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ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndie

A Look into the Indie Lifestyle

October 22, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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Living as an indie developer for more than five years and currently doing a weekly podcast with other indie developers, George Zarkua has created a summary of his experience in QA mode.

Working as an Indie

I believe the life of an independent developer is the choice for people who understand that in a company, they do not get what indie work could give them. He may be a loner who feels that he can grow stronger, can release a more independent product, make more money, or make better use of his time. After separating from a company, he gets all the freedoms and limitations that are inherent for indie.

The first thing you have to think about, unfortunately, is time and money. You must honestly ask yourself how much time you can share with your PC. Then multiply this figure by two. At this time, we need some minimum cash cushion, big enough to cover sickness (paid health insurance and gyms are not included in an indie life package), fun (very few people can be productive in a state of depression), and contingencies. This amount is the budget of your game. Of course, these issues are only for a full-time indie. If you are developing parallel to your main work, then it is simply impossible to calculate time.

Work
You must honestly ask yourself how much time you can share with your PC.

When you becoming an indie, you become free. There is the freedom to choose a convenient schedule, programs, and partners. But almost immediately, it becomes apparent that indies can’t compete with the big companies. They must either create a studio with suitable rules or otherwise cheat. You are competing with studios that specialize in having spent a lot of time creating animation and content, and with a lot of people who are doing essentially the same job. In my opinion, indies should surprise the competition with ideas, unique style, and atmosphere. The ability to look to the future is the best quality for the companies; the ability to surprise is the best quality for an indie.

Making a Game

Experience helps avoid errors that you will understand only while making games.

Certainly, an indie’s first game could be a great game (Beginner’s Luck), but that does not guarantee that it will hit the top. However, the experience provides a broader view on the development of a variety of tools, working schedule, and a sense of the market. Experience helps avoid errors that you will understand only while making games. For example, you might forget to add a button of turning on sound and run into the crowd of disgruntled users who will write angry reviews and put a minus wherever possible. Or make an active area for ​​a button on the screen, and not the button entirely. Even if your game has super cool music, particularly harmful players will not forgive you for these blunders. Welcome to the Internet! But through the experience of making ten buttons correctly, the eleventh will be done automatically. This will help you avoid a hit from a foolish fail and polishes your creation.

It is possible to gain experience without making games, but for me, this attempt turned into a failure. A long time ago, I found a great resource with a stupendous number of articles for indies. There was an incredible collection of articles on game design, development, sales as a whole, free graphics and music, and more. Almost everything was very interesting, and I read through it, trying to apply all in one game. But the negative of such articles is that they are designed for people who have some experience, and therefore were not dismantling the problematic issues that may arise for beginners. That’s because the layers are important in the experience. Layer by layer, we create an understanding of development. Reading articles about behaviorism in MMO without experience is like having a second-grader read Kafka.

In my opinion, the first game should be small and test-like. Even if you have a super idea for a super game, you still have no budget, nor the sense of the market and the audience. Postpone that idea for a while, and take up a small test project instead. When working on a small game, it is now incredibly easy to make a prototype of the game. In a worst case scenario, it could take three days.

Often, there is a sense to do it all from scratch as we learn a new technique of painting or read a book about the architecture of the code. Small games are good so that we have time to finish the game before we come to destroyable thoughts. And even if you decide to remake the game or after the remarks on the unprecedented lag of it even on the most powerful computers, you don’t rewrite as much. However, a small game does not have time to change ideologically. In any game, even the great games, it is important to keep the idea, the rod of the game. We can add features, change the appearance, but the idea of ​​it should remain unchanged.

Partners
If you want new ideas to the game, or a second head, which will criticize you, look for a partner.

Increasing the quality of the game and leaving the level of “small games”, you will be competing with the big companies and studios. If you start to feel that you can not make a competitive game – look for an assistant. The type of the assistant should depend on your confidence in the game. If you feel the game itself is lame or you poorly see the idea, it is better to find a partner. If you want new ideas to the game, or a second head, which will criticize you, look for a partner. The only difference between an assistant and a partner is that the partner is involved in the development of the game, not just doing the job, but that difference is huge. Choosing a partner for a long project is like choosing a partner for a flight into space. If something goes wrong after six months of work, replacing will be very expensive.

Surviving as an Indie

I think an indie’s significance is hard to overestimate. Now is the era of indie developers. Indie games are no longer for hipsters. Steam introduced an indie games section where you can buy them on a par with the games from bigger campaigns. Apple Store gives indie games the same privileges as games of big companies. Sony and Microsoft are also looking for indie cooperation. The market does not reject that talent. There are sites for people looking for a direct link with the customer, such as Kickstarter, as well as conferences and meetings.

Now is the era of indie developers.

The issue of earnings is always painful. Each platform has their own rules and profits. There is practically no limit. For example, Minecraft earned about 100 million for 2012. But not all situations are so smooth. According to the well-known statistics of mobile applications, the top 25 developers received half of all profits in 2012. 80 percent of developers get three percent profit. 19 percent of apps earn $24k, and for the 80 percent, $300. Even if your mobile game will earn 100k on iOS, 30 percent of it you give Apple, 30 percent to your publishers, and then you have to divide the rest with your partner and tax.(source: The Game Bakers)

To start receiving more than you would have received in office and still do it all the time, you have to be strategic. I’ve learned to think about games in terms of categories. The first category are the games with new ideas, mechanics, and games with the new features of the devices. These are usually hits. Next on the list are quality sequels of old hits, complete with a bunch of fans and games that can be headed by a certain niche of the market. Finally, there are the games that cover some deficiencies of hits with new features. After that are the clones and trash.

To succeed, you must either make a game out of the first category (like Minecraft and Journey), or make one or two games from the second category (like Shank 2, the successful continuation of the epic Shank, and Limbo), or make lots of games from the third category. Surprisingly, some studios are ready to cope with it. For example, Berzerk Studio, a group of six people, provides great games month after month, almost always on the old mechanics. They have over 20 games. Berzerk Ball 2 went for 100k , and their new one went for 50k, so we can assume that the guys with such strategies have success.

Games
I’ve learned to think about games in terms of categories.

However, I think everything in a game shouldn’t be unique. What should be exclusive is the idea and style. Freedom of game elements is a vise, and there is the possibility of being misunderstood. The human brain is based on past experience, so to enhance the audience’s understanding of the game, you should use images with recognizable patterns. Choose a technique for illustrations, so that it strengthens the idea inherent in the game and matches the audience. If you want to reach the maximum audience, then you need to learn from movies/cartoons with a maximum audience (Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cut the Rope). Use recognizable patterns and be moderately predictable. In the case of niche games, rules are dictated by the specific audience. Use references for the drawing and screenshots of successful games for the understanding of the principles of drawing, but do not copy.

