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


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!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Retro Game of the Day! Shining in the Darkness

Retro Game of the Day! Shining in the Darkness

Shining in the Darkness by Sega and Climax Entertainment (Japanese developer, not the similarly-named UK house) released for the Sega Genesis in 1991.

Those who know me are aware that I was never big into RPG gaming; still when an EGM offshoot magazine called Mega Play published early screens of a game called "Shining Darkness," it was hard to ignore. The screens looked impressive, the game was 8 Megabits (impressive for a cartridge memory size at the time) and there really was nothing else that looked like it on the market at the time. The wave of SNES RPGs was a ways off still, and there hadn't been much at all on the Genesis either.

The game looked (and played) much like a souped-up next generation version of Sega's well-known 8-bit hit Phantasy Star. Two important differences - this was a newer generation software, and where PS was definitely a traditional mange style, SITD had a very unusual art style (particularly for a Japanese RPG) - it felt like a mix of light-manga with a bit of a European-inspired style perhaps, and it looked very out-of-place on the Genesis for that reason, although not to it's detriment.

The game itself was as you'd expect, and in modern consideration it looks and plays out quite primitive; but at the time, it was very fresh. The game was slow, a crawling grind, with very limited options (as many RPGs of the day were) yet it was still quite engrossing with it's charming-yet-dark world and fairly well-written character dialogue. Ultimately, Shining in the Darkness was a title I never got terribly far through, but for me it will always be memorable as an early landmark title on the system and a worthy follow-up to it's source material.

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

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Retro Game of the Day! Vindicators

Retro Game of the Day! Vindicators

Vindicators by Atari Games, arcade release in 1988.

Another somewhat famous title from the masterminds at Atari Games during their heyday in the arcade, this game put you in control of a tank charged with maneuvering your way through enemy "stations" as you blasted everything in your path, collecting keys, stars, and of course fuel.

The gimmick here was the dual-stick control setup - and a very awkward one at that, which ultimately didn't do the game many favors in achieving long-lasting popularity. The setup was neat and certainly challenging, and no doubt it gave the game a very unique feel that was never seen anywhere else (although in some ways, it was reminiscent of a game like Assault) Two sticks, push both forward to move forward, push one to advance at an ark, in opposite directions to spin. Turret controls were independent; overall you had extraordinary control of your vehicle, but few likely had the patience to master them.

The game looked very much like you were cruising around in a Tron-inspired world, appropriately enough, even if the tank designs didn't match so much. Though a strange game top-to-bottom, Vindicators had a cool-sounding name, an intriguing approach, and an appreciable execution from a developer who wasn't afraid to take some chances. An unlicensed NES port surfaced as well, rather long on looks but with faithful gameplay.

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