Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Game Development Blog #49

Game Development Blog #49

I guess it is time to drop the "iPhone App-" prefix from the title of this blog, since I'm actively working on Android development now; mind that I am not closing the door on iPhone, just taking a brief respite. Anyway, on with the show.

180 - still working on the new version of this game, here I am at the final days of March and though I projected to have the game wrapped up and launched by this point, it looks like we'll bleed a bit (good choice of words, right?) into April. No matter, the app is looking and playing super and I'd rather take a little time and tweak things to be *just right* rather than scoot it out the door before its' time. After what happened with the iOS version (buggered tutorial mode, poorly-received screenshots, badly designed UI) I'd prefer not to repeat those mistakes. That being said, we're at about 95% of asset completion I believe, though a good bit of stuff has yet to be implemented into the engine (mostly character art and a bit of UI elements). The meat of the game is present and playable, it's all running at wonderful performance where we've tested it (higher end of course :P) and with the higher resolution as well. The one part I am really eager to cinch - other than finalizing the tutorial bits and testing them in the field - is to make sure the "monetization scheme" is setup properly and sensible. This is a big experiment for me and I will say plenty about it when the time comes (at launch), if all goes well I may find myself getting some press out of it; that would be killer!

In the meantime here's some WIP screens to whet your appetites, if you've not seen 'em already on the usual networks:

I've spent a lot of time recently investigating the forums, something major that I've learned following iOS is that you don't work long and hard in secret and then just release something to the public in hopes that it will take off in an instant. Unless you are sitting on something pretty crazy (read: cost unbelieveable amounts of time, money and manpower to make, looks easily better than most other things on the market) then most of your intended audience will have no idea/concern who you are and what you are selling. Even with these screenshots I get less than a glance, at this point: but at least I have started and can build from here. As I wrap up production, leaning in heavy with the promotion and marketing is of utmost importance in the time leading up to your launch. It can make a huge difference between 100 people seeing your app, or 1,000, or 10,000.

And even then, you have to be good at talking and singing and dancing, give them some reason to know you and why they should even care. A game like 180 is very difficult to sell based on screenshots, name, and "history" alone. It still needs something more. I am working on that... look at my twitter account, look at my Facebook page(s), my blogs.. all this stuff I have painstakingly built up over time (years), now is opportunity to try and make use of these things - and even then, it's still quite an uphill battle with no guarantees.

Here's some forums I have begun looking at, there's a few I've yet to get into as well. My efforts here haven't been met with much consideration, but I'll get started pushing shortly. I list them here in hopes that others will find this info useful as well...

droidForums.net *
sdx-developers.com *
androidForums.com *

(the starred* ones are links to "coming soon" posts I have started - if you want to help foster some discussion in those threads, i could certainly use the help - even if it is just to say hello!)

Bizdev - I was supposed to write up a full draft for Trapdoor this past weekend, but got caught up with the things I've mentioned. I'll try to spit it out in the next couple of days. It's a small and "simple" game in it's current concept, fun (for sure) but a bit light - I'd like to put my brain on it and pull something a little deeper out of it. That's my "thing" and I don't worry that I could do it, I just need to have a little room to get busy with it. It's difficult to execute on a new project when I am still dealing with half-completed issues from the existing (several-years-in-development, officially) project laying around. But then, that is how things usually go, right?

Otherwise, I am looking to possibly pick up some hefty freelance work (non-mobile gaming) to keep the lights on, and that might slam me pretty hardcore in the coming weeks. The timing is rough but I do need to earn a living, so hopefully it will all work out for the best. We'll see what happens!

What Else is Going On - Of course, the new 3DS has finally launched here in North America, and is rolling out in the rest of the world as well. No pickup for me - last Nintendo device I bought was a GBA Micro (which I loved, excellent system!), in fact I've never had a DS (and barely ever played on to be honest). That's part of the reason the 3DS interests me, I admit - but I believe I've gone over it in this blog at length before, games are getting too heady and full of themselves these days, 3DS looks to me like it represents a step back into the realm of things just being "fun" and that is great - it really appeals to me. If they make some oldschool F-Zero and StarFox-style games for that unit, then sign me up straight away!
Otherwise, not much else to report, I have a backlog of things I am interested in and curious to check out. None of my consoles receives any play, at all, anymore - can't say I miss them (too busy!) though there are a few things I want to get on board with. Likewise, I can't say I've been enjoying much on the mobile gaming scene. That's not to say it's not been brilliantly busy, and there's been a steady stream of interesting activity all over the place. Not much that's captivated me however, once in awhile I will dip in and look and be somewhat interested for a moment and then back out once again. I like a lot of what is going on, but I do feel that a lot of developers are still really "missing the point" and making games which are fighting with these new interfaces rather than taking advantage of it, and that leaves me cold. The audiovisual tech of many of these games are on the money - some remarkably so - but when the busted play control is ruined because my finger keeps swiping over the playfield and obscuring everything, it really just leaves me feeling frustrated. Ah well, it is still early.

Friday, March 25, 2011

DAILY 180 CONTEST: Win Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP!

