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 Itch.io 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.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 21/08/17

Last week was a bit quiet as far as gamedev news goes. Family weddings and birthdays took up half the week and left me well short of my hours worked target, but under the circumstances I think I can be excused for slacking a little.

Koming to a portal near you

I'm getting ready to release an updated demo version of Zombie Cannon Attack! on Kongregate. I've put some of the lessons learned from the Newgrounds release into practice. I still need to do more testing but everything looks good so far. I'll be posting and tweeting about it when release day arrives.
If you've ever wondered what sound a zombies head makes as it bounces after being fired from a cannon, you've probably got too much time on your hands. So download my game!
Androids + Potions = Fun!

Today I released Android version 1.1 (get it here FREE!), the changes are mainly to the later stages of the game to try and keep it challenging. I've also reduced the cost of unlocking the second world (Brainsville), as I really want players to experience the content even if they can't afford to buy potions (ZCA's premium currency). Potions are also one of the rewards for watching video ads and the price change makes that route much more feasible. I've boosted the amount of Potions in the IAP packs too.
It's now much easier to terrorize the poor citizens of Brainsville, you're welcome!
Downloads are still going slowly but I'm looking at more ways to market the game on a budget (a budget of nil) and I'm hopeful the Kongregate version will help too.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 14/08/17

After the stress of launch week, last week was another busy week but thankfully much less stressful. I solved the main problems with Zombie Cannon Attack! on Newgrounds, which were issues with how the game interacted with the host site rather than problems with the game itself. I'm happy that it's all sorted out though and ready for release on more portals from next week.

Features and Bugs
Always make sure you get proof it really happened!
Zombie Cannon Attack! actually ended up doing really well on Newgrounds despite the initial problems. It was featured on the front page and spent a day or so as the most popular game of the week (they use a rolling seven days, with games dropping off exactly a week after launch). I've had some really positive reviews, including my personal favourite:
"Almost instantly addicted. It's simple but super cute and kept me playing for a half hour before I realized how much time had passed."
See here for the rest, lots of nice things were said and pretty much all the negatives are from the issues I mentioned before. As with most projects, I was really excited to get the game out to players but I also had a few doubts along the way and it's great to see people enjoying playing.

Attention Seeking

Unfortunately this success has yet to translate to the Android version, where downloads are still going slowly. It's clear I have lots to learn about marketing, and I'm wondering if I released too early as with a little over 4 months from concept to release there wasn't much time for marketing. I'm hoping the next portal releases will drive more downloads and in the meantime trying to get as much attention as possible from review sites and social media.
If you're reading this and you haven't downloaded Zombie Cannon Attack! yet, I'd really appreciate you giving it a go and letting me know what you think.

Zombie Cannon Attack! is out now on Android.

For a full preview blog try here.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 07/08/17

Well, it's been a hectic week and I'm officially knackered so any post launch postmortem will have to wait til next week. But in brief:

Any launch you can walk away from ...

Zombie Cannon Attack! is live on the Google Play Store, the launch was a success technically but so far there's not been much in the way of downloads. You can (and should) download it here for FREE and let me know what you think. I did a full preview post last week which you can read here.

Just realised there's no cannon on the title screen, what an oversight
I've also released a slightly pared down web version on Newgrounds. The launch there did not go so smoothly, there was an annoying bug that seemed to be some sort of conflict with the sites advertising. However it's fixed now and the game has been pretty well received. At time of writing it's the 4th most popular game of the last week and there's a decent chance it may go higher over the next few days.

I've updated the cannon image, I reckon it's about 27% more cannony now
I've decided to hold off on releasing on other sites such as Kongregate and Gamejolt for a few days. The last week took it out of me a bit and I need to recharge.

July Stats

It seems a bit outdated to be talking about last month after such an eventful week, but here's the stats anyway. Hours worked were below target but much better than June, and I had a weekend away and another at a local festival so it's not too bad all things considered. This blog didn't grow at all on a page views per day basis, but it was a lower priority due to launch preparations so we'll see if it picks up again. Twitter continues to grow at a decent pace despite me cutting down on the number I follow back to try and keep the numbers manageable.

Twitter 1375 (+172)
July blog views 492
Blog views/day: 15.9 (June was 16.1)
Hours worked 108.5 (3.5 per day) (June was 2.9/day)