Friday, 21 July 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 17/07/17

Ok, so it's not the 17th. It's actually the 21st and this is is the latest I've ever posted a devblog since I started. This is also going to be the shortest devblog I've done.

Better late than never

I was hoping to release Zombie Cannon Attack! this week, but I'm not quite ready. It's a little disappointing as I'm really close. As I write this I'm working on balancing the later game a little better, and hopefully the latest Alpha build I'm releasing to the Google Play store (Version 0.9.78) will be the last. However next week is really bad for releasing as I'll be away for part of it so it looks like being the beginning of August. As I said it's disappointing but it gives me more time to get the game ready and some of the things I was planning to do post-release can be done before instead.

Yes, this is the same screenshot as last week, better than nothing though eh?
I've made big improvements to the game's performance and fixed a lot of annoying bugs and problems mainly to do with in-game adverts, so I'm satisfied that the final release will be something I can be proud of. Next week I hope to write a full preview of the game with loads of screenshots and gameplay gifs, so stay tuned.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 10/07/17

I'm pretty pleased with how last week went. I put in more hours than I'd managed for a month and I now have an Android version of Zombie Cannon Attack! that works well. I'd go so far as to call it releaseable, but I'm planning to hold back for another week.

You medalling fool!

I spent about half the week adding new medals and upgrades that will unlock with Brainsville, the second stage/world. Along with the new enemies I added last week they add a new dimension to the game, prior to these changes the differences in levels were largely cosmetic.

Tricky Zombies deploy a fleet of flying Pow! signs in their attack on the city, probably.
I've also added little bits and pieces to give the game more polish, including several new sound effects and a little animation at the start of each run. The animation actually serves a useful technical purpose as I've found it sometimes takes a few seconds for the performance of the game to settle at the beginning, so instead of having the 'patient zero' zombie already in the cannon he now walks onscreen and jumps onto the barrel. It takes less than 2 seconds but that little delay is all I needed.

I spent the rest of the week testing and balancing, I've fixed a few bugs and made some minor changes
Still to come

I decided against using google sign-in, It's not really necessary for this game and I don't want to add delays for no benefit. As I said earlier, everything is now working on the Android version, performance is looking good too. I once again have a small list of changes and fixes but most of the work between now and release is going to be about promotion and marketing.

I'm not planning a huge campaign, but I need promotional materials for the GooglePlay page and while I have them there's certainly no harm in putting a presskit together and seeing if I can attract any interest. If you're a gaming blogger, writer or youtuber and are interested in featuring my game then please get in touch. You can find more info about the game in previous blog posts or just get in touch via twitter etc.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 03/07/17

Not a bad week, certainly not by June's standards at least (see stats section later). I've spent the last few days working on integrating ads into Zombie Cannon Attack! Video and banner ads are now working but need some more tweaking and I may also add occasional skippable interstitial ads between runs but only once every 5-10 minutes. Obviously I'd rather not be putting adverts in my game but there doesn't seem to be another viable option at the moment, and I've at least enjoyed the technical challenge.

It's in the game.

On the gameplay side I've added the last currently planned character, SuperZee, complete with cool laser graphics and sfx that I'm pretty happy with. SuperZee appears alongside Brainman in Brainsville but is also the informal boss of World One (currently known as Starter Town) and will be an unpleasant surprise for any zombie horde that reaches the kilometer mark.

I've also spent time reworking the post-run backdrop, I've added buttons to play the rewarded video ads and change the world as well as link buttons to Twitter, Facebook and the Rubble Games website.

Buttons man, Gotta press em all!
I now have a small list of tweaks and bug fixes to get through and I still want to look at using google sign-in. I feel very close to finishing but the release date now looks likely to be mid-July instead of early July as I'd previously hoped.

June buggy

June was a very mixed month. I'm really disappointed with the hours I worked. There was some justification for working less this month but overall I should have done more and it's something I need to work on for the rest of the year.
However I have overcome a lot of technical hurdles this month and I'm pretty pleased with the quality of my work despite the quantity being too low.
On the social media side, my Twitter followers continue to grow but the growth has slowed. I've had to be a bit more picky about who I follow back which may have slowed the growth a little but I needed to rethink things or twitter would've become unusable. I like the idea of following back those that follow me but the numbers I'm following (nearly 900) are starting to become unmanageable.
This blog continues to grow at a decent rate, although it's still pretty small it's nice to see those numbers keep going up.

Twitter followers: 1203 (+166)
May blog views: 482
Blog views/day: 16.1 (May was 13.8)
Hours worked: 86 (2.9/day) (May was 4/day)

Monday, 26 June 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 26/06/17

All in all last week went pretty well. A week ago I was still struggling to integrate an in-app purchase plugin with Zombie Cannon Attack!, now things are looking a lot better. As lasts weeks blog was a little late (and I was too pleased with myself to wait a week to write about it), I've already mentioned that I switched to a different IAP plugin and it now works fine. Since then I've also added a plugin to integrate Google Admob into the game in order to display rewarded video ads, I got it sort of working at the first attempt (it currently displays ads during the game instead of waiting for them to be requested, but at least it displays them, and I've hopefully fixed the problem.)

Enough about my backend

Having got over most of the major technical problems standing in the way of release, I spent the rest of the week working on making sure all the premium currency purchases are actually available. To that end I added a second world/town/level - Brainsville - that had previously existed mostly as ideas and concept art but is now mostly finished. As part of this I also created a new character (Brainman) to help make the new town a big step up in difficulty.
The hero Brainsville needs
I've also added 3 skin packs to the premium currency store (see pics below), these allow you to reskin your zombie horde with zombie versions of the games NPCs. They're mostly cosmetic, the aim being to allow players to contribute without making the game pay-to-win. I'm planning on giving premium currency as a reward for watching ads, which will allow all the levels and skin packs to be unlocked without spending real money.

Much to-do about releasing

I've still got plenty to do, I have a second superhero character to add (SuperZee). I'm planning on having him appear as the boss of world one, as well as a recurring enemy in Brainsville. Most of the pixel art is done, but the coding will probably take a day or so. That's the last major gameplay element I'm planning on adding prior to launch, but there are other things to do such as implementing link buttons, a backdrop and a banner ad for the end of run/game over section. I'm also going to look at adding a google sign-in plugin for social sharing and leaderboards etc.
Then all that's left is to test, polish and finally release. It's still possible that I'll be able to push out at least a Beta release next week if everything goes well this week, fingers crossed.

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)