180 for iPhone - Daily Facebook contest!

Behold, an artistic gaming triumph known only as Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP! It can be yours, son, if you have an iPad and a little bit o' luck!

Simply post a comment in this facebook thread by midnight tonight and you might snag yourself a copy of this wonderful new adventure! US iTunes account only - see full rules here.

Good luck - now get to posting!

Brought to you by 180 for iPhone, coming soon for Android too!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DAILY 180 CONTEST: Win Angry Birds Rio!

180 for iPhone - Daily Facebook contest!

Want to win a copy of the newly-released Angry Birds Rio for iPhone?

Simply post a comment in this Facebook thread by midnight tonight and you might snag yourself one of THREE copies! US iTunes account only - see full rules here.

Good luck - now get to posting!

Brought to you by 180 for iPhone, coming soon for Android too!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

iPhone App Game Development Blog #48

iPhone App Game Development Blog #48

180 - wrapping up Android development of the souped-up version of this game. It's actually been super-busy with that, I have got nearly all the assets rezzed up (still another day or two's worth to do). New UI is designed and being implemented, I am trying my hardest to get the game a decent level more presentable than the previous game (which as I've continuously stated, looks great for what it is but has never been very marketable in screenshots). There's a few funky things going on under the hood for the plan on this new iteration, how it will be marketed and (hopefully) to pull in money. I don't wanna let the cat out of the bag until it's ready, but it might be pretty successful if it catches on. I've never seen this particular strategy used before!

We experimented with a casual mode for the game, and I quite like it. Rather than push forward to launch with it, I am going to pull back and flesh it out a bit more and make it more than just a one-trick pony; the actual development and release of such a mode will certainly depend on the reception following release, but already it's quite fun and I can't wait to get deeper with it. Likewise I have long been planning to make a special "tablet" mode of this game and that will likely follow suit as well, if we get some decent download numbers. These updates could be big and I am excited to produce them! Also on deck is a multiplayer mode, and it would be fairly easy to design that; and it would be super fun to play as well. That's gonna require somee headier tech one way or another, so I am going to still leave that one for down the road as well. Between all these new modes and ideas, we have a case where an already very good game can go onto becoming extraordinary - so, let's see how this plays out!

I intended for the game to launch prior to the NA release of the 3DS; sadly it's not going to happen, but it won't be long now.

Bizdev - regular readers of this blog will recall other projects I have alluded to in the past (the mysterious "3" for example). I've finally begun production on a completely new game, from scratch. It's just barely begun (we are prototyping, and I have to do a full design document pass) but it is underway and I am excited. It's a very "old" Headcase game, in that it's rough design was a predecessor to 180 - but as I am starting out with another new programmer, this smaller project will be a great way for us to begin our collaboration towards bigger things. The game itself is called "Trapdoor," and while it will be a very simple game (less complex mechanics than 180), it will still be quite fun and very accessible. Good old arcade-style and well-suited for mobile gaming. Trapdoor will begin life as an Android title, but hopefully we can get it running on other platforms as well before too long (I strongly believe that iOS is the place to be for games, if one hopes to get real visibility; at least for now!)

Otherwise I was struck by some fabulous inspiration last week and jotted down some notes for a great new game idea, one which had been stewing in a very raw form in my head for several months but always lacking that critical piece that would make it "work" as a mobile game. That element finally came to me, I roughed it out a little on paper, and the project started getting a little life already. I think this game could easily succeed, between the art style, the gameplay, and the interface. It's really one of the no-brainers in that "no one's nailed this genre before" and if properly executed, it should be a shoo-in for being a hit that will sell fairly easily. You have been warned :) Development of this title will commence in some months and could conceivably see the light of day by the 3rd quarter if things go smoothly, but in all honesty it is just too early to say right now. At any rate I am itching to get working on this puppy more than anything else really.

Besides the apps, I am working hard to maintain Headcase Games' social presence(s). Between the various websites, the twitter, the facebook(s), all the contests and routine promotion, it does get a bit bogged down, though after all this time I have managed to get much of it running fairly well on autopilot in a large fashion (I don't have to sink much time/work into many of the parts, but there is still steady enough content being delivered). I haven't covered any retrogame reviews for some ages, although I really intend to resuscitate that in some form or other (at least, on a weekly basis). As I'm just scrambling to oversee the wrap-up and launch of one game while a different one begins it's early stages, it gets hard for me to juggle too much at once, so that is why some things are just quieter than usual.

What Else is Going On - oh my god! To be honest it's a little hard to be so wrapped up in all of my work right now when there's such a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions going on right now. The news is really dominating my mind - it is such a shame, and very upsetting, and it does get hard to concentrate. Living here in Los Angeles, of course all of this does make us fearful of "what could happen over here" (I don't wanna jinx it!), but really there is just so much concern and worry about all the tragedy that is befalling so many of our brothers and sisters overseas right now. Video game development seems fairly irrelevant in light of all of this calamity!
Anyway, we send our hope and support to those afflicted, and I want to pass on some links that you should check out if you have the means to help in the relief effort.

iPhone developers supporting here and here

American Red Cross


Salvation Army

Convoy of Hope

and more

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

iPhone App Game Development Blog #47

iPhone App Game Development Blog #47

*knock knoock* anyone out there?

