Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Morals and Money

Maybe I should have entitled this post as Morals OR Money...

There has been some recent Twitter activity about ratings and popularity of certain games. It is clear not everyone agrees with each other on the stand of Morals vs making games with an eye towards making money. Obviously anyone who makes games wants to make money, of that i think there is no doubt. However what we compromise when making our game can show in the final product and can also tell in the sales of the said product.

Let me go to a subject or Moral dilemma, this is mine and my friends set of dilemmas that we have recently discussed (again).
1. Should we add some tottie into the mix (put semi-naked girls into the game).
2. Should we use girl voices in suggestive ways in the game.
3. Should we plagiarize another game to piggyback off of its success.

Now I have a job currently, and my friend has recently lost his job. When he was working we decided to stay away from all 3 points listed above. However we did not really Need the money to survive at that point in time. Now a few months on we are talking about adding into any new games we do the number 1 and number 2 items. Something i can tell ya our wives are not very keen on. Now why is that ? Well it seems wrong to add this things arbitrarily to a game just to get more downloads and sales. Yet..... If ya giving the buying public what they want, well, isn't that a reasonable way to view a designers task?

So back to our discussion about moral implications. So far as you can tell my Friend wants to goa  more risky route with the games, as making money is now more important to him. Today while discussing this issue i told him that i would in fact be very interested in also loosening my morals if my job ended.

Now i am not talking about compromising the games to add in these female bits, but instead find good ways to put them in the game. Heck, the game is gonna be the same with or without them, but instead of being bold knights or barbarians in armour, they would be nightie clad girls swinging pillows or something. So it is obvious i can convince myself that this doesn't matter, my games integrity is still solid as it is the game i designed way back when i had a solid income. But somehow in the back of my mind i am not truly happy with the decision.

This brings me to my last point. Number 3 is something i cannot seem to get over. I cannot seem to feel poor enough or without my own ideas and designs and hopes for my own ideas that i could just copy someone Else's game. Now all games come down to several common seeds and then are remixed and rebalanced in the new mix to create a new game. This i know, but fully plagiarized games do not interest me at all.

Each person has their own personal and subjective view on their moral high ground. Some the sexist aspects are not as important as legal ones and in some cases nothing matters but making money.

Where do you fall?

I fall somewhere related to my desperation for money for my family and mortgage.

Da Voodoochief

ps. i apologise for jumping around in this Blog post. I just could not quite get my head organised, yet i felt like i had stuff to say.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

NDA frustrations

I make no secret that i like to talk. It might be one thing that i am truly good at. I also like to have some relevant information in what i am waffling on about. However due to annoying things like NDAs i cannot actually talk to anyone about my current job.

Here I am working at Mass Media for a ridiculous amount of hours per week and doing some really intersting stuff, and yet, i cannot talk about it. I cannot tweet our latest finding that i am sure some people would enjoy hearing. So here we all are at work for all this time and i am not able to tweet or blog about this cool stuff. Why not? Well simply because i am working on an as yet unannounced product. As it is unannounced i cannot say what it is, and therefore i cannot give hints about what it is by talking about the technical hurdles we are facing while making it a reality.

Another down side to working all these hours in my day job is that i am unable to develop my own games, so i have very little to discuss on that front as well.

So each week goes by and i search the Web to see if there is an official mention of this game. As once there is i hope to Blog and tweet stuff about it.

Till then, i guess all i can do is grind my teeth and say Grrrrr

Da Voodoochief

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cards Combo Pack is Live

Now we find out what happens when I put two unsuccesful card games into a single game and then try to sell it. Will it sell well, or even reasonably? Will it tank into obscurity like the free versions? Will it maybe provide a boost to awareness of the free to play ad supported versions?

We will know the answers to these important questions in a couple of weeks i hope. Cos now Cards Combo Pack is live and can be bought for the paltry sum of $1.29. Which i think is probably too princely for most phone users.

Still this has been an interesting experiment to setup and i am going to enjoy analysing the results when i finally get to them. However it is going to be hard to wait two weeks to see what happened. As it is the pubcenter Makes me sign in and check my ad impressions on a multi-daily basis, grrr!

If i find anything out that seems interesting, i will try to pass the relevant information on here in this blog.

Da Voodoochief

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Game Within a Game

This is the followup post to 'Tip The Scale'.

Remember i said a Game within a Game concept? Well below i will write up what i mean't by that and also some notes if you want to try this yourself. The main reason i did this is because i want to release a paid version of the games together.

So lets start by examining some of the things i said in the last post.

