For avid gamers, the gaming experience — advancing to higher and higher levels, as well as achieving higher and higher scores — often drive the desire to play. But for Western Illinois University alumnus Joe Peachey, a game he recently published in Apple’s iTunes App Store, his desire to design a game that enables gamers to “play for something bigger” started with his own experience with a malignant brain tumor he had as a child and with a course he took in his graduate program in Western’s School of Computer Sciences.
On April 16, Peachey’s game, “Western Shootout” was released via iTunes. Peachey, who finished his M.S. in computer science last fall, said not only will 50 percent of the profits from “Western Shootout” be donated to a worthy cause (the National Brain Tumor Society), but the apps and games he builds and sells through his new company, That Peachey Thing, will also all support a specific charity.
“The idea behind ‘That Peachey Thing’ is to give 50 percent of the profits from any app made to a specific charity,” Peachey noted. “Each app will support a different cause. This way, others may play for something they feel passionate about. The idea is to let people play for something bigger than just high scores.”
Recently, Peachey provided some background about his new game, how he started it, and why he started his new company.
Q). Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background at WIU: How did you get into building games? What are your professional pursuits in computer sciences and/or game development?
My undergraduate degree is in psychology with a minor in computer science from Olivet Nazarene University. After graduation, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in computer science. I am from the Midwest, and WIU allowed me the convenience of being close to home with an opportunity to be a research assistant and teaching assistant.
Originally, my plan was to study network security. During my last semester, I took Computer Graphics 465G. This class piqued my interest and laid the groundwork for my first app, “Western Shootout.” In February, I set up a small business, That Peachey Thing, to make apps and games. I recently took a job with Tata Consultancy Services as an iOS developer. I will be working on enterprise level iPad/iPhone applications.
Q). What gave you the idea for “Western Shootout”? Will you eventually publish it on the Android platform?
Western Shootout started as a project for Computer Graphics 465G. I needed a final project that involved logic or a game. My friend and I were talking about learning iOS development, and I decided to use the iOS platform to do my final project. My hope was to keep the game play simple enough to learn the basics of iOS development but also make it intriguing and fun to play. It started as an idea to shoot just one cowboy. My final project was just one cowboy and the player had 10 seconds to shoot him.
After graduation, I decided to finish the project and publish it to the App Store. Now there are a total of 36 levels across three different difficulties and three shooting galleries varying in difficulty. The game’s levels are simple: shoot all the “ bad guys” before time runs out. In the shooting galleries, the objective is to get a high score by shooting as many “bad guys” as possible in two minutes. The shooting galleries are a way to compete against friends via Apple’s Game Center. Eventually, I may work a little bit in the Android space. For now I will concentrate on my job as an iOS developer and see what the future holds.
Q). Why are you donating 50 percent of the profits you earn from Western Shootout to the National Brain Tumor Society?
At the age of eight, I began to experience seizures. It was discovered two years later that the seizures were caused by a malignant brain tumor. It was not until I was 11 years old that the brain tumor was removed. This was a very challenging and difficult time in my life and the lives of my family.
A vivid memory I have is just before surgery, I looked at my worried, but smiling, mom and wanted to reassure her that I would be okay. I told her, “Don’t worry mom, if I don’t see you when I wake up, I will see you in heaven.” I will never forget the peace I had before the surgery. After surgery I was completely healed and have not had any complications since. Many friends and family were praying for me and I truly believe God saved my life for a purpose. I believe God plans to use That Peachey Thing as a way for me to help others. Giving back to the National Brain Tumor Society is just one way I can begin to give back.
Q). What did you enjoy most about the process of developing the game?
Dealing with the graphics was a lot of fun. The graphics are what got me excited about developing in the iOS environment. Making something that other people would enjoy to play is also rewarding.
Q). Any advice for students or professionals interested in developing games and/or applications (for Apple or Android platform)?
Do not be afraid to try something… just start. There are a lot of resources and people out there to help you along the way. A lot of things I learned came from blogs, stackoverflow.com, and other iOS Developers. Also, ask for help. There are a lot of people with different skills that have developed apps or want to learn more about the iOS platform. At WIU, Jacob Thurman has also developed apps for the App Store and was always willing to help. Toward the end of the development, I was getting help from a graphic artist, Jeff Barbee, and a musician, Lyndon Perry. Both were just dying to get into the iOS space. The more we collaborated; the more excited we became; therefore, the game just got better and better.
Visit That Peachey Thing at www.thatpeacheything.com