Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Game Development Blog #64

Game Development Blog #64

"Another year, Another Dollar!"

Hahaha! It looks like I have coined a really appropriate phrase for indie development. Think about it.. Anyway, don't think too long, because after nearly 3 years of "independence" I am finally at the point where I am earning some steady, solid money doing this! Let's not get carried away, it's far, far from a valid amount to actually live on, but our game is earning steady money several months after our feature has wrapped up, and it's definitely better than the $20/month I was getting before. Not HUGELY better, but I would wager that we are officially past the majority of people who try to make any money off modern mobile app development. We are getting about $500/month in sales now (after the app stores take their cut). As I said, not a huge amount of money (and I need to split it up) but considering that I'd expect most devs don't even crack $1k in their lifetime anymore, I think it's a very good sign. So long as the numbers don't die out, that is. We'll see..

Anyway, numbers aside, here's your standard Production Update.

GunHead - coming along nicely. This past summer I'd planned to release this game by November - now it is looking more realistic to expect sometime in February, and to be honest there is quite a lot of work to do yet. But what is there, is pretty awesome. Looks awesome, controls awesome, everything is coming together. I am getting some serious thoughts spinning in my head about how to market the game, and honestly I doubt I will spend under a grand on that. For this type of game I'd say it's a necessity, but I expect to make that back easily. Expect there to be some wild/unusual marketing for this game the likes which haven't been attempted yet for a "little mobile game," as usual you need to get creative in how you sell things or no one will ever know it exists!

Android development is a bit stalled currently, iOS has been going strong but slowed as well, and Xbox is actually sitting in the lead for some time now - but overall I am very happy with where progress is on all the platforms. A lot of work rests on my own shoulders right now (pumping out assets and designs, etc). I am purposely trying to keep the game from getting too design-heavy (if you've looked at any of the material I've previously posted about GunHead, you should understand that designing such a game oughtn't be a Herculean task). I am probably going to post some videos shortly in here (within 1 month's time) so keep your eyes peeled.

Trapdoor - as has always been the case with TD, it's still the victim of a lot of start/stop development - but I really like where it is sitting right now, it's just a fun little game, it's different, it's hectic, very easy to get into and get some immediate gratification from, a perfect title for "2-minute play" on a touch screen - and good for any audience. I really need to buckle down and live in the game for a few days to bring it to the next level, I still think it probably has only a couple of weeks of earnest development left to go in it.

Tic Tac Jack - so, this actually released this past week! I don't think I've even mentioned it in the blog at all - it's been sitting in Ben's head for a good year and a half, and we rushed through development full-steam some months ago (granted, a short and small project). Without getting into details, it released "before it was ready" and launched playable, but verrrry incomplete in all facets (whoops!) I don't think it's still up on iTunes, but it should return shortly following the New Year.

What Else is Going On - lots I guess, I mean it is the end of the year and all! Personally, my time and energy have been largely wrapped up with freelance work (as usual, I am fairly close to being absolutely broke, and that is not hyperbole!) Picking up contract stuff is not exactly "what I want to do" especially when my own developments are fairly well-along in earnest production, but I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to earn a couple of bucks during these otherwise very dry times! Anyway, that's all just wrapped up so I am on my own stuff for the time being, although some other opportunities are out there (day jobs) which I need to put some effort into following up with as well - the sort that are "good opportunities which really should at least be attempted," although my main thrust is still on getting these games wrapped up properly and released.

That's all for now, I will try to get a reflective year-end wrap-up post put up before the year's end. Watch for it - and thanks for your support!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Game Development Blog #63

Game Development Blog #63

"WHERE DID YA GO?"

I WANNA KNOW!

Oh, I am here, alright. Very busy. I was fairly well into the late stages of writing a decent #63 update several weeks ago, when my girlfriend stormed into the apartment and we had a nice little argument about something which made me feel like not really typing in the blog anymore. I think it had something to do with the piles of smelly dishes in the sink, which had been sitting there long enough that I no longer remembered we even had a kitchen..

Well, without digging too terribly far back into the past, let's concentrate on the present, why don't we..

180 - Just kidding! You wanted to hear news, right?

GunHead - ohh, so much is going on with this game, I don't know where to begin! I usually am fairly cryptic (to degrees) about it when I mention in here, so why not start with a couple of screens - which you may or may not have seen elsewhere..






Yeah, so now the cat is out of the bag, and you know all that is to be said about this one! Not even close! Here's some juicy tidbits for you.

- developing for iPhone, Android, and Xbox Live Indie Games
- retro style (duh!)
- release early 2012
- unique new control mechanic unlike any seen before for a mobile platformer

Don't let that last point pass you by, because it really is the clincher. I hate platformers on the touchscreen because surprise surprise, they are horrible. No fun to play at all. If you've played my previous game to any appreciable degree, you might know I have some concern with "how does one design a touchscreen game play to the strengths of such an interface?" There's tons of platformers on mobile, some very nice-looking, and they all have atrocious control schemes that make you wish "oh why doesn't it just have buttons." No more. GunHead will finally "feel" right and not in some lazy-slapped-on way. Even the current prototype feels awesome.

There's certainly a lot more to say about this game, a good amount of which you might be able to deduce yourself between looking at those pictures and having any knowledge about me (a quick scan through my past blogs should say it all really). Stay tuned.

Trapdoor - I was going to post some pics of this as well, but to be honest, I haven't any to show other than some mockups right now! There's an early image floating around on one of our pages though, although I don't think it will really tell you too much. Anyway, here goes:

Trapdoor, as previously mentioned, is actually the very first game I sat down and spec'd out a few years ago, when originally turning my eye to the mobile scene (not counting iFist, although that design wasn't originally my idea anyway). I drew up Trapdoor and 180 came out of my head almost immediately afterward, and I decided to go with the more involved project. As time passed, I've never forgotten "my first" and not for want of "no idea shall be wasted" - it was just a good idea, for several reasons. And especially in hindsight, and consideration of the reception 180 has received. Lots of people like 180, but especially on a mobile platform, it doesn't seem too many have the patience to learn it. With Trapdoor, this is much less of an issue; it really is one of these games where you can fully grok the entirety of the rules within a heartbeat. There's not really a depth of strategy to it, just a tense and building test of reflexes and stamina, and that is fine with me!

As I've plumbed the development of the design, I decided to take many cues from games such as Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja; that title is exactly what a mobile game should be, they really hit all the tenets across the boards. I would love to writeup a breakdown of why that game is so sound on so many levels, but I think I'd prefer to execute such lessons in my own game instead. No, Trapdoor will not play anything like Fruit Ninja at all, but there is certainly some very low-level understanding in the game's foundation going on.

180 - okay, all kidding aside, I do want to mention a bit of what's up with the latest over here. As usual, there is still some reason to talk about this long-in-the-tooth game. We are still using it to chart the path through the various Android marketplaces, and it is enjoying some decent visibility in that regard. We've recently been promoted at the Toshiba App Place (built into their Thrive tablet) and another promotion on another store is not far away either. I am in talks with several other stores to do things there as well, so I am just trying to keep it going as it makes sense to. Mobile markets, and Android in particular, are a very different beast than any traditional way of selling things - once something gets any kind of momentum, it can absolutely keep it's relevance (and grow). Especially with the type of product which isn't necessarily a one-off (and I don't mean for an abundance of updates, necessarily).

We've recently enjoyed promotions on Nook and Amazon, and (to a degree) the new Kindle Fire, although none of this has ended up going much toward my pocket. I am hoping to keep the doors open long enough to introduce my newer products however, and really to keep some more of a steady stream of them flowing through. That's the point of being a small indie!

