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!

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


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!"