Board of advisor Ron Packard Jr tells us about his new game and how he uses beta testing

I asked our board of advisor Ron Packard Jr from Cloudburst games if he could tell us about how he started with app development and how he uses beta testing for his products. He was kind enough to give us info on the soon to be released puzzle game Castle Breakout – Escape! HD, so keep reading to learn from this successful animation producer.

Ron-Packard-JR-profile-photoRon Packard Jr was born in California, USA. His interest in computer games developed early and his parents encouraged him to make his own games in his youth. That proved to be a great idea as he is now a studio producer leading a team of fifteen 3D animators and programmers, working with mobile app development and creating amazing games. His apps have over six million downloads and are at the top of the charts in several countries all over the world.

Hi Ron! Thanks for doing this interview! Tell us about your company and what you are doing.

Cloudburst Games is a mobile content development studio in transition from making talking apps to creating beautiful photo-realistic “room escape” puzzles for adults. Our current games have had over seven million downloads and two hundred million play sessions worldwide. The new room escape genre app we’re preparing to roll out – Castle Breakout – Escape! HD is a very exciting project, which our beta-users seem to be enjoying.

Here are a couple of quotes from our beta testers to provide examples of the kind of response Castle Breakout is receiving:

“The game overall is beautifully well done, with just enough difficulty crafted into it to keep you interested, but not enough to make you quit. A perfect balance.”

“Overall this is a very polished game and one of my favorite puzzle games I’ve played in some time.”

We believe the feedback we’ve had so far for this game points us to the potential for huge success. The beta testers aren’t paid and have no incentive to tell us anything but the unvarnished truth.

One beta tester became a super fan and freely offered us the following image showing an iPad, 6” iPhone, Macbook, and 2nd computer screen all working at once for the game. We have placed this image on our “fan art” blog that’s attached to our website.


How come you started with app development?

Cloudburst Games started in 2010 doing talking apps. I chose app development because in high school I was an avid hobbyist programmer, and I made a few games that were quite popular in college.

We weren’t always so successful. When the “talking app genre” was yet in its nascent stages, I believed it had great potential because it had a high barrier to entry for programmers because of its complexity, yet easy enough for me to do. My wife and I had a young daughter at the time and I figured that making a girl talking app would be fun – and thus was born the Talking Nicky series. Yet my faith in its potential wasn’t proven to be true as it was never a big money-maker.

How long do you stick with an idea for an app before giving up on it?

As I said, the Talking Nicky series didn’t make much money. At the same time I began, Outfit7 did their Talking Tom Cat which was wildly successful. So after about five or six Talking Nicky’s, about a year later, I switched to animals. I’ve always loved comedy and animals, so switching was appealing to me. I hired a comedian animation director who came up with the funny ideas for the Talking Duke Dog.

Sure enough we did quite a bit better with Talking Duke Dog and we did a Talking Duke Dog 2 which did even better. We didn’t do nearly as well as Outfit7 and on hindsight perhaps we could have done much better with a publisher. But we did gain seven million downloads and a hefty chunk of our needed monthly salary.

In my “focus group” for Talking Duke Dog I had a few real kids at my house and they unanimously said it needed a game. Unfortunately, after three years I wasn’t able to get the money to add a game. And that’s the point we decided to finally leave the Talking App genre. In fact, I’ve sold my talking apps to a kind man who wishes to continue with them.

After about two to three years, Outfit7 took the animal characters very, very far in the genre. It took me until recently to discover that the reason I didn’t feel like committing and following them that far was because I didn’t play with dolls or action figures nearly enough as a child. Those were not my favorite toys by far. I feel that the genre now belongs to those who loved their dolls and action figures when they were kids.

What I recently discovered is that you need to be true to your sixteen year old self. When I was sixteen, I built a mad puzzle on the computer. So I’m now doing a puzzle on the Mac, iOS and Android and I’m excelling a little beyond belief.

Do you prototype?

I’ve got a collection of contractors who are also avid game players, so we are generally very confident in our ideas. So no, we don’t prototype.

Do you test your ideas on people?

No we don’t, except internally. Rather, I make sure we have enough creative perspectives in our own group and listen and discuss opposing and contrasting ideas within our group.

What motivates you and what are your goals?

My goals are to conquer the top of the Puzzle category within five years. They say you’ve got to go big or go home, well, I think that’s true. Our vision is to give casual gamers who just want a challenging puzzle experience whenever they have spare time something they’ve never experienced before! I want them to feel challenged but not overwhelmed, and enthralled with the graphics nd storyline. We believe this is a formula for substantial success in the “escape game genre.”

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful app developer?