Games are remembered for their distinctive features: Ideas, graphics, music, and easter eggs. In Alien Anarchy, I did a lot of content, but almost all the comments were about the Easter eggs from the movies that I left. When the player is done with the game, he remembers what can be shared with others: a tough situation, a high score, and funny stories.

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Use recognizable patterns and be moderately predictable.

Food for Thought

Indies should remember that an end product is expected. Without a good product, no one cares how much effort and energy was put into the game. The game is above the developer; this is important. If you want everyone to know your story, then place it in the game. Independent developers are asking questions and answers themselves, rather than just doing tasks. This gives them the opportunity to show off their own look. But be prepared for the fact that your opinion is not shared by all, and your game will not be the second Minecraft .

Before you finish the game, it is best to show it to a test group – your friends, family, and colleagues. Do not ask them what needs to be changed in the game. This is the number one mistake. Never ask them. You need to watch how they play. Just watch.

Creating a successful game is consistently making the right decisions, from the selection of the engine and the platform to the last pixel. The secret to being a successful indie is to do what you like. Otherwise, what is the sense of been indie? Make your strong brands stronger and new games cooler.

Alien Anarchy

Currently, George is working on a mobile version of his strong brand, Alien Anarchy, Jim’s Dream, and the new version of Dream Symphony, which will be available to play at Casual Connect Kyiv 2013‘s Indie Prize Showcase.

ContributionsGame DevelopmentPostmortem

Algo-Bot – When a Game Teaches You (PC)

October 16, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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Founded in Belgium by four experienced AAA talents in 2008, Fishing Cactus is a very prolific studio, with as much diversity of released titles as the people who form the team. Over the years, the team has performed work-for-hire for several top-tier publishers on famous titles such as Shifting World, After Burner Climax, Creatures Online and Woof the Dog, in a wide variety of digital and mobile platforms. Sophie Schiaratura, PR Manager at Fishing Cactus, shares the story of Fishing Cactus’ first original IP, Algo-Bot.

Fishing Cactus
Fishing Cactus Team

Self-publishing a game is risky. But after performing work-for-hire for a number of publishers, we decided we were ready. Now the time had come for us to release titles which are Fishing Cactus-branded. To self-publish successfully, you have to find a game that is unique, a game that people will love, and above all, a game in which you truly believe. We found it. We named it Algo-Bot.

Press Command to Start

Grab your beer, your cup of coffee, or whatever…The tale begins here.

A year ago, we met some lovely people from a training center. They had this training course in programming and were looking for a game to help their participants learn programming more efficiently. They didn’t have a ton of money but the idea of making a game about coding was enticing.

There is no need to tell you how coding is important in video games development, and at Fishing Cactus, we really do love making games. After hours of reflection, we called those guys back. Challenge accepted!

There is no need to tell you how coding is important in video games development, and at Fishing Cactus, we really do love making games.

Then we thought about it. How are we going to do teach programming without being dull and boring? That was our first challenge, and also the beginning of the A team. As part of this team, Laurent Grumiaux and Guillaume Bouckaert thought about the game’s concept, and we can truly tell you that this game was mind-tingling before even being a real game.

The first good idea that came out from this collaboration was to invite programmers to join the team, which allowed them to act early in the development process. It turned out that many of them used to play Logo and Robot Rally as kids.That point helped to redefine the concept.

Step 1: Redefine the Concept

Making a game about programming is not that easy, and we didn’t want to create another “OkILearnedSomethingAndSoWhat?” game. Then we were reminded of a famous quote from Steve Jobs: “I think everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” The solution was so obvious that no one even noticed it until then: we wouldn’t create a game that teaches you to code, but a game that teaches you how to improve the way you think.

But how were we going to do that? With logic, of course! Nowadays, coding is one of the more desirable skills there is, and coding is nothing without logic. With this in mind, we set out to create a game that would help people grasp the essential skills of logic that the programming craft requires. Good! We have got a nice concept. The question now is how will we manage to do that?

The first idea was to create a character that has a job to perform in a futuristic power plant full of leaking toxic containers, industrial crates, and stubborn little robots. By carrying around those toxic containers, sorting them out and re-arranging them, the player will need to be smart and use programming basics such as functions, variables, the set theory, conditions, and loops.

Old Prototype
An Early Prototype of Algo-Bot

The player won’t control the character directly. He won’t make him jump on mushrooms by pressing a single button either. Instead, he sets up a sequence of orders for him: go straight, turn left, go straight again, turn right, etc. When the player is done creating his little sequence, he passes it on to the character, who will follow the given orders to move around the power plants. In a nutshell, the player manipulates sequential commands to order the character around in an attempt to reach the given goal of the level.

Step 2: Select Your team

The programmers would tell you that they are all you need to create a game, but they are wrong. We needed a complete world.

We had a concept and a gameplay. All we needed was love, time, and money. We had to make this concept into a game. Joined by Jef Stuyck, Silouane Jeanneteau, and Christophe Clementi, our team 1.1 was now made up of a project manager, a game designer and three programmers. The programmers would tell you that they are all you need to create a game, but they are wrong. We needed a complete world. More than anything, we needed a hero. Then, we needed artists.

In game development, that is the moment when everything turns into chaos. Not because artists join the development, but because now you have a complete functional team with motivated people full of ideas. In that moment, nobody is a programmer, an artist, or a game designer, but everyone is the guy with an idea. And because it’s a game about coding, guess who think he knows best? Well, it’s like bombarding atoms with neutrons. It’s up to the project manager to make good use of this energy.

Step 3: Create a World

Even if you want to, you definitely can’t sell a game about coding staring a unicorn in a cotton candy world. Obviously, the robot was the perfect hero for our game. Inspired by Wall-E, Antoine Petit, our 2D artist, mixed futuristic shapes and retro styling into a robot with a real personality. Since there was no reason for Algo-Bot to be a 2D game, Cédric Stourme started to 3D model the robot and its world.

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The evolution of the hero

Speaking about the world, we imagined it as a huge power plant with a level of toxicity so high that humans can’t enter without dying instantly. The first mockups of this power plant were way too bright. You really don’t need that much light in a place where humans can’t stay. We had to stay realistic. Oh yeah, I hear you from here: “Realistic? With a robot in a futuristic toxic power plant, huh?” But yes, we had to stay as realistic as we could be within that setting. We now have a version of the power plant close to our idea: darker and more appropriate to the gameplay.

