Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Game Development Blog #51

Game Development Blog #51


180 - Heyyyyynow, it's 2 weeks since we've launched this on Android. What does it look like? Here's what's going on:

- numbers: just shy of 10,000 downloads of our free version, mayyyyybe? It's hard to tell. Google's App Developer Console seems to be notoriously messy when detailing exactly what actual download numbers are like - I have no idea what to think. For those who love math, we've received a good 120,000 (or so) impressions on Admob, which translates to about $2 a day. Perhaps from there you can deduce our install base. As for our paid game, Console says we are 1 shy of 50 sales. I'm fine with that, it's much more important to me at this point that we have a larger growth of our free edition.

- a few updates have released, and substantial ones at that. Nothing really new content-wise (which you could tell), but performance-wise the new build appears to be much more pleasant than the initial release. I am kind of kicking myself for "jumping the gun" and releasing without testing more, but there's a lot of good reasons that we did it when we did. I think our initial release was our first actual "proper" beta test unfortunately (it is extremely hard to find willing testers, most people aren't interested). Regardless, Alex churned out a new edition in record time so I don't think we were to hurt by it.

- marketing was really difficult, in many ways I still feel like I am in the thick of it. It's probably the truly hardest part of development, particularly for a game like 180. I'd hoped our little gimmick would get us some press, and it did get us a little (and no doubt the lion's share of those 10k downloads), but even worse than ever before we were largely ignored by press and calls for reviews. We did get a little, and for that I am thankful (you know who you are) but very disappointed that there is just so little interest in newsworthiness of a decent (at least) Android release, especially at a dead-quiet time in the news. I know, "it's a puzzle game" but on the flip side of it, as I might have mentioned before - we have had really tremendous response from the people who actually have picked up the game, in fact way better than we have ever received with the original iOS version. I am rather disappointed in my media connections as well (people I'd written with/to before) as most of those just ignored us, ad it's not like I have been quiet in the meantime. Again, this just goes to show the state of independent development on Android right now; it's still sort of a quiet place, and this is a shame.

- what's next for 180 - I am tidying up some social business on the promotional side of things, I still have some contacts to reach out to, and I have a "physical marketing" campaign to tend to which should execute as this week wraps up. I am looking at a heavy load of design work and editing before I reach the other end of that. We're definitely on the downward slope of the campaign with this thing at this phase, but it's certainly worth giving a last strong push as it finishes getting launched. The numbers look pretty good (I'd be happy if they were at least doubled) but I'd like to think there's still some room to move that. Keep an eye out for future interesting marketing promotion from us very soon, and if all goes well, a little burst of press if we get lucky.

- future updates for 180 - now that the existing product is in a nice post-launch state of decent function, I am gonna lay off my programmer and let him have some time to cool off (especially as I've other things to deal with). When we pick it back up again (which will happen if things don't go flat) I want to focus on refining the Casual Mode which we started to prototype. Even in an early phase it was quite fun and I think could only make the whole package that much stronger/easier to sell, in fact I think in some ways it would be more well-received by the audience. I think we could realistically turn it around in a couple of weeks, but as we're busy with other things I'll just leave it on the shelf for the time being.

- what about 180 for iOS? Hey, good question! I've packaged up all the new assets and sent them over to the iOS programmer for consideration (different guy than the Android coder). He's looking into a new way to package the graphics on his end (which will no doubt be a bit of work) and this means potential inclusion of the new HD assets (retina display resolution). Likewise we've talked about integrating Game Center, and then the "future planned modes" (Casual Mode et al) As usual I will say if our downloads on the Android side pick up dramatically then there's a decent possibility that a release of an iOS update will occur sooner rather than later; long story short, no one should be holding their breath for this in any near amount of time.

Trapdoor - yay! It's a new IP from HcG! I've bantered about it a little here and there, but now I finally feel it's close enough to becoming a reality that I can start posting official status updates on this project. I've been talking and thinking a lot about TD lately, documents have been written and reviewed, and prototyping is soon to come. I'm still deciding what stylistic route to go, and talking with some artistic collaborators as well; like anything else I do, TD will be an experiment, but I am hoping to keep it a lightweight one so that it can see release in a relatively short window. As of this writing it's definitely going to be an Android product, but I am doing what I can to facilitate release on other platforms as well. I have some pretty interesting idea for how I'd like to handle the production of this game (basically, I want to keep it "open to the public") and if that does happen, you can expect to see a lot of details (and perhaps even freely accessible betas) very soon. It is important to note that this game is intended to be a fairly casual/ligt affair, simpler by degrees than something like 180; that doesn't mean it can't still be a successful, quality product however.

