7th Aug 2009
A week ago while chatting on a forum RobotJam inspired me by something he said: About how everyone should try and create a “one day game” at least once in their developer lives. As in a proper game, that you then go and and try to sell. And he gave some successful examples of his own.
I thought this was a nice idea. So now, a week later, mine is finished 😉
It’s a simple puzzle game: Just get the butterfly out of the box. There are only 3 levels, easy, medium and hard. It is based on an old Japanese game played with wooden blocks called Hakoiri Shogi.
The core game was done in 3 hours, as you’ll see when you play it (it’s hardly cutting edge technology). Having done that I then set about on the graphics, which took me a lot longer. I bought some of the images from iStockPhoto and then built the scene-up the way I wanted it. The music is from SoundRangers.com mixed with some nature effects by myself. Also big thanks to Eric at Cavalcade Games for doing the great “Level Win” animation sequence for me.
Originally I only wanted the one puzzle (“Easy”). That’s all I had in place and I was pleased I had managed to create a nice little logic game so fast. But then I let my wife play it and she completed it instantly, so I figured it needed more! I added in two new puzzles, the leafy reveal sequence, the in-game buttons, etc. I just guess I couldn’t leave it alone, so I polished it until I felt it shined enough.
Having said that it’s still my absolute fastest game build ever: from concept to FGL in 5 days, working evenings only. Yes I am going to put it up for sponsorship, but I’m realistic and really don’t expect much. My hope is that I could make a few little sales that add-up. As long as I cover my $60 media costs I’m happy.
For now you can play the game only on FGL. My FGL “Friends” can see it right away, as can other devs of a certain level. At the time of writing it’s still pending approval for sponsor viewing. Obviously once it has been sold everyone can play it
11th Jun 2009
Well it has been a long time coming, but I was pleased to be told that Kyobi was finally released by Oberon Media today, and is now sat pretty on the homepage of MySpace Games. Oberon have been hard at work updating their game delivery system to support AS3 and MySpace is one of their first sites to carry AS3 games, of which Kyobi is their flagship title.
Anyway they’ve done a great job with the attract sequence, so I hope some of those 18,000+ current players give it a click
10th Jun 2009
I finished my game Fruiti Blox back in December 2008 and sold it to Candystand.com. A few months went by and they still hadn’t released it. I asked them what the problem was and basically they were flat-out designing and releasing their new site. So Fruiti Blox got side-lined in the process. They are re-doing the graphics and branding for the game entirely so I can understand the delay.
However part of the original agreement was that after 3 months I could release a viral version with ads. Obviously the game still hasn’t seen the light of day on their own site, so “3 months” was looking a long way off. I was always very happy with this game. The love and attention I poured into it paid off, so I was a bit upset that until now no-one got to experience that.
Thankfully they agreed this situation was a bit pants, sent me an animation to use and said I can release now providing it appeared at start-up. I took a couple of hours, packaged it all up and now it has finally entered the wild!
I’ve no idea how well it’ll go down on NG and Kong, but releasing it there is like one of those developer “rights of passage” tasks you have to put your fledgling games through. Some get flamed into hell and back, some limp out with mediocre ratings and a feeling of averageness, while on those rare occassions you may actually get some comments beyond “meh” and ratings beyond “1/5 – No zombies”.
I’m guessing due to the fact you really do have to read the tutorial in Fruiti Blox (otherwise it just doesn’t “make sense”) that it’ll get slammed until it hits the more casual portals. Time will tell.
29th May 2009
After the frenetic workload that went into my last game Kyobi, I needed a break from development. Add to this an insane pile of “real life” coding work and I was finding it really hard to motivate myself to get on with something new. Working until 3am in the morning day after day does that to me.
So my own personal game projects bit the dust. I tried mocking-up an overhead tank shooter, but that didn’t get so far because I didn’t have a firm vision of where the game should go. I even tried doing a co-op breakout style game and failed to even finish this yet. But I’m not posting here to bitch about my lack of motivation. I’m posting to say what I’m doing about it
The answer can be summed-up in the picture below:
Here are four very different games. Top left is Robotz – a tactical / puzzle style shooter based on an Atari ST classic. Destroy the generators, this lets you destroy the robots (which are constantly chasing shooting at you). Destroy all the robots and the exit appears. It’s very simple, but actually really fun. The graphics are currently being pixelled for this, and I should have some level mock-ups to show next week. I’ve already done the level designer, mapped out 30 levels and have the soldier running around happily shooting at generators.
Bottom left is Shark Hunter. This was an awesome 8-bit MSX game. You had to mend your fishing nets, while fighting off the sharks and try to survive a whole year. Another nice simple game mechanic, but it has stood the test of time well, and I feel it’ll convert into Flash with ease. And hey, who doesn’t like spearing sharks? Concept graphics work for this is under-way, although no code has been written yet.