Otherwise for 180, we still have a very cool Strategy Mode which is partially developed, sitting on the shelf, waiting for a little downtime to be polished up. As I've said, it's different enough (mechanically) to be considered as a whole other game, and I am thinking to sell it as IAP (especially considering the amount of free copies I've already distributed of the base version of the game!)

There's so much else to say in regards to the micro and macro of the industry, but that will have to wait for next time. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Game Development Blog #62

Game Development Blog #62

"Back in the Day"


Well, this week has shaken the world of Nerd-dom to it's core apparently. The great Steve Jobs has passed onto the Great Beyond, and like so many of my generation, it's caused me to reflect momentarily on what men like him have done and how it's influenced our lives. I've seen more than a couple of blogs or Facebook posts this week where people recount the good (?) old days of their youth, when they first got exposed to the ol' personal computer. Guess here is my time to chime in, likewise.

Born in 1975, I was in grade school by the time the Apple ][+ was making the rounds (hey young whippersnapper, that was how it was supposed to be typed!) This giant beige-grey box with all these crazy ribbons leading out of it, plugging into the crappiest joysticks you ever saw, and the slowest/loudest printer you ever heard. I'm not sure which crossed my path first, computer or video game (I might have scored my Atari 400 at home a little earlier than laying my hands of the ][+ ), but it didn't matter. I was taken with the thing immediately, and started spending every recess cooped up in the classroom with this magical new device while all my peers were out in the schoolyard tossing around the pigskin. This didn't sit well with my teacher, of course, who enlisted the school guidance counselor to drag me away and figure out "what the heck was wrong with me?" (oh, if they only knew!) Regardless, I'll never forget that day in 5th grade when the school principal called my name out over the public address system in the middle of class one day, to come to his office and hook up the computer for him :P

Anyway, I had the bug and soon enough summer came and I needed to get my fix, I'd start "renting time" at the local public library and messing with the machines there. My parents took heed from all of this and ponied up $1k to buy me an Apple //c for my 11th birthday (yeah, I was a bit of a spoiled kid). Green monochrome monitor, Scribe printer.. no mouse (yet). I did finagle with BASIC and such a bit, and enjoyed it, but early on my brain decided that art was my forte much more than juggling with the numbers. I had my share of issues of COMPUTE! and Family Computing magazines, and I typed in plenty of those programs in the back.. but somehow

410 POKE 24,5
415 POKE 38,6
420 GOSUB TELLTO
425 DATA 32,6,2,77,9,33,87,3,84,2,993,26,93,41,942,268,83,247,2,733,8343,7,16

wasn't all that appealing to me inthe long term. Besides, I got my hands on an NES and suddenly the //c looked absolutely primitive by comparison. In hindsight, I guess I shoulda maybe stuck with the programming, shrug..

Friday, September 30, 2011

Game Development Blog #61

Game Development Blog #61

"The New Tablet Scene Pt 1"

Howdy and welcome! Time for another (albeit brief) update of what is happening in Headcaseland.

This was our 1st week post-Android Market promotion. 180 Ultra is still being featured on the sub-category page "
Brain & Puzzle" (visible on the phone) - to take advantage, I cut the price in half to a measly dollar. Even so, downloads have dropped off dramatically (< $10 a day, or even half of that). Just today I removed the well-rated Free (ad-supported) version from the store to see if it makes any difference, but it seems to do nothing. Ah well, the feature was nice while it lasted, and I learned some valuable lessons if I should be so fortunate to have another in the future (I should have promoted Ultra for free, briefly, and padded the ranks a bit - just 12 ratings, even for a featured game, do not make an easy sale of what looks to casual observers as "just another puzzle game").

On a related note, on the eve of the feature, I put the word out and asked nearly everyone I knew with an Android phone to help out and give a rating (this is people I know is person, though most were casual acquaintances). I was surprised to see that only about 3 people out of ~20 actually responded to that call for action. I am not trying to be whiny about it, so much as to express "this is what you should expect if you try the same." I would expect that anything less than a good 100 or so reviews, bare minimum, looks appealing to a casual observer. I'd hoped that the 250-odd reviews immediately visible on the (likewise 4.5-starred) Free version would help to push things over the edge, sadly it was still not enough (ahem.. "puzzle game, puzzle game!" I know, I know)

Good things to note: glowing reviews finally came in from by big sites Appolicious and PocketGamer, the likes of which I've been wanting for a long time (although once again, it's too little too late).

Also worth noting, I've decided to push things on the Nook front - we've traditionally had stronger downloads on that market than anywhere else, and while it's had nice bursts of sales here and there (consecutive $50 days make me smile fairly wide) it's been steadily drowning into nothingness with the usual numbers that you see everywhere else (a sale or 2 a day). We got great reviews over there, but as I consider the Nook "it's own unique market" (for good and bad) it makes sense to get a little experimental once in awhile - so I cut the price of the Full game to Free for a short spell. They were kind enough to give us a tweet on their feed (they've got about 20k followers) and I did my part to post on a couple of the relevant boards, doing my best not to sound terribly spammy. I should note that some boards (which should be embracing the *&$#@ developers!) will aggressively hunt you down and murder you for posting such things. Also, and probably most importantly, I put up a link on the Nook Facebook page (highly trafficked, I believe they have about 360k followers on there!) which I suspect may be getting me a bit of visibility as well (frustratingly, it is difficult to tell). Posting on someone else's FB fan page can often be tricky, as it might just read as spam and not show up at all.. and in many cases, followers will never see postings by anyone but the admin of such a page. But obviously it is worth a shot!

Anyway we got ~1300 downloads on Nook yesterday, and I'll assume a similar story today. The Nook market is steadily getting completely inundated with garbage apps (like any store), in just a few short months it's become packed like any place else - but relatively speaking, the ratio is still fairly good to get some good product up there and potentially see some steady sales as a result. That's my assumption so far anyway, time will tell (watch this space!)

If you've been paying attention this week, Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire tablet which is due to launch in short order. I am particularly looking forward to this for the usual obvious reasons, not least of which is that we've been featured on their store previously and currently are sitting comfortably nestled with a healthy (if low-ish) set of reviews to show for it. I'll likely pull a similar stunt (put the game free for a bit on their store, try to push our app past the 100-review margin) in time for the new market launch, and hope that it will translate into some decent sales when their market goes live worldwide, which I expect to happen in conjunction with their hardware rollout. I'm still not certain what the plan is, as a lot of things are in flux between our coverage over all of these stores (as you can tell, just trying to maintain a bead on everything can be quite time-consuming) but considering that we've an app out there which is critically reviewing very well and that our primary audience does seem to eat it up when it gets proper exposure, it does feel very worthwhile to be jostling things in this way. There doesn't seem to be much other alternative as a tiny developer, unless one has the necessary hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to make a proper marketing dent. This is the reality these days.


Meanwhile, 180 Strategy Mode looms on the horizon - worth mentioning as it's quite an unusual evolution of the gameplay, and could certainly be worth releasing as it's own app. Development is presently frozen for a few reasons, but there's a chance it will see release by the year's end (especially depending on how the continuing promotions end up). We'll see how it winds up. I am eager to move forward with that, and explore a special Tablet Mode and VS. Multiplayer Mode down the road as well. Fans, be vocal about your frothing demand if you ever want to see this stuff happen!

