only have one app on WP7 (I do not count Lightning Timer, since it is such a "basic" app, even though it is an app with high quality) in Marketplace, but soon I will have one more out that is for the Norwegian market. This will be a huge app in Norway (me hope), it's called Trine-i-Farta. It gives realtime- and route-info for trains, trams, metro, boats and buses in Norway, and has an insane amount of cool features like "location alarm" (your phone wakes you up when you are at your station), walk and run-alarms that will delay if the bus gets delayed, take-me-home-tile that will plan the quickest route home from whereever you are, and so much more.

Hangman will of course get a lot of updates, like a real-time-one-on-one-online-multiplayer, so two WP7 players can play some one-on-one. Gydar Industries will not leave Hangman behind!

I also have a spreadsheet with over 25 apps I want to make, and add app-ideas to it all the time. I have not decided which one will be "the next". I will make that decision when I am ready to start on it, since motivation is a critical factor when I work as much as I do. So I will pick the app that I want to make at that time, so that I am able to stay up at nights working on it. Maybe it will be a new game, maybe it will be a Twitter-killer, or maybe it will be something else ;)

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

Make it possible for small developers to make Xbox Live enabeled games! There is so much cool games I want to make, and just a simple game as Trine's Hangman could be so much better with some hard to earn Xbox Live achievements. The game is seriously addictive already (some player called Lola just passed 320 hours of playtime today!), but some Xbox Live achievements would make it even more fun to play.

Xbox Live games also get so much more publicity and visibility, which makes it really though for us others to compete. Even though our games might be more addictive or better in other ways.

So Microsoft if you are listening, make Xbox Live more accessible to small developers. Heck, I would be willing to pay a fairly high amount for it, since I do believe that Trine's Hangman for example could earn that back many times just if it got more exposure.

One thing that is really annoying is that if you browse games in Marketplace in Zune on the PC, and select "paid" or "free" (Live games is default), and start to browse down the list of games, see an interesting game, click on it.

And then decide to go back to look at the next are thrown back to the Xbox Live games section. The potential buyer then will have to click "paid" again, and browse down to the game he/she looked at, to see the next game. No one bothers to browse far down the list when it works like that.

So we are totally and utterly dependent on exposure from sites like

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

Keep up the good work, I have been following you guys "forever", and is one of few sites that I visit every day. I listen to two podcasts, one is the developer oriented dotnetrocks podcast, but there I cherry-pick the podcasts I want to listen too. Not so with the wpcentral podcasts, there I listen to every one :)

There 'ya have it! You can keep up-to-date with Ronny & Gydar Industries and their projects with their Twitter and website. You can download Trine's Hangman from the Marketplace - free and paid versions.

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.