Rock‘n’roll is here to stay, as the old song says – but in the mobile era, getting people into brick-and-mortar businesses can be a challenge. Like brands of all kinds, Hard Rock is seeking to connect with mobile users. The only question is how – and Hard Rock found its answer in the game developed in collaboration with our team here at Ilyon Dynamics: Hard Rock Puzzle Match.
In 2014, eLearning Studios was invited to be a partner in a European partnership project called Stay Active which was a project looking at reducing stress in older workers in the workplace. As part of this project we worked collaboratively with Dr. Gail Steptoe-Warren, Occupational Psychologist and Principal Lecturer at Coventry University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and Nigel Wilson Principal Lecturer at Coventry University to research and explore ideas for the development of a new game designed to reduce stress for those over 45. This initial project was later to evolve and develop into Soar: Tree of Life.
Loteria Latin Bingo started as a bargain between Jeff Jensen of Megafuzz in Denmark, and myself in El Paso, Texas. We met at PAX South 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, and exchanged contact information. A few months later we agreed that I would create art for Jeff’s game (not released yet), while Jeff would program for my game, Loteria Latin Bingo. I chose to make this game because it is a link to my Mexican roots and I wanted to bring the old game of Loteria to a new audience in a new light. I wanted to give it my own take on the art, as well as update the gameplay for a satisfying mobile experience. So, I created art for two games at at the same time. In two years, the project was complete and on July 20, 2017, Loteria Latin Bingo was published.
I had the idea of making a small game – just something to put up on the App Store – but it seemed ridiculous to just make a game and not go as big as possible. So, after thinking about it, I added all the features that I could think of to the design of the game. I added in-app purchases, helper characters, a map to encourage progression, and XP system to level up and unlock abilities, multipliers, different modes and in-game currency. Then, I talked to Jeff and showed him what I was thinking. It blew him away, I could hear him get nervous. He had agreed to a small game and then I came to him with a huge project. “Hang on”, I told him, “I don’t expect you to do the whole game”. I explained to him that this was the grand vision for the game. I wanted to see how much he was willing to tackle. At this point, I had already done a large portion of the art for his game, so, he knew I was not going to go back on my end of the deal. Being the awesome guy that he is, he agreed to add a map, helper, characters, multipliers, a leader board, a store, an XP system and star system. I was amazed by his generosity. In exchange, I did more artwork for him as well.
So we got right to work, sort of. We both have clients and other projects to do to pay the bills, so this was sort of a side project. Over the span of a few months he worked on the first playable build and I created the art he needed for both games. We communicated over Skype and shared files via Dropbox. Being on opposite sides of the globe, Jeff was up at crazy hours talking to me most times. There were changes I made to the game design that pushed Jeff’s buttons, but we worked it out and kept going. As we worked, we found that we had to reduce the scale of the game, We were using the Game Maker engine because that’s the platform Jeff knows. It happened that at that time support for in-app purchases and a leader board was lacking in Game Maker, and since we had to cut the store and leader board out, things like XP, levels, a map and star system made no sense. So, the game changed once more. We took all of it out and made it a points-based game. It hurt to do that because the programming for most of it was finished and so was the art. But, looking back, it makes the game easier to get into. Sometimes, games have too much going on and that takes away from the experience. Also, we wanted to finish this journey we had embarked on.
Finally, after many ups and downs, we finished the game! It is now up on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. It’s my first game, outside of a studio, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve had the privilege to work on great games like Peggle, Bejeweled3, and Plants vs Zombies; but Loteria Latin Bingo is special – and not just because it’s mine. The collaboration between Jeff and I across opposite sides of the world, as well as the voice actor, Fernando Lamb, and musician from Venezuela, Lion3l, whom I found on Fiverr, made this an international collaboration. I’m blown away by what is possible not just with the technology available, but by trusting people and following through with promises. Trust is a difficult thing to give; I’ve been burnt many times. But, when mutual trust works out, the end product is much more valuable. I don’t just have a game that I can monetize and potentially expand, I also have a friend in Denmark. Now that I have to market this game with an “indie” budget, more friends are showing up, more connections are being made, and more opportunities are available.
Sure, when you think Apple, you think hype. iOS 11, the latest update to come down the pipeline, is heralded by Apple as setting a “new standard for the world’s most advanced mobile operating system.” So what makes iOS 11 any different from previous updates, and are the headlines we’ve seen to date praising the operating system on point? That’s still to be determined, but Apple’s latest does promise to arm developers with a bevy of new tools and customizing options. For developers looking to take advantage of iOS 11’s strongest features, here are three ways to power up.
Most free-to-play (F2P) mobile game developers have two major goals. The first is to create a really good game. The second is to implement an optimal monetization system to generate maximum revenue. In order to achieve these goals, developers require a good game economy.
By Yi Fei Boon, Field Engineer, Unity Technologies
Innovation is often used to describe the latest and greatest in technology. Less known is the inspired community behind this, that is intrinsically motivated to propel a cycle of solving problems, discovering new solutions, developing and commercialising products, which in turn, helps companies reinvest in the next generation of technology.
