Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sales numbers

Bad Golf, since 12/14/2010
Period Statistics
  • Trials: 7417
  • Purchases: 1822
  • Purchase/Trial Ratio: 24.57 %

Battle for Venga Islands, since 5/23/2011

Period Statistics
  • Trials: 3870
  • Purchases: 878
  • Purchase/Trial Ratio: 22.69 % 
Here is a handy little graph that compares launches of Bad Golf (red) and BFVI (blue)...

Battle for Venga Islands v1.1

Within a day or two after BFVI went live, I knew it wasn't up to my standards.

The main problem was that the difficulty was too high... once the map was all filled it, it was very difficult to make forward progress.  And if you did happen to capture a region that extended into enemy territory, it was extremely easy for the enemy to take it back.  This lead to pretty deadlocked maps.

In spite of that, there were some really dedicated players who captured many hundreds (and one of a thousand) regions in the war for their monarch, which was awesome.

So, I put out a patch version 1.1, which had the following changes:

  • Regions were generally made easier to capture.
  • Ocean regions now counted as friendly when calculating difficulty
  • Added a global percentage to show how much land Blue and Red both held
  • Added the ability to change teams once
  • Added anti-hack measures.
  • Made healthballs show up slightly more often, and last longer before despawning
  • Your own name shows up in red on the high score list
 I think that's it.

I had to wait a week after my initial release to even begin Peer Review for the patch.  The Peer Review itself took about two weeks.  So during all that time, people were buying the game and being greeted with a world that was extremely difficult to make any headway in.  I haven't gotten any hate mail, but I feel bad for people who dove in and paid a buck and were unpleasantly surprised.

Finally, last night, I got my final peer review and the game went live.  Through the night and into today, about 30 people have logged in and started capturing territories.  Since the map and high score list started fresh, it's been fun to watch those fill up.  Some enterprising players captured regions in such a way as to make a smiley face, a frowny face, and the worlds "FU" and "LOL".

The leaderboard looks like this:

I'm totally shocked that people are playing the game for hours on end to capture that many regions.  That's really rewarding.

I'm pretty bummed that the changes in 1.1 weren't released initially, since lots of people have bought the game and are no longer playing it, but I hope it's not too little too late, and remains fun for those who are still playing it, as well as the last stragglers who join up before it falls off the New Releases list and into oblivion.

But I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Unless something goes horribly astray, I'm done.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Next Game

I’m in the really one of the best phases of game development: brainstorming the next idea. No boring work, no technical snafus, just fun thinking.

I have a couple of ideas in my head that I’ve been kicking around for a while now.

Restaurant management game
Whenever I go out for sushi, I watch the orders get delivered to the chefs, and watch them plow through their orders. What I wonder about, though, is what happens if a huge order comes in for a big party, and a minute later, a single diner orders a single little tuna roll? Do you take orders as they come in, first come first served, or do you preempt larger jobs with smaller jobs?

I could imagine a game where you make these kinds of decisions on many levels… seating patrons, taking orders, making food, delivering, cleanup, collecting money, but always trying to do so in the most efficient manner.

I like this idea a lot, but it probably won’t get done. My gut says it requires too much custom art.

“Gather, Build, Share”
Like everyone, I’ve been intrigued by the Minecraft phenomenon. I think GBS is really a core psychological touchstone, and making a game that involved gathering resources, some sort of crafting, and then some ability to share what you’ve made would be awesome.

Team Collaboration
I’m really impressed with how well the online persistent world of Battle for Venga Islands worked out. The execution wasn’t perfect, but the core idea worked and worked well. It would be fun to work on something else like that. Lots of people have done “mining” games, so I thought a game about building a tower or pyramid might be fun. Some huge program that no single player could accomplish, but by working as a team with other players, everyone contributes to a greater good.

The downside to this is that it requires online connectivity to be a part of the team. Hard to demo the game in a trial mode. Same issues as Venga Islands, basically.

Puzzle Game
A while back, I made a game for coworkers called “The Game”. It was really just a set of puzzles, loosely tied together with some story about a secret agent. Many of the puzzles were inspired by the game “The Fool’s Errand”, and some involved physically searching around my office. The puzzles were really just various forms of encryption, like morse code, Braille, etc.

My idea was to make some boring sounding game, like “Bingo” or “Slot Machine” or something. But have that surface game be broken, giving up a fake error message. And then somewhere else, on the main menu, have some sort of “debug console” or “developer login”, which would prompt for a password. You’d figure out the password from the error message. One getting into the debug screen, the actual “game” would start, which is actually figuring out all the puzzles hidden inside the game. Again, maybe something about a secret plot that only you can solve.

There are a lot of money-grab trashy games out there that involve hot chicks on the box art. Maybe making a game called “Under the Covers” with a hot chick on the front would be a sneaky way to attract attention without actually intellectually whoring myself out. Or at least, whoring myself out, but in an ironic way. I dunno.

This is probably the most likely candidate. But like I said, just kicking around ideas and seeing what sticks.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Video

My boy Graith was kind enough to provide me with some captured multiplayer footage. I really need to invest in a video capture system.

Anyways, this should give some idea of what the online map looks like, as well as the high score list and local multiplayer gameplay.

Thanks Graith!

Venga Islands Review Roundup

Now that the game has been out for a while, it’s fun to hunt around to see what people are saying. There have been a couple of reviews, and they more or less jive with what I already knew. The game isn’t awesome, but it’s decent.

GameMarx: This was kind of frustrating to watch, but enlightening all the same. The players had some problems signing in, and then didn’t really grok the weapons yet. Shooting fireballs at close range is a bad idea. But by the time the trial was up, I think they started getting the hang of it.

The real unfortunate thing is that the main meat of my game is the persistent battle, and you don’t really get that from the trial. I should have added some sort of simulated AI battle for the single player, but I didn’t.

CrushFragDestroy, on the other hand, played the full version: “…Battle for Venga Islands is a fun little game. Watching the map start to fill-up with the color of your kingdom elicits a Pavlovian response, and it makes putting the controller down somewhat difficult. And I’ve never known of a game where that kind of quality was a bad thing.” says:
“All in all, Battle for Venga Islands is a solid game that’ll most likely keep you playing just to see how much land you can conquer. I’m certain that if some sort of experience-system was included there would be that much more reason to keep playing, but what’s here will keep many around regardless. The game is worth kicking around for awhile. It’s easy enough so that you can throw on some music while playing and the spells are fun to mess around with. Just don’t expect much more than that for your dollar and everything will be gravy.”
“Overall, the game is a pretty standard twin-stick shooter, but the online persistent world is an interesting concept. A frustratingly steep difficulty curve in addition to only having local co-op holds the game back from being a solid thumbs up.”

This is a pretty funny YouTube review from a kind of grumpy reviewer. Skip to around 5:30, or watch the whole thing. It’s funny.