Skip to main content
September 18, 2014

Developing Stories: Game developer Imran Shafiq

What does a busy healthcare information-technology architect do to relax?

Well, if you’re Imran Shafiq, you let your creativity run wild and develop addictive Windows Phone gaming apps such as Air Soccer Fever, Tank Arena and Hyper Cell. Since 2012, he’s developed six games, and collectively, they’ve been downloaded more than four million times.

Not bad for a hobbyist.

“I do it just for fun,” said Imran (@danglingneuron), who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “When Windows Phone came out, that was a break-out moment for me because I was already so familiar with the technology and the Microsoft platform.”

Air Soccer Fever is especially popular, with a Facebook fan page with more than 10,000 likes, and two big fan-organized annual online tournaments. In fact, at any time of the day or night, you can find dozens of multi-player games of Air Soccer Fever in progress around the globe.

Imran’s newest game is Bit Raid, an old-school arcade game which won the sixth annual New Mexico Game Jam, a friendly competition whose aim was to create the best gaming app in just 48 hours.

Here’s a video trailer for Bit Raid:

Growing up in Pakistan, one of Imran’s first exposure to computers was when he would visit his university professor uncle at his office.

“He would let me type stuff, like birthday wishes, in a DOS-based text editor,” he recalled. “I would then print that out on a dot matrix printer and make cards. I still remember those huge floppy drives!”

Imran created his first digital game when he was about 12 years old. He taught himself the BASIC programming language and developed a simple numbers-guessing game.

He soon graduated to C++ and created several games based on the Atari system. In fact, his games Tank Arena and Sea Quest are heavily influenced by the Atari games of his childhood.


Imran’s childhood fascination with computers led to a bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences (modeling and simulation) and a master’s degree in computational sciences (simulation and visualization) from Technical University Munich.


Now as vice president of development for software-development company Pieran Health Technologies, he manages a team that designs, implements and supports business enterprise software for hospitals. It’s a busy job with lots of responsibility, but Imran manages to squeeze in time to create and tinker with his games and respond to fans.

As the father of a six-year old daughter and a two-year old son, Imran added that he’d like to create a digital game with his children one day.

“I can’t wait to introduce them to this amazing art form,” he said.

We recently caught up with Imran to ask him a bit more about his Windows Phone app development.

Why develop for the Windows Phone platform?

It’s a great community; there are so many developers out there. Initially, I went to WindowsPhoneMVP, then to DVLUP – Windows Phone is a great platform. The Nokia and Microsoft ambassadors have really helped me out. They’ve given me so much of a boost and promotion to my game apps.

What are some of the challenges of app development?

It’s very satisfying to develop games, but in some senses, it’s harder than developing hospital software. It’s hard because you’re developing out of your own imagination. With hospital software, you have set parameters.

Also, figuring out through feedback and reviews how to improve a game is important.

If a player can’t play the game, if he is struggling, then you have failed as a developer.

I learned the hard way. Air Soccer Fever is casual-swipe soccer. It’s not players running around. You have to throw the ball by swiping. When a player first opens it, it looks like an air hockey game. But it’s not. So I got a bunch of bad reviews at first. So now I do a beta test before I release a game. I do four weeks of private beta-testing. In the past, I’ve had up to 100 beta testers.

As an indie developer, you also have to do marketing. That’s the hardest thing for developers. We don’t have skills to do that. We just code. You have to think about monetization, too. Do I make it free or a paid download? Do I want to put ads on it? How do I create in-app purchases?

There’s a real balance you have to strike. There is no right answer. You just have to try out new things.

What’s the best part of developing your own gaming apps?

I only develop games that I really, really like. I have to make myself happy. I enjoy HyperCell a lot myself.

Here is the video trailer for HyperCell:

Also, the first couple of months after I release an app, I’m hungry to hear what players are saying.

When your game is out there in the hands of players and they’re loving it and they get the pleasure out of it, that’s very exciting. The first few emails that I get from a new game, I get really ecstatic.

Do you have any tips for budding app developers out there?

With all the tech available, you don’t necessarily have to be a hardcore programmer to do it.

For apps, you can use Microsoft App studio, for games you can use Microsoft Kodu, Scirra Construct, etc. Do it now and do it for yourself!