Biz Dev - holed up as I usually am, not really talking with folks too much right now about anything other than all I have outlined above. There's a few important things bouncing around in my head that I'd love to proceed with development-wise, but first things first. I do have 2 different mobile games (unrelated to 180 or TD) that I really want to see go into & through production before this year is out, if that can happen I will be very happy. I have some wonderful game ideas gnawing at my soul and demanding development, and I really want to get busy bringing them to reality as soon as humanly possible. As usual, this depends on a lot of other things to happen first. Otherwise, we've got a bunch of events to look forward to (E3 is a month away) and that is always a very busy time. And to top it all off, I need money so I have to spend some time seeking an income source (and then working if I can actually pick up some kind of gig)

What Else is Going On - yeah, the world of gaming is topsy-turvey, what else is new. this whole PSN mess is unnerving to say the least (umm.. can I cancel my account?) To be frank, hackers really scare me. Not what they've ever done historically.. that I am aware of, anyway.. but the potential they are sitting on, especially as things get more political and more "cluelessly connected." This is just a chilling sign of things to come. Otherwise, Portal 2 has released, my oft-proclaimed "most-wanted game of 2011" and while still true, I am am too busy/broke to pick it up for now. That's fine, I will get my paws on it at some point.

We played Kinect at a friend's house last weekend, it was the first time I have ever seen it. Definitely a very rough-around-the-edges setup that Microsoft have released, it doesn't deliver on some of the perceived promises (no 1:1 from anyone, ever!) but in spite of it all, I still left the experience impressed with what they've accomplished. I can't say I know what the future holds for Kinect (I don't think I'd say it is "bright," it still just feels like a big gimmick), but I definitely would love the opportunity to design games for such an interface someday, the gameplay potential is huge!

This will wrap-up for today's entry! As usual, keep an eye out and do what you can to help spread the word on our game - it means everything, going forward!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Retro Game of the Day! SimCity

Retro Game of the Day! SimCity

SimCity by Nintendo, released in 1991 for the Super Nintendo.

Will Wright's classic creation, and certainly one of the game-changers of the industry back in its day. SimCity appeared years earlier on personal computers, but my first taste of this incredible game was on the Super Nintendo. Alright, let me rectify that - I had a prior glimpse of the game running in all it's black-and-white glory on a Macintosh, but my "spoiled by Nintendo" eyeballs were a little put off by the aesthetic. Besides, the screen was just so full of.. stuff.. how could this be any fun?

Answer: easily! SimCity was one of the first "interactive computer toys" to really enjoy widespread popularity on such a huge scale, and certainly launched one of the most successful and longest-running franchises in the history of the medium (ultimately, The Sims!)

The game tasked you with being the mayor and chief construction officer of a large, empty chunk of land; you were tasked with growing it into a sprawling, self-sufficient metropolis. You needed to lay down all the roads, railways, structures, powerplants, football stadiums, etc. Other responsibilities required the player to zone different areas appropriately (commercial, residential, and industrial) and be sure to position them properly so as to draw inhabitants to your city, to live, work and play. You needed to monitor things like traffic, import/export, taxes, police and fire coverage and of course prevent everything from deteriorating with time. For a Nintendo game, this was unheard-of complicated; but is was presented very brightly and cheerfully, with that usual "Nintendo Charm." It certainly stood in stark contrast to other North American launch offerings, perhaps that was one of the reasons why it was so popular.

SimCity was an incredibly complex game, but it had a certain charm that felt like "Legos for grown-ups" - you built this city (on rock and rolllll) and in just a short time it already started feeling absolutely alive. The game has certainly aged over the decades, but even it's earliest incarnations are still quite fun to just pick up and play from scratch to this day; although it did birth a whole new genre, nothing has ever matched the even keel of simplistic complexity prevalent in this wonderful game.

That's right - our very popular iPhone app 180 is now available for Android!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Game Development Blog #50

Game Development Blog #50


180 - alright, well the cat is out of the bag! After a lot of back-and-forth, we finally released the new rebuilt-from-scratch version of 180 for Android for the first time ever, last week on Tuesday April 12. We didn't make the originally intended "release before the NA release of Nintendo 3DS" but getting out the door before "April 19 - Portal 2" was good enough. Let's take a look at the details of the release.

