Friday, 19 August 2011

Released Into The Wild

Android MarketImage via Wikipedia
So where am I up to, I hear you ask with feverish interest. Well, let's see...

Project #1 - Livestock Vs The Undead

In May 2011, I started work on what is currently titled 'Livestock Vs The Undead' (a working title whilst I coerce it into a semi-acceptable state). I unleashed v1.0 onto the Android Market in June 2011, which is where I embarrassingly stumbled over my first faux pas: I was asking for a payment for it.

On other more lucrative fruit-based mobile platforms, I would've been laughed at for not charging. The Android community, it turns out, is a different culture altogether. Reputation and respect has much more weight here, and this has to be earnt. So I picked myself up, dusted myself down and rethought my strategy from scratch.

I withdrew the paid-for version of the game, tweaked how far you could take the game and released it as a free download. With the intention of letting the dust settle and await some feedback from the community, my mind was ablaze with possibilities and I thought 'Some of this code would make a great live wallpaper' so I moved immediately onto:

Project #2 - Zombie Pop Live Wallpaper

As a kid I loved it when my Dad had porcelain statues delivered (he sold them for a living). It wasn't the statues themselves that interested me. It was the plastic bubble wrapping they came in. I know it's sad but I did enjoy tirelessly popping each unsuspecting bubble.

So, I had this warm fuzzy memory floating around in my neurons, and I had these zombies marching down my screen. The rest as they say is history: ZZPop LW (as it was called) was born. This was released onto Android Market in June 2011, along with:

Project #2b - Zombie Pop Lite Live Wallpaper

Wanting to test the water on whether people would cough up some money for an improved version of something they liked, I branched the development into a feature lite version. It is still a full playable version, just with some cosmetic restrictions. Again this was released in June 2011.

Project #3 - Pixelnote Live Wallpaper

As my mind was still fresh with Live Wallpaper development, I thought, 'wouldn't it be neat if you could draw straight onto your wallpaper without having to open up another app?'. Taking what I had learned on the last two and a half projects, I brought Pixelnote into existence. I realised that due to limitations of the medium and touchscreens I could only take the idea so far, but what the hey.

Pixelnote was released in July 2011 onto the Android Market.

Around this time, I started looking at the Amazon Android App Market. Even though, being outside the US, I can't actually download anything at this time, it didn't stop me from publishing the game and three wallpapers.

Since then I've released updates for both Livestock Vs The Undead and Zombie Pop and am currently pushing Livestock forward by quite a way (v1.3 is in beta and is looking better).

And that's pretty much it in terms of development. I'll do a post on each of the projects in turn next with a bit of background and the thought processes I went through.


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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Secret Ingredient is...

If anyone ever tells you that developing a game is easy, I can categorically say they are lying.

Of course, the difficulty of coding is directionally proportional to how good a developer you are. I’ll factor that out for now. It's not even pulling all of the resources together which can also be challenging. Sprites don’t grow on trees, and picking the right boom sound for your bomb from thousands takes time!

It’s finding that magic ingredient and coercing it to behave nicely in your game – that’s the hard part.

After all - make a game too hard and nobody will invest in the reams of content you've painstakingly lined up for them. Make it too easy and you'll alienate the die-hard gamer (which also makes up a large chunk of your potential audience).

Unfortunately you can't slap the difficult smack bang in the middle either, as again players will simply lose interest. You could adopt a linear approach, where things get a little harder each level, however this can still leave the gaming a bit flat. So, the magic formula, from my humble opinion, would be adopting a difficulty curve to broadcast a subliminal mental challenge to unaware psyches of your audience. Make sure that you don't start too easy, and don't end in the land of the impossible (although there are some games that lean that way).

Make a game too complex and people will walk away, too simple and you’ll patronize them.

Of course, how a difficulty is portrayed in your game can come in any shape or form. For example, in Livestock Vs The Undead, I have literally hundreds of factors that I can tweak. From creep speed, to tower firing rate, to number of bonus drops, the list goes on and on and is growing with each new feature I add. And any of these has greater or lesser impacts on how the game finally plays.

Another trick is throw accomplishments and treats along the way. Everyone likes presents, so giving your customers 'thank you’s through the medium of a power boost, or extra time will go down a treat (pardon the pun).

On top of all this you have to slap layers of probability. Thirteen year old Canadian females might life fluffy pink rabbits in their games, whereas Italian 27 year old males would prefer sports cars. So, you have also have to try to appeal to the middle of the curve.

Developing games is not easy.

It is fun though.

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