Sunday, 20 November 2011

Finally getting started on GMC

So I've tried applying the rendering technique to GMC. Maybe I'm just crazy but I really like the style and I think I'm finally on track to get started on the game properly. I'm changing the plan a bit and I'm going to give the western theme a bit more focus han I previously intended, and have bandits as enemies instead of robots (though maybe some robots will pop up as well). Having more human enemies will probably change the gameplay a bit as well, but I'll still try have it as MegaMan-like as possible with lots of small simple enemies.

Also got it running on Android now. The post effect that's blurring the colours on the character might be a bit too demanding, and I'm not sure how much it really adds. I like it though. I get 30 fps on my Xperia PLAY, so it's probably ridiculously slow on weaker phones. Then again that phone will be about a year old by the time the game is finnished so maybe it's OK. I'm thinking of making it possible to turn of the post effects; but I have to see how much extra work that will be. I'll have to have two sets of shaders for everything in that case, as everything would work a bit different without the post effect.

Btw, what you see in the screenshot is some really old content that I've tweaked a bit. When I first started working on GMC ages ago, before releasing the Wii Homebrew version with the GreenHillZone-like environment, I tried making a train level but could never get it look remotely decent and gave up. I thought it fit the theme quite well and I don't really need much textures with this style so I tried reviving it.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

More rendering tomfoolery

I was playing around a bit with the old rendering demo from my last post and accidentally spawned in the character from project GMC (who I suddenly turned into a cowboy a few weeks ago) without proper textures adapted for this rendering technique, and I absolutely love the result. The thing is, he's supposed to have two textures, one colour texture and one with some details that gets rendered along with the shading and outlines. But he's using his standard texture for the details, which just turned into massive areas of solid shading and for the colour texture he just got whatever texture was used last. In this case it's the texture for the tree trunk which turned him all brown; he also looked quite dashing when he was all green. I've tweaked the texture a bit to make some more details standout before I took the screenshot though.

The look reminds me of something but I can't quite place it. I think it looks a lot better than when I tried doing proper colouring, and somehow it just feels right with the cowboy motif as well.

I'm considering if I should just go ahead and change Project GMC to this style. I'm thinking very sparse environment art that are just outlines with some sketch shading and enemies in this style with just one colour. I'd have to rethink a lot of things, but I'm pretty much stuck anyway and have a hard time finding an identity for the game. This would certainly give it a unique style and it would most likely speed up content creation considerably, but I'm not sure I'd be able to use much of what I have so far, and I don't know how much variation I can make in this style.

I still have to try running it on phones though. It needs to render to a couple of different framebuffers and do some blurring and stuff, which seemed quite slow last time I tried to do stuff like that on iPhone and Xperia.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Old rendering demo

Found this old thing lying around on my computer and thought it was pretty neat. I made this about two years ago I think. It's meant to look like some kind of water colour + felt pen illustration. I was considering making some kind of artsy adventure game with this type of graphics, but it never amounted to anything. Maybe I should try to see if I can get it to work on GLES and do something small for iPhone/Android.

I'd need to tweak the effect a bit and have some better suited models for the artstyle though. The effect is done by rendering the scene twice, once with colours and once with outlines and shading. The colour texture is blured and distorted a bit to make to colours float outside the outlines slightly. And the sketch shading is of course done by overlaying a texture with a bunch of lines on all the shaded parts, and offsetting it every few frames to make it look less static

(Btw, I reccommend watching it in fullscreen and HD, the effect is pretty hard to make out in the small embedded window)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

And now something completely different

Just realised that I have just been whining for the last few posts, and that's getting a bit tiresome. So here's something awesome and completely unrelated instead. People in freaky costumes playing sweet Dragon Quest music; what could be better?

Time to move on

So over a months has passed since I released Helium Boy and I still haven't gotten started on my next game and the sales are really awful. The brief upswing I mentioned in my last post didn't last long and now it's down to just a couple of units per day. I tried having a free weekend last week and got over 50 000 downloads. It only lead to a dozen or so extra sales the day after though, and people also discovered a rather serious bug that meant it would not run on iPad for some people so I got a bunch of negative reviews. Unfourtunately I have no way of really testing the bug as everyone I know with an iPad are able to run it just fine. I've also just gotten the game to be featured in the Xperia Play Recommender which was a longer process than I had expected and I'm not sure if it will pay off. Haven't noticed any effect at all yet.