I’m not sure I can speak for every developer because so many people can leverage their unique skill sets in ways that I can’t imagine. I think the important thing is to know yourself and know what your own unique skills are nd how to properly leverage them.

A great source of inspiration is the “Gallup Poll StrengthsFinder” which gives you a set of 34 personality results from strongest to weakest, and also the “Gallup Poll Entrepreneur Profile” which gives you your ten highest strengths.

My top StrengthFinder strength is strategy, and my highest Entrepreneur strength is Creativity. So I really excel at looking at new genres and identifying ways to fill an unmet need.

Can you tell us a bit about your new app Castle Breakout – Escape! HD?

Castle Breakout – Escape! HD is a terrific game which takes the current room escape genre and pushes the boundaries, almost creating a new genre. It has eleven stereo medieval songs, and about 100 unique stereo sound bites for each action. The game features stunningly beautiful rendered images, an amazing flight with a magical dragon, a comic book intro and animated animals to give entertainment.

Castle Breakout is due in the Apple & Google store for Mac, iOS, and Android in mid-May. With its oversized images, the game is truly glorious on the Mac.

What problems are you facing right now?

Like with many developers, funding during the development phases is often a challenge. I’ve done this app completely without money (for one and a half years) using the promise of future royalties to pay my contractors. The sale of my talking apps gave me the funds I need to finish Castle Breakout.

What do you feel are the positive aspects of using a crowdtesting platform for beta testing?

It’s been enormously helpful to further the cause of Castle Breakout with Beta Family’s crowdtesting service. Enormously! What we’ve found from extensive testing is that the users are now saying it comes across as “polished.” Beta Family offers free reviews and that has been a life-saver for me.

If I could answer the question, “What’s the number one thing that differentiates a crummy app from a great one?, ” it would be the amount of polish it has. I see in the App Store so many developers who must have worked for years on an app, only to see it fail miserably because it just plain doesn’t work, not to mention don’t perform with elegance or isn’t polished with the details that consumers notice in an app. The need for exhaustive beta testing has never been greater.

Can you tell us more about your testing plan?

With Castle Breakout, I waited until the app was in a fairly mature state to begin testing. Then I began testing the app every three weeks or so. I’ve given it five tests so far, and I plan to do about two more on Castle Breakout before its launch. I try to find new people for each test for fresh perspectives. I try to pay Beta Family about ¼ of the time to keep them happy, and they seem OK with that.

When working with the beta users, I remain very polite and tell them when I’ve fixed their issues. I respond to all their pain points and tell them what I’m doing. If I don’t agree with one of their issues, then I tell them so with my reasons. I respond to every message they leave me, and always help the newcomers with their technical support issues. Treasure the beta testers and they will treasure you.

I tend to give beta testers 5-stars feedback unless they are rude or mean-spirited. Beta testers need to stay positive as it does affect our collective moods.

I also share all my reports – both positive and negative, with my contractors. It tends to excite, motivate, and give us some discussion points about what needs to be fixed. To help facilitate such discussion remotely, we use Basecamp, which is another lovely tool for collaboration.

Why did you choose The Beta Family over other similar services?

As far as I know, the Beta Family is the only beta testing service that provides a community of users. Everything about the service works real smoothly. It’s an excellent service and a great value package. I couldn’t be happier!

The talented team from Cloudburst-games

I hope you liked this interview with Ron Packard Jr and don’t hesitate to flick me a message if you have any questions. If you liked it then perhaps you’ll appreciate the interview I did with TED Speaker Dr Ayanna Howard.


Malin Klockare Gullesjö
Malin Klockare Gullesjö is working with Beta Family’s online profile. She has previously worked as a community manager on social media in the tourism industry. View all posts by Malin Klockare Gullesjö

Things to consider when testing wearable technology

The world is becoming increasingly connected and we’re starting to use more than just our mobile, desktop and tablet to get the information we want. Wearable technology has recently become a popular topic and increasingly so after Apple announced the arrival of their new device – the Apple Watch.

What exactly is wearable technology?

The loose term of wearable tech covers a bunch of high tech gadgets that you wear on your body and they can be replacements for accessories you use. The gadgets often have smart sensors to access data from your everyday wear and tend to be connected to your phone using Bluetooth.

There are already a lot of wearables on the market. For example, fitness trackers in the form of a watches, bracelets, headbands and clips or a wristbands that monitor your every move wearable technology braclet and measure your heart rate. Or a pair of smart socks that monitor your foot landing technique and tell you if are landing on your sole or heel, while you are running!! If you have bad posture you can get a waistband that notifies you when you are slouching. It’s like having a personal trainer on your back, all day long.