Step 4: Make a Game

Main_Robot_HD
The deadline was approaching, and Algo-Bot seemed like nothing more than a seed, no matter how much time and love we gave it.

“Make a game” sounds simple enough. Everyone can make a game, but we wanted to make a good game, and making a good game requires a lot of self-investment.

First of all, a game needs time and includes hours of research and development. Focusing on this uncommon gameplay and writing this clean code that would bring the game to life became our daily routine. The deadline was approaching, and Algo-Bot seemed like nothing more than a seed, no matter how much time and love we gave it.

Game development is a sports team for geeks.

In most developments, being too self-invested in your project happens to be a huge thorn in the team’s foot. There is that moment you are truly living for your game, rejecting other ideas because you think that you are the only person who knows where this project is going. When you waste hours modifying the concept, trying to do the work of others…let me tell you this: you’ve never been so blind! So have a Kit-Kat and stop trying to be the man of the situation. Game development is a sports team for geeks. That’s the lesson we learned from this development. If Algo-Bot was made to teach others programming, it taught us how to communicate within our team.

And then we experienced the moment when you believe the game you dreamt of will never be developed for the simple reason that the client is out of money. Sure, the client can perfectly use this version. It’s playable, the learning process is quite effective, and the graphics are not so bad. But for you, it would never be more than an alpha version of your dream. So, like any good parent, you open your wallet until you run out of money yourself and then you cry… AND you launch it on Kickstarter.

Step 5: Make it a New Adventure

Have you heard of Kickstarter? Of course you have! It is a simple word that represents dreams, hope, support, and salvation. For indie developers, it offers the opportunity to bring an idea to reality.

What can indies do on Kickstarter today, when more and more well-known companies are giving it a try? Everything! We can do everything, because the true difference between million-dollar companies and us is our reason for being there. They go on Kickstarter to have more money. We go on Kickstarter to find people to share our dream with, people that would love to be part of this great adventure.

Algo-Bot will be on Kickstarter. It is up to you to join us.

Plan_Rapproche

Algo-Bot’s Kickstarter will start later this month, and the game will be showcased at Casual Connect Kyiv 2013’s Indie Prize Showcase. Stay up to date with information from Fishing Cactus by liking them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

ContributionsPostmortem

Strata: Simply Challenging

September 10, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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Graveck is a small development studio located in Minneapolis. Founded in 2007, Graveck was the one of the first companies to fully adopt Unity as their commercial engine. They have primarily focused on mobile games, releasing Skee-ball, Skee-ball 2, Jump Dewds, and multiple Disney titles. Strata is Graveck’s newest game, and it’s a bit of a step in a different direction. Ty Burks, Creative Director at Graveck, shares that story.

Last January, we were deep in development on contract work. I’m sure many studios are familiar with the contract and original work compromise: you work on contract jobs for a few months to be able to work on your own original games for a few months. During this time, I was jumping back and forth on a few ideas for new titles during weeknights. I needed to work on something new. But every game idea I wanted to pursue would take a team at least double our size, heavy animation, economy balancing, etc. I decided to take a different approach. My objective was to try making a game that could be played as a paper prototype. I wanted to create a super simple game that could be played with physical objects, but that would also be enhanced by a digital version. I cut up paper, folded paper, stacked blocks, tossed objects around… basically tried to find some kind of new game with a physical feel to it.

Paper Prototype
Layering the ribbons, matching the colors, and having to fill the entire grid ended up being a perfect combination of simple, yet challenging gameplay I was looking for.

When the idea clicked, I spent the entire night cutting up pieces of paper so I could have my fiance play it when she got home. It worked. Layering the ribbons, matching the colors, and having to fill the entire grid ended up being a perfect combination of simple, yet challenging gameplay I was looking for. The reaction of somebody understanding your game design and continuing to play without you asking them to is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.

A Personal Touch

The next week or two was spent mocking up the main game layout on the computer, and putting together some interface screens in a similar style. The approach with the visuals was to keep it minimalistic, but maintain a sense of tangibility without going overboard on textures. It’s a very simple game mechanic, and I wanted to reflect that throughout the entire game. Every aspect of the game is at a 45-degree angle to follow the gameplay visuals. The interface uses the same mechanic as the gameplay, so you understand how to interact with the game even from the title screen. I wanted to really maintain the physical feel of laying ribbons down on top of each other, so it was important that we nailed the feeling of dragging ribbons. It was a test in discipline to keep everything consistent, but we’re proud of the result.

02 Strata-Design-Iterations

After I was happy with the mockups, I pitched the game to the team. Matt Gravelle, Graveck’s Co-Founder, began a prototype almost immediately. At this point, Strata was a side-project at night, since we were still deep into contract development. We both continued to iterate on the game, and Matt developed the ribbon transition between interface screens. I was putting together color palettes and testing out some of the bigger puzzles. The game was coming together quickly.

05 Strata-5x5Nick Miller, our Lead Engineer, jumped on the project when things started slowing down with our contract work. Nick and Matt developed a level designer that allowed me to place ribbons, and then sort of “print” it to a grid. I could then go in and manually remove colored squares from the grid, but still make sure that each level had a nice balance of color. We had an automated level creator at one point, but I didn’t feel right using it. Strata is a somewhat intimate game for me, and I wanted to create each level by hand. I wanted the control of the difficulty and making it look good as a completed puzzle. Nick also created a level analyzer algorithm that will test every combination of successful ways to solve the puzzle, and spit out a difficulty rating. This helped a lot in pacing most of the game. Early on, we were a bit worried about not seeing any obvious strategies in the game. As you play through the game, there are a few things you can pick up on to finish those difficult puzzles. We call two of the strategies “Lock In” and “Solid Row”, but you’ll have to figure out what they mean for yourself!

We started testing the game on willing participants. A lot of times, we got the same response (and still do): “It looks really nice, but I have no idea what’s going on.” We went through quite a few iterations of our tutorial, both functionally and visually. By constantly testing on people, we were able to focus on what the core items the player needs to know are. An early tutorial gave players a bit too much freedom to experiment, and we seemed to lose them. The last iteration of the tutorial has the game show you how to fill the grid, places a wrong ribbon, pulls it back, and then completes the puzzle. It makes sure you understand, and then asks you to give it a try. This seemed to get the best response, as it gave the players a peek at what the game looks like completed as opposed to having them struggling to guess.

