The developer of OmNomster, Olaf Morelewski, is an architect by trade, has worked as an art director making TV commercials, and since 2013, he’s been a game director making mobile games. This might look as if he can’t decide what to do in life, Olaf admits, but then explains: he always wanted to create or invent new things. A choice of the particular creative field wasn’t that important. Now Olaf runs Made It App, a studio based in Warsaw, Poland. “This is what I decided to do since I found that in making games, all creative fields meet together,” the developer says as he shares the story of OmNomster.
A Game To Practice Programming
I decided that I’d try to make games on my own. I don’t mind working in a team, but after several years of doing only that, I wanted to make something by myself. The problem was that I had no programming background at all, so I enrolled for a programming methodology course at Stanford University on iTunesU, and after a month of studying a whole semester of lectures, I decided it was time to start making my first game.
As I was a programming noob (I still am BTW), I thought it would be better to start by making a simple text game. That’s how I came up with Censored Files – the game where a player reads crime stories and has to guess the blacked out words. I made the graphics and wrote the code, and my beloved wife wrote the crime stories (OK, so we were a team after all).
Two months later, the game was released on iOS… and didn’t sell at all. As I was doing it mainly to develop my programming skills, I wasn’t disappointed that much.
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„Fail harder”, says Nike’s headline. And so I got up and started making my second game right away. Still simple, yet more complex than the first one. It was OmNomster – a casual arcade game about a hungry monster who eats trash. I came up with an idea of shake-based mechanics. The player needs to shake the phone to bounce the monster on the walls and feed him trash.
I did the game design, UI/UX design, game art, and programming, and this time also decided to record all the SFX. So when you hear OmNomster eating trash — it’s me biting a watermelon mixed with me biting cornflakes. The sound of OmNomster hitting the walls is made of nine mixed tracks with different sounds of metal and wood items which I slammed against each other.
Then I composed the music. “Composed” with a small “c” because it’s more of a 30-seconds quirky melody than real music, but anyway, it fits the game style.
In three months after the first pencil sketch, the game was finally ready and the iOS release day was approaching. The Big Day! The game was published as a freemium one, and on the first day, it had 2k downloads, which I considered not a bad number. But since I didn’t invest in any serious marketing (apart from making a professional website, a game video, and emailing reviewer sites), every following day the download number was cut in half. In a few days, it came down to 10 downloads. Watching OmNomster drown in the Apple AppStore was really sad. He was alone and hungry.
Even though the game didn’t do well on the store, I decided to submit it to some indie game competitions that I found on the Internet. The game was chosen for Indie Prize Showcase Amsterdam 2014, but first, I got selected to participate in Chartboost University (CBU) classes in Fall 2013. This was the game changer! In San Francisco, we were consulted by the top professionals from the game industry on how to design and monetize games in a sustainable way.
Through Chartboost, I met some super cool indie game devs from around the world. I remember a day when I heard about the AppCampus funding program from the devs from Wayward (Canada) and Headnought (Finland). It’s Microsoft and Aalto University joint funding for Windows Phone apps. So after I came back from San Francisco, I decided to submit Feed OmNomster – The Hungry Monster (aka OmNomster 2) with exclusive content and new features that we came up with during CBU sessions.
But I had no answer from AppCampus for several weeks, so I thought that my idea didn’t fit in the program. Though three months later, when I was visiting my newborn son in a hospital, all of a sudden I received an acceptance email! That moment I felt that all my previous work was finally acknowledged, and it gave me hope that what I had been doing for the last year had sense.
Redesigning Controls and Monetization
I started developing new features which I promised to Microsoft right away. The changes were crucial. First of all, to the rather chaotic shaking game mechanics I added a more controllable slow motion mode, where the player can tilt the phone to move OmNomster more accurately. This was due to repeating feedback I got for the first version: shaking is fun, but it’s not skillful. In this new, better version, OmNomster is getting bigger and unlocks new features as the player’s experience grows.
And, finally: OmNomster now has the ability to shoot, and there are five diverse levels instead of just one.
I also redesigned the monetization mechanics. In OmNomster 1, there were several appearance customizations that could be bought, but it didn’t give the player any real benefit. Now the player can buy shields, unlock weapons, and upgrade time warp mode, so everything he/she buys is making the game easier. “Pretty obvious”, many might say. True, but for me, it was a huge progress that I made thanks to the CBU course. Now playing the new game is much more fun.
Feed OmNomster has been exclusively released for the Windows Phone Store, and the first game of OmNomster can be found at Made It App’s website. Meanwhile, Olaf has submitted the game to some more competitions and believes that the furry monster character design gives an opportunity to make physical merchandize toys. But he’s first going to focus on marketing Feed OmNomster in Windows Phone Store properly.