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 :)

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