I actually built them inside each other
What this means is that i would load up a single solution with the multiple games within it. But they were not separated as separate projects within that solution. Instead the single project under the single solution would allow me to play either game. So my internal data had a selector of which game i wanted to play, and when i clicked start, away the correct one went.

It took me some reorganisation of the code
This was one of the more interesting jobs to do. I had to make sure that the game initialsation functionality worked without actually needing a game and also to make sure that the engine code(such as effect management system etc) was not tied into any game code. This job was much simpler than i expected due to having already done a pass like this to separate my Menu system from game systems earlier in the year.

Switching between games whenever i want.
The nice thing about running what is one App and selecting which game to play was twofold. Number one is that if i alter or enhance or fix bugs in the engine systems like the effects, i get that in both games without having to do anything special at all. Secondly it was really convenient to test each game in this mode, jumping from one to the other seamlessly etc.

It has technical issues thanks to the submission process etc.Well although it sounds great to put multiple games into a single executable App, i should explain some of the downsides. Firstly there is the issue of GUID, that annoying yet very nescessary unique identifier for each product. I accumulated several GUIDS by creating several new game app inside VS. I copied these into a nice simple text file and labelled them for later reference and copying. Along with the individual game GUIDs ya also need several other things modified to each game. Here is my list

For the creation of each game, i simply replaced all the stuff i needed to by following some instructions i laid out in my text file. I am not truly recommending this way of doing this task, but so far it is working out aok, but i hate the amount of steps it takes me to change game. And now Tip the Scale is in MS test and will pass. Then i will convert my solution to make the combo game so people can pay for it. Phew...

I sure hope all that made sense to someone, and maybe even use this information themselves.

Below my sig are my instructions, copied out for you to see.

Good luck,
Da Voodoochief

  1. Copy over the Assembly.cs and the WMAppManifest.Xaml files with appropriate replacements (Proprties directory).
  2. Boot up Dev studio jokersRun solution
  3. Bring up properties on the WP7_Jokersrun Project title in dev studio.
  4.  Change the name in the first Tab
  5.  Change Which Thumbnail the game is using
  6.  second tab... Rename the two boxes
  7.  second Tab also...  Click the 'Assembly info' and set the neutral resource language to English
  8. Rebuild the whole thing

Will my game sell on WP7?

Tonight i will be sending in my game to Microsoft for them to certify it for publication to WP7 paid game land.

Cards Combo Pack is a game that contains both my free to play (Ad supported) games in one easy to use and Ad free game/download (Cards on Fire & Cards Tip the Scale). The only real difference that a player will see is the lack of Ads and the title page has both game logos on it to select which to play.

Now the real Question is.. Will people buy it?  I do not actualy hold out much hope for people buying the game. But ya never know and any extra revenue is a good thing. What i am hoping for though is that the paid game might drive downloads for the free to play games. I am not sure if this is simply wishful thinking or if it is going to turn into something good. Still, this is the way i coded the games and so it is not too much work to try this out. I will try once i have a clue if it has made any difference to Blog about the findings. Is it really worth the effort? I simply do not know. But i do find it very exciting to try this kind of stuff out :)

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tip the Scale Passed

It is a nice thing to recieve this message in an email.

Congratulations! Cards Tip the Scale has successfully passed certification for Windows Phone Marketplace.               

Here is the Zune link (LINKY)
Here is the Link to it's page on my Web site (LINKY)

That is how Microsoft choose to tell people their Apps and games have passed certification and testing. It is a nice sight to see in an inbox. So the game will be available sometime in the next 24 hours. I just hope it's published date adn time will give it some time near the top of the list of new releases, something i missed on the last two releases i did. Though i am not sure why. Maybe MS are batch passing games, which seems a little unfair on the ones that they batch pass first. Cos then you could appear about about 7th on the new releases list, even though you passed minutes before 6 others.

I shall have to keep an eye open for what happens.

Expect Combo pack coming soon.

Da Voodoochief

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Feel Hurt Today

I thought i would check out my game Cards on Fire on Zune and see if there had been any reviews added.

Indeed there are several new Reviews by people. But i could already see the game only has 2.5 stars to it's credit. so i expected this to not be great. However what i see when i read them hurts a bit. Even after having published more than 50 games in my career it is amazing how much some stuff like bad press on a game can hurt. So i'll just go right ahead and list them..

1 star - Tried and hated immediately but its free
I am not sure what about this game could induce Hate. I mean, it's a card game on a phone, not some racially charged political speech. So I wonder was was so hateful about this little unpretentious game.

