Plume and Beautiful Widgets developer talks Google+, new features, new game, and finding success in Android
March 14, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Every Android developer would love to release an app popular enough to become one of the best Android apps. LevelUp Studios has done that twice with Plume, one of the best Android Twitter apps, and Beautiful Widgets, a recently-updated clock and weather widget combination that gives users plenty of customization options.
As part of Androinica.com’s Devs We Like series, we spoke with LevelUp founder Ludovic Vialle to see how the company – once a one-man operation – became successful, and what it plans to do next. Already one of Android’s top app developers, the small French-based team is aiming to become one of its top game developers as well.
Androinica: Plume is considered by many to the best Twitter app. How competitive is that market today compared to when you first started?
Ludovic Vialle: There were only a few when we released Plume; we already had some good competition but now it is more intensive. I think this is great for the end users as all developers are pushing their applications to be the best, this is some good competition. The only thing that we think is unfair is that Twitter For Android has access to site stream on Twitter.com and is able to provide push notifications, while all the others developers are not accepted in the site stream beta and are waiting patiently.
Have you ever considered developing apps for Facebook or Google+ as well?
Plume will definitely support Facebook and Google+. We are working on redesigning the user interface so it can support multiple social networks. Now for Google+, it might take a lot of time since they do not plan yet on releasing an API for posting. Time will tell.
Plume seems to update every other week. How much of your time is dedicated towards developing Plume, and are there any big plans or new features that you’d like to add?
Right now we have two developers working on Plume, but for a long time, there was only one person for the main code, with me helping on the graphics, and another person for the server side development (for push notifications once we have access to site stream).
I think that the UI redesign to match the look & feel of Ice Cream Sandwich, Facebook support are the biggest plans for Plume. Now there are a lot of small features that we need to add and that are missing from Plume, like list management.
Beautiful Widgets is another popular app from LevelUp. Did it hurt or help financially to sell at such a low price during the 10 cent app promo?
It was very great. I do not remember exactly the numbers but it helped financially. It was a great help, though the numbers of support requests exploded because of the increasing numbers of new users. We had some troubles with our skins servers but that helped us to optimize it. Google had some troubles as well with the Market/Play Store. I am not surprised.
There’s a lot of chatter about Android users not buying apps, but you’ve managed well enough. What has worked for you?
I think it is just a matter of finding the proper business model for each application. Beautiful Widgets was one of the first paid applications and got a strong reputation. Also customization, time, and weather are topics that interest almost everyone. The important thing is to work hard, and then harder to improve your applications and get recognized. Beautiful Widgets got more than 120 updates, and not only bug fixes, but also the numbers of features increased.
On the other side, Plume was not viable as a paid app, so we went the advertising way and this was the proper way for such an application. Now with in-app purchases or partners like GetJar, TapJoy, you can explore new models that games are already experimenting.
LevelUp Studio was originally a one-man show. Now you’re a studio with a team of people. How has that changed the operation?
This is a lot of work to manage all those people. You are right, I was alone and now we are going to be 15 people starting next month! The transition was a bit difficult since people working with you cannot read your mind and understand instantly what are the new planned features, etc. But we are doing well and our team is very strong and motivated.
LevelUp is getting into the game market. Is there anything you can share about what Peti will offer?
So far I can only say that it stands for People for Ethical Treatment of Invaders, integrates cute 2D graphics on top of an OpenGL engine (Unity3D) and comes with a match block gameplay that will remind you of games when you were a kid
What made you decide to develop games? I always thought you’d do it sooner considering your previous logo.
I wanted to do it sooner; this was my primary goal when creating LevelUp Studio. Unfortunately the game market is very different than applications. You need a solid studio and a lot of people to release a finished product, so I preferred to take the time to handle this correctly and do great things on that side. We are starting with a smaller game and then we are going to work on a big project (under pre-production right now)
Is there anything that fans don’t know about LevelUp but would be surprised or interested in finding out?
I think it could be Beautiful Widgets 4.0, but it should be released when you read this.