GunHead is progressing (new build arrived this week!) ad it's finally taking some decent shape. We've got it integrated into a proper engine, screen scrolls, tileset editor seems to be working properly (visual plus ground collisions and such) and the control is coming along nicely. This is all Android, but I am on track to pick up iOS development as well. It's awesome to see it finally getting to the point where I can just unload content into it!

Trapdoor is also progressing nicely, as with GH I have become the bottleneck for both titles (they need content and heavy design work, which is my job). The game is likewise functional but needs a good chunk of work to get it to be "fun," it'll get there though. I just need to sit down and deal with it!
Link

A Card Game is also in the works for iOS, I don't know if I am allowed to say the name of it at this point :) Once again I am the holdup, it should come together quickly once I can return to devoting time to it. Barring unforseen circumstances, all these apps should appear on one platform or the other by year's end. There's a lot of work to do!

What have I been up to? Actually had a job interview recently and spending a lot of time testing for that, and in fact I need to get back to that right now. So many of you people don't like to actually pay for stuff, I need to earn a living somehow :/

Hey! Remember when I actually used to write about Retrogames, on this (ahem) blog interestingly-titled "RetroGame of the Day?" Perhaps I will pick up the pen again - if not daily, then perhaps once a week, sound off if you would like to see that. I had a lot of fun writing those (and easily compiled enough reviews to fill a book, or three) but as they were intended to ultimately help promote my litter operation here - well I just say that I did get a nice chunk of views every so often, but sadly it didn't seem to do much for sales.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Game Development Blog #60

Game Development Blog #60


Yep - that is the title of today's blog entry!

What's going on, headsketeers! Time to turn on, tune in, drop out. Or is it sign in, log on, up load? Man, I never can keep up with this stuff anymore.

So then! Lots to talk about, but I am busy, so it'll be brief. First order of business, a week ago we finally, finally got a high-profile feature for 180 on the Android Market. It looked like this:


Not bad! I was proud - it stayed up there on top for a whole week! Sadly, I didn't get the sales I was expecting (not that I was expecting hugeness, but I was expecting better). We are still displayed in a smaller capacity this week, hopefully the momentum will continue. I suspect the promotion will wind down in a week's time, but if we are lucky it will stick around for a bit longer than that. Big, big Kudos to Google for working with us to make this possible.

After all that hard work, I did manage one pretty major oversight on my part which I am sure had some effect on things; we should have prepped harder to get more reviews/ratings for Ultra when this feature campaign began. We showed up with about 10 5-star user rankings, which is nice, but considering that all the other apps on that list had close to a hundred, if not thousands of rankings. I blame myself for that oversight; we got some ranks in once the new downloads poured in, but the system seems backed up and they haven't been displayed for over a week now.

Anyway, more things are still going on with 180, but now the big push is really past for all that I can do. Expect more news when it's ready.

So what else is going on? Sharp-eyed folks may have seen some teaser images for new titles in development - GunHead and Trapdoor, both of which have been discussed here quite a bit. Development is continuing in earnest on both titles, and a 3rd has just begun development as well. Need I mention that it is an exhaustingly busy period? All 3 titles will see release by the year's end, in fact the non-GunHead ones *should* release within a month's time if all goes according to plan.

There's a lot more to say, but really I must get back to business. Thanks for checking in and being supportive!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Game Development Blog #59

Game Development Blog #59


"WORK TIMES A BILLION"

Yes, the chips may be down, but that won't stop me from putting out a little update discussing what is going on. Here's the skinny - my home internet connection is offline for about 2 weeks and change (horrors!) Before you make fun of me, it's actually a fairly critical time for that to happen as I am spending a huge amount of time talking to many different people about lots of important business-type dealings right now (selling stuff, ya know). I am regularly getting contracts and agreements, printing out/signing/scanning/reuploading. What used to be fairly easy in the span of 15 minutes now requires that I run back and forth between various physical locations to handle such things (exacerbated by the fact that I haven't a car either). It's nice that the cafe up the street has free wifi, so I can't complain too much. Likewise, as I am in early development on two new titles, this is when I usually am hip-deep in reference digging (something that must often be done while I am fleshing things out at the beginning of a creative cycle). So my work-style has been taking a fairly dramatic hit; I am doing the best I can.

On the upside of all of that, I am pleased to report that all of this means that things are generally very busy for me. I am finally past active development with 180 in (nearly) any way shape or form - while we are still figuring out the Casual Mode (now called Strategy Mode), it's a bit of a slow process and my role is diminished while the programmer does his part. Meanwhile things have ramped up considerably in production for GunHead as the Android version is finally coming to life a bit, and (at last) I am in the thick of it developing assets. I could go on for pages about asset dev for this game, but I think I will save it until I am a bit further in. it's a kick for real :)

The other cool news is that things are finally getting dusted off for Trapdoor once again. Yes, this is the very first mobile game that I'd ever written any kind of documentation for, and it's been sitting on the backshelf for a long time while other things have come and go. At last, a programmer and I have decided to take advantage of the coming long Labor Day weekend and just do a little "game jam" and attack the thing. It is exciting to work on a small, short-term project, and I am eager to get through the process and see how we fare. I don't expect we'll have a fully-functioning product by the end of the phase, but if we can get a good way through it with more than a bare skeleton, that will be pretty awesome; then a couple of weeks or so to polish it, and (at last) another release to unleash upon the unsuspecting world!

There's a lot more to say, but hey - I have to get back to work.

BONUS: Must-read! "How to do make Media Kits, Retro Dreamer Style!"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Game Development Blog #58

Game Development Blog #59

"THE BEAT GOES ON'"

Just a quickie update tonight, since it's been a bit since I've put anything in here.

1st and foremost, we launched the 180 Player's Guide (LINK) at the beginning of the past week. A lot of hard work went into putting this together, and the goal is to help show some of the more casual players the route they can take to get more depth out of their experience with 180. The guide is still considered a work-in-progress, and more tips and strategies will pop up in the near future now that the framework is laid out. So, be sure and check back often to see what else shows up! Be sure to send in your own favorite techniques if you would like to see them appear in the guide.

We had a promotion on the Nook this past week as well, they gave us a mention on Facebook and in their blog, which we appreciate. It's been a very happy surprise to see that our game is doing fairly well in that market, and the sales have been quite strong relative to other markets. I am hopeful that the momentum will keep up! Other developers should certainly consider publishing on the Nook market as well - it's still early and young, and there's a lot of room to shine!

Work continues on our new game GunHead as well. It's very slow and sluggish, but it's progressing. We are considering putting together a fancy-pants trailer to help get some eyeballs on this game; also in the early stages, but the potential is very cool and I am very hopeful that we can just knock it right out of the park with this one. I am working very hard to make it happen!

Not much else to report on at the moment - it's been a very exhausting time lately, and quite a bit stressful as well. Looking forward to smoother and more easygoing days in the future, but for now it's just hunkering down and doing the best I can! Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Game Development Blog #57

Game Development Blog #57

"SOOO TIRED...SOOOO TIRED'"

Strap in once again for another development update! And kiss this huge banner goodbye because it needs to be replaced with a much smaller one.. soon.

180 - "yes I am still talking about this!" Cannot believe we are knocking on the door of 2 years since I first started working on this little game. And now here it is, "all grown up!" Anyway, here's the story on 180 - we've launched about a week and a half ago on the Nook App Store, by Barnes & Noble. If you are an Android developer and you don't know what the Nook is, you are doing yourself a disservice and would do well to quickly educate yourself. I'll say this much - the money I am making from Nook Store sales are really trouncing the sales I've had for this app anywhere else, regardless of platform. I look forward to putting more apps out for their device in the future, it just makes sense!

