Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 19/06/17

A little late this week. We're having a heatwave in the UK so we had a family trip to the beach on Monday and I was really busy yesterday so here we are. It's actually a good job I delayed as last week had been pretty quiet again, I started the week recovering from a little tummy bug and then family birthday/Father's day celebrations took up the end of the week so there wasn't too much to report.

It bloody works! Yes! yes! yes! ... ahem. 

However I've been mainly working on integrating the in-app purchase plugin for Zombie Cannon Attack! and I made the decision to switch to a different plugin with better documentation, I finished integrating the new plugin yesterday and it finally works!! Woohoo, or indeed, Hurrah!
There's still a little UI work to do but I've set up $1, $2 and $5 bundles and they're all working fine. I'm now working on integrating rewarded video ads with Admob. Hopefully that'll be a much quicker process, from the work I've done so far it certainly seems simpler.

I was so happy when I finally got this working, I did get a little epotional (sorry).
It's not the end, but it's the end of the beginning of the end

Once the infrastructure work with the plugins is complete I'll return to the game itself. I want to implement the second stage before launch but hopefully that won't take too long. Much of the work will be swapping out backgrounds and tweaking the difficulty, but I also want to add at least two new upgrade options as well as two or three extra characters including a couple of mini-bosses. I don't have a set release date I'm aiming for, but I'm really hoping to be ready by early July if not sooner. As ever I'll keep you updated on this blog.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 12/06/17

Last week was a bit of a write-off - between parenting, gardening, illness and the UK General Election I managed about half the work I'd hope for. In terms of hours it was actually the lowest of the year so far. Still I did manage to make a little progress, so I'll start with that.

Plugin Baby

I'm still working on integrating the in-app purchase plugin for Zombie Cannon Attack!, it's been slow going as I wasn't feeling up to doing anything complicated most days but I'm making steady headway. The coding is basically all done but now needs debugging and testing.

Anyone can pixel art
Ignore the bouncing Zombie, you're supposed to be looking at the house.
Instead of tackling the complicated coding I spent time working on updating the artwork. I've updated the red brick house in the first stage and added a few background buildings for the next stage, Brainsville. I still have a few more characters to create and/or animate but I've nearly got enough to launch with now and whether I do any more than the first two worlds depends on how the game is received.
Your typical city at night picture - tower blocks, supermarket, buried skulls of the dead, superhero zombies etc

What's it all about, Zombie?

Because there's not that much to tell this week I thought it might be a good opportunity to give an updated overview of Zombie Cannon Attack!
As I've mentioned before the game is a zombie-themed endless runner variant. You begin each run with a single Zombie, you then fire said Zombie from your cannon, your Zombie flies, crashes and bounces as far as it can before starting to run towards the closest citizens - but you need to hurry as it's decomposing quickly, it's a race to pass on the infection before your Zombie collapses.
Zombie hurling is actually a very popular sport in some countries
There are various obstacles to overcome, from inanimate objects such as crates and walls to the town citizens who are your intended victims. Some citizens run away, but others join the Police and Army to try and fight off your attack. The main aim is to build a large horde that can overwhelm opposition and infect citizens faster than it's constituent zombies die off.
Due to it being a 2D world, if you zoom in it appears that the cop is firing cans out of his gun while drinking from a bottle no-handed. This is, of course, exactly what is happening.
During each run you collect data, your mad scientist partner uses this data to build a better zombie virus that will make the zombies stronger, faster, bouncier and more agile. Rinse and repeat until the entire world is a rotting green mess.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 05/06/17

All in all, last week was pretty satisfying. I maintained my work rate despite the nice weather and school holidays. I also released a working closed-alpha version of Zombie Cannon Attack! to the Android Play Store and started work on in-app purchase and rewarded video ad integration. It's fairly complicated and time-consuming work, but after I've done it once it should be much easier to replicate it for future games.

Bushes now 30% more bushlike
This zombie has clearly been fired from a cannon and not fallen off the roof, I mean what would a zombie be doing on the roof?
A few weeks ago I decided the game was basically finished - there was plenty of polishing to do but I didn't anticipate making significant changes to the way the game looked or played. Obviously no sooner had I said that than I started making some pretty major graphical changes, and once again I spent time last week reworking the graphics. I've redrawn the ground tiles and the bushes that occupied a large part of the background (see here for what they looked like before), I'm pretty happy with the improvement but I'm not ready to say I've finished this time. I'm also working on the background for an unlockable second stage, Brainsville.
Don't worry, those towers are very far away. There are no giant superhero zombies in the game ... yet

Cannon 'just for a laugh' says Developer

I also reworked the cannon mechanics. For those of you that haven't been paying attention, Zombie Cannon Attack! is a zombie themed endless runner variant, The cannon is not actually that big a part of the game, it's more of an interesting way to start a run, but it is important to get it feeling right as it's the first thing players will see. As part of making the initial fire/fly/crash & bounce mechanic feel right I've worked on improving the games overall performance on mobile devices and managed to get a 20% or so boost to mobile frames per second. On desktop browsers I get a smooth 60 fps and it'd be great to get the game working as well on mobile (as the game is primarily designed for mobile), but it's not too far off now.
May the stats be with you

May was a good month overall, I passed 1000 Twitter followers which is a nice milestone. Early in the month this blog passed 1000 views, and views are still growing at a decent rate which is also nice to see. Personally though I'm most satisfied that my hours worked is back up to the level it was before April, there's still room for improvement there however.