1 star - Have installed or should i say tried to install 4 times ... will not open
I do not believe i have any control over this. It is working for a lot of other people it would seem. I have no crash reports, so whats up with this? Is it his phone or an MS problem. either way i do not think i can fix it. Downer.

4 stars - Lots of fun. Recommend the download
Yay something that makes me feel happier. All i want is something like try it and see. They don't have to tell me how creative i was with this original design for a card game or anything.

1 star - Aweful
Ok i am not sure again why this game can be so Awful. Maybe they mean't to give it 5 stars and say it was full of Awe (check spelling). Here is what the dictionary had to say about the word.
  1. extremely bad; unpleasant; ugly: awful paintings; an awful job.
  2. inspiring fear; dreadful; terrible: an awful noise.
  3. solemnly impressive; inspiring awe: the awful majesty of alpine peaks.
Ok, so i had a bit of a laugh on that last one (i like number 3!!). But i am saddened to see such vehemance against this game. I just do not think it is that bad. Heck go look at the video if ya want to see what it does. It does not have frame rate hiccups or particularly bad graphics.

Maybe the game just plain sucks... Then again, my Wife loves it.... So i guess it's ok, and writing this post also makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Still perplexed that people hate my game enough to even take the time to rate it.

Da Voodoochief

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tip the Scales failed MS

So Microsoft very nicely informed me yesterday that the new Cards on Fire had passed. Then mere hours later they informed me that Tip the Scale did not pass. So good and bad i suppose. What is most interesting is that Cards on Fire passed with the exact same back button bug that is in Tip the Scale. The reason it passed was becasue it is the same as the version that is already live, so this means i do not have to fix it? Most odd, and indeed interesting.

Anyway i failed for two things.
#1 - Music playing does not obey the settings it should when the phone is already playing music. Well this was interesting as i have no music in my game :O  But i do have a sound effect that goes with my logo and unfortunately for me it was repeating, so it would be classed a smusic (heck i would too haha). Well this is a good find and allowed me to get rid of this annoyance.

#2 - Back button not Always going back to the previous screen. Well in my game i have several waits that use an overlayed screen and allow a player to breath between levels etc. It was in fact two of these overlayed pauses that were casuing the issue. the 'Ready' and the 'Game Over' ones to be precise. With a little ingenuity i managed to fix this (yeah, 10 mins). And now they will back button out to the title page, and also remember ya score if it ws a new high score you were on.

So now it is back into MS hands and i hope it will pass this time. I am very intrigued to see if the new method of cross marketting i have pladced into these games works. Though the longer the gap with ths one coming out, the worse my test will be.

I have not forgotten the second part to my previous post btw. I have been writing it up, but it is qwuite long and i also need some Facts from home i need to copy in before i publish it.

Da Voodoochief

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cards Tip The Scale

The new game i have been working on is now finished It is about ready to put into the Microsoft submission process. The game is....

Yes folks a game where you stakc your cards to tip the scale in your favour. I also have a Web page with screen shots etc (Tip The Scale Info Page).

The most interesting thing about this game is how it is made. I wanted to create another original cards game (fool me i am sure), as it seems people would rather play old patience card games than make things move now in the digital age, but i digress.

Rules for the new game...
  1. I wanted to make the game Fast
  2. I wanted to reuse most of the assets from Cards on Fire
  3. I really want to be able to put the games togetehr in one game (to sell)
How did this go i hear ya ask?Well lets break it all down.
1. I did make the game fast, i already had 3 ideas and i just had to plump for one, which was harder than one might presume.
2. I managed this really, and the only things i had to create were the new Logo and a few new effect sprites. Wonderful stuff.
3. AHA, now we are at the guts of the situation. Yes i am able to put them together as i actually built them inside each other. It took me some reorganisation of the code (not as much as i thought) and whammo i could write a second game within the main code base. Switching between games whenever i want. Now i will post more on this and It's very unique issues in another post, but suffice to say i have loved it, hated it and then gone round those emotions several more times. Currently now they are both done, i am quite pleased with it, only it has technical issues thanks to the submission process etc. But more later.

My back is aching pretty badly today, so i am gonna sign off now.
Da Voodoochief

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Dreamland Chronicles Books and WebComic Series

My mate Scott Sava is a wonderful artist. He also happens to be quite a talented writer (something i never suspected 10 years ago!!). He has managed for so many years to put these talents together to produce a huge body of work and some would say the that The Dreamland Chronicles is a shining example of his talents.