I am working hard on a "Tips 'n Tricks" strategy guide for 180 which will be available on our in-game store. It's a free guide, just click over to "More Apps" to access it when it goes up - hopefully later this week (there's a lot of work left to do with it!) Also to note, some serious progress has been made with our Casual Mode (probably going to be called Strategy Mode). I can't say when that will release, hopefully the wait won't be much longer. We want to test it enough and make sure it's proper fun!

Otherwise, we do have some other big plans for 180, some things which have been bubbling over in the background for a long time now. I'll keep mum until it is appropriate to say, but I will say that there's a few things and they are quiet big (and good reason to be excited about). I'll also say that it's stuff I and my team have been laboring long hours over, and it's come at the cost of other developments, when you are a tiny outfit you can only produce so much! So in that regard, thanks to our fans for sticking it out and keeping the torch burning!

GunHead - things are picking up speed with this title, which is really intended to be Headcase Games' big release of 2011. Sadly it is quite behind (as mentioned above) and I shoulder the blame for that, but I'd really rather take some time to get it right rather than just hustle it out. I am getting quite excited as the big, important pieces are finally coming together (well, in a pre-production sense) but really I need to take some time and just immerse myself in the project, so it can be guided properly. Don't worry, it is in good hands :) Everyone I have discussed the project with is enthused, and if we nail it, this could be "one of those games" that people have been waiting to show up on the App Store. So keep your eyes peeled. --NOTICE-- I am seeking the aid of a (traditional) 2D animator for some promotional help with this project, you should contact me ron@headcaseGames.com if you can help!

Other Projects - yes, as prophesized, things have slipped further into this "lumped-together" category for the time being, and while somewhat remorseful, it's for the greater good. Don't worry, Trapdoor and Hop Cop are still waiting to be given life, and it's not impossible that at least one will show up before 2012. I've another new game which has recently woven it's way into my head as well, and it's a lot closer to 180 conceptually (well.. no flipping!). I've really not got a good idea for a name yet so it's simply being referred to as "Advance" at the moment, although I think it's a horrible name! And here's a teaser for how the gameplay works - think if Luxor and Push Panic were to have a child (that probably counts as more than a small hint) Otherwise, there's still a few other things I am pursuing, I am trying to toe the line as best I can between finding exciting new projects to undertake versus biting off more than I can chew. That's one of the hardest parts of this job.

Bizdev - sigh. I am so busy with all the things mentioned above, and really business development needs to be brought to the fore for obvious reasons. I've officially reached the point where I need another one of me to keep up with everything; I've got dozens of unanswered emails, potential partnerships between distro and development which are covering up with cobwebs simply because I am too busy trying to devote the needed time to my highest-profile issues. In a way I suppose this is one of those "good problems to have," but it also adds up to a few missed opportunities. I really need to find "the thing" right now which is going to get on the fast track to getting everything in line, but the way this is all set up is that I am really a one-man band between design, asset-production, and management (thank God I don't code, and you'll never hear me say such a thing again!) So for those of you who read this and are wondering why you are still waiting to hear back from me, just sit tight, I am working on it!

What Else is Going On - And yes, all the while the game industry at large zigs and zags and poops all over the place. Not unusually, it's a very strange time for this crazy schizophrenic little industry, and what might have made sense some 6 months ago has little bearing on logic and reality Today. One such case is the blow-up over the Nintendo 3DS fiasco, what looked to be an exciting and promising new-generation portable is... still an exciting and promising new-generation portable, but not without a good few bullet holes lining the side of it's hull, what the heck happened Nintendo? This thing has turned into a mess and 2011 as a whole is becoming quite a stinker year for N to date. I do believe they will close out the year with a "decent"showing at the holiday, the new Mario games will help that along; but they shouldn't have to rely on such a predictable crutch for this thing. Nintendo 3DS titles should be flowing "somewhat" by now, there should be some excitement about what's coming up, new and different game experiences not quite like what we've seen before. 3D is an exciting enough tech that, even when somewhat half-realized as is the case with this device right here, at least a small handful of very enticing experiences should be available to play. I mean, they nailed it pretty rocksteady with the damned 8-bit Sega Master System 3D glasses back in the 1980s. That stuff still feels better than what we are dealing with now. Yes this is apples and oranges but really, it should not be. Anyway, this sudden price drop will tilt the scales in Nintendo's favor, but I can't say how significantly.

Meanwhile, it's a scary time for Sony (another tough battle for them) as their new device fees more potentially stillborn in light of these new developments. I still hold onto my word that this thing is going to tank and Sony is completely misreading the market. Only if they price it to go toe-to-toe with 3DS will it still have some real chance to survive in that increasingly crowded marketplace, but I think we can all safely bet that there is now way that thing will clock in anywhere near $200. Who is going to support this thing - awesome device technically with lots of potential, but really just buy a PS3. I'd say this thing had limited opportunity if there wasn't a smartphone market to compete with as well, but in light of that as well it just feels more troubled.

I'm hearing whispers that next iterations of the HD twin consoles will not likely rear their ugly heads prior to 2014. As more time passes, that does feel more feasible. I suspect Microsoft will once again beat everyone to the punch (Wii U doesn't count as this is not a contender for Next Gen, it's a stopgap) - I would not be overly surprised to see a new Xbox launch by Holiday 2013, but I am not thinking it is likely. Maybe the PS4 will launch the following season? It all feels like gazing into a crazy crystal ball. Current generation hardware just seems very capable enough for the time being, still (despite lots of lazy development and horrible, horrible climates surrounding so many bigger game studios nowadays). I think the next generation of consoles will have a very difficult birth.

Meanwhile over in mobile-game-land, things are happy and steady. The scene feels rich and steady, if extremely uninteresting overall. I am not sure what's got things so stagnant, maybe just as enthusiasm was growing in a big way the rug of novelty got pulled out from underneath. There's always a lot of "gee whiz" software popping up here, there and everywhere, and much of it is worthwhile and interesting, but so much of it consists of these half-baked, strictly bite-sized experiences. I rarely download new apps anymore, it feels like it's been my mindset for about a year-and-a-half now. Again, a lot of very capable, very clean product showing up out there, but it's all so boringly safe and uninteresting. The last thing that made me say "oh wow!" was that AR copter-controller hybrid thing. And what the heck happened to that, it was just an expensive toy anyway. Mobile gaming can (and should) succeed based on it's own merits, playing to it's advantage in a myriad of ways that it's competition can't. People still fight/hate the touchscreen interface, and dismiss "smaller game bursts" in lieu of "I need a whole huge campaign to be satisfied." It doesn't work, it bores me, it's been done to death 1000's of times by now. At the same time, my brain stem drips with "what can be done and no one seems to get" and this drives my own spark for development. Granted it's always way easier said then done, but I am doing my best to bring my game properly.

I guess that's it for now, I have a lot more to say but I need to get productive and tackle some actual work. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Game Development Blog #56

Game Development Blog #56

"Train Kept-a-rollin'"

Hard to believe it's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote a development blog. Time is really flying (July's almost wrapped-up!)