If you’re like me, reaching for your smart phone and checking notifications all the time, you can hide your smartphone obsession and wear a smart ring instead. Then you won’t need to lift a finger (pun intended) to see how popular your latest tweets are.

The anticipated Apple Watch will work as a regular wrist watch but also give you notifications from your iPhone.

We customers have lots of products to choose from and a many things to consider before buying a piece of wearable technology. This means app development companies have a lot to think about too, like figuring out which features are the most important to their customers. Here are a number of things to considering when making wearable technology and apps for them.

  • Battery life is a huge factor for all electronic devices. If you’re supposed to have the gadget on you at all times, when will you find time to charge it? How much batter is enough? It’s vital for app developers to take the device battery life into consideration when making apps.
  • You never know when you might get caught in a rain storm or blizzard, we need water resistant devices.
  • I quite like it when devices work together, so if I get a wearable gadget I need it to be compatible with my phone and/or computer regardless of brand or version.
  • The design of the gadget is a huge factor as the developers want buyers to wear the gadget for a long time. A pair of smart glasses need to be quite spectacular before I hop on the bandwagon and look like everyone else. Apple has used similar design on many of their product with some alterations and the crowd still gets in a frenzy when a new version is to be released. Will the wearable tech designers find a golden design that makes the crowd go nuts?
  • The screen on the gadgets will be smaller than on smartphones as the wearable tech needs to be light and easy to carry. This means the screens need good lighting and clear fonts so we can see. If the developers want to attract an older audience that are used to bigger screens they might need to develop specific models for them.

What does this mean for app testing?

The use of smartphone and wearable technology devices won’t be the same. We need to adapt when developing and testing apps for wearable technology. An innovative market with apps that are functional, user-friendly and works with the increasing range of devices is needed. Consumers expect apps to work from the start, which means the apps will need to be tested.

It’s probable the apps for wearables will be light versions compared to the phone and tablet versions. For example, lets say that you have an app to track your running. On a device with a bigger screen you can view more information on how many calories you burn and the route you choose among other things. But with wearables such as a watch with a considerably smaller screen you might have to settle for only knowing how many k’s you run. It will be interesting to see how keen people will be to use devices with limited information.

With increased competitions the quality of an app becomes more and more important, and consequently also the beta testing. However, when producing wearable technology the developers might have to pay more for the actual testing as the effort to test may be higher, for example when using a fitness tracker. There is also likely to be fewer testers owning the particular device, especially in th early stages.

How does the testing at Beta Family work?

If you have a wearable app in need of beta testing you can easily find the testers on our site. The testers register their devices with us and you can search for testers owning a particular device. After the testers have downloaded the app they can start testing it on their wearable tech and answer your questions.

Testing in the right environment

I can’t stress enough the importance of testing the device in the right environment. In other words, on the particular devices it will be used. Without testing the app in the correct environment you’ll lose important information and there is a large risk the app won’t be as successful as you hope.

We don’t know yet what kind of impact wearable technology will have on our lives, but the industry believes it will be huge. So to wrap up I encourage everyone working on wearables apps to test them using testers who own the right device!

To all of our beta testers that own wearable devices, don’t forget to register them at Beta Family so you can start testing wearable applications. It’s quite fun!


Malin Klockare Gullesjö
Malin Klockare Gullesjö is working with Beta Family’s online profile. She has previously worked as a community manager on social media in the tourism industry.

Zyrobotics CTO Ayanna Howard’s view on beta testing

The use of tablet devices in American classrooms has become a popular, and it continues to grow. Unfortunately, the accessible content for children with special needs doesn’t grow as fast.

We interviewed Dr. Ayanna Howard who is the founder and chief technology officer at Zyrobotics, an assistive technology company in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr, Ayanna talks about how they use beta testing for their learning applications.

While being a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer engineering, Dr. Howard received a grant from NSF (National Science Foundation) to develop technology that was then transferred to a spinoff, Zyrobotics. She did this together with Dr. Hae Won Park and Dr. J Maccalla, with the goal to commercialize the inclusive technology inventions derived from their research lab at Georgia Tech.

The team wanted to address the need for educational apps for children with special needs as this demographic hasn’t been given equal access to available app-based learning activities. Their mission is to create personalized technologies that make a difference in the lives of children with special needs in the age range 3 to 12.

How come you started with app development?

The inclusion of learning activities using tablet devices in the classroom environment continues to grow. Unfortunately, this corresponding increase has not correlated with a growth in accessible content for children with special needs. Thus, as educational apps continue to revolutionize learning for children, there is a measurable demographic of school-age children with special needs that are not being given equal access. As such, we wanted to address this need and develop education Apps that provide engaging content while being accessible to children with special needs.