The Result

06 StrataTableWe decided to release Strata as a desktop version on the Mac App Store, Desura, Chrome, and Steam Greenlight. We found during development that it was still quite an enjoyable experience to play on your desktop. Releasing on these platforms allowed us to gain feedback before our main release on mobile platforms, and test out some new markets. Strata was featured on New and Noteworthy and What’s Hot on the Mac App Store for a couple weeks, and reached #1 in the Games category.

Strata was a fun departure from the types of games we’re known for. It came from focusing on designing a game I believe in, and then sticking to the design. There are no star ratings, objectives or currencies. Strata is a simple game where you challenge yourself, and get out of it what you put in. We definitely learned a lot about keeping things simple and are applying it to our current games. With Strata, I found the user experience was complete when we couldn’t simplify it any further. I believe that to be the biggest lesson learned from development, and something I will carry to future projects. Sometimes, less can be more.

Strata was featured on Indie Prize Showcase at Casual Connect USA 2013, and was nominated for Most Innovative Game Design. It was also a Finalist in the Unity Awards 2013, for Best 2D Visual Experience. Strata will be available for iOS on September 12, 2013.

ContributionsPostmortem

Postmortem: Astroflux

July 29, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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The Stockholm-based game studio Fula Fisken (which literally means “The Ugly Fish” in Swedish) was founded in 2010 by Magnus Lind, Stefan Svebeck, and Toomas Hommik. Fula Fisken has four games on their list: Astroflux, Världskoll (for client UN on iOS/Android), Kolleagues (for client TCO on iOS/Android), and Sudoku and Friends (a multiplayer sudoku, playable on the web and Android). Magnus Lind shares the difficulties and the rewards of creating Astroflux, a real-time 2D space shooter MMORPG browser game.

Creating the Game We Want to Play

Everybody on the Fula Fisken team are game nerds; Toomas used to be late for work after long Xbox gaming sessions, Stefan’s a hardcore Starcraft player and plays through Diablo 2 on Hell Mode at least once a year, and Magnus plays everything from Starcraft to Clash of Clans and has a passion for retro games.

When we founded Fula Fisken, all we knew was that we wanted to create awesome games. We all had years of experience with running huge web-based games with twenty-ish database/web servers, and we also knew how a strong community could make a game flourish.

We started out in a super small office, which we shared with a T-shirt designer that collected toy robots. It was kind of surreal to have our own game studio, an office, and the possibility to create whatever we wanted to. One problem though: we did not have an income. We really needed to find contract work to pay the rent and get a minimum salary. Luckily, we got an offer to create a game for the Swedish Trade Union TCO. We were to come up with a concept that “showed the upsides of collaboration in a work place”. This was a dream come true: we got to make our first game and we would get paid for it! The result was Kolleagues, made together with artist Sandra Löv.

We still needed to decide what our first company game would be. The ideas were many, but we all liked the idea of a 2D space shooter, possibly with multiplayer elements, so alongside Kolleagues, we started working on what would become Astroflux.

Early Mockup
An early design of Astroflux

Getting Players into the Game

In May 2012, we were ready for our initial release of Astroflux. It was a rather quiet release, since we only shared the link with a few friends. Bugs were found and fixed. Eventually, Chris Benjaminsen at PlayerScale (now Yahoo), our backend service provider, tried the game and, if I dare to say, fell in love with it.

Chris played Astroflux more aggressively than any other player during beta and offered us advice. Having Chris helping us was awesome, and he pushed us into new territories, like finding publishers and monetizing strategies. Before Chris came along, we were mainly focusing on our game — but suddenly, we were also thinking of how to make it popular and profitable.

First Version
It was a rather quiet release, since we only shared the link with a few friends.

Too Many Players!

In October 2012, we released Astroflux on Kongregate. They put us in the “Hot New Games,” and we also ended up in the “Top Games This Month”. The influx of new players overwhelmed us. Within an hour, we had 300 players online and our server crashed.

The next few hours were horrible; it was the game’s best moment to date and the worst at same time. We simply couldn’t get the game going except for a few minutes at a time before it crashed again, and again, and again…Players rated the game one star, and we had to ask Kongregate to remove us from the “Hot new games” section. We realized that we needed to rewrite a huge part of our server code, because more than ~20 players online caused all kinds of bugs.

Bad time for a mission!
It was the game’s best moment to date and the worst at same time.

Getting Back on Track

The months following the release on Kongregate were spent fixing — everything. Astroflux needed the ability to handle more players, and we knew that just adding more servers wouldn’t help in the long run. Aron Pettersson, a robot engineer student with sick mathematical skills, was a great help in this process and with programming enemy AI.

We also received excellent feedback and ideas from Peter Eykemans at Kongregate, and we decided to make some changes. For example, rather than just having one spaceship, we added the ability to have a fleet, with different ships getting different stats. The thought behind this was to have more stuff for the players to upgrade, and to experience something else by playing with a different ship. The result was a success! The players loved it, and the incentive to play beyond a certain point grew significantly. This was a success for monetization.

In late May 2013, we were put on the front page of Kongregate again. This time, we were ready and we could handle the traffic. Our rating went up to 4.2 and it was great. We started to get decent payments and for the first time, it actually felt that we had something going for real. We got over 25,000 new players from Kongregate and peaked at 842 players online.

PvE
We got over 25,000 new players from Kongregate and peaked at 842 players online.

Battling Free2Play and Pay2Win

People in the business have told us that to make the game as profitable as possible, we should basically allow everyone to upgrade everything with our paid currency. They might be correct about that, but we’ve chosen a model that we’re more comfortable with.

First of all, the game is free-to-play. We have deliberately not added the super-mega-weapon for sale. Instead, we reward active players with quite a lot of our purchasable in-game currency. This way, the players get used to spending the in-game currency, and they also know that if they’re active, they will sooner or later be able to buy some of the cooler items. If a player gets curious about an upgrade or a ship, it’s possible to spend money to get it earlier. For us, the monetization process is very much about finding a balance between “free-to-play” and “pay-to-win”. These two often go hand in hand in games today. I don’t really mind it, but for a game like Astroflux, the balance is important for keeping the players happy.

By limiting a single part of the game (the player level), we’ve made sure that a player can’t pay their way to victory. A level 50 player that invests $100 in the game won’t be able to beat a level 80 player. Reaching level 80 is time consuming, but anyone can get there even without paying. Buying upgrades and a XP-boost will get you there faster, but you still need to invest quite a lot of game time. My experience is that players usually accept that you can get items faster by paying, as long as you still CAN get them for free.

Hangar
For us, the monetization process is very much about finding a balance between “free-to-play” and “pay-to-win”.

What’s Next?

