Artist mines $4K a day from iPhone game

Chopper game hits big for self-taught developer

David Frampton, an artist and self-taught Mac programmer, has struck gold with a helicopter game for the iPhone.

The game, called Chopper, is available for download on Apple’s App Store, which launched in July. Chopper had 20,000 downloads, at US$7.99 (NZ$11.21), in the first month, says Frampton. At the moment, there are about 500 downloads a day, he says.

“I’m shell-shocked,” he says.

Third-party developers selling applications on the App Store get 70% of the sale price. That means Wellington-based Frampton is clearing nearly $4,000 a day.

The local market is very small. Of the first 20,000 downloads, 38 were from New Zealand, says Frampton. Eighty per cent comes from the US, followed by Germany and the UK.

Frampton, who taught himself to program with the help of online resources, has now started a company in Wellington and is planning to take on staff. Since June, he has been working full-time as a game developer. The former landscape painter has previously worked as a developer for Metservice and Te Papa.

Frampton got the idea for Chopper from an older Mac game, Chop Lifter, which he played as a child. “I didn’t remember much of it, but I remembered the concept, and I wanted to build something like that,” he says.

Game players have to complete missions, involving rescuing civilians and shooting bazooka wielding mad men, and then return to base, he says.

His next game project features alligators from space. Frampton tends to start forming games from a “game play” perspective, trying to figure out what would be fun to do in the game, he says. He then thinks up the story around it and the game characters.

Frampton’s artistic background definitely comes in handy for developing games, he says. “Without my art skills it would have been difficult to build a game like Chopper,” he says.

At the moment, he has no time to paint, but he is hoping that he will be able to divide his time between painting and developing games in the future.

Frampton’s Chopper game can also be downloaded to computers from his website, www.majicjungle.com, which also has screensavers that use video from a web camera to create different effects.

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