I've been meaning to make a Lite version for iOS but I just can't decide the right balance of content between the Lite and the full version; having two few levels in it will probably seem cheap, but having too many means that there's not that much extra to put in the full version, which will make it seem like a ripoff, and there's also good chance people won't finish the levels in the Lite version and won't ever need to get the Full one. Maybe I should just put everything in the Lite version and have Ads be the only difference, though I'm really not sure how effective that would be.

Apart from worrying about sales and bugs I've been trying to enjoy some time off. I've played through Catherine and put over 70 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles; might post some opinions about them sometime later. But it's really about time to get started on something new now. Don't feel very motivated though and not really keen on either of the projects I've started on right now, but I guess starting another one wouldn't be a very good idea either.

Monday, 17 October 2011

More sales talk

After my last post the sales have slowly started going up on a bit iPhone. But now I'm freaking out because I just can't figure out what caused the bump, or if I can count on it continuing.

At first it seemed like nothing I did helped at all. I joined Twitter and some retweeting group; posted a press release on prmac which got copy pasted all over the internet; the trailer got posted on gametrailers and I finally got a somewhat positive professional review. But all it did was to keep the sales at a somewhat steady 10 units a day for a while (it sold a whooping 14 units on launch day). It was only a few days later it started going up, going from 10 a day to 20 > 50 > 50 > 80 > 75.

The last bump could possibly be explained by the release of an update (though I'm not sure how that would actually affect anything, as I was mistaken in thinking updates would appear on the release list in the AppStore). I can't find anything new written about it on the internet, or even any new user reviews, and I doubt it has made any toplists or gotten featured by apple. The sales seem to be fairly evenly distributed wordwide as well.

I don't really understand how the App Store works; how do people find games outside the toplists? Is it normal to get random sales bumps? Or can I actually expect for the baseline to continue at 50-80 a day? Even though it's still not much (especially with the crazy swedish taxes) I could make a meager living if those sales continue and then hope to increase my income after a few more games, but with any less than that it seems a bit hopeless.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Helium BOMBA

It's been a very frustrating week. I've tried my best to pimp Helium Boy online, I've posted on a couple of forums, sent out promo codes to a bunch of review sites as well as random people to get user reviews, I've joined twitter and some indie retweet group, gotten the trailer up on GT and paid good money for a press release. But the game has still barely managed to catch up to Trouser Troubles first day sales on iPhone, despite being a considerably less crappy game, and those sales weren't exactly spectacular either.

Things have been even worse on the android side. I released a demo but it didn't spur sales at all and even the free demo has only gotten 400 downloads in four days. The new Andriod Market means I can't rely on updates to get attention anymore so I'm guessing the money I get from there will almost completely stop before long.

All in all it's starting to look a lot harder to make a living off iPhone/Android apps than I previously thought. My plan was to make a couple of games as quickly as possible until their combined sales could provide me a decent income and then possibly move on to some more ambitious stuff. But these kinds of sales makes me wonder if that's really possible and if there's much point in starting on my other projects. So I don't really know what to do. Should I keep spending all my energy on pimping my stuff and building a name for myself; should I try different business model (freemium or adds or stuff); should I give up and get a job; should I stop making small generic games and bet everything on one spectacularly ambitious project; or am I just overreacting, and I should just keep at it and hope the sales pick up with the next update.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Helium Boy is released!

It's finally done! Apple review process was a little faster than I expected so I didn't get time to really polish the trailer or to test the Android version on that many platforms but I think it should run moderatly well on most GLES2 compatible phones.

Android Market

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Very nearly done

Today I have finally submitted Helium Boy for review for the Apple appstore. I'm slightly ahead of schedule because I cheated a bit with the last two levels. I was really bored with level design and didn't feel that I could make them very interesting so I made them rather short.