We've got two versions available on Android Market - 180 Ultra ($1.99 USD) and 180 (Free). Both version are ultimately identical, but whereas Ultra has four gameplay modes and four selectable characters/themes right out of the box, the Free game limits you to one character to start and only the Endless Mode available for play; additionally, Free is ad-supported. The catch is that as you play through the Free game, all of the features will gradually unlock (based on a gameplay-time-release mechanism) charted with a progress bar on the title screen. Play through 10 cumulative hours and you'll get all gameplay modes/characters, as well as the complete removal of all advertising.

It's a bold experiment, this idea had been kicking around in my noggin for a long time now (a year and a half!) I think it could be every successful and the press has taken to it a little bit (generally met with a lot of positive support) as a. people don't like to pay for things and b. people hate looking at advertising. This gives the game a perceived value, and it also gives a choice to those who want to be able to support the developers one way or another. It is obviously too early to tell if this venture will be successful; attaching the monetization method to a game like 180 is both perfect and also difficult (the game is new on Android, but it is still "a puzzle game.")

Very fortunately, the Android community has been awfully positively receptive not only to the monetization technique, but the unique gameplay itself. I do think this game is a better fit for the Android market at this point in it's lifecycle that what the iOS version was to that marketplace when it released; the new HD skin doesn't hurt either. We're a long way to becoming press darlings (we've got a couple of decent-profile mentions), but until a big outlet covers us with a nice review breaking down the game, we are still seeing very light download numbers compared to what we need to be successful and make money. The game has been out nearly 1 week, but it has yet to reach 1/100th of the amount of (paid and free combined) downloads seen on iOS over the course of 9 months. This is just to put some numbers out there, not to set up any sort of expectation just yet; there's still a long way to go.

The Android market is very different culturally than the iOS market, it's simply nowhere near as mature (I don't mean in attitude, rather in accessibility) and therefore is relatively far less friendly to developers of any level trying to promote and make money off their product, in my experience. I expect this to advance slowly but surely, particularly over the course of the next 12 months as the market will certainly become more mainstream and accessible; but it is not an understatement to note that the iOS market has a giant head-start in all aspects of it's culture, pertaining to things like getting word out about one's product and generating/maintaining buzz about an app, from a lay-developer's point of view. Sure, there are many blogs and twitter feeds, and there's plenty of destinations to set up camp where a developer must try to court their audience; but there's simply no dedicated TouchArcade or SlideToPlay where a ravenous and interactive community will embrace interesting productions with relative ease. On the contrary. There are plenty of places where apps get name-dropped, but they all seem to quickly slip over one another and melt into a large "soup," or so I have seen from the research I have done. I do wish I had taken more time to facilitate things in my own case, but as I am part of a very small team, I could only do so much (and it was still a lot of effort on my part).

That all being said, nearly a week out I am still expending a lot of energy courting press, trying to make waves with community, and build up interest with promotions across my social networks in the manner I usually do. It's turning into a lot of clicks for me (which is nice) and a *fair* amount of downloads which is growing at a reasonable, if unimpressive rate. As my main property is free, it is hard to expect that it will grow exponentially without some serious word-of-mouth; I can only hope my "Trojan Horse" (the "free app after 10 hours" gimmick) supported by well-received visuals and top-notch, original gameplay can all combine to weather the early storm of, wait for it, "The Post-Launch Blues."

Meanwhile, I have met with Ben (coder for original iOS version of 180) and discussed going forward with bringing the original title up to speed to match the Android version. It has been alluded to in this column before, and I don't want to make any promises while it is still early; as usual I will say "if Android picks up speed, it will hasten the movement on iOS." Nevertheless, I've bundled up all the HD assets and delivered to him,and he's begun work on investigating GameCenter integration as well as recompiling the project under an updated codebase.

Press -
oldSchoolJunkie interview
giant reddit thread
the Portable Podcast!