180 - We had our Amazon promotion several days ago, and 180 Ultra was featured as the Free App of the Day. This was interesting, and it meant we lowered the full-price $1.99 app on their store to FREE for 24 hours. It went well: the promotion got our game a nice dose of new publicity, and very strong and numerous positive reviews on their store (LINK). It translated to some sales as well, but as one can tell, we haven't exactly maintained the chart stickiness I'd like.. for now. We decided to boost the promo by offering the original iPhone version for free as well, and it stretched into a 2-day promotion on that platform. We netted 15,000 downloads each day on iPhone with that promo, but as our game is a bit long in the tooth on iPhone, it didn't really get much big reception (unsurprising) - that means no notable coverage on bigger sites, no new iTunes reviews (kinda surprised, for so many DLs!) and of course no real sales on iOS following that. I maintain that if we overhaul the game on iOS to match the Android presentation, it might get a little traction, but the game is just really old now and hard to make press on that platform, no matter how you slice it. Still very fun to play, however!

There is still more excitement to come with 180 in it's various incarnations in the coming weeks and months, it's definitely become this beast which hasn't run it's course (in a good way) so I will do all that I can to shepherd it along so far as things will let me. Android is still growing and looking more promising, particularly with all that's been going on behind-the-scenes. Let's see what happens next! Unbelievably, we have over 300,000 downloads of our little game at this point, between iOS and Android platforms!

GunHead - our next high-priority title is nearing production (right now is still pre-production), and it's been very busy moving along. I've got a very early initial build on Android, and a new one is due to come down the pipe very soon. As far as that's concerned, we are early in the process of massaging the control scheme and figuring out what all we can pack into a game of this scope, between memory and manpower. I am hard at work devising an unusually interesting campaign for this one as well; I've learned that utilizing press connections is huge, so I am doing my best to get a very solid presentation together for when we start showing off the game for real. We are aiming to do some unorthodox things with the marketing of this game, and I believe it will be a much smoother operation than our previous title. As for a release date, it's too early to tell, but I am shooting for late Q3. Also of note, we are dual-developing for Android and iOS simultaneously, which should make for an interesting adventure!


Trapdoor, Hop Cop - it's a often bad sign when multiple projects are lumped together into a single bullet point! Sadly, these two games are sitting a little more comfortably nestled into the back shelf than I'd like them to be. It is still my aim to see both titles released by the year's end, but as development duties on GunHead ramp up (and further follow-though with 180, as well) I want to make sure I am not spreading too thin. This isn't to say they are being shuttered, and if I wanted to truly shift focus away from them I'd not even bring them up (I want the names to be out in the air!) One thing is for certain, they will be a but mothballed for the moment; but don't be surprised if I mention some locomotion in those departments at the next Status Update.

Biz Dev - this is a really busy area right now. Especially following the recent promotion, my phone has been ringing off the hook (err, whatever the email version of that would be). I have so many people contacting me right now about a ton of opportunities "we want to partner with you, to do this, that, or the other thing with your game." It's great news of course - but right now I have more people to talk to than I have time to handle, and I am still just trying to catch up in an orderly fashion. Of course you don't simply want to jump on everything that comes your way (some stuff is a bad match, or a waste of time, or simply requires a lot of research before I know what I am talking about, etc). This is one of the "good" downsides of tiny development I suppose, but you have to be careful to be timely, knowledgeable, and responsible because these can be some of the dealings which can truly make or break you. Also, you don't want that business to interfere too much with getting the other projects off the ground.

What Else is Going On - Not much to say, as usual we have hit the speed-bump of summer and all is quite in the gaming world. Things are out and being talked about, but there's no real hype right now and nothing too captivating with any real immediacy, other than "ohhh, I guess a new game or two is coming out." That's the scene on console and PC, and surprisingly it's matched pretty close on mobile as well. I swear, if I ever get to a proper size, I am going to take advantage of the summer doldrums of software releases and make it my holiday simply because there's never any newsworthy competition anyway!

Comic-Con is going on right now, and of course all the nerds flock thataway for a few days of escapism and celebration. I do wish I could be there promoting, but it's not to be. Likewise PAX Prime (Seattle) draws ever nearer, unfortunately I will not be in attendance for that even either. I suppose the biggest event on the horizon which is relevent is IndieCade in Culver City, and that's a good 3 months and change away. We'll see.


Overall, it's a very busy and hectic time. I am excited about what's next and more than anything I want to throw myself into GunHead development, but it's a step at a time. Otherwise, two things - 1. I am looking for the aid of of an Android coder for a quick gig, I need someone ASAP. Pass the word on if you aren't interested - drop me a line at ron@headcaseGames.com and we can get into the details. 2. If you've grabbed 180 on any platform and you enjoy it, please rate and review it wherever you got it from. We are small enough that "every review counts."

Thanks again and see you soon!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

180 for iPhone - FREE for today only!

Yesterday was a big day for Headcase Games!

Our app 180 was featured as Amazon's Android App of the Day! We reduced the price to free for 24 hours and got a LOT of downloads! And the reviews are glowing! (LINK)

Meanwhile our iPhone version App is being featured by the kind folks over at Free App Magic, so we will leave that free until the end of the day on Tuesday, July 12. Grab it now on iTunes! (LINK)


Marked down from USD $1.99 for one (more) day only -

Support us and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, and in the forums!


Want a free copy of 180 for Android? Here's a link to the ad-supported version on the Android Market, play it for 10 hours and the ads will disappear - forever!



Hyper-Gameplay awaits you!




What's next on the mobile front from Headcase Games? In development for later in 2011 you can look forward to retro-arcade fun with Hop Cop, frantic puzzle-action in Trapdoor, and oldschool side-scrolling blasting mayhem in GunHead - details coming soon!

About 180:
20,000 downloads on Android! 140,000 on iTunes! 180 is an insane flipping match-3 drop action puzzle game the likes of which you've never seen before. Launch coins into three-in-a-rows to clear the vertically-descending board. Play alternate colors by flipping coins 180 degrees at any time. Create incredible combos and be rewarded with HUGE scores - just don't let the coins touch the red line at the bottom, or it's game over!

About Headcase Games:
Headcase Games is an independent developer whose members’ previous credits include creative development on console/PC titles Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol, Heroes of Might & Magic IV, Guitar Hero, Knights of the Old Republic II, and several others.

Contact:
www.headcaseGames.com
info@headcaseGames.com

PR Kit available at bit.ly/180a_PR

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Game Development Blog #55

Game Development Blog #55

"Through the Never"

Welcome to another edition of "what's up in developmentpalooza!" Next stop, your Google Reader. Let's get started:

180 - been working hard to go through the motions and get our game up on different stores; this seems key with Android development. Our app has been available in Google's Android Market for months now, and I am happy with the critical reception, but unfortunately we've not got enough downloads to be earning any money (or gaining enough visibility, even). Fortunately, it's done well enough that people opening up different marketplaces have been reaching out to me in various ways. I've been working in the background to move forward with distributing the game through various other outlets, and it's just starting to pop up a little bit now. We've got a presence on MobiHand, on Amazon, and on The9 Chinese store (where apparently "180" translates to "Hawaiin Sensation," according to Google Translation..) This is just the beginning, as I am talking to more places (we've been in submission with Barnes & Noble's Nook for a long time now). More to come, but that's all I can mention for now :)

Of course, just getting on these stores doesn't necessarily mean anything, for a number of reasons. As usual, the important part is figuring out proper promotion and getting any kind of visiblity. Add to that the notion that many of these stores are brand-new, and any kind of "instant gratification" goes right out the window. I look at it thus, "the work to build the game is done for awhile now, let's see if we still cannot get some potential money or use out of it." Of course there's plenty of good reasons not to partner with different stores, but I truly believe that at this stage, the pros easily outweigh the cons, especially with a game/brand which still has yet to make any real impact.

On the side of the actual game 180 itself, further development has frozen to a standstill. There's more I wish to do with it, in fact just this morning I had an excellent idea for a new game mode which should be easy to implement. For now I am content to leave things as they are and push forward with other projects.

