Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Livestock Vs The Undead

My story is far from unusual.  I had an android smartphone.  I liked playing tower defence games.  I had a modicum of development talent (Java being the eighteenth programming language I taught myself).  I wondered if I could mash the three together into some sort of Frankensteinian monster of a game. 

Just before I embarked on the slippery slide of android development, I had come across what is termed as a Production on Demand (PoD) site called Zazzle.  We've all had ideas for great T-shirt designs and slogans at some point. Well, this site lets you actually take that idea and slap it on not only T-shirts, but hoodies, ties, caps, cups, bags and a hundred other items.  You can then set up your own site-within-their-site and sell your freshly baked items to friends, family or anyone else you can convince.  It taps into your creativity in a big way and is quite addictive.  Let's just say: I went nuts.

A month later, with help from my wife (who joined in shortly after I did) I had racked up over a staggering 4,000 items!  At that point I came back to my senses and realised that (a) it was gobbling up too much of my time, and (b) the remuneration was relatively pitiful in relation to all the effort you put in (not Zazzle's fault - I just don't have young and/or trendy, fiscally endowed social circles).  Our store, http://www.zazzle.com/strangemoo is still open (with 5,577 items at time of writing), but my attention has now been firmly refocussed.

By abstaining from Zazzle, I found that not only did I have some time on my hands, but I had built up a sizable library of self drawn stock images.  Add some of those images to smartphone/idea/iota of talent and what you have there is a starting point.

Livestock Vs The Undead was born.

The alpha was at the time the best game I had ever played.  Looking back it was embarrasingly bad.  It was little more than chicken hurling bananas (Yes, bananas. What? It was there to use, Ok?) at zombies.  (Same zombie, different colours.)  Don't get me wrong. The coding was sound and most of the code is still beating away in the heart of the latest version.  It was just that it didn't do much and needed a host of stuff throwing at it.

My first piece of advice: Don't release anything onto the market too soon. 

Blinded by enthusiasm and pride of getting something working, I naively signed it off, plugged it and rolled it out onto the android market.  I paid heavily for this by getting some less than constructive criticism on the market that will remain there forever, no matter how many further releases I add.  By jumping the gun, I have branded my poor game a loser.

Realising my mistake and lessons learnt, I am basically treating the current game as a beta. At some point in the (hopefully not too distant) future I'll rename/rebrand and re-release it to start afresh.

The game is significantly better than it was. However I want to take it to a stage where I can look back at it at some point and consider it 'done' or even 'not bad' by my own standards.  If I am going to monetise this thing, I want to give my customers value for money, else I'd consider the project a failure.  It's not even the volume that interests me.  If 20 people buy it and love it, that's success in my books.

Ok, some stats now.  Android Market is both good and bad.  It's good that it allows us lonely developers to reach the masses.  It's bad in that (at the time of writing) the statistics it provides make little to no sense.  Figures go up and down almost at random.  Comments and ratings rarely make it onto the system.  The best I can make out of it is just taking the average from a daily reading.  At this point in time it looks like:

D - Downloads, I - Installs, C - Comments

Not too shoddy for a beta.  It was originally released in May 2011 and has been growing steadily.  (Not anywhere as great as Zombie Pop - but that is another blogpost.)  I've also made it clear (since the initial release fiasco), that it is a beta on the market and it still gets a few downloads per day.  I am convinced that the naff, very early comments are putting a lot of people off.  Google should implement ratings by app version to show a fair differentiation between the qualities of the releases.  

There is a definite spike when a new release is made (not shown on this graph) which I'll hopefully be able to demonstrate when I put v1.4 live.


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