So next week I'll be working on a trailer and try to make sure it runs on as many Android phones as possible while waiting for Apples review team. I also need to fix support for the touchpad on Xperia Play, but that turned out to be quite a hassle. You need to use the NativeActivity class, which is only supported from android 2.3, for it to work so I have to make two versions and change some of the code structure.

Looking back at the blog I realised that I have only been working on it for about two months now. It feels like forever so I was rather suprised. Even with the original version (of which there is little left in the game) and the Wii port I made a few years ago, I still haven't worked on it for more than 5-6 months in total. While the game is hardly massive or even very good, I have to say I'm a bit proud considering the short development time.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Almost done

I just need to make two more levels and then fix the iphone version and then, after five and a half years (or three months depending on how you count) Helium Boy will finally be done. Hopefully I'll get it out by mid october.
Anyway, here's a quick video:

Monday, 5 September 2011

I can't decide what to work on

So I started working a bit on helium boy. In my last post I said that I would still focus mostly on GMC though. However, shortly after I posted that I started working full time on Helium Boy and set up a schedule that I have followed pretty rigorously. I have made a couple of new levels and the game is nearly halfway done and it's set to be released in about a month and a half. I'm getting extremely tired of doing leveldesign though and this weekend I started on a new game... I really want to finnish a game soon so I can release something; but I kind of want to work on all three games at the same time

Monday, 8 August 2011

As I mentioned in my last post I've started porting/remaking my old game Helium Boy to Android. Yesterday I did a little update to the main character, and I'm really happy with the results. It's starting to look a lot less like hideous programmer art, so it's nice to see that I've improved a bit in the last five years at least.

The new version obviously doesn't use any lighting, which I think I'll skip altogether in the remake. It also has 30% fewer triangles. If I manage to update the rest of the graphics in a similar fashion I think the game might look rather nice in the end, though that's quite a lot of work and then I still have to make half a dozen levels or so before I can sell it, and I'm prioritizing GMC right now.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Something new and something old

I've finally bought a new phone! One that actually works and let's me install stuff, and only crashes when there's a bug in the code. With an Xperia Play I also have an excuse to make more traditional games that uses a DPAD, though I might be limiting my market somewhat as the games won't work nearly as well with an onscreen gamepad.

As for the something old; the game in the picture is my old game Helium Boy that I've started porting to Android. I originally made it over 5 years ago when I was studying, and dear lord the code is a mess! It was originally made in Ogre3D, then when I started coding my engine a few years ago I ported it to this engine and released a version for Wii homebrew; however I barely touched the code back then and the engine has changed so much that it was almost as much work to update it to the current version, and even more work to try to clean it up.

I'm not really sure what to do with it. I think the game is pretty nice and works decently for mobiles, even with an onscreen gamepad, but I'll probably want to redo most of the graphics before I release it. And of course I have to make more levels and stuff, which I'm already supposed to be doing for Project GMC, so it'll have to wait.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Summer Edition

I've just released Trouser Trouble Summer Edition for Android. Woho. It turned out rather shitty though and is really just a shameless attempt of milking more money from the game; there is very few new features and little new content... I was planning to do a bit more but I got really bored with the project. In total it just took about two very slow weeks, but considering how little work I actually did I probably could have finished it in half the time. There are some new features though; you can now pull up skirts, but it didn't turn out very well so it's just available on some levels, and you can also pull off bikini tops on the beach-levels.

I'm also starting to realise that I really need to get a new phone. Whenever a game is bigger than a couple of megabytes it constantly fails to install on my phone, and the phone crashes randomly every now then; not exactly an ideal development platform...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

I just realized that I hadn't updated my blog in ages, so I thought I might as well wright something. Basically I've just been playing games and watching TV for the last two months and enjoyed my unemployment, but I've finally started doing some creative stuff again.

About two weeks ago I started moving over an old half finished game, Project GMC, to Android. It works decently with an onscreen gamepad, and quite awesomely on an Xperia Play, though I probably need to optimise it a bit to get it running with a decent framerate on older phones. I'm not really sure what to do with the game now though; I'm pretty much done with the porting, and the android version of the engine now has almost all the features from the windows version. However the game itself is a half finnished mess, and I'd have to make lot's of content before I can release it, and I don't really have a vision for the game.