GunHead - this app is slowly getting some steam, and I believe we are close to getting an early proof-of-concept ready to pick apart. There's much pre-production yet to be done on this one, but I am excited to push forward with it and am busy writing and maintaining documents to steer it at this early, yet critical phase. I would like to think that a month from now it is possible that there will be something to actually show of it.

Trapdoor - this game is continuing it's legacy as being "here today, gone tomorrow, here the day after that, gone away again some time following that." I've purposefully put it further back in my head as I am quite busy with all the other things that are occupying me these days, but I hope to decide it's fate sooner rather than later.

Biz Dev - as mentioned above, dealing with all the different stores has really been occupying the bulk of my time, and it's not trivial either. Although in the immediate sense it really serves 180, to be honest I want to figure out such things now and then when there's more product to plug, I can just slide them in as they are ready. Meanwhile, I'm still talking about a couple of other interesting things here and there which will come to light as they become more pertinent.
There will be some other news to report in the very short term, but I am keeping my mouth closed for the moment.

What Else is Going On - Not too much exciting. E3 has come and gone and everyone's kind of gone back to "business as usual," the summer creeps toward it's middle and all is quiet in the land of industry news, both macro and micro. Some rumblings here and there have led the press to murmur a little bit about "PS4 and next Xbox successors to be shown at E3 2012" which isn't a terribly huge surprise, in the meantime it feels like a lot of what is going on in gaming right now is just rather stale and tired. I can't think of much which is really dominating headlines, I supposed there are the usual "year-end" games to look forward to but glancing across the various news forums and media outlets, it feels very much like "business as usual," very ho-hum on the humdrum. It's rather disappointing, as a year ago we were all looking forward to a rather exciting fall and then holiday season; 2011 will just be a carbon-copy of 2010, it seems.

As for mobile, things are likewise fairly lackluster these days. The novelty of doing this/playing cellphone games really seems to have worn off, and seeing Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds still dominating the top of the charts is no longer something I am merely unhappy about, it's just like looking at a static screen. With all the development and excitement surrounding this scene, why are we still so frozen in time a year later - and what can we do to break free of this? I feel as if there was a lot of enthusiasm and it had such a strong head of steam for awhile, but now it looks like there's not a clear vision/market leader to dictate where things should be, they just stagnate. Games and Apps that released 2 years ago were honestly much more novel and interesting (if limited) than much of what passes through now, and people don't seem to feel one way or the other about it. This is a waste; it inspires me to "fill in the blanks" on my own, between my work and those of other developers I respect, but really the entire scene is still so immature and disconnected that it really cannot happen. Considering that the media (and really, the publishing entities) have such strong and stable infrastructure for controlling the flow of this stuff, it does kind of make me a little disappointed in these bigger establishments for happily "sitting by the sidelines" while things sort of doggie-paddle around.

Of course, this is mainly iOS I am whining about, and the Android scene is even further into the stone ages; however, just because technology and "connectedness" are well in place, doesn't mean any kind of a thorough underlying support system necessarily can be, as well. If nothing snaps in to make it happen, then it must grow organically, and that takes time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Game Development Blog #54

Game Development Blog #54

"Brain Drain"

Been longer than I'd like since I've updated my development blog. What can I say, busy times! Unfortunately that means I will have to keep this one short, but I will also try to make it sweet. And off we go..

E3 was a blast this year. Very exhausting, tons of meetings/discussions/etc. I didn't really get too much opportunity to actually tour the convention hall, and there's quite a lot I want to say about what I did say. Here's my short response, then:

Kinect - don't care (though I am interested to see Child of Eden). Potential is still interesting, but for now they seem to (obviously) marketing this one towards the younger set.

PlayStation Move - saw this for the first time. It looks silly and glowy. Can someone out there recommend to me what is the "must-see" game for this thing?

Wii U - hate the name, but also I am feeling underwhelmed by what Nintendo is trying with this device. It reeks of "Apple is scaring us" and my only thought is "non-portable iPad with buttons." I think they need to go back to the drawing board with this thing.

3DS - what was shown at the show should have been there a year ago, and should have launched with the device this past Spring. Some good games, made me actually feel like "If I had the money I would probably buy a 3DS now" but nothing that really blew me away. Fun fact, 1st time I ever played with a 3DS was at the show this year. Man, that thing is cramped in my adult hands :/

Mobile - nothing to see here, sadly. That's why Headcase Games hosted a meeting of indie and mobile developers on the 2nd day of the exhibition - it was very successful, and I was sad that it ended so quickly before I got a chance to talk to most of the people I had wanted to. That's, of course, better than what could have been the alternative (if no one showed up and nobody to talk to).

180 - our little game has been making the rounds on Android for a couple of months now. We've recently gone live on the Amazon App Store for Android (that's.. such a mouthful) and are not far away from getting on the Nook store as well. It's been a very slow rev-up, but finally there is a little light coming at the end of what's been quite a long and dark tunnel! We are getting probably over 10,000 plays per day between all platform versions of the game, which is great - but more than that people are starting to notice it and I am getting contacted by bigger and bigger people about "what are we going to do with this thing next." In some ways it's a surprise (puzzle game, Android market is typically very unfriendly, the title is "older") but at the same time I've long stood by my beliefs that it is just a really well-assembled product, it's very fun to play for hardcore and casual gamers alike, it's well-suited for the platform. I am happy to finally be getting a real chance to bring it to the masses, but of course that road is still a long one. Developers take note: get on Android. Seriously, start putting your stuff on that market and getting familiar with how that place operates. It's not like Apple, in good and bad ways. They are hurting for even a fraction of the stuff that's up on iTunes, and if you can get some nice product on there, it is a battle but you will actually stand a chance of getting some notice. There is a huge tidal wave of Android right about to break, yes this has been said many times, but it is coming for real and you really want to be there with your surfboard when it comes. "Oh, fragmentation of the hardware.. oh, the marketplace is crappy.. oh, no one actually pays for stuff on that platform" Get over it. If you want a chance to get a piece, you had better be willing to step up; otherwise, be content to keep living under Apple's Tent forever where the competition is unbelievable, and odds are you won't get any lasting interest in your indie-developed productions any more.

Trapdoor - this is almost a fascinating story by now, in it's way, but TD has started to become a truly on-again-off-again project for me. I am still deciding what's the best plan for this title, lately I have been thinking about collaborating with another developer to produce it. An exciting proposition, I will get on it when the dust clears (otherwise it'll just be me and a programmer)

GunHead - I have referred to this project in past blogs, probably over 6 months ago, but only very rarely and never by name. Well, now it's got a working title! Those who have been listening have heard me say that this is a retro-themed side-scroller. I typed up an exhaustive document for it recently (the 1st of a few) and have some people actively helping on the pre-production. If I madk one game this year, this is the one I am most excited to release! I will tease some more info/assets soon. This is actually going to be kind of a crazy project :)

Hop Cop - Another new game, and the first idea I've had for something in awhile that I've actually sketched out a bit. This one will be a somewhat smaller project, and I'll say this.. it's a driver with puzzle elements. Or is it the other way around? This game will be entirely on the opposite end of the spectrum than GunHead in many ways, but somehow I feel the two will coexist nicely and help define what Headcase Games should mean to many people.

