Meet The Startup That's Going To Make Programming A Thing Of The Past

steve felter gamesaladSteve Felter is CEO of GameSalad.

Photo: GameSalad

Ever wanted to create a game or app, but don’t know how to program?You aren’t entirely out of luck: GameSalad is here for you.

Instead of using complicated programming languages, you can build a game within GameSalad using a bunch of pictures and flow charts that describe what you want to do with the app.

You could even make Angry Birds without ever having to crack open a command line.

We caught up with Steve Felter, CEO of GameSalad, to find out what the company is doing. Here’s what we learned.

  • GameSalad has more than 300,000 developers already building games. You can build apps, too, but the platform is currently intended to just work with games.
  • Some of the most popular games on the App Store have come from GameSalad. It’s a favourite among designers that don’t have the coding chops to make a game.
  • Eventually it could go beyond games. The co-founders simply decided that games were the most difficult use case, and if they could do that, they could do anything.

Here’s a lightly edited transcript of the full conversation:BUSINESS INSIDER: What exactly is GameSalad? What do you guys do?

STEVE FELTER: GameSalad is a game creation platform, it’s a visual-based system that requires no coding. We’re accessible to a much larger audience that has the potential to develop games but doesn’t build them because they don’t have the skills. We started with iOS, that’s where we had the bulk of our success, and we recently expanded into Android and HTML5. We’re now at over 300,000 developers that have build over 60,000 games, 10,000 of them on the iOS app store. Last year, a little more than 15 per cent of games in the iOS App Store were built using GameSalad. We’ve seen 60 games reach the top 100 in the US App Store. 10 have reached the top 20 ranking.

gamesalad creator

Photo: GameSalad

BI: Where did the idea come from? 

SF: The company was started officially in 2009, three founders had come from an engineering background. A lot of the technology had been commercialized at Carnegie Mellon, initially it was how to develop tools for “rapid prototyping” in the gaming industry. Our cofounder thought, “what if we created a tool set that extracted the most common features in a game.” If he could abstract that into tool sets, it would help studios develop games quickly. What he noticed was he had come up with a tool that was accessible to non-programmers. He ended up democratizing game development and making it useful to users that don’t have a CS background.

BI: Why did you guys start with games? What about streamlining the process for apps in general? 

SF: It’s because games are the hardest things to do. If we can do games, we can do anything. In terms of focus, if we can get games, we can do anything. We’ve already seen people use the platform for eBooks and visual comments, so we’ll probably stick with the content and digital media space now. But utility apps are something we’ll consider in the future.

BI: What does a typical GameSalad user look like? A coder or a designer? 

SF: We get a pretty wide spectrum of users, historically the biggest resonance has been with design-oriented folks. People that know their way around Adobe Creative Suite, they have a sense for design but not the coding skills. Over the recent months as we’ve been supporting more platforms, we’re starting to attract more traditional developers too. They’re seeing us as a way to speed up their development cycles, so they can publish to Android and iOS and HTML5. The sheer effort required to code can be reduced as well. Lots more users are using us for speed-to-market and cross-platform.

gamesalad pullquote

BI: Does it work across all mobile platforms? Apple and Android simultaneously? 

SF: The interface allows you to create all those game mechanics, we’ve extracted the platform you’re publishing to. When publishing, you just pick the platforms you want to target. You can choose Android, which puts it in the Nook Store, Amazon store, Google Play, for iOS it goes on the App Store.

BI: Where do you guys go from here? Are you guys just sticking with games? 

SF: We want to go to a future of flow charts and make the nuts and bolts of programming much more accessible. You shouldn’t have to spend all your time to focus on syntax. In the 80s, everyone used the command line and with the advent of the GUI, we don’t even think of a command line. I can foresee a future where people can get to the bulk of what they want to get done through a visual interface. In terms of more sophisticated developers comfortable with coding, the speed to market with not actually having to recode for each platform, we think it’s become a much more appealing option.

We have a lot of interest in the education sector, it helps a lot and teaches people basic game design. As a company, we’re trying to push more toward sophisticated developers. We want to prime the platform for those folks and allow them to create successful games. We want to embrace the social, mobile feature sets. Things that allow for deeper integration for social and multiplayer.

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