180 - yep, still talking about this game :) Hi-resolution renders for the coins are being generated as I type this. As the Android version is nearing completion on the coding end of things, I am finally making an effort to rebuild the assets at a higher-res to take advantage of the sharper android screen. These assets could conceivably be re-output for a new iPhone build as well (Retina Display, as the kids like to call it) but I've no idea if that will happen - different codebase, different programmer. I'll ask and see if he is interested, and if so, maybe we could get GameCenter implemented as well. Don't count on either of those things happening anytime soon, although if we get any momentum from the Android release that would certainly be a good impetus.

The in-game characters remain in the new version, they've been completely overhauled (re-designed and re-animated) by a longtime buddy of mine, who's been toiling for years in television animation - he's got credits on Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, as well as plenty of other things - so you know this stuff will look good (you can find an animation still on our twitter and Facebook pages). The avatars still work the same way (merely aesthetic), hopefully in a future game we can involve them more in the gameplay. I am just fine with keeping the current version of 180 with the established gameplay.

A huge thing we are trying to correct with this version of the game is the very beginning - the crucial first-play a new gamer will experience when they fire up the game. In iOS we showed 3 static "how-to" screens which explained gameplay in a simplified fashion, but it's been a harsh lesson that mobile gamers seldom read anything when starting with a game like this; they simply begin laying and if they cannot grasp the mechanics straight-off, they get frustrated and that's the end of it. I am pushing hard to get an animated "how-to" implented in there instead, I think in our case it will show the rules in a way that will be much easier to understand.

Otherwise, a big UI redesign is in the cards. That's next on my agenda following the coin re-renders. The ingame looks good, but the menu screen needs to go! It looks gaudy and amateurish at best, I think a cleaner and slicker presentation will do wonders for us.

That's about all to say for now. I have other ideas about what I'd like to do with 180 for Android, but as we speed to release I am just excited to get it wrapped and shipped, so to speak. We'll follow it up appropriately if necessary ;)

BizDev - I've met with another programmer and stated planning for some further (non-180) development as well. This has been an on-and-off process for me for a very long time, and believe you me it's never an easy proposition when one is in this situation. Programmers usually like to be paid lotsa money up front, and you can't blame them - but having a couple decent games under your belt helps to get their attention and consideration a little easier. Anyway, as 180 Android wraps up I am dusting off some other docs which have been mothballed and seeing what makes sense ot pursue with for development. I have a very simple game which looks like it will be a good contender to start with, and from there some other very solid ideas worth exploring. If all goes smoothly the first of these games might be turned around in as soon as a couple of months (it's fairly simple) I never wanna make promises about this stuff, but suddenly I find myself with a fair amount of time on my hands so I intend to create a lot of assets and design ideas.

It looks like I will be moving away from iPhone for the time being, and concentrating on Android development for these short-term ventures. I still think iPhone has a wonderful scene, and I want to try to steer my efforts back toward it, but it's a fairly difficult arena for a tiny guy like me to exist within at this time. I'm not leaving, just testing the waters elsewhere.

Otherwise, I am spending a lot of time and energy trying to build up and maintain the social networking side of things. I feel like my twitter presence has become rather stagnant (though still looking nice with a fair follower count, although rather small in the large scheme of things). I've been concentrating particularly on growing the Facebook presence for 180, it's been growing slowly but steadily. I have honestly poured serious hours and even some hundreds of dollars into trying to figure out how to best utilize Facebook, I feel that it is one of the best tools for a guy like me trying to spread the word about a product just like this. I am homing in on 500 fans for 180, which still is very small (I think I'd need an extra zero after that for people to even begin to take such a thing seriously), but with a lot of time and energy invested I've started to figure out how to grow it somewhat exponentially. Maybe too early to say that, but I am happy to see it's at least got some momentum and it definitely is getting a relatively large number of views.

What Else is Going On - I have been extremely busy with freelance (non-gaming) work since just before the New Year, and it's been captivating all of my free time up until right now. I am still seeking more work in order to keep the lights on (it's pretty close, uncomfortably so). It's a little wild to think I am at about 2 years into operating in this fashion (independent in many senses of the term!) and it's been a rough, aggravating road, but there's been some good spots along the way. Hopefully all the hard work and investment will pay off with some good news son. Watch this space - and thanks for reading!

Support Us - especially in light of the coming activities, I will really depend on the kindness of others to help get us where we need to be. I have lots of contacts and ideas about what to do to spread the word, but honestly it is never enough. I can never stress this too much - if someone out there follows Headcase and appreciates what we do, if you have any real contacts (media, etc) that can help us to get some spotlight - particularly for our impending Android release - that will be a huge help. Any coverage we can get, the higher profile the better, that's absolutely gold. I know our game is more than good enough to break through to the mainstream and stick around for awhile, considering how it looks and plays. You've seen it by now, either you like it or you don't :) Anyway if you can help in anyway, don't hesitate to drop me a line. Thanks again!