So instead I've started working on Trouser Trouble Summer Edition; basically I'm just going to milk the franchise by releasing an almost identical game with some different graphics, and watch the money roll in. I'm working on some small gameplay additions, but mostly I'll just be making new textures. Hopefully I'll be able to push it out in a week or two.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Trouser Trouble is now available for iPhone!

At first I got rejected on my fourth submission with the exact same motivation as the last time. "Specifically, we noticed your app's main concept is to pull down people's pants." even though I had changed so it wasn't even possible to pull down pants anymore. So I figured they hadn't even played the new version or read my messages. So I tried to contact them and complain that the latest version didn't get a fair review and say it wasn't possible to pull down pants and there was no nudity and that frankly it wasn't more sexual than an average 1920's comedy. After a few days The games status was in review again and shortly after it was available on sale on the iTunes. It still has a 17+ rating though which is rather silly, but I don't dare try to change it...

Now it will be interesting to see if the sales will be worth all the trouble.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Happy No Pants Day

Today is the international No Pants Day; a perfect time to play Trouser Trouble.

Anyway, I've just submitted a fourth version to Apple, and completly changed the game this time. You can no longer pull down pants at all. Instead people are walking by and their pants are falling off randomly, and the player has to pull them up again. This also removes any variety I had in the gameplay because none of the different level types I had fits with this concept and I haven't bothered to think up any new ones. But whatever. I've stopped caring about quality or sales a long time ago; I just want to see if it gets approved.

I kind of like the new description I wrote for the game though:
"A severe shortage of belts is plaguing the land and everybody's trousers are falling off. Use the touch screen to help pull them up again!"
And the message to the review people
"The game no longer let's you pull down pants. Instead the player provides a valuable service to society by helping to pull up people's pants and cover up the mild nudity."

So I guess it's back to waiting for another ten days or so... though I really should be starting a new project soon.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Rejection and Pornography

For the last few weeks I've been trying to get Trouser Trouble on the iTunes AppStore and just recieved my third rejection. When I first got the idea for Trouser Trouble I was certain that it would be impossible to get Apple to approve it for release on Iphone, and I only focused on the android version. However once the game was done it was a lot more harmless than I had originaly imagined and after reading Apple's Review Guidelines they actually seemed fairly reasonable I didn't see anything that would really conflict with Trouser Trouble. There's nothing in the guidelines that completely forbids nudity, and the game doesn't really show anything. So I decided to port it straight off and submitted it.

After ten days I got the following feedback:
We've completed the review of your app, but cannot post this version to the App Store because it did not comply with the App Store Review Guidelines, as detailed below:

18.1: Apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster's Dictionary as "explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings", will be rejected

I wasn't really that surprised it got rejected and I had considered censoring it from the start, but never whould I have imagined that it would be classified as pornographic. I'm not really sure who is eroticly stimulated by the lowpoly characters, whose sexual organs, that are a few pixels in size, are sometimes visible for a frame or two. And of course the definition is silly, because it's based on what's "intended", and I should just be able to say that erotic stimluation was not my intention. But it wasn't all bad as it started a lot of funny jokes about me being in the porn industry.

Anyway for my next submission I added a pixelation filter as soon as the player pulls down any underwear. After another ten days I recieved the feedback; the game was no longer pornographic. However, now it violated the following rule : 16.1: Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected. I tried to ask some questions via the resolution center and also made sure that it had the highest possible age rating. But the only response I got was a generic reply saying "We encourage you to review your app content and evaluate whether you can modify the content to bring it into compliance with the Guidelines". Crude and objectionable are pretty vague terms butI did my best to modify the content. I removed the ability to pull down underwear and resubmitted the game.

And so today I have recieved the third rejection. Same rule violation; crude or objectionable content, but this time they have specified a bit more: "Specifically, we noticed your app's main concept is to pull down people's pants.". It only took them three times to notice that... They're still encouraging me to evaluate if I can modify the content to bring it into compliance with the Guidelines though; but I'd think that's pretty hard if their issue is with the main concept.