How long do you stick with an idea for an app before giving up on it?

Before we begin development of a new app, we first conduct a number of interviews with parents, special education teachers, and clinicians to discover unmet needs. Based on their feedback, we then discuss a few ideas with them and select the focus for our next education app. Throughout the development process, but before alpha testing, we’ll continue to refine the idea and game-play of the education app based on feedback from our target demographic.

What motivates you at Zyrobotics and what are your goals?

Our goal is to increase access to educational content for children with disabilities that support their goals in the classroom environment in such a way that it can engage all children while being accessible to children with special needs. Children of all abilities can be encouraged to engage in various learning opportunities when these activities are seen as enjoyable and interesting. Our motivation is therefore to create engaging educational content that is accessible to all kids.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful app developer?

  1. The top three skills needed to be a successful app developer include:
  2. Good user experience and user interface design skills
    Good programming skills and/or the ability to learn these skills
    Ability to listen to the customer and be open to constructive feedback.
    Have testing your apps helped prevent failures?
  3. We always go through three phases of testing before releasing an app for distribution (alpha, beta, and target user). Although this means it takes longer to release an app, we feel that this process ensures that any potential issues are caught before they turn into failures.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a successful app developer?

I believe that success as an app developer is defined by whether you made a societal impact. This may (or may not) equate to financial success. As such, the first piece of advice for being successful is defining your metrics for success – is it number of downloads, awards, good reviews, rankings, etc.? The second piece of advice is to not give up. There are so many apps currently available for download that the probability that your app will percolate to the top 10 (and remain there) is, unfortunately, slim. If your passion is for app development, just become the best app developer that you can and define your criteria for success as such. The last piece of advice is to listen to your target customer. Solicit feedback from potential users before devoting time and money to developing an app that users might not need or want.

Can you tell us about some of your apps and how you got the idea for them?

In the last 10 months, we have released four accessible education apps – ZyroSky, Forest Fighter, Turtle Invaders, and OctoPlus. The first three apps, released on both Google Play and iTunes, focused on cause- and-effect and pre-readiness math skills. The last app, OctoPlus, reinforces key addition math skills within an interactive gaming environment through the inclusion of practice and challenge modes.

Each of our education apps maps educational content within a gaming construct to engage children of all abilities. All of our apps also have adjustable learning and game-play settings so that kids can learn and be assessed based on their own individual skill level. All of our apps are also designed to be switch-accessible and enhance motor skills for young children and kids with motor or cognitive delays. We have used the Beta Family for all of our apps during both the alpha and beta testing stages.

What do you feel are the positive aspects of using a crowdtesting platform for your beta testing?

The positive aspects of using a crowdtesting platform is the ability to have both novice and experienced users provide feedback and bug reporting using different devices, operating systems, and cultural perspectives. This is an invaluable resource because it allows you to test the majority of configurations that you might find in the real-world, thus discovering issues before they become failures.

What challenges are you facing in the beta testing process that Beta Family can help with?

The ability to select both new and validated testers using the Beta Family removes many of the challenges we would have otherwise faced. We have used the Beta Family as a resource for finding testers for all of our apps over both our alpha and beta testing stages.

Can you tell us more about your testing plans?

We always go through three phases of testing before releasing an app for distribution (alpha, beta, and target user). We have used the Beta Family as a resource for finding testers for all of our apps over both our alpha and beta testing stages. During alpha testing, we are primarily concerned with the ease-of-interaction, ease-of-game play, bug-finding, and overall user experience. We also ask for suggestions for improving the experience. The beta testing stage involves more specific evaluation of features and bug-finding. The target user stage occurs before release and involves full-reviews focused on functionality as seen through the eyes of special education teachers, parents, and clinicians. Depending on the results from this stage, we might iterate through another beta testing cycle before release.

Why did you choose The Beta Family instead of another similar service?

We chose the Beta Family because of its ability to select both novice and experienced users, its ability to test on both Android and iOS platforms, its ability to invite testers outside of the Beta Family (which is important when testing with our target demographic) and the ease-of-interaction with the platform itself.

Beta Family would like to extend a big thank you to Dr. Ayanna Howard for taking the time talking to us. Make sure to share this post within your network so more people hear about Zyrobotics fantastic work providing children with special needs the same learning activities as other kids.

Ps. Did you know that Dr Ayanna Howard has been a speaker at the TED conferences, talking about how to make robots smarter? Check it out:

Check out the below links if you’d like to learn more about Zyrobotics.


Malin Klockare Gullesjö
Malin Klockare Gullesjö is working with Beta Family’s online profile. She has previously worked as a community manager on social media in the tourism industry.