We’ve got the game running smoothly and it monetizes decently, but we have some important steps to take:

1. Player retention

We lose too many players early on in the game — and we lose too many players because we don’t have enough incentives to play beyond a certain level.

2. Better PvP

Our current PvP system is inherited from an earlier Police vs Pirate-feature and does not work very well. We’ve made some quick fixes, but we need to re-think and re-make.

3. Improve Clans

We’ve got clans in the game, but they’re not really used for anything at the moment except showing that you are in a clan.

4. More content

Creating new star systems and enemies takes time. What we need is a way to allow players to create content or possibly dynamic content creation based on player level.

As you can see, we’ve got a lot of fun ahead of us!

A Bumpy Road

Even though we were experienced programmers when starting this project, we didn’t have experience in making real-time MMORPG:s. We certainly were in over our heads with Astroflux as one of our first projects. We probably would have been better off by making a couple of much smaller games to start with. We’ve literally spent months correcting our own newbie mistakes.

Real-time multiplayer also probably complicates things by a factor 10. It adds synchronization problems, lag problems, the need for servers, and much more. Simply don’t go there for your first game!

PVP Battles
Real-time multiplayer also probably complicates things by a factor 10.

Hands-On Tips

1. Don’t be cheap

Don’t be afraid of awarding active play with your purchasable in-game currency. Instead, make sure there is always something to spend it on.

2. Clans should not be expensive to create

We thought it was a good idea to make clans expensive to create and free to join, but after lowering the price to get your own clan, the engagement skyrocketed.

3. Last but not least: Think at least twice about real-time multiplayer

Even though I think having a running real-time MMO is super awesome, the extra complexity can really be a show stopper. In all honesty, there were many times during the creation of this game that we wished we’d started with something simpler.

Astroflux is available to play at astroflux.net. The Fula Fisken crew is currently planning their trip to Casual Connect in San Francisco where they will be showcasing the game. You can follow Magnus @magnuslind and Fula Fisken can be found @fulafisken, on Facebook and on fulafisken.se.

ContributionsPostmortem

Rune War: Simple, Yet Complex

July 24, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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Keitai is an independent team of game developers who has been developing Java games on feature phones since 2005. Since then, they have been making different kinds of games on mobile devices. The word “keitai” means mobile phone in Japanese, and in Chinese, it means something you have to and be willing to bring with yourself all the time. At the end of 2012, Keitai made their first game app, Rune War, on iOS and Android. It is a simple puzzle game incorporating elements of RPGs and Magic: The Gathering.

Why Rune War? – Simplicity and Complexity

Rune War
When we decided to work on the project, it had not been tried by anyone else, and we agreed that it was going to be a challenge!

Puzzle is simple and popular, while matchmaking is complex and diversified. We’ve tried to integrate the different characteristics of these two games into a new concept, which can help the fans of puzzle and matchmaking connect with each other. Just as people of different personalities can work cooperatively, so can fans of different types of games be put together. When we decided to work on the project, it had not been tried by anyone else, and we agreed that it was going to be a challenge!

We’ve spent lots of time to define the mutually sharing characteristics between puzzle and matchmaking players. Based on these factors, we extended our designs to help players by adding new key elements to their familiar way of playing individually. Furthermore, players can even pursue their own new directions if they want to.

Gradually, we’ve found this project to be a huge challenge. First, it must be easy enough for players to understand and learn how to play. Second, it has to make players realize more complicated contents naturally while playing the game. Third and most importantly, it helps players to interact and communicate with other players more to create more fun when they play Rune War.

Rune War Screen Shot
Third and most importantly, it helps players to interact and communicate with other players more to create more fun when they play Rune War.

Mobile platforms, unlike PC or console, are usually not able to have constant and stable network signals. We made a lot of effort to find out how to make our players connect and interact with each other at an extremely high efficiency within a brief network connection. We’ve also encountered many technical challenges in the development.

We also encountered team challenges during development. One of our programmers had to leave us due to some irresistible reasons. How do we solve the problem of a halfway-done program? Was there any financial support for us to find a new programmer? Some problems not related to designing began to emerge, causing further complications during this game’s creation.

Connect with the World and Show Your Ideas

We got past our problems enough to create a prototype. We immediately decided to participate in the 2013 Taipei Game Show when we finished the prototype. We wanted to showcase Rune War to everyone. All our friends said we were crazy when they were told our decision. Some even told us we must be out of our minds to make such a reckless decision.

Online Match
We wanted to showcase Rune War to everyone.

As a matter of fact, we’re glad we did so. We met the players face-to-face in the show to inspect and verify our designs by seeing their facial expressions. After that, we went to Casual Connect Asia, where we received even more feedback. Don’t be afraid to connect to the world, make a step forward, and you’ll find the reward is far more greater than you could ever imagine.

Many independent developers are satisfied with their own creativeness or designs in the beginning. However, they start to have doubts in developing. They might want to ask themselves, “Is my work good enough?” “Is this someone who doesn’t like it?” “What else can I do to make it better?”

If these thoughts ever popped up in your mind, or if you are not sure whether you work is good enough, show people your game. If you think you have done a good job, then you have even more reasons and motivation to do so. Connecting to the world is definitely going to make your game more excellent and wonderful.

Continuing On

It’s been seven months since this project started, and Keitai has grown up from a team with only two members to six members. We are so lucky to have recruited new team members who are willing to believe and decided to take the challenge together with us. We did create a game in these months, a game which may look familiar and simple, yet is surprisingly innovative when you touch it.

Rune War Screen Shot
We did create a game in these months, a game which may look familiar and simple, yet is surprisingly innovative when you touch it.

We’d love to hear people say “Wow!” when they see our game and start to love it. This is the goal we will never stop pursuing and an achievement we dream to accomplish. We love to share our experience and are excited to hear different opinions. Making a decision is only a beginning, but determination and attitude are playing great parts on our future development. We are still working very hard, and our goal will always be the same: to make a game that make people have fun!

Rune War will be taking part in Casual Connect USA’s Indie Prize Showcase later this month. 

ContributionsIndie

Monkey Potion at Casual Connect Asia

July 12, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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This is a guest post from Jheng Wei Ciao, founder of Monkey Potion, on his experience as an Indie Prize showcase participant at Casual Connect Asia.

We are Monkey Potion, an independent game studio based in Taiwan. This was our first time attending Casual Connect and Indie Showcase. It was a great pleasure having the opportunity to introduce our game to overseas players and game publishers. It was also an awesome experience to communicate with so many indie developers who came from Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Indonesia and other countries.