Biz Dev - I think I just broadly covered all that is going on, as far as I'm at liberty to talk about. It's nice to be spending a lot of time lately actually having some serious high-level talks about things, and signing some actual contracts. I will be looking forward to setting up an LLC at some point soon, finally :)

What Else is Going On - Otherwise, I am still trying to scare up some freelance work of any sort to get some hands-on money in the meantime. Hit me up if you need "things" (design, assets, etc). I am actually quite busy trying to procure some things along those lines. My personal life is interesting as usual, with the regular weirdness and constant crazy stories that comes from being a citizen in a place like Hollywood. The stuff I can actually remember, anyway.

Anyway, lest you forget, get on Android!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E3 Day One: Hitting the Road!


E3 Day One: Hitting the Road!


Greeting sports fans! Yep it is Day One for E3 for me (1st day of exhibits, anyway) and I am not long from grabbing a subway ride across town to the Convention Center. Was skeptical of "should I go today?" since there's a bigmeetup to deal with tomorrow, but I suppose I should at least get myself somewhat 1st-person informed so I will know what everyone is talking about when that does happen. Anyway, I'll likely post a video recap of today's experiences this evening, but in the meantime here's a couple of stray pre-show thoughts to wet your whistle.

Conferences - watched these (in different degrees) from home (they are broadcasting lots of stuff here at Gametrailers.com). My thoughts as follows:

• Xbox 360/Kinect I only saw the later part of this conference, so it was all their "casual Kinect-looking stuff." Can I say after 3 years I am tired of hearing MS trumpet about Natal/Kinect so much. I understand it's purpose, and yes it is fun to play for a bit. All that is being done with it is not terribly exciting however (would I love to take a crack at designing a Kinect game? Certainly!") All the kid-based casual stuff makes my stomach turn, but then I guess they really need to compete with that growing marketplace

Sony Well, they certainly came with a lot of strong 1st and 2nd party games. Everything looks solid, and.. man.. there's a lot of competition in FPS land. Not much really to get my motor roving about, however, and a surprising lack of Japanese support. Whoa. As for their Next Generation Portable, now called "Vita" - I dislike the name, and I think the device is a bit misaligned, but I think it will find it's fanbase. Too early to say. I will rant on this later.

Nintendo Just finished watching the live broadcast of this conference. I'll sum up my feelings thusly; 3DS looks rad (should have shown this all a year ago and they are paying for it now), and the new console - dubbed "Wii U" - there's a lot of reactionary posts going on right now, and this is one of them. I think it feels like a half-step, personally. This is Nintendo simultaneously trying to argue with both Microsoft and Apple. This thing looks like an iPad with buttons. It doesn't look "bad," and if they can truly come with visuals that (even somewhat significantly) trump the current-gen hardware, then the masses of graphic whores will eat it up. The big-screen as a controller however, that's another story. For so many years N has been all about "gimmick, gimmick, gimmick" and I think it's getting a little tired. The 3DS gimmick is still sort of early to call, and I do think that "personal screen system" would do well in a vacuum - but they are competing against too many successful devices with this thing. All of Apple's products are going to keep pushing, PS3 will potentiallyhave some strong Vita-console crossover, and ironically enough the Wi U could be competing with 3DS!

Anyway there's some initial thoughts to chew on. I'm out to the con right now - watch this evening for a YouTube Wrap-up, and thanks for tuning in :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

E3 2011 Mobile/Indie Developer Meetup

E3 2011 Mobile/ Indie Developer Meetup

Link(click flyer to enlarge)

FYI: The RSVP list for this event is nearing capacity. Once it is full, people are still welcome to show up, but it will be a 1st come/1st served situation for the waitlist. Feel free to email me still & I will put you on the waitlist - thank you!

Join Headcase Games & friends for a gathering of independent & mobile game developers at BottleRock in Downtown LA (yelp), across the street from the Convention Center at this year's E3!

Please email me to let me know if you are planning to attend! We need some idea of how many people want to show up so we can schedule an appropriate reservation in advance (it will make things easier!) Feel free to forward this post around, here's an easy shortcut - bit.ly/E3indieMeet2k11

Thanks for your help & look forward to seeing you!


Shameless plug :P pick up our game 180 for Android and iPhone!

.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Retro Game of the Day! Midnight Resistance

Retro Game of the Day! Midnight Resistance

Midnight Resistance by Data East, released in 1990 in the arcade and shortly afterward on the Sega Genesis.

I was always surprised that more developers didn't rip-off Konami's ├╝ber-popular action game Contra in the 1980s and 1990s. It was one of those games, like Mario or Zelda, that everyone had and loved and played over and over - also, the design wasn't particularly complicated (or so it seemed). For the most part Konami had this whole genre on lockdown.

For this reason, when another half-decent run'n'gun showed up, any self-respecting vdeogame fan would take notice. Thus when Midnight Resistance appeared in the arcade, it was absolutely worthy of plunking a few quarters into.

Very quickly, it became apparent that MR was quite dissimilar to Contra. Though the theme was familiar, and it was a 2-player simultaneous game, the gameplay was quite different. Contra was loose and fast, with an emphasis on "plow forward, scavenge for pickups, and dodge/destroy relentlessly." MR was a bit of s slower and more calculated affair; for starters, the input was unusual (similar to the older Ikari Warriors cabinet, there were rotary joysticks which controlled your weapon aiming). This was a unique method of input, particularly considering that this was a side-scrolling platform game rather than a vertically-scrolling top-down where such controls were more prevalent.

Also of note, unlike Contra you had to collect currency (in the form of keys) to "unlock" different weapons between rounds. The most important point to mention is that, owing to the unusual control setup, the entire game plays very differently from your standard side-scroller.

The game showed up (with little fanfare) on the Sega Genesis home console some time later, which was notable as there were absolutely no run'n'guns (straightforward, or otherwise) available at the time. The game looked and was laid-out faithfully enough to the arcade source, but the control setup was less successfully translated than the aesthetic. It was fun, but certainly not the "butter smooth" experience that a "spoiled Contra veteran" would have expected (and they even ditched the 2P feature, come on this is 16-bit!)

Overall Midnight Resistance is a worthy title which has stood the test of time, due to it's unique presentation, cool 80's Action-Hero motif and appreciable alternative to "vanilla Contra." It's a game which many players could still find some enjoyment out of today, and it's absolutely worth a look.


Pick up our popular iPhone app 180, now available for Android - FREE!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Game Development Blog #53

Game Development Blog #53

"This is a Call!"

Greetings once again and welcome to another edition of "blog" by "Headcase Games!" Not so unusually, I have taken it upon myself to shake things up slightly around here with a new banner and a new feature announcement, as well, so without further adieu I present to you:


That's right! Periodically within this journal, we will take a look at other independent developers, short-form interview-style (focusing on, but not strictly limited to the mobile gaming scene). In the past few years of this operation I've made some wonderful contacts, and it's a very exciting time to pick some of their brains and see how things are going from their POV in the different aspects of development. Likewise it's very interesting to see what people's opinions are of what's going on in the gaming scene lately, both micro and macro.

So! I will be hitting up folks for some dev-on-dev action in the near future. If I do not know you and you'd like to participate, please drop me a line. I've a long-running blog with a decent readership, and this is an excellent way to connect with others in the scene as well as get a little focus on your own products. Don't be shy!

And now, on to the rest of the news:

180 - well, we've just passed our 1-month milestone since Android release. It seems like it's been out a lot longer for some reason :) Anyway, the game is doing alright, as usual there are good and bad things to report. It's still quite early to tell the ultimate result of this particular project, but at this point I am happy with the numbers we've got downloaded (>100 for the $1.99 paid version, >12,000 for the free ad-supported version). By comparison, a year ago we got about 600 or 700 downloads of our paid iPhone version to sell nearly immediately, and our free version (labeled as such) without any ad-support never really moved many units at all, or with any real traction.