He has been creating this story and artwork now for 10 years and has maintained it on the web for free now, usually updating pages every weekday. No mean feat i can tell ya. Only when he has been strapped for time because of his other creative endeavours has he had to cut down the numbers of pages published per week. He has an great and enthusiastic following for this webcomic and i would say it is a success. In fact i would say it is a huge success if one doesn't count the money side of things. It is a very hard business to actually make any real money at. I know some people will think Scott and his lovely family being wealthy from such a great license and IP. However this has been a labor of love for Scott for so many years and not nescesarily too profitable.

Scot also publishes his books and they are collections of loads of pages and several chapters into a single book. He is now onto his 5th Book (amazing :O ). Last time out he decdied to get some funding so he could put the 4th book out, and it worked. So now Scott is going again for his 5th book in this great series. Hopefully he has worked out the numbers better this time and has calculated shipping costs into this enterprise :)  Yes, yet again this is not a profit making venture for Scott and BlueDreamStudios, it is a way of getting out his incredible books into peoples hands and hopefully getting more people to see and be entertained by his prodigeous talent.

The kickstarter project is well on it's way to being funded (in fact it is very close right now and i am sure it will get funded). BUT.. Yes, i say BUT.... We need to make sure we overfund this project. This Book will make an excellent present for a member of your family. Or a wonderful book to collect while your child is growing up and you can read them as a bedtime story. If we overfund this book, this will help Scott in his current and future endeavours and should secure us book 6 in a whiles time.

So here is the link for his Kickstarter project (LINK)    - go on, click it!

Here is the link for the Dreamland homepage (LINK)   - the whole webcomic for FREE!!

Here is the link to BlueDreamStudios (LINK)     - more info on his company

So do it, you won't regret reading this comic or viewing the beautiful renderings.

Thanks for listening,
Da Voodoochief

ps.  RT his kickstarter project url or just talk about it on your web site. This would also help this along as well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Visibility for Games. Can it be sold?

If ya wanna miss my waffle - go to the end bit first!

My games suffer from not being visible. They may also suffer other problems but that is the one i will focus on for this post.

So to fix my issue of no revenue all i need to do is fix my visibility. As anyone who read this Blog knows, this has been my most covered subject. So if i have a game that is converting like 25% of the time i am doing great right? Unless i am only being seen by 4000 players. so all i need to do is bump that number to 100,000 players and i will be making some real money, maybe even enough to make a nusiness out of making these games. Cos, even if i have 100% conversion at 4000 players, i am still not doing well.

So as usual i need visibility. Now here comes the real point of this post.
If you have visibility, then you have power. Power = money, or the potential for money. Take the example of if i had 1 million twitter followers. Well that would give me a lot of suggestive power. I tweeted one day that everyone should buy a certain Candy, it seems reasonable that a lot of those followers would indeed do that next time they are at the store etc. Now i won't go into any phsycology here, but if they followed me, then they are paying me some attention, so will listen to a varying extent to my tweets and suggestions. So if i said this is an awesome game, i would absolutely expect the game to get downloaded a lot more. Now i don't have a million followers on Twitter, and i do not have that power. But how much could i sell it for if i Did ?

We already see this exact same system in play with web sites of course. You buy advertising on popular web sites and it costs more than less popular ones. So it seems very reasonable that If i had the numbers i would have the power, and it would be easier to make money not only of my Own stuff, but also other people using me to advertise with.

So to bring this round to the main point i am going to make.....
The Xblig community has a number of hits on it's hands. How big a deal would it be for those guys to advertise other games from within their Xblig game. Probably ones that they felt were worthy?

Da Voodoochief

Monday, August 1, 2011

PSHome Card odds update

Well i had the guys looking around for the Odds of each card turning up in the UFC space in playstation Home. They eventually grabbed me the code file to peruse and i was hoping to list a nice set of information to allow everyone to know which card or Who is more rare.

However the answer is a bit of a shock. Even though we added in a system of weighting the odds for certain cards. We never actually used it. That is to say that ALL cards have an EQUAL chance of appearing at any given time on any given day. this is the way it currently works as of this writing and has been since the space came available to hang out in 2 weeks ago.

Now one more observation before i go is that some people have talked about visiting alternative instances when it is card giving time to bump up their collection. I can tell you this is not possible, as we have a system in place that makes all instance give out the same card at the same time.

Now for the intersting trivia part. Each card does in fact have a delivery difference. This difference is just how long a card will stay around for at the alotted time. Some will stay for more than a minute, and some only 10 seconds or so. Though if you are hanging out this will have no effect, if you are late and running up the stairs you might just miss it.

Thanks for reading,
Da Voodoochief