Indie Prize Showcase
We were able to communicate with so many indie developers from many other countries.

iOS vs. Android

Interestingly enough, I found that most of the exhibits by indies were iOS or PC games, while almost all publishers who participated in this event were looking for Android games exclusively. Why was that? In my humble opinion, I think it is because iOS is more indie-friendly, whereas Android is more approachable for publishers. Indie iOS game developers don’t need to spend too much time on tweaking their games to be applied to various device configurations, or to worry about how to integrate different billing systems in different markets.

On the other hand, publishers can get more benefits or make more profit by building their own platforms to release Android games on their own markets. By doing so, they can easily provide users alternative payment options such as prepaid cards and PayPal. Moreover, if they have more bargaining power, they can even get revenue share better than 70/30. That is one critical reason why most local publishers prefer releasing Android games than iOS games, especially in China and Korea.

Game Over
The market potential is high, and indie game developers still have good chances to make a difference.

Someone told me that if indies don’t work with publishers, they will not survive. But I disagree. Although the mobile games market has become very crowded now, it is still growing. The market potential is high, and indie game developers still have good chances to make a difference. There are many possibilities of game design waiting to be explored and discovered. Indies just have to carefully choose and work with the right partners to benefit each other in the long term.

Taking Promotion to the Next Level

T-Shirts
I was surprised by the effect of advertising our app on a T-Shirt.

Besides using iPad to showcasing our newly developed iOS game Jade Ninja at Casual Connect, we also brought business cards, stickers, ninja decorators and game icon T-shirts to promote our game. I was surprised by the effect of advertising our app on a T-Shirt. It attracted many participants to inquire and play our game!

There were so many people coming to ask how they can get a Jade Ninja T-shirt for free, so we decided to hold a small contest for those who want to get a Jade Ninja T-shirt on the last day of Indie Showcase. When they were informed that if they reached 3000m in 3 lives (in our game), they won a T-shirt, their eyes sparked and they were very interested in joining this contest.

People loves competition, especially when they consider the prize valuable. Our contestants were not just playing but trying to win. They yelled, cheered, and sweated. Some of them begged for a second chance. One guy even brought his partner back for revenge (but failed).

Finally, two guys succeeded and won their T-shirts. I will never forget their physical and emotional expressions when they played Jade Ninja. It is this kind of emotional attachment toward people that reminds me why I love creating games.

Why Casual Connect Asia?

Media coverage is indispensable for every indie developer. After attending Casual Connect, we earned a chance to get an interview by GameDevFinder from Singapore and to be reported on INSIDE from Japan. Furthermore, we have established a connection and relationship with many game developers and publishers.

Comparison
Compared with GDC Play and Tokyo Game Show, Casual Connect Asia is no doubt the most beneficial choice to showcase games for Taiwanese and most Asian indie games developers.

I also attended GDC this year, where my friends showcased their games in the GDC Play. Although they did well, it cost them a lot. As the figure above shows, compared with GDC Play and Tokyo Game Show, Casual Connect Asia is no doubt the most beneficial choice to showcase games for Taiwanese and most Asian indie games developers.

I’m so happy that all our team members, Zack, Matt and me, actively participated and had a great time at Casual Connect Asia this year in Singapore, and as Taiwanese indie developers, we do wish in the near future Casual Connect in Asia would be held in Taiwan.

We are Monkey Potion, and we are proud of our game Jade Ninja.

ContributionsPostmortem

Indie Showcase: Creatures from NTFusion

June 6, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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NTFusion

NTFusion is an independent game studio based in Guangzhou, China. They created their first game, NTCreature, in 2011. In two years, it has grown into a series of games: NTCreature, NTCreature2, Pocket Creature, Pocket Creature PVP and the newest Pocket Creature Shakespeare. They have been popular in global game arcades. Zhifeng Chen shares the experience and lessons they learned while making the whole series.

Our Love of Tower Defense and Playing Pokémon!

We are fans of tower defense and Pokémon. So it made send that our first game idea was a combination of tower defense and creature-raising. Players have to defend their castle from waves of enemies, and they can control a creature of their own. Their creature can eat different types of enemies to evolve and each have unique attacks and abilities.

Tree

We worked for four months to make our idea a reality. The result was NTCreature. It won us the grand prize at Mochi China Flash Game Developer Contest, which was very important to us. It was our first game and it won! It felt like we were on the right track.

More Creatures and Game Modes

After almost half a year, NTCreature2 comes out, and we added two races of creatures, five game modes and even more towers. However, we felt that we were beginning to lose control of the game. The complexity of NTCreature2 has made difficulty balancing a really tough job.

Game Modes

Now there was too many controls and strategies for the players: WSAD for directions, SPACE for abilities, E for eating, attributes adding, evolution, all while building different towers to defend every route. Players found it difficult to get familiar with all the staffs of NTCreature2. Many of them gave up after playing only 5-10 minutes. Even worse, only 0.1 percent of the players completed the whole story mode.

Simple but New

We decided to simplify things with the next game, Pocket Creature. We kept the creature’s evolution strategy, but made the battle simple: players didn’t have to make decisions during battle. The only thing to do in Pocket Creature is build your creature team and feed them for evolution, and then watch them fight!

Team

Surprisingly, Pocket Creature, which only took us one month, is more popular than NTCreature2. Many players asked for a new version of Pocket Creature. With their voice, we decided to go further. Based on the players’ feedbacks, they want more diverse strategies and a system that can challenge the creature teams from other players.

We design a new GEM system to let players put GEMs on their creatures. Each GEM can increase creatures’ attack damage, HP or elasticity. With the GEM system, players can have plenty of strategies even with the same team. They can choose a high damage team with range knockback creatures, or a high HP team with all melee guys, or a balance team with both high damage and elasticity creatures…there are numerous possibilities!

GEM

Of course, we have another exciting system, the PVP system in Pocket Creature PVP. Players can challenge other creature teams from all over the world. And with the GEM system, you’ll find lots of fun in doing so.

The release of Pocket Creature PVP has been a big hit on flash game arcades. It has been featured on many big game sites like Kongregate, Newgrounds and Armorgames. And now we have the newest version of Pocket Creature, the Pocket Creature Shakespeare, has three new levels, seven more legendary creatures and a Free Lucky Draw system for getting rare creatures.

Lucky Draw

So, What Have We Learned?

1. Be creative, but don’t make the game complex. Letting players focus on one single creative point is just OK.

2. Listen to the players to learn what they want (PVP system, for example), but you may not know how they feel (some may find it hard and some may find it easy). Just remember to watch the statistics!

