Choreographing elaborate music videos involving treadmills, organizing elaborate optical illusions, working on a brand new album, and preparing for a world tour don’t tend to leave people with a whole lot of free time. Fortunately, OK Go multi-instrumentalist Andy Ross makes the most of his downtime by programming and designing mobile gaming apps with his company Space Inch. Previously, they tested our powers of ESP with the word association game Say the Same Thing, and now Ross is tapping into that most visceral of human impulses: to make it rain cash money via vigorous, repeated swiping. The aptly named Make It Rain: The Love of Money is available now for both iOS and Android, and to take you deeper into this world of wild, digital wealth, I caught up with Scrooge McDuck himself, Andy Ross.
Nerdist: You’re at it again! What did you learn from the development and roll out of Say the Same Thing that informed how you tackled Make It Rain: The Love of Money?
Andy Ross: Well, we learn so much every time we put something out. We’re incredibly proud of Say the Same Thing (including winning Apple’s Best of 2013 award for it). But we also learned a lot about what makes a game engaging over the long run. People fall in love with Say the Same Thing but it can be really, really difficult and if you don’t have a great partner it can get frustrating, so it ends up being a niche game in a way.
The guys in my app company, Space Inch, and I were all really in match-3 puzzle games about a year ago so we decided to make one ourselves except we wanted the board to be hexagonal instead of the normal x-y grid (so you can make matches in three directions instead of just two). It’s called Disco Bees, because the hexagon reminded us of honeycombs, and as everyone knows, bees love disco music (I produced the soundtrack in the game).
Getting users for Disco Bees introduced us to the complexities of user acquisition, another massive learning experience. It’s actually why we started development of Make It Rain. We thought that we’d make a “mini-game” with the hope that it would have some virality, stick a link to Disco Bees in the game, and hopefully drive downloads at a lower cost than buying ads. We weren’t expecting it to totally blow up and hit #1 in the App Store (and #3 in Google Play).
N: At its core, Make It Rain is a very simple concept. How do you go about mining complexity from such a basic mechanic like swiping?
AR: We actually had the idea to do some type of “stack of money” type game for a while. At first the idea was to fan the bills down with your thumb and let them snap back into place which was pretty satisfying but hard to make into a game. When we tried swiping the bills, it was instantly addictive, almost instinctual. I mean, how many of us actually get a chance to throw money off an infinite stack of bills?
But once you start playing Make It Rain, you quickly learn that it’s not about spazzing out on the swiping; there’s actual strategy. You can get your dollar amount much higher by focusing on the financial investments and saving your swiping for when you’re close to affording new investments.
N: What is it about mobile game development that excites you creatively? Does it fulfill a similar creative desire as making music or another one entirely?
AR: There’s something incredibly satisfying about writing code. It’s not only that you essentially work on a series of puzzles and brain teasers that you end up solving, but at the end of it, you made a thing that does something. And I think with games it’s even more intense because you’re making something that someone is going to interact with emotionally, and you can really be part of that interaction. In that sense it’s very similar to music and other forms of art.
N: What’s your best pro-tip for aspiring billionaire swipers?
AR: Put the device on a surface that won’t slide, then swipe your index fingers away from you for maximum swipage. Once you’ve got a little cash, focus on the financial investments. They have the most bang for your virtual buck.
N: What are some other apps that you admire and can’t stop using?
AR: As a baseball dork, the MLB.com app is usually open on my phone. GuitarToolkit has a nice tuner. Damian is a pretty heavy Instagrammer. I’m always checking the New Relic server monitoring app to see our servers are running smoothly. For games, I really like Quell: Memento and Monument Valley. And I still like Candy Crush, f**k the haters.
N: You guys have a big summer planned with a new EP, music video, and a gigantic tour, which I hear includes robots. What can you tell us about the band’s upcoming slate of projects?
AR: We have a new video coming out on June 17. It was shot in a huge warehouse in Brooklyn and I think it’s going to be special. We’re also really excited about our tour this summer. It’s a completely re-vamped live show and we’re packing a lot of amazing stuff into it. It’s going to be really unique and fun.