The bad side of it is that despite some very nice "launch speed," our download rate has dropped off dramatically. It's still very difficult to compare due to lack of DL data for the first few weeks (a glitch in the system, not our fault) but where we used to get thousands of Android DLs/day, we now are lucky to barely break 100. If this persists it won't be too bad, but if it slows down (as I'd expect it to) then it is not a good sign as it means the app hasn't got "legs" such as it is, and word of mouth is not properly propelling it. Our active install percentage is dropping by degrees (it seems 1 in 2 downloaders delete the app) which means that many people probably are not playing it more than momentarily. This speaks to the "old school" design of the game, which just throws you into the action and expects you to catch-up - it seems many gamers want to have their hands held with clearly-defined goals and constant immediate gratification even if they play badly. That's my off-the-cuff assumption anyway. Still, I appreciate our game for what it is, rather than what it is not, and I still think it is resonating properly with enough people who "get it" that I won't say we were wrong for designing it the way we did.

As an addendum, we are preparing to develop the casual mode update shortly, which might be more digestable for today's mobile gamer, and serve as more of a draw overall. I still haven't touched it since before last I wrote, but hopefully we can turn it around in short order depending on what life will allow.

The good news, on the other hand, is that something pretty fancy is happening with 180 and I am very happy about it. In some ways it's really the best thing that's happened to HCG since this development's inception. I am not at liberty to talk about it for the time being, but unlike many other "positive prospects" previously mentioned in this blog's history, this one has finally moved past a threshold where things are actually in motion and I don't have to sweat it as much anymore. It really is a relief and I am keeping a sharp eye on what's next with that development, and I'll be sure to spill the beans in this journal as soon as I am able.

Trapdoor - unsurprisingly, things are still in a serious holding pattern for this project. There is some preproduction work moving, but the proof-of-concept is what really needs to get into motion, so hopefully this can move forward soon. I've recently decided to to with upgrading this from "release it as simply as possible" to "inject some honest-to-goodness character in it, therefore making it more marketable." It will likely extend the already-overdue production schedule of the project, but it would be nice to make this a game where there's a chance people might actually want to DL it to :) I must reiterate that though the gameplay will be quite old-school and light, it will still be fun and worthy of the HCG brand name.

Biz Dev - well, really only one thing to say in this regard:



That's right! Holy cow, E3 is nearly upon us, it's just few short weeks away. As I live merely a few subway stops away from the convention center, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that I will be in attendance. E3 is a lot of fun but especially for us indies, it's all about the business: be sure to drop me a line (<-email link, of course) if you are a member of the media, another developer, or even a fan of our games and we can make a plan to meet up during the show. It's my goal to talk to as many people as possible, so once again "don't be shy." I've certainly got a lot to say about my present projects and future plans..

That will wrap up today's post, and just in time too because I have a ton of work to do! As usual, HCG needs your help - please watch & spread our "Hipster Game Development Blues" video



And be sure to grab our game 180 as well!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Game Development Blog #52

Game Development Blog #52


"EXHAUSTIPATED"

Greetings, faithful Head-heads! It is time for another installment with Yours Truly. Let's nosedive into the wonderful and weirdo world of app development and kick off with the typical State of the Union:

180 - alright now even I am tired of writing about it! But, I do still enjoy playing this game - I think after all of this time, the very game I made has gone onto become my most-played, ever - and if not, then damn near close to it. That is a little hard to believe. Anyway, here's the latest news on this project: we've finally got a brand-new website redesign to flaunt, which has been a long time in coming (and should really have been completed prior to the Android Launch, but what can you do). I was on the heels of doing some emergency-redesign work for my friend's videogame coverband website, and it helped me get a little kickstart; I am happy with the results. I still need to rework the general HcG and RetroGame websites, but those are fairly low-priority for now.

We've been promoting a YouTube video today, a friend shot some off-the-cuff footage of me talking about my recent release (as he was documenting me doing some deliveries for a document about Los Angeles Food Trucks!) I think the video came out well, it's funny and flows well (if a bit low-budget, which is fine). Please watch the video and share it with your friends if you enjoy it, if we can get some views than it will only lead to good things for 180 and for me.

Progress on further development of 180 is frozen for the moment, but the Android programmer and I have decided to proceed with investigating the aforementioned Casual Mode further. As previously mentioned in this column, the early prototype was quite fun and the mechanics lend themselves wonderfully to a modified experience (without just feeling like a "tweaked game mode"). I'd like to spend a little time to flush it out, so no one should expect it to show up for a little while (maybe a month?)

And now for the moment you are waiting for, what kind of numbers is 180 doing? I am happy and sad, at the same time, to report that while we've passed 10,000 downloads of (our ad-supported version of) 180 on the Android, the download rate has been dropping off considerably. About 50% of our installs are active and that number is slowly deteriorating. What this means is that we have a great starting base, but (as expected) the follow-through longevity is quite difficult. As we've still got very light visibility across the board, it's imperative to find a way to strengthen our brand. I need to do another "pass" at appealing to YouTube and website reviewers, but as mentioned before many of those guys are beyond slammed with requests these days that it becomes hard to get their attention "if they don't already know you" (and often times, even in such a case).

I have spent time familiarizing myself with the workings of AdMob, and surprised to see that we are pulling in a couple of bucks a day (literally) from our ad-support. This is going to be heavily reliant on building and maintaining our active installs, which would ideally be about 2-3X greater than it is right now (for starters). A couple of bucks a day is not bad, but it's tough to consider that a worthwhile profit in the longer term. I have no qualms putting out strictly "free-to-play" but if you have <10k minimum active players, that's really not worth having anything in release. I say all this with the caveat that yes, we are not even a full month into our release yet, and as this platform is still relatively new (and our brand is quite new) that I expect over time these numbers will grow into something more satisfactory. I have much more to say on the whole AdMob monetization system and will touch on it again in the future.

Trapdoor - "the next" title from Headcase Games, sadly, not much progress has transpired since last I have written. Although some solid work has been done, it's still at an early enough state where the project isn't self-motivating yet. Ideally I'd still like to release this game before July of this year, and if it happens during that month I will be fairly happy as well. Hopefully there will be some brighter news to report by the next update!

Biz Dev - I am always putting myself out there to some degree, and the attention that 180 (in its various forms) gets me makes it a little easier for opportunities to find me sometime, as well. As a result, good things pop up on the radar time and again. Sometimes they progress, other times they wind up a goose egg. I've got a couple great-sounding prospects lined up at the moment, but as it's still sitting at a cross-road, I'll keep mum until there is more to tell. This is one of the more exciting parts of doing this business, and even when such deals poof out, I do feel ecstatic to know that I made some really good headway under my own steam!

What Else is Going On - The calm before the storm once again, as the dark looking shadow of E3 slowly winds its way toward our timid little town. Inside of a month, things will be upside down once again. E3 last year was a crazy time, and I can't say I know what to expect this time around. I don't really expect to be out in force heavily promoting anything this time, and as time and money are very tight, I don't think I'll be going too crazy one way or the other. I will be out and try to make some connections though, as it is always good for that. Fans, fellow devs, potential business partners, feel free to drop me a line if you'd like to meet up.

Otherwise, things are quiet. I still would like to get my hands on Portal 2 at some point, and it's been fascinating (in an infuriating way) to watch the fallout from this PSN network outage. I am currently seeking employment in one way or another (to keep paying rent) so wish me luck on that in these dark and dry times!