3. It is a good strategy to make a series of games. But if you find you have lost control, feel free to redesign it. You will be surprised with what you can do!

To keep up with NTFusion news, follow them on Facebook!

ContributionsPostmortem

Indie Showcase: Kiragames’ Unblock Me

May 15, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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kiragamesKiragames is an independent game studio based in Thailand. It’s flagship game Unblock Me was released four years ago in 2009 and became the most downloaded application that year and to date is currently the #17 most downloaded game of all time in the US AppStore. Kiragames’ actual roots started from a sole indie developer named Kirakorn Chimkool that worked on Unblock Me to learn a new programming language for him. Little did he know it would be one of those life-changing moments and lead him to go full time with his game career path and establish Kiragames later on in 2011. Aun Taraseina, COO of Kiragames and a developer of Unblock Me, discusses the creation of the game.

To fully grasp the whole picture of how Unblock Me started, you will have to understand the nature of its creator, Kirakorn Chimkool. He’s the type of person who is really shy and rarely speaks to anyone he doesn’t know. He has always kept an extremely low profile of himself, so it wouldn’t be strange if you have heard or played Unblock Me before but have no idea what and who Kiragames and Kirakorn are.

In 2009, Kirakorn was working at an outsourcing division in a company from the US. His daily routine would be consist of looking trough list of issues that he needs to get finish and send back to his employers in US. While it did have good pay, it wasn’t something he wanted to do for the rest of his career. Kirakorn said his dream has always been to create games. After hearing that Apple will soon open its gateway for developers in Thailand to sell their Apps through the AppStore, Kirakorn quickly jumped on the bandwagon and started learning the native language for the iOS platform. Kirakorn said that the main reason for his interest of the platform was mainly because of his geek nature; he wanted to learn something new and he wanted to try the new platform ecosystem that seems to be very open to indie developers. I remember at that time, Kirakorn start sending some game ideas to me and one of our friends, Tim Promwanna, who is now the Game Director at Kiragames, to get a feel of what we think of his idea. One of the last game ideas that he sent us was a link to an iOS game that was already doing extremely well at that time, Blocked.

Starting with Concept

As a gamer and developer, I have really high respect for Blocked. It was a fun game to play with great fluid design. And for all the good reasons, Blocked had a good level of inspiration to Unblock Me, but the core concept of the game and theme would be different. Kirakorn wanted a game that anyone can play, so he made sure that there were different levels of difficulties to the game, especially the easiest levels. He felt that solving puzzles is a human instinct, the instinct to find answers and challenges, so he designed all the graphics to match the natural elements that surrounds him, such as the sky background or the wooden blocks. I later asked him about the the name Unblock Me came from. His simple reply was, the name Blocked seems like it’s stuck somewhere in the puzzle so he named his game Unblock Me in contrast to Blocked.

Comparison
A screenshot comparing Blocked and Unblock Me in the early versions

Development

After all the core concepts were final, Kirakorn started his development by buying a $700 Mac Mini with 10-month installments and a $100 secondhand iPod. The development for Unblock Me took Kirakorn about six weeks during his free time to complete from start to finish, including the time that he used to learn Objective C, iOS development and Coco2d for iPhone, which was the game engine used for Unblock Me. The puzzles were generated by a C# program that runs on Windows, and another python script was written to sort out the difficulties of each of the puzzles that were generated. After that, he would manually copy the puzzles to his Mac Mini and work on Unblock Me from there.

Kirakorn recalls that he was very fortunate that the decisions he made throughout the development cycle were correct.He didn’t have any problems or delays with coding at all, but he did take a bit of time to work on the graphics for Unblock Me since he’s not an artist. If you see the work he had done with Unblock Me in the earlier versions, you can see it is much cruder. With newer versions of Unblock Me, we have professional artists to work on the graphics, but the same feeling of those early versions still remains. I tried asking him what he considers to be the most difficult issue during development, but he couldn’t think of any. Most of the features took a couple of days to work on during his time from his day job. And I can related to this, as a long time friend of Kirakorn and as a developer that has been lucky enough to work with many developers, I can really say he is among the most talented developer I’ve worked with.

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Screenshot as Unblock Me progress throughout the 4 years.

Getting Unblock Me to the AppStore

Kirakorn didn’t have much emotions after the game was completed. He felt that he really enjoyed the process of learning a new language, a new platform and getting back to work on games again all together. If the game will succeed or not wasn’t much of his concern since that wasn’t the point for Unblock Me anyway. This make sense to me now because the first version of Unblock Me in the AppStore came in two versions: the full version for 0.99$ with 1200 puzzles and the free version with 400 puzzles for free with no monetization platform. I still remember the night he was about to submit the game to Apple, he was talking with me and Tim on Skype and was asking questions like “Do you think my game will sell at all?” or “Maybe I should just release one version and release it for free, I don’t think it will make that much money anyway.” Of course, I was against going with one version for free but in the end, it was his call. He did however, went with two versions, which proved to be a key factor to Unblock Me’s success at that time.

While the initial development of Unblock Me was a breeze for Kirakorn, he said that the most challenging process of getting Unblock Me to the wild was getting it to the AppStore. The game was stuck in the Apple submission process due to uncleared bank account info. Kirakorn said that the problem went on for about a month and a half, and during this time, he would constantly send daily emails to Apple for help regarding the issue. At the end, Kirakorn decided to apply for a new iOS Developer account and use a new bank for the account. The game eventually went live within days using the new iOS Developer Account.

Going Live and Wild

After the game went live, the paid version of Unblock Me was able to sell about 10 copies the first day and then 20 the second day and then 50 the third day, and it kept going on like this for about two weeks until it reached the #60 most downloaded game. Both the Free version and the Paid version did very well during its launch. The free version eventually became the #1 most downloaded app in every category within a few days and became most downloaded app of the year(2009) in the AppStore. A lot of Unblock Me‘s success has to be contributing to having a free version at that time. While the free version didn’t even have any ads in it, it created a huge buzz among blogs and forums. People have no problem trying the game for free, and most of them were willing to paid the extra 0.99$ for more puzzles. The biggest competitor at that time was Blocked, but it came with only 100 or so puzzles.

With the success of Unblock Me that year, Kirakorn decided to quit his day job after his contract expired. He continued to work on Unblock Me alone for another year before establishing Kiragames in 2011, which is when me, Tim and many more talented developers joined him.