May Stats:
Twitter followers: 1037 (+233)
May blog views: 427
Blog views/day: 13.8 (April was 12.2)
Hours worked 123 (4/day) (April was 3.3/day)

Monday, 29 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 29/05/17

I've had a pretty productive week. My hours worked were up again and I feel like I've got a lot to show for it too. Having said Zombie Cannon Attack! was nearly finished and I wasn't expecting to make any changes to the visuals or add new features, I then changed most of the background and added another obstacle for the later game. You can see the latest screenshots below, I'm still thinking over whether this is the final version or not. I felt the old version of the sky looked too empty, but now I'm wondering whether the new version is a little dark.

Yes, that is a UFO behind the giant floating brain

Pixel Art at a Premium

For most of the week I worked on building the premium currency store and the front end for the in-app purchase store, I've added a few images to stop it looking too plain and I'm pretty happy with them. One of the many bonuses from this project has been making my own pixel art, although it is really time consuming and I'm not up to professional standards yet. I'm planning to buy assets for the next few projects, but eventually I'd like to be able to do my own art without having to worry whether I'm sacrificing quality.
The in-app purchase screen in all it's money-grabbing glory

A Look at What's in (Play) Store

I spent most of Sunday working on getting the Android version ready for the Google Play store. It was a lot of work but I managed to publish a closed Alpha version, however due to a testing fail it didn't actually work. The problem was pretty minor and is now fixed, but I've made a few other changes to boost performance so I'll wait before re-releasing. I've then got to work on integrating the in-app purchases and video adverts, which is something else I've never done before so it could take days or weeks. I'll be glad to get ZCA released, although I've learned a great deal on this project I'm a few weeks behind the initial schedule I set when I started back in March and I don't want it to eat up too much of next month.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 22/05/17

Another week of steady progress, productivity wise my hours worked were up a little again, I'm still slightly below target but May is looking much better than April so far. I spent most of the week polishing Zombie Cannon Attack! and working on the Android version.

Two versions are better than (n)one

I'm strongly leaning towards releasing a demo web version and an Android version with more content, possibly with an iOS version to follow. I've made the decision to add a premium currency shop even though the game may be a little small for it, it'll be good experience for later games. I got to know the Phaser engine and web portals pretty well with my first game (Super Endless Kingdom), now with ZCA I'm learning a lot about mobile development including touch screen controls, scaling for different screen sizes and using Cordova to make an Android version with Play Store integration. Hopefully this will make things easier for my next project, so I can do something a little larger in scope without it taking too long.

Young and Gif-ted

I also made my first ZCA gameplay gif this week for Screenshot Saturday, using a great little program called screentogif. It was really easy to use and I highly recommend it.

This gives you a good idea of the visuals, but for the full experience you'll need someone to scream at you and make gunshot noises while you watch this.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 15/05/17

Not much to report this week I'm afraid, my hours worked were slightly up again but I don't feel like I've as much to show from it this time. This is largely because I spent most of the week doing boring business stuff like researching potential license sales for Zombie Cannon Attack! but I do have a decent size spreadsheet of contacts who I can start, er, contacting soon.

Androids, everybody needs good Androids

I then spent the weekend wrestling with Apache Cordova, for anyone not familiar with this it basically turns my HTML5 browser games into a phone/tablet app. Most of the problem was getting everything installed correctly, but now having done that I have a basic working Android version. It still needs a lot of work to integrate with Android API etc and add the features you'd expect to see in a mobile game, but up until now I wasn't sure it would work at all so it feels pretty good to have got far enough to know that it will work eventually.

Pic me up
Spot the subtle advertising if you can. No, not the apples.
I'm planning a fairly detailed post on Zombie Cannon Attack! soon, but in the meantime I'll share a few new screenshots.
You have the right to remain ..,. dead!
I still feel the sky looks a little plain. As well as the clouds there are also stars but they don't show up very well in these pictures. I've actually spent time today making the stars a little more visible and also making them twinkle, it's the little things that matter (though possibly not this little).

The rampaging zombie horde meets it's match, a guy throwing cans and a small wooden box.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 08/05/17

So, Zombie Cannon Attack! is very nearly finished and I'm into the final testing, polishing and balancing stage of development. I find motivating myself during this stage a bit tougher and that's reflected a little in terms of hours last week which were still a little below average, although they were higher than I've managed for nearly a month and once again I got plenty done.

You won't believe what happened to the to-do list!

I added a music track for the title screen. I really love the track I've found, it's perfect for the type of game I'm making. I finished and tested the save system, it's only a local save to your browser but that's enough for a game of this size. I also added a simple credits screen and finished the tutorial (although I have a little more testing to do on this), added a few visual and sound effects to emphasize power-ups and added a proper results screen. That was pretty much my entire to-do list from last week. I spent the rest of the week adding small graphical touches and adjusting the volume on the sound effects as they were a little overwhelming when a lot was happening.

Now with added social media/website links and a slightly higher version number!
User-testing Usually Useful

I've also done some limited user testing, although I haven't really got anything useful from the testers yet I still find it helps me focus on areas that need improvement. There's something about knowing other people are going to start seeing my game in action that raises the standards I set for myself and makes me more focused on the user experience, especially the early game. One conclusion I've come to is that the game was starting off a little too slowly. A common feature of endless runner type games is an upgrade shop that helps the player get further, I want the player to feel they're making constant progress but the first few runs weren't feeling particularly rewarding. The runs are pretty short but even so players have limited patience and goodwill, I don't want to burn through that limited supply before the player starts feeling rewarded. I've already made a few small changes to try and fix this, but I need to be careful not to unbalance the later game which is working fine.

Once I'm happy with the game I plan to talk to potential partners about licenses and get the game ready for an Android release while incorporating feedback. If you would like to test the game I'm looking to add a few more testers, and if you give me useful feedback I'll be happy to add your name to the credits section. Contact me via Twitter or email me (

Thanks for reading. All the best 😃