Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 09/10/17

Last week was another productive week, in fact taken as a whole the last fortnight has been my best in terms of hours worked for over 6 months. Hopefully I can at least keep at this level for the rest of the year, although this week so far hasn't exactly gone according to plan (hence this blog post being a couple of days late).

If you go down to the woods today...
Cobwebs and pumpkins, either it's October or they really need to tidy up
I mentioned recently I'd started work on a Halloween update for Zombie Cannon Attack! I now have a workable Halloween level with a new enemy and new scenery. I need to do a bit more testing and balancing (at the moment it's pretty tough), then update the title screen and add some sound effects. If there's time I'd like to add a bit more but obviously the main thing is to get it out in time for the run up to Halloween so we'll have to see how it goes.
In a slight departure from traditional folklore, witches now shoot ice beams from their broomsticks
A short time ago in a blog post not very far away

My new sci-fi themed shooter/crafter hasn't seen much progress this week as I concentrated on updating Zombie Cannon Attack! I've mainly been planning the crafting system out on paper but I have a decent outline now and hopefully I can get some of it coded this week. There's not a lot to see at the moment and may not be for some time, my plan is to buy in the art assets which should speed up development but also means I'll be mostly working with basic placeholder art for a while yet.

My latest game, Zombie Cannon Attack!, is available for FREE on web and android. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 02/10/17

To say last week was a bit mixed would be a massive understatement. I had the very sad news that my Nannan passed away (that's Grandmother to non-Sheffielders), but then also a lovely day for my Nephew's 2nd birthday where my young son and nephews joined forces to basically beat the crap out of me. Somehow with all this going on I managed to put in my highest hours worked total for nearly 6 months.

Ch Ch Changes

Having said last week that I'd settled on my next project, I then had a complete change of heart and decided to shelve it. While idle/clicker games are currently all the rage, I'm personally pretty bored with the genre at the moment and unless or until that changes I don't think I could bring the enthusiasm to the project that it would need. As I've mentioned in previous posts, this is where being slow to prototype new games can be a problem. Thankfully though, I've already done a big chunk of the next prototype which is based on an idea I've been wanting to pursue for a while now. I'm a little wary about going into details too early again, but it's a simple shoot 'em up with a fairly complex crafting/trading/upgrading system behind it to sustain interest.

September Stats

September was a tough month for work, with plenty of ups and downs to distract me. My hours worked total was pretty poor, and would have been even worse without the late push. While it may be understandable I do need to do much better this month and I'm aiming to beat my previous record for hours worked which currently stands at 129.5 in a month.
Twitter follower growth (follow me here!) slowed quite a bit in September, I'm not following back as many people as I used to in an effort to keep my timeline readable and it does seem to have had an effect, however more than 100 new followers is still nice to see.
This blog had a great month though, August had already beaten the previous record by nearly 50% and once again views/day has jumped another 50% in September. A big thanks to everyone for reading. The idea behind the blog is to collect my ideas together and hold myself accountable, but since I started the blog in February readership has increased five-fold which is pretty satisfying.

Twitter Followers: 1649 (+110)
September blog views: 1051
Blog views/day: 35 (July was 23.6)
Hours worked: 103 (3.4/day) (August was 3.9/day)

My latest game, Zombie Cannon Attack!, is available for FREE on web and android. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 25/09/17

Not too much to report this week, I pretty much took half last week off for various family things. I've made a little progress with my next game, which I'll go into shortly, but got no further with the desktop version of Zombie Cannon Attack!

Trick or treat?

As well as working on a paid desktop download of Zombie Cannon Attack! I'm also considering a Halloween update. The theme would fit in nicely and I've already designed an extra NPC, designing a new themed background and obstacles shouldn't be too much trouble and there's a good chance I'll reuse any assets I make (more on that later). For now you can still try the non-Halloween version for free, there's a demo web version with a good few hours play on Kongregate, or you can download the full game on Android (also FREE!) which has plenty of extras and bonuses.
Zombie Witch concept art, (maybe) coming soon
Spam clicks make the world go round

My next project, provisionally titled Zombie Clicker Attack!, is an incremental clicker with a similar theme to my last game. In fact, as the title implies, it's a very similar theme which will allow me to reuse many of the assets. Hopefully this should greatly speed up development time.