Bizdev - I've since written up a treatment for a first draft of the Trapdoor design document, it's fairly thorough and has gone from being a simple game concept to something fairly well flushed-out. I've yet to have follow up meetings with Kyle, who'll be handling coding duties, but he seems excited and we should start actual development on the project real soon to the point where there will be a proof-of-concept (1st playable). This is starting life as an Android project as well, although I am courting other developers for simultaneous development on iOS and WP7 as well; since it's "small" it should potentially be reasonable to carry out development on all three, although there's a lot about working in such a manner that is truly unknown to me as of yet so until anything further is nailed down, I'll remain noncommittal. As usual, I do have a "scheme" in mind with this one; aside from "merely" developing between 3 platforms/split teams at once, I am toying with the idea of doing the project completely open: making all of the documentation, and work-in-progress freely available for the public consumption as the project progresses, to the point where all notes and design documentation are available as they come into being, and betas are freely available for anyone's perusal. This should be a very interesting experience for anyone interested in small-time development to watch from the sidelines. I am still not sure if it's a green-light yet, but I think it would be an excellent way to generate buzz as well as sharing something unique with the community. Keep your eyes peeled.

What Else is Going On - not terribly much, I've been working around the clock up to release and following it. In the interest of keeping this blog from becoming terribly overbloated, I've not got too much into the nitty gritty of a lot of things, but mind that I am exhausted and just so happy to see another project "put forth into the world." I still play 180 all the time (yes, really!) and feel it's one of my most important contributions to game culture so far, and feel very thankful for those who've created it with me - as well as those who appreciate the game and try to help spread the word. Keep it up, we need your help more now than ever :)

Otherwise, things are quiet (fortunately for me) in videogameland. Of course Portal 2 releases in a couple of days (tomorrow, technically) and it is "the one game I am interested in playing this year;" though to be honest, that won't happen for some time. I am interested to see the re-imagining of Rush'n'Attack which has just released for digital download, and as always there's a handful of apps i have had my eyes on for some time. I am (sort of?) surprised by how quickly the buzz around the Nintendo 3DS has defused, I still haven't got my hands on one and while I am interested, not really in a hurry just yet (like many say, let's see some good games come around first!) Of course Nintendo just dropped the bomb at last that "a new console is coming" and that E3 will shed some light on the subject, I think (as usual) people are waiting to see what they say with cautious anticipation. It is interesting, especially to see Nintendo taking the tech-lead in such a manner for once; I am surprised, although I can't say it's got me particularly excited just on that word alone.

That's it for now friends, as usual please support us and we will do our best to please you - the best is yet to come :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

180 for Android Launches NOW!

180 for Android - Available NOW!

Want a chance to win a free app of your choice for your iPhone or Android? We have daily contests - see below!

That's right - our very popular iPhone app has broken through to the Other Side!
The new Android version of 180 is both all-new and very familiar at the same time - we've rebuilt it from scratch, the code is all-new and so are the assets. The game is rendered in beautiful 640x960 resolution, and it looks incredible on a tablet.

Better yet, we've got 2 versions of this great game for Android. 180 Ultra for Android (USD $1.99) features several modes, characters and themes, right from the get-go. However, you can also pick up the standard-issue 180 for Android (FREE). It's got the exact same content as Ultra, you must simply play the game to unlock all the features. Wanna hear the best part? The final unlock removes all the advertisements! Simply play the game long enough (10 hours) and the full game is yours for FREE, with no advertising at all!

180 is an extremely highly-rated game on iTunes and is poised to conquer Android as well. It's a simple pick-up-and-play affair, you'll learn the rules inside of a minute; once you figure out how to play, you'll start to sense the depth of strategy we've designed into this beast. 180 is bright and colorful, but don't be fooled by the friendly looks. This game will make you cry as it builds up your confidence, then crushes you beneath a relentless wall of candy-colored coins. Practice hard and develop strategies and you can easily dominate far into the higher levels, but as the game gets faster you'll have to keep evolving your technique, or you are gonna fall.. hard! The gameplay is quite addictive, so you will learn from each loss and only come back stronger!

(Contest currently inactive)

How'd you like to win your choice of any iPhone App from iTunes, or Android App from Amazon AppStore (max value at $1.99)? Here's the opportunity to do that; come back every day for a new chance to play!

To enter, you must satisfy two conditions:

1. follow @headcaseGames on twitter
2. simply retweet this message at least once a day

That's all there is to it! Winners will be notified by a DM on twitter.
-You must live in the USA to participate
-You must claim a prize within 24 hours of notification, or it is forfeit.

Want to win MORE prizes? Follow us on Facebook, where we hold daily contests!

Now, go grab 180 for your Android - Full unlockable game, with ad-removal - it's FREE!

Also available on iPhone!