Top right is a cup cake. I have a really nice and innovative idea for a time-management game, that I have not seen done before. So I can’t give out too many details at this stage. But I think it could be a real success. I’ve got some awesome graphics through, and I’m actually toying with the idea of doing several games using the same assets – the time management one being the core, and then some simple spin-offs like a “spot the difference” style game, or a “cup cake dress-up”. Hey, you never know
Finally bottom right is a wonderful game that I loved on the ST. It was called Color Clash and was a PD game by Animal Soft. I doubt I’ll keep the same name as I don’t feel it does the game justice. You play the role of a chameleon who (as you’d expect) can change colour. Different colours have different actions. The yellow one can jump. The green one has a tail that he can flick to smash blocks / baddies. The red one inflates and floats and the blue one has a tongue that shoots out and can slide blocks around. I’m taking this core mechanic which works so well and tarting it up big-time.
40 levels have been designed already, and I’ve got the chameleon charging around the levels happily. Jumping, falling, sliding. Still need to do the baddie logic and colour changes. I want to do the original justice, but it also needs bringing up to date, so I’ll be refining and tweaking as I go. Still trying to track down the original author for his blessing on this project. Wish me luck.
I am working on Color Clash and Robotz at the same time. I quite like having the two projects to swap between. The other night I was stuck in getting my chameleon to jump-slide properly, and rather than admit defeat (for the night) and fire-up Left 4 Dead, I hit Robotz instead and got the shooting rebounds working smoothly. I’m also finding as they’re both similar 2D styled games, that I can share quite a bit of the code between them. Always a bonus.
So which will come out of the gates first? Honestly not sure. Right now Color Clash is the most complete, but has a lot of graphics work to be done to it. So Robotz may head it off at the final strait. Time will tell …
22nd Apr 2009
My match-3 physics game Kyobi went live onto BigFishGames today, and is currently sitting proud as the #1 game in the Online charts. At the time of writing it has a staggering 40,000 people currently playing it. I mean, whoa. That’s pretty incredible. That’s like the entire population of my home town all playing my game at the same time. I’m not sure how often the player count is updated, but it seems to be every minute.
Adding those stats into the mix the game has reached 1 million plays since release just under a month ago, and it’s not even out on the really big sites I’ve sold it to.
I’m well aware the reason it is currently #1 is because it’s the “New Game of the Day” – but so what, I still took a screen grab and will cherish it as my first ever BFG title
“How did you get so many sponsors?”
I’ve been asked this question quite a lot recently (along with “How is the iPhone game doing?” which I answer below)
When I put Kyobi onto FlashGameLicense.com (FGL) the interest was immediate and rapid. As well as having it on FGL I also spent time emailing sponsors directly. Most of them didn’t bother to reply, but 2 did and both bought licenses, so it was worth my time just for this. One of companies who contacted me was GameJacket, who offered a $1000 advertising advance on the basis that all other versions of the game I sold were site locked (which they of course are), and no-one else got the game before them.
I liked the sound of this offer. I was low risk to me, so I accepted it. This automatically meant that none of the other sponsors could have exclusive rights to the game. So I told them this and most of them re-adjusted their bids accordingly, understanding that they would get the game on the day of release, but on a non-exclusive basis. In effect, everyone got it at the same time.
So I persisted with this offer to the various sponsors and they all agreeded. I built custom versions for them all, with API work in some cases, custom logos and pre-loaders in others. All versions were packaged up and ready for launch day.
I also created a Media Pack they could download. This pack included a range of high resolution screen shots, game artwork, logo, description and thumbnails for them to use on their sites if they wished (and a number of them did).
To date I have sold Kyobi to 9 different sponsors. 5 of those had the game on day of release, 2 others contacted me directly as a result of having seen it on NewGrounds (where it got a Daily 5th Place Award) and asked for custom builds. The other 2 bought it via the FGL game shop service. Updated: 26th April (5 days after original article written) – Kyobi won 3rd place in the Whirled single player game contest, adding $1000. It has also been picked up by another 2 sponsors adding $600 to the figure below.
Combined I received $5,155 $6,755 (updated 26th April) from these deals. By making a lot of “smaller” sales I managed to effectively double what I would have got from the best “single sponsor” offer had I gone down that route. And of course the game is still on sale.
You can see some of the custom builds of Kyobi on Andkon Arcade, Hubits, Juegos Juegos, Whirled and even a dating site called Connecting Singles! A tie-in with GameJacket means a special version will also go across the Spil Group of sites shortly too.
2 very high profile sponsors are yet to release their versions, despite having had them for some weeks now. I’ll update when they do because I expect them both to deliver serious play figures.
