Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Always go beta

This will be a short post and it has a very short message. Always put your software through beta testing. I'm currently working on the iOS port of WordRoom, well, not exactly right now since I'm at home being sick and thought I'd write this instead.

Last week, after thorough testing, I put the iOS port out for beta. I really thought there would be no issues, at least not any major ones. Both me and my wife had been testing it for about a week and there were only about ten people in the beta group.

It was clear to me within an hour that there would be a second beta. At the point of writing this I have a list of about 10 major bugs that needs to be fixed.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The shy game maker

I have a problem!

We made a game me and my friend. The game works fine and after six months of fine tuning it's actually a high quality product. That's not the problem.

The problem is, how do we let people know about the game? We need to market it as well. It's not enough to put it out on the store and hoping that it downloads itself. We don't have the cash for broad marketing since we have only about 3K downloads so far. We've recently turned to AdDuplex for win8 and winphone but still it's not enough to get the ball rolling.

So what's the solution?

I would say that you could go two ways. The first way is to pay good money for online ads. But again that's not our solution since we don't have the cash. It would probably cost tens of thousands of dollars to pull of on a large scale. I am temped however to try out the 100K impressions a month on AdDuplex for about $400. I do not think my wife is as enthusiastic about that as I am. So the first way is pretty much a no-go.

The second way is to know people or get to know them. Somebody famous needs to say that they like the game. A game blogger or someone who made a random large block placing game. This brings the biggest problem to the surface (I'm writing this on a Surface as well, pun intended). I don't want to bother people, even less calling them up to talk about my game. I guess I'm shy, that's my problem.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The fear of monetizing

Our game WordRoom was released for windows 8 in november of 2012, followed by Windows Phone in late december. Combined we have about 3000 downloads and a couple of hundred active users that play every day. The game is free and our initial thought was to monetize through ads. Well, as you can guess we're not making any money at all with the current download numbers so we added In-App-Purchase for those who just can't stand ads. The number of purchases is below 10. Since we aren't making any cash from ads we recently switched to AdDuplex to promote the app instead. I'll follow up with a specific post about how AdDuplex works out.

So far, this is not a problem. This is a start-up that will take time and determination. The problem is that at the moment, I don't want to bother the user with popups to buy premium since I feel that it will scare the few users away. I feels like we are punishing those who actually play the game!

We are very soon releasing for iOS and Android. For the iOS version we are going to try something different to break this trend. We are going to charge $1 for the app and this for two reasons.

1) iOS users are more likely to pay than any other user group
2) A user finds value in a paid app and it's more unlikely to be deleted

Comments on that?

About WordRoom

WordRoom is a Competitive Word Search game that focus on direct online gaming between two peers. You can also play single player. It is cross platform using MonoTouch.

WordRoom is available in Swedish and English, soon also Italian and Spanish.
Available for Windows 8, Windows Phone
Soon on iOS and Android using MonoTouch

Monday, February 11, 2013

What's so great about XNA/MonoGame?

When Microsoft first released XNA I was sceptical. At the time I was playing around with C++ and DirectX, feeling cool but slightly unmanaged. Not really making any progress at all. What forced me into XNA was XBOX and WP7 development. Loved it from the first Hello World.

So why do I like it?

1) First of, it is managed! Memory management problems gone. Well almost gone, Compact Framework and the 1-gen GC introduced a new type of memory management problem instead. But that's hopefully history in WP8.

2) It is simplified but yet extremly powerful. You must love the content pipeline and the very well defined life cycle that puts your right in the correct place of complexity. You still have to roll up your own game engine but all the extra low level details are taken care of for you.

3) It's now cross platform through MonoGame!

Why do you like XNA/MonoGame?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The death of XNA, does it matter?

No, not really I would say. I would however like to split XNA into two parts:

* The first being the XNA API
* The second being Microsoft implementation of that API.

What's really dead (not counting XBLIG) is Microsoft commitment to further develop the API and the implementation of it. The API in its current version still exists and MonoGame has made a great job implementing it and making it cross platform. In fact, I would say XNA (the API) is way better of this way since it's now an open source, cross platform product driven by the community around MonoGame.

So is it all happiness and flowers from now on? No, there are risks of this unoffical handover and that risk is fragmentation of the API. Or even worse, bad design decisions from the MonoGame team on where to take the XNA API in the future.

Let's hope that the MonoGame team keeps the quality of the work done so far and make sure to donate to the project!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do we have to go multiplayer?

Multiplayer games are sexy! I've realized that most of my game ideas always involved massive multiplayer capabilities and it has been this single feature that has killed most of my projects. It just gets to be to much message sending, syncing and fine-tuning that in the end kills the ambition to finish anything. I just takes to much time to add a single new feature to the game after a while. Of course this can be caused by me not having enough experience and lack of an organized framework.

So how do I feel about multiplayer gaming today?

I say, don't go multiplayer. Being an indie developer means having a very limited amount of time to finish your projects in. Multiplayer will be 75% of your project, I guarantee from my own experience. On top of that extra time you need to pay for servers and someone needs to be managing them. (read you). I would urge you to create a game that stands on its own, with unique gameplay instead.

The current game in the pipe after WordRoom (a multiplayer game) will NOT be a multiplayer game. I've realized that I need to make a game that is a great experience WITHOUT multiplayer support. Also by making the game pretty much storyless with a world that premiers exploration, time can be cut. I really don't have time to fill it with content in the form of stories but rather the game generates content as you go along.

I always have the intent to finish my games. Most of the times I don't and I realize that I need to be more time efficient in the future.

And last up, I stumbled upon this video of Michael Todd where he talks about depression in game development. I would say you wouldn't have to be depressed to follow his advice. It's a really good talk about what to think about. Replace depression with lack of time!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why is making games so interesting?

What is it about making a game that makes us nerds go crazy? I'm talking about the single programmer who's been trying to make a game his/hers whole life but never seems to be able to finish it? The once of us sitting up late nights hacking away in c++/c#/objective-C, knowing that we probably could finish this faster using GameMaker.

Personally it took until being 33 before finishing my first game (WordRoom for Win 8, WP, iOS and Android) and that was mostly because we (I write we, since we are actually two people making the game) had a good deal of help from Microsoft to start our business up. Thx @microsoft. I still work at Sogeti and will do so for many years.

How many games have I started? Who knows, but the start to finish ratio is not looking good? I know I'm not the only one with this crappy ratio around. So the question is: "Why do we keep starting new projects"?

After a lot of thought I can only come up with these conclusions:

* We like to solve problems that we can choose to solve. At work you get assigned a boring business related problem, at home you choose your problem. Can I add smoke to that car while it's burning? Well YES I CAN! (another evening lost)

* We think we are going to get rich! :) Admit it, you want to make the next Minecraft.

* We imagine it would be heaven to be working with games! Working late nights with WordRoom, especially the back end parts, I realized that this is just another business. The pro's of this business is that there is almost no support to end users.

* Game makers are nerd rock stars? And who doesn't wanna be a rock star!

I'll keep looking into this subject from time to time.

If anyone's interested in WordRoom, here's the link: WordRoom for Win8