Although the plot will be basically the same (help a mad scientist take over the world with zombies), obviously the game play is quite a departure from a hybrid launch game/endless runner. The aim will be to raise a vast horde of various zombie types and conquer a series of increasingly well-defended territories, using the data you gather to upgrade your zombies along the way, but you'll be doing this while under constant attack from your potential victims.
I'm hoping to add a small action section to make the invasions more than just clicking a button, but it's still early days yet so we'll see. I've almost finished the first 10-15 minutes of gameplay, this comprises the first territory to conquer and will be a good vertical slice of the game for testing. Once I'm happy with that the rest of the process will be gradually introducing features to flesh out that core concept. As ever, more on this next week.
A very early prototype shot, as you may have noticed from the lack of a map on the map tab

Monday, 18 September 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 18/09/17

A difficult week, all in all. If you read last week's post (which thanks to a fluke retweet explosion is now my second most viewed post of all time) then you'll know most of the bad stuff as it was actually written midweek and things got a lot better afterwards. However I don't really feel like I've got much in the way of progress to share this week so I'll keep it short.

Desktop Stop Shock

I've hit a bit of a wall in producing a desktop version of Zombie Cannon Attack! The method I was using creates an .appxbundle file instead of an .exe file. While it works fine on my PC, from what I can tell it's only really good for the Windows Store, which means incurring extra costs that I can't really justify as it seems unlikely I could recoup them. I'm now looking into a different method, hopefully more on that next week.
Zombie Cannon Attack! desktop version, two weeks away for the last three weeks
Big in Iraq

I experimented with using Google Play Store promotion codes (giving free in-app purchases) for the Android version of Zombie Cannon Attack! (coinciding with the release of v1.2, get it now! etc) and the results were interesting. It's easily been my best week for downloads so far but they've mostly been from the Middle East as opposed to the previous norm of the EU/US regions. The new players have so far generated very little revenue though, and given how slowly downloads have been going since launch it didn't really take much to beat the previous weeks' efforts.
On a more positive note the average rating is now up to 4.8, which is nice, but I'd certainly trade the .8 for a few more downloads. (Hint, hint 😆)

Core blimey, it's working!

I've continued work on the prototype for my next game. It's starting to take shape and I'm fairly happy with it so far, even if most of the game still only exists in my head. I coded a couple of functions that are pretty central to how the game will play and I can see it starting to evolve. I'm now leaning towards thinking it will work and hopefully I can move ahead with it more quickly now I've got the core of it done. Again, more next week.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 11/09/17

Apologies for the delayed blog this week, I've had a rough few days of crappy sleep and lots of things have had to be put off. It's a measure of how badly I'd been sleeping that what would usually count as a below average night's sleep last night has actually left me feeling refreshed and raring to go. Hopefully that can last.

Sounds like a problem

As well as getting the latest Android version of Zombie Cannon Attack! finished, I split my time last week between working on a prototype for my next game and getting a Windows version of Zombie Cannon Attack! ready for release. I'd had a lot of problems with the Windows version, which turned out to be mostly caused by the version of Windows I was targeting.

A Windows 10 build is not compatible with anything lower so I'd targeted Windows 8.1 instead. As my games are browser based, the non-web versions run on a webview (essentially this packages the game in a stripped down browser window). The Windows 8.1 webview is based on Internet Explorer which turned out to be the root of my problems, as IE doesn't support web audio (as well as being rubbish in many, many other ways). The Windows 10 webview is based on Edge which runs everything just fine. I'm limiting my potential audience by doing this, but the audio of Zombie Cannon Attack! is pretty essential to it's humour and the workarounds I had to put in place for the 8.1 version compromised the sound effects to a level I just couldn't accept.

Once I'd got the game running I spent a little time adding extra keyboard controls and adding a fullscreen option that I'm pretty pleased with. Everything seems fine after testing and I'm ready to try and turn what I've got into something players can actually download and install.
Those zombies are trying to eat him, they're not his backing singers. Just in case there's any confusion.