Unity is a case in point. Developers face new challenges as they push the limits of technology and platforms to bring their games to life, as more dynamic game engines are, in turn, being developed to empower developers. It is during this cycle that collaborative innovation is born. Developers turn to the engine developers for aid, leading to collaborative new and unique solutions to address issues faced during development, which is then later implemented into the engine.
At the recent Casual Connect Asia held at Resorts World Sentosa Singapore, from 16 to 18 May, I spoke about how this process of collaborative innovation solves some of these problems, as well as how this drives the growth and constant improvement of Unity’s game engine. Working as Unity’s technical consultant, I have been aiding clients in optimising their programme and helping address challenges encountered while using the game engine.
I’m a busy guy. I run a game studio that has made over 45 premium casual games in the last decade. I podcast and livestream. In the last year, I’ve traveled to about 20 different cities, spoke at a major game conference about every other month, and found time to climb Mt. Fuji, go trekking in Nepal for 2 weeks, and a bunch of other cool stuff. All of that while being a father, a husband, and having a quality sit-down dinner with my family almost every night. People ask how I find the time. It’s actually pretty simple. I’ll share.
I work from home. This alone saves me 10-20 hours a week. I am not wasting time commuting and all of my breaks are shorter and more meaningful. Lunch? The kitchen is just 20 feet away. I’m done eating in half an hour and most days I get to share lunch with my wife. Want to take a break and read? The couch is right there. And all of the little stuff that needs to be dealt with every week: dentist’s appointments, paying bills, PTA meetings, etc., I fit that in between work tasks and can build the most efficient schedule for it because I never run into the “but I have to go home to do this” problem – I am already there.
I have a really nice workspace. I spend most of my waking life sitting at a desk working so I made sure that the chair I sit in is a good one. My desk is large enough to let me spread out papers, have room to swing a mouse around, and have a couple of monitors to spread out the digital content I need to be putting together. My space has a door. When the world outside intrudes, the door closes, the headphones go on, and I get stuff done. This, of course, is based on your tolerance for distraction. Some people in our company can tolerate a lot more distraction, and smaller working spaces. Some even prefer to work in cafes. This is something you have to test and see. That being said, most people generally benefit from reducing distractions, ensuring they are comfortable, and minimizing the number of outside influences while they work. Incredibly, working at home, even in a very busy home with children, parents, etc. can’t touch an open-office floor plan for creating distractions and annoyances. When I consider how much of the world is forced to work in brutally open floor plans, surrounded by aggressively distracting coworkers breaking their chain of thought… the mind shudders.
Similarly, I minimize digital distractions. Nothing on my computer makes noise. No application has popup notifications turned on. I take regular short breaks between tasks to check internal company chat groups, Facebook, Reddit, etc., but I never let these programs notify me or pull me away from my current task unless someone specifically summons me by name. Any decent internal chat program will let you set up notifications this way, and it’s critical. Even my phone has the ringer turned off, and it’s in another room. When I am working, that time is mine, and short of some major emergency, I don’t allow interruptions.
I schedule ruthlessly. If you want a meeting with me, it gets scheduled. Want to exercise regularly? Schedule. Time with the family? Schedule. I do “date night” once a week with my wife. That’s on the schedule. I go to guitar lessons with my daughter. That’s on the schedule. Think of your schedule like armor protecting you from the people who want to take time from you. You want to talk to me for 2 hours? Sorry, I only have 30 minutes for you in my schedule. Talk faster. You’d be amazed at how much someone can cram into 10 minutes when you only give them 10 minutes.
I avoid “regular meetings” like the plague. If you schedule a regular meeting, you will likely have to make up things to fill it with. Screw that. Treat meetings as evil necromantic spells: every minute you give to them is sucked from your soul. When they are absolutely necessary, I bring a list of what I want to achieve and I only bring the people who need to be there. It’s rare you really need more than 3 people in a meeting – better to have smaller meetings, write notes, and disperse them to the people who just need the info and aren’t actively contributing to the content. Forget big collaboration meetings. The science is clear: collaboration breeds mediocrity. Divy up the work, let people go do, and save the meetings for figuring out how it all works together and what to do next. This is how creative people thrive.
Treat meetings as evil necromantic spells: every minute you give to them is sucked from your soul.
I hire competent people and let them do their jobs. Nothing is a bigger waste of time than hiring someone to do a thing, and then doing it for them. This is a critical management skill, and it takes an adjustment of the mind to do well. Specifically, you have to change your thinking from “Is this what I wanted?” to “Is this good?” The reason you hire experts is because they are better at things than you are. So assume that they will give you something different, and probably better, than your expectation. Back off, look at it objectively, and if it does the job, pull your ego out of the equation and let it be. If you find that you can’t do that because you don’t trust or believe in the work someone is doing, replace them.
Good enough is good enough. I’ve been called “relentlessly Pareto”. I take that as a compliment. I only polish when it matters. The rest I let be. If you see me chatting with the team, my text is full of typos. They know what I mean. This isn’t getting published. I let it be. Our design documents are loose, rough, and produced fast. Our prototypes are ugly. When I give feedback, I take screenshots and scribble on them with the pen in the Windows Snipping Tool. It’s ugly, but the team gets it. Better they get the info ugly now than pretty tomorrow. If it’s not going in front of a customer, it’s only as pretty as it needs to be to be understood.
