TMO Interviews John Owens: WeeMan Studios and Galactic Racer

WeeMan Studios, based in Ireland, was launched in 2008 specifically to develop software for the iPhone. The company is so new that its first product is not even out yet and won't be available for at least another few months. Last week at the WWDC, we sat down with John Owens (head of Development at WeeMan) to talk about the company's upcoming game, Galactic Racer.

TMO: The name of your game is Galactic Racer. What is it exactly?

Owens: The inspiration for the game was the last scene in Return of the Jedi, where the Death Star is destroyed. Basically, the game is a 3D flying racer, with the emphasis on 3D. You can control your movements in all directions: up, down, right, left, loops, and inversions. No other game on the iPhone can do this.

You control the ship's movements via two different methods. First, using the the iPhone's accelerometer, where you change direction by tilting the iPhone. Second, via a strafing mode activated by holding down an onscreen button, allowing you to shift from side to side while moving forward. By acquiring objects you can pick up along the way, you gain to power to fire missiles, increase your speed, teleport around a difficult section, or even spin-around to shoot at enemies on your tail. The game uses typical iPhone gestures to select which item you want to activate from your inventory at any moment.

All the movements are realistic and based on the actual physics. In fact, we are thinking about putting in an easier game play option, where up and down movements are stabilized so that you only have to worry about moving left and right.

There are three different modes of play. The main one is Championship mode, where you advance through a number of different planets, tied together with a story line. The other two are a time trial mode and a quick race mode (where you can skip to any track and race against other ships).

TMO: What about a multi-player mode?

Owens: A multi-player online mode has not been planned as yet. But we do expect to support the new peer-to-peer mode in iPhone OS 3.0.

TMO: Sounds like a lot of work. I can understand why we'll have to wait a bit longer before it ships. How did you get started with iPhone development?

Owens: I've worked in the games industry for years, mostly with PCs. I've also had a job working for a phone company. When the iPhone SDK was released, I pretty much immediately decided that creating a game for the iPhone was what I wanted to do. I partnered with a graphic artist, managed to get some capital, and I was off.

John Carmack (of id Software) has been quoited as saying: "The iPhone is the best platform for a small team to write something and make money." I agree. Still, the marketplace is getting very crowded right now. The window where this is still true may be closing.

TMO: True enough. Do you have any special plans to increase the visibility of your game?

Owens: Well, we're hoping to generate publicity by working with iPhone gaming sites like And we plan to keep the price very competitive. We haven't officially determined a price yet, but it will be less than $5.00.

TMO: How are you finding the WWDC?

Owens: This is my first WWDC. In fact, this past year is really the first time I've used a Mac. I got the Mac so I could work with Xcode to develop Galactic Racer. So far, I've been very happy with the Mac.

TMO: I assume you've worked with the iPhone 3.0 SDK already. What's your reaction?

Owens: The new features have a lot of potential. The in-app purchase option is an especially great feature. And the iPhone 3G S looks really hot as well. Its performance levels could compare to the Sony PSP.

TMO: I'll look forward to playing Galactic Racer when it debuts in the App Store. Good luck. And thanks for spending this time with us.