Of course the GameJacket version carries adverts, and the daily income rate from those has been quite encouraging (at least compared to my experience with Mochi). It won’t set my financial world on fire, but it should earn back the $1000 advance relatively painlessly. And then the money from that point on goes directly to me. As I have a full-time job that I love, that pays all the bills money made by Kyobi is surplus income. After tax it helped pay towards a new kitchen and parts for me to build a top of the line Quad Core PC. Could I “live off” the income from this game? No, of course not. That is what Flash game dev contract work is for, but that’s another post for another day.
… and what about the iPhone version?
Kyobi was converted to the iPhone by my good friends at The Game Creators. The iPhone version is enhanced in several ways. It has a nice use of the accelerometer, more complex level patterns, blockers, bonuses and power-ups which improve the gameplay significantly.
In short it’s a really nice game, and my agreement with TGC meant I’d get a decent percentage from sales.
On the downside they renamed it from Kyobi to “Touch & Go”. In retrospect this was a horrendous move. Not only did it disjoint the brand, if you try searching for it on AppStore you’ll get about a million results back thanks to the generic title (have a guess how many AppStore games have the word “touch” somewhere in them! yeah, it’s a lot). Even direct searching for the exact title barely reveals the game.
It was quite literally impossible to find. The GameJacket release carried an advert for the iPhone game at the end, which helped lead to some small sales figures, but quite frankly nothing I could ever retire on. It was far removed from the “iPhone $$$ dream” the media hypes, to say the least. A “Lite” version was also released to help shift things along, but it of course suffered the same “invisible to search” problem.
So I pretty much wrote it off as a bad experience and forgot about it. That was until iDare hit the scene.
He who iDares, wins!
iDare is a free game TGC created over the course of 3 days. If you are old enough to remember the classic sci-fi film Aliens, you’ll remember the scene where the android Bishop holds down Hudsons hand on the dinner table, and spreads his fingers out and proceeds to stab a knife between his fingers as quickly as possible.
School kids worldwide at the time re-created this using everything from pencils to protractors! iDare is basically an iPhone version of this crazy game. It’s good fun, it’s original and it is free. Since release it has gone absolutely ballistic. Currently #1 in the UK charts and #2 in the Canadian charts and#4 in the US charts and still climbing – that is out of ALL free downloadable apps on AppStore. The net result of this is over 600,000 downloads since release and increasing every day. Edit Update: As of today (April 26th) iDare now has over 1.2 million downloads.
What does this have to do with Kyobi? Very simple: iDare was created with the express purpose of advertising the other games TGC had made, including mine.
I cannot give any specific sales data, but suffice to say that Touch & Go has gone from being flat-lined at a few sales per week, to selling 3 digits worth of copies per day (and the first digit is > 1). And of course the more it sells, the higher it climbs up the charts. And the higher up the charts it goes, the more it sells. It’s currently #19 in Strategy titles and edging ever closer to the magic Top #100 games. If it manages to hit that mark TGC and I will be very happy indeed.
At the moment direct income from the Flash version is greater than that of the iPhone one – but at current projections this could be reversed shortly. I’ll keep you all updated.
So in my very limited experience with the Flash to iPhone market here are a few bullet points to take away with you:
- Don’t screw your brand up! Keep the same game name where possible
- Ensure your game title and description is AppStore SEO friendly! Avoid this part at your peril.
- Don’t assume that just by existing on AppStore you’ll make any money at all. You need a method of promotion. Find what works for you.
- “Lite” versions are mandatory now. Create one. But again, the “free” app space there is flooded, so don’t assume just because you have one that “Full” version sales will increase dramatically. They won’t, but it will help.
- Promote, promote, promote! Find a way to pimp your game as best you can. If you don’t it will sink without trace, no matter how excellent it may be. If you have no promotion strategy then don’t invest a dime into your iPhone game.
- Just having a Flash version of the game doesn’t mean you’ll dramatically increase iPhone sales – yes the sales do cross over, but the conversion rate was pretty tiny for this game. Hopefully yours will fare better.
- Talk about what you are doing! Blog about your game, tweet about it, Facebook wall it, YouTube it, put screen shots on Flickr, write about it in forums. Do the whole social works. If you do this well enough it’s possible to build up a good “following” before the game is released, leading to an initial flux of sales that will give it a little kick-start up the App charts.
- Cross promote. If you know another iPhone game doing well, and know the developer, ask if they’d be willing to sell you some “ad space”. It could pay dividends.
- Be realistic. Even with a #1 AppStore download promoting your game, Apple still won’t be sending trucks full of gold bullion your way. That moment is gone. Live with it and set realistic goals, you’re in hell of a competitive market place.
- Please keep making games, no matter what happens
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