I don’t do email. Email is where information goes to die. If you are writing emails that require more than a few sentences to notify someone of something, you’re doing it wrong. That information needs to be put in a living document somewhere and shared. If I need to talk, I set up a quick call, we talk, I make notes, post them where they can be easily referenced later (we use Basecamp) and that’s referenced on our chat system (we use HipChat). If you need to say something more than a few sentences, document it, text, or call.
I do one thing completely before I do the next. Half of any serious creative task is just figuring out what you need to do, unpacking the details, and then banging them all together into something. If you are constantly shifting from task to task, you’re constantly redoing all of that preparation work, over and over. Stop that. Pick a thing. Do it. Bang on it till it’s done. Then put it out of your mind and move on. Half-done tasks pull at your attention and energy and make everything else you do more irritating and stressful. Clear your mind of these distractions by doing, completing, and moving on.
Pick a thing. Do it. Bang on it till it’s done. Then put it out of your mind and move on.
Sometimes, all of this breaks down, and I am seriously unproductive. It happens. When it does, I get up and walk away. Take a walk. Go to the gym and swim. Take a bike ride. Read a book. There are no bonus points for the number of hours you spend at a desk. If you find that you’ve been at a desk for 30 minutes or more, and have achieved nothing, step away. Recombobulate. Come back fresh. If you don’t, you’re going to just screw around looking at Facebook or YouTube or doing easy busywork anyway. Once you start down that road, you’re gone for an hour or more. Own that time. Make it yours. Shove something else you want or need to do into it.
I have one last, super specific tip: Every night, my last task is to write down the three things I will do tomorrow. I do this on a piece of scrap paper, and lay it on my keyboard. When I wake up and start in the morning, it’s there. Waiting for me. I don’t check email. I don’t do Facebook. I start with item one on the list and start my day. Until that list is done, my day is not over. When it’s done and my scheduled meetings are complete, I can call the day a success, and move on to stuff that I want to do – be that work related or not. This creates a sense of purpose that starts me every day, completion that helps me feel good at the end of the day, and excitement for what I am going to do tomorrow.
That’s largely it. Of course, I don’t keep to these rules 100%. Some days I keep closer to my regimen than others. But I have found that the closer that I keep to this life plan, the happier I am, the more I get done, and the better I feel about myself. Hope it helps.
We are proud to introduce our best mobile game finalist Mushroom Wars 2 made by Zillion Whales! As a winner at the GTP Indie Cup event, Zillion Whales has been given the opportunity to compete at Indie Prize Singapore at Casual Connect Asia 2017. The winter season 2017 of GTP Indie Cup has received more submissions than ever. Our jury board was excited about growing professional level of games from CIS indie developers and Mushroom Wars just proved this growth.
This year at GTP, we continue gathering best talents at our event and the summer season will be more helpful for developers not only by a variety of nominations and prizes but also with new Critic’s Choice award from CIS game press critics and journalists. We hope this story about our finalist will encourage you to take a part in the next Cup.
By Ksenia Shneyveys, Marketing Communications Manager at Zillion Whales
Mushroom Wars 2 is the newest game of a popular RTS series with a rich history.
Back in 2009, inspired by good old Galcon, the original Mushroom Wars was released. We polished this gameplay mechanics to a luster, added signature fungal setting, introduced morale notion and different types of buildings for greater depth.
Mushroom Wars 2 preserved the features that made Mushroom Wars so enjoyable and supplemented them with MOBA elements such as hero characters with unique sets of skills and co-op 2 vs 2 mode. The game is out on iOS and Apple TV. It is coming to Android, Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next year.
Codemotion is one of the biggest tech conferences for software developers in Europe with an international network of 40,000 developers and 1,500 speakers. It offers a unique opportunity to all visitors to gather new inspirations, energy, and knowledge in combination with the chance to network and chat with fellow visitors passionate about coding. Last year, Codemotion launched new Game(), a new brand dedicated to Game Development, which aims to become a reference point in Italy and Europe, and to give to the GameDev movement all the importance it deserves.
Codemotion is partnered with Indie Prize. We would like to introduce the winner at Codemotion Rome 2017: Caracal for their game Downward. As the winner, Caracal has the opportunity to attend and compete at Indie Prize Singapore at Casual Connect Asia 2017. The following is a first-hand article written by Alex Angelini, one of the founders of Caracal, about this three man team and tips for indie development.
By Alex Angelini, One of the Founders of Caracal Games Studio
Today we are going to share with you some information about our team Caracal Games Studio and our video game Downward, a first-person open-world parkour adventure set in the medieval ruins of a post-apocalyptic world. In the game, you must seek out the mysterious artifacts that could have a role in explaining a cataclysmic environmental event that brought you to the “End of the Earth”, embarking on a daunting journey through beautiful but treacherous terrains of past civilizations.