I'm considering if I should submit another version; where you pull up people's pants instead.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Making of Trouser Trouble

The game has already been out on Android Market for two months now but I figured I might as well do little write-up about the project, since I've taken up the blog again.

It all started back in january. I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about work and stuff and how nice it would be to make money without working. He casually suggested that I should start making games for Android. Having just returned to work at M&D and being generally uninterested in mobile phones I was rather dismissive of the idea and jokingly said that I would much rather keep working on my 3d pants removal technology. The words had hardly left my mouth before a brilliant idea struck me; to my combine pants removal tech with Androids touch screen interface and make game were you pull down people's pants.

That very same evening I downloaded the Android SDK and set to work, convinced this idea would make me rich (well maybe not really). I started porting my engine to Java, rewriting it file by file. It wasn't until a week later that someone told me about the ndk, and that it was actually possible to code in C++ for Android. By that time I had nearly gotten it running, and the official documentation pretty much advised against using the NDK anyway so I kept at it. I was willing to give Java the benefit of the doubt despite my extreme prejudice gainst all interpreted languages. After another week I had everything running in java on the platform. However, it was ridiculously slow. I installed the NDK, tried moving some of he most expensive functions to c++, and the difference in speed was almost silly. So then I started from scatch, and after a few days I had everything running smoothly in c++ and my hatred of java confirmed.

Then it was onto making the actual game. I didn't really have much of a plan for the gameplay but I figured it didn't meed much gameplay. A lot of people were weighing in and having a lot of different ideas, about different gamemodes and different types of clothes to remove and different thing to do to people once their clothes were off, but I wanted something fairly simple. I felt it was best to keep it to just pulling down pants. Partly because it was easier make that look good (as detailed in the post about the cloting deformations), but also because pulling down someones pants is less violent than forcibly tearing of their shirt in the middle of a street. It feels more like a simple practical joke, rather than attempted rape; and regardless what you might think I didn't really want to make a very offensive game. Also there is something inherently silly about people walking around with their pants around their ankles. As I realised that I wouldn't be able to make very sexy people with the hardware limitations and with my limited artistic skills, I though it better to aim for some mild sillyness than for sexual arousal.

In the end the gameplay wasn't really that interesting. I realized from the start that there would be a risk of the game becoming more of a onetime joke than something you play over and over, and therefore wouldn't be spread very much or get a high rating. I added a few different types of challenges and a combo system to encourage people to get a good highscore, but nothing really groundberaking. At this point I was getting a bit tired of spending all my free time working on the game and just wanted to get it over with. So I made a handful of characters, clothes and background, whipped up some rather ugly menues and released it as fast as possible.

The total development time was about two months. It was released on Android Market on the 2nd of March 2011. It has not made me rich... yet...

Unemployed again

It turned out that going back to Might and Delight may not have been such a great idea, so I have now left the company again; most likely for good this time. The commute got a bit too much for me in the end. Also my train card ran out this month. So in order to keep working there I would have to give another 40 000 kronor to SJ for a new train card or move to Stockholm. Neither option seemed very temping; especially considering that the company's financial future is still very uncertain.

I'm not quite sure what happens now though. I have been looking forward to being unemployed and to work on my own projects, but I happened to accept a job offer the other day. I still don't know if anything will come of it though. So I guess I'll just try to enjoy my unemployement while it lasts and see what happens. If I do get started on an epic project I'll try to keep the blog updated.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Back to work

Happy new year everyone! I've just returned to work at M&D. It feels a bit weird to start working again and very exhausting to go up at 6 o'clock in the morning to catch the train, but hopefully it will work out better this time around. Of course it does feel really nice to get some money again.
Unfourtunatly I haven't finnished any of the epic projects I started during my time off, but I've done some neat experiments with my engine and some pretty effective optimizations. I've almost quadrupled the framerate (though that isn't really as impressive as it sound, given the state it was in).
Also I finally recieved my wacom board yesterday and I've been practicing drawing ever since; in the little spare time I have now. Maybe I'll post some images soon, if I dare. Other than that I probably won't be posting a lot for a while now.