That 'difficult' third game

As I mentioned, I also started prototyping my next game. At the moment I'm going for an idle/clicker type game based on broadly the same theme as Zombie Cannon Attack!, with a working title of Zombie Clicker Attack! I've seen plenty of other gamedevs talk about knocking together a prototype in a few hours, but unfortunately that's not how I work so it's taking a little longer and I'm still not convinced I have something that will work. The obvious danger with this is that I end up spending so much time on the game that I follow through with an idea I'm not happy with so the time I've spent isn't wasted. Knowing when to fold 'em is something I've never been great at and I'll need to work on that a bit more. You can rest assured I'll be posting more on this as I make progress.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 04/09/17

Another busy week, I spent most of it bashing my head against the brick wall that is developing for Windows using Cordova. To be fair it's not a very strong brick wall as I've so far solved every problem I've encountered, but not without a lot of swearing at my computer. Apart from an annoying issue that stops me changing the volume of sound effects I have what appears to be a fully working Windows version of Zombie Cannon Attack!, or at least a version that works on my local machine. I've a fair bit more work to do before I'm ready to release it though.

Zombie Cannon Attack!, now with added buttons!

As well as the technical behind the scenes stuff, I've also made a few changes to gameplay to adapt the mechanics better to desktop play. Mainly that's meant adding keyboard controls, but as there will be a paid version I've also removed all trace of ads or premium currency from the full game and reworked a few things to balance those changes. I've also added another layer of achievements for the full version only, and these will be in the next Android update too.
Rampage through Brainsville on your Windows PC, soon(ish)
There's life in the old game yet.

I'll do a full postmortem on Zombie Cannon Attack! once the post-release dust has settled (which obviously won't happen til I actually stop releasing on new platforms). At the moment I'm a long way short of where I'd need to be to make a full-time living at gamedev, although this game has done much better than my last game did (both in critical and commercial terms) and I've learnt a huge amount in the course of developing and releasing it.
Ooh, closing in on Version 1.2.34, said the serious proper gamedev
August Stats:

August was a really busy month, as you'd expect from a release month. However that isn't really reflected in my hours worked. School holidays and family commitments have taken up a lot of time (not that I'm complaining, family comes first) so when I've had the time to work I've had to cram it in. Twitter continues to grow steadily, I've been a lot stricter with who I follow back to try and cut down on timeline clutter and it doesn't really seem to have made a difference to the growth of my followers. This blog had a really good month and was up almost 50% on the previous month, helped by me tweeting a lot more as I promoted Zombie Cannon Attack!'s various releases. Readership has now more than trebled in the last 6 months which is always nice to see. A big thanks to you for reading today and helping to add to that.

Twitter 1539 (+164)
August blog views 731
Blog views/day: 23.6 (July was 15.9)
Hours worked 119.5 (3.9 per day) (July was 3.5/day)

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 28/08/17

Last week saw the release of Zombie Cannon Attack! on Kongregate (one of the major web game portal sites). The launch was relatively successful, it already has nearly three times the total plays of my last game after less than a week. I'll need to see how plays drop off over time to get a better idea of how it went but I'm reasonably satisfied so far. I also got plenty of good feedback, enough to produce three separate updates in the last week. Launching a game is always a little tiring and stressful but as it's the third launch this month I'm starting to get the hang of it. Android version downloads are slowly increasing too, but it's fair to say I won't be retiring off the proceeds of Zombie Cannon Attack!
Here's the update you've all been waiting for... introducing the Settings button. Yeah!
Window(s) into the future

I'm now looking at releasing on Gamejolt, I'll need to produce a downloadable desktop version of the full game if I want to release the demo browser version, this is something I've been thinking about doing anyway though and I can then also put it on and other sites. It shouldn't be too difficult to produce a Windows download using Cordova, however as the game is designed for mobile I'll need to adapt some mechanics for desktop first.

I'm also now thinking about my next game, as I'm mostly just tinkering with ZCA so it's a good time to start something new. I'm considering either a territory based clicker/idle game or a simple shooter with a fairly complex crafting/trading system. I'll probably end up making them both eventually but I'm leaning towards the idle game first. I'll write more once I have something to show.