Team

The Ongoing Development…

This is supposed to be a postmortem of Unblock Me, but I think everyone at Kiragames will agree that Unblock Me is still ongoing and everyone on the team is still heavily involved.  At the time of writing this article, I’ve just committed the last new feature for Unblock Me’s update on the iOS. Unblock Me on Android, which was released in 2010, will also get an update pretty soon, depending on how QA goes. We have definitely learn a lot from this four year process; we have seen how things quickly changed and got a better understanding of our users and the market in total.

Aun Taraseina will be a speaker at Casual Connect Asia in Singapore during May 21 – May 23,  and will be talking about “Key Points for Indie Success Globally.” Feel free to contact him via auntara at kiragames dot com if you are interested about the topic.

ContributionsPostmortem

Indie Showcase: Circulets – the Making of a Two-Player, Local Multiplayer Game

May 13, 2013 — by Mariia Lototska

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Hashstash Studios is an independent game development studio from India working to develop and bring innovative and entertaining games that will hopefully tickle you to death. Their new game Circulets is an easy-to-learn family game designed for interactions between the players and includes a lot of playfulness. Kinshuk Sunil, the lead at Hashstash Studios, tells the story of creating Circulets. 

My name is Kinshuk Sunil and in April 2011, I started an independent game development company with two friends of mine – Yadu Rajiv and Mayank Saini. We spent the next year working on an Android game, Zap the Knight, which is out there as an unfinished game on the Play Store and would perhaps be best described as a vaporware for now.

As the calendar turned to 2013, our priorities had shifted from making games to just plain survival. Around that time, Yadu jumped into Global Game Jam 2013 with a few friends and ended up making ‘less than three’, a local synchronous multiplayer for the PC. ‘less than three’ (a play on the heart emoticon <3) was an experiment on a concept we have been planning to work on for some time and was received very well by friends at the Jam.

One Game A Month? Can We Do It?

During the Jam, we all started talking about taking part in One Game a Month experiment. less than three became our 1GAM entry for January, and the XP boost was relieving. We internally joked and poked fun on each other about our XPs. This led to us starting to discuss what our project should be for February.

It was evident that we needed it to be very simple, because we actually wanted to finish it in February. So before anything, we decided that the release date would be February 28. Vidhvat Madan, Yadu and Vasu Chaturvedi then actively started exploring ideas about what that simple game should be. The breakthrough came on February 3rd, when Vidhvat came up with a simple prototype of collecting circles.

Collect circles at a time and get points!

The idea was simple: a circle pops up on the screen and two players fight to collect it. The one who gets it, gets a point and the cycle repeats.

Wait, What Are We Making?

It was an interesting prototype, but not a game yet. Vasu, Yadu and Vidhvat were hard-pressed to find a game here. Yadu went ahead with experimenting with the idea of multiple circles instead of just one. But that made it a little confusing. There was no conflict anymore, each player could collect their circle at their leisure.

Focus on your color, please!
Focus on your color, please!

That was about the time when we set our first design objective: “It’s not about winning, it’s about who you play with”. And so we defined two factions. Each player was now assigned a color and they had to collect only their own droplets. That was what the game was called then, “Droplets”. Along with the two sides, we introduced a bonus color that was the bone of contention between the two players. With the addition of a timer and limited time, the game instantly became a riot.

Building a Game…

Around the same time, I finally jumped on board the team, primarily to take care of sounds. We were now four – Me (Kinshuk), Yadu, Vidhvat and Vasu. Between Yadu and Vidhvat, all game programming was taken care of and a huge chunk of design. Vasu added on top of it with more design. I brought sound and production to the table.

The game did not undergo any major changes since then. The base premise persisted. We did explore a different arc with a radical UI-redesign and a possible scenario where there were many more types of circulets and different behaviors in an effort to bring some tactical gameplay to the game. By this time the game had changed its name from “Droplets” to “Circulets” and that was going to stick.

…is not easy

By this time, we were fairly done with the game and started showing it to friends. The responses we started getting were amazing. A lot of them requested us to consider this as a game and treat it accordingly, and not just as a 1GAM project. Finding sense in the argument, we formally brought in the game to Hashstash and announced it to the world on February 24, 2013. At the same time, we opened up a beta with about 25 people testing out the iOS version and about a 100 for Android, we submitted the game to 100% Indie program by Samsung & Chillingo and they graciously accepted us, and Casual Connect Asia selected us for the Indie Prize Showcase at Singapore.

And then we realized a major problem in the game. While we were developers and understood what was happening inside the game, the beta players did not. What we observed was that most were not partaking in the conflict and only concentrating on their own colors. Even the bonus colors were being ignored. So began our crusade to bring a little chaos in the game world.

Over the beta, we explored different solutions but what did the trick for us were some subtle changes in visual and audio feedback within the game. Some of these were:
– while the circles popped up in their own sides, we made them slowly move towards the other side, unless they were moved by one of the players
– by throwing their circles in the other player’s side, players could now make the other player lose points
– we experimented with many audio cues for positive, negative, bonus score contributions and the current 8-bit sounds had the best influence on players
– the soundtrack samples were structured such that the pacing increases every 30s and becomes more frantic (the gameplay is structured in tiers of 30s)

The little waves from circles being collected added much life in the game.
The little waves from circles being collected added much life in the game.

 

To Infinity and Beyond

We also introduced a new “Infinite” mode in the game, which reverses the complete time mechanic. While the game was originally about collecting as many circles as possible in limited time, the Infinite mode lets you collect a limited number of circles in infinite time. What this does is give players an open sandbox to explore with another player. However, it is not much incentivized yet.

The whole minimalism of the game has proven to be a double-edged sword. While it brings a level of hypnotic beauty to the game and the simplicity makes it very intuitive for players; at times, it also leaves our players bewildered and confused. The limited beta was not a good enough sample for us to do anything about it quantitatively, but we are looking forward to real players and their behavior to bring in more gameplay to Circulets. Some of the concepts high on our priority list is exploration, interactivity and engagement between players.

That Hazy Glow…

All development come to a close on April 6th and we finally submitted for certification on the App Store, Samsung App Store and the Amazon App Store. We were certified and ready for sale on all our marketplaces by the 18th of April and the PR process kicked in.

Next came our trailer, the objective of which was to focus more on the interactions of people through the game, and not show the game itself. The end result proved to be pretty interesting.

Now as we try and take a breather from all the action, the chaos of first launch is on us. And it is a fun ride in itself. Circulets finally came out on May 9, 2013 on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Amazon App Store and the Samsung App Store.

Hashstash Studios is actively working on getting Circulets out to the world, as well as started work on their next project titled Vertigo, which will also be showcased at Casual Connect Asia 2013 along with Circulets. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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