Monday, December 9, 2013

Third party tools

I took a break from development to do some research into third party tool I'll need.  Primary goals here are 1) easy to use and 2) cheap (or free).

TestFlight is awesome for distributing iphone apps for testing.  And it's free.  I used this for my previous app, Kidstar, and it was amazing.

For a back end, I'm probably going to use Parse.  I had been considering writing my own back end by throwing up a simple node REST api and mongo database on heroku.  But I really want to be able to work on levels without internet connection (like in the subway) and parse takes care of the whole local database that syncs when it can.  Only downside to Parse is that if you need more than 1 million requests a month, it's $200/month.  But considering that the level creator I need this for won't even be in the final version, I don't think this will be an issue.

Analytics wise, I'll be using Flurry.  Another free service that's pretty open ended about what sort of data it allows you to collect.  And I want to make sure I'm collecting a lot of data.  I'll what to know how far people are getting in my game, if there are certain levels they are getting stuck on, how often they play the game, how quickly they progress, how many people download it and play it once and never again etc.  That will be the true test of whether my game is engaging or not.

Integrating these things requires digging into the process of extending Moai, which turns out to be another one of those fun, not super-well documented things.  Maybe I'll write another post about it once I figure out a way to do it the way I want.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Juice it

If you're a game developer and you haven't seen this presentation video titled 'Juice it or loose it,' I recommend you do so imidiately:

It's only 15 minutes.  I'll wait.

It's really amazing how a few little visual (and auditory) tweaks can transform a game's feel from 'student project' to 'semi-professional.'  So that's what I spent the last 15 days working on: polishing an tweaking the look and feel.  I'm pretty happy with the results.  The snakes are now animating smoothly between spaces and you're able to push them backwards now.  They kind of snap back into place when you let go of them, which gives them a neat, gross, wriggly feeling I really like.  I also added bouncing animations and sound effects. when you bump them into things.  Here's a short gif of where I'm at (minus the sounds):

This all took a lot of work, but I'm somehow done a lot sooner than I thought I would be.  So next I need to pick up where I left off with the level editor.  My goal is to finish that by mid-December so that I can start on the 60-odd levels I need to come up with.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I've been having a bunch of random people play my prototype, and so far the response has been really great.  I still only have one level, but it generally takes people about a minute to complete it once they get the hang of the mechanics.  And most people stick with it. 

One thing that has become very apparent though, is that my mechanics are not as intuitive as I thought they were.  At first I was thinking that that just meant I'll need to have a very gradual tutorial.  But after getting some really encouraging feedback today from Mark Heggan (the guy who designed Drop 7), I'm rethinking that idea.  What I really need is a super sleek user interface that demonstrates the mechanics without needing explanation.  When you push a snake in the wrong direction, I need a 'bump' sound and a red X to appear where it's hitting the wall or something.  I need the game to constantly be giving the user feedback.  This is even more important than the levels or the graphics. 

So even though I'm about half way through putting together the level creator, I'm going to switch to tweaking the controls.  It may add up to a month to my development time, but I'm gonna tweak and polish this ui until I can see my refection in it!

Friday, November 1, 2013


Slowly but surly, my game is coming along.  I now have a functioning prototype running on my phone.  And after watching my first play tester interact with it, I think I might actually have a decent concept here.  Which is a bit of a relief.  My next steps are:

1. Find and hire an artist.

2.  Create a level editor.

3.  Create some actual levels.

4. UX?

5. Profit!

My goals for November are #1 and 2.  Then I can start really putting things together in December.  And maybe release in January 2014.