Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New game alert: Tree of Life

So with Pond Wars up and earning a solid 10 cents a month, its time for me to move on to my next game.

I've been toying with the idea of a Book of Mormon themed game for a while. The game won't be overtly religious, this is an exercise in making a entertainment product rather then a missionary product. Fun is still the main objective. But instead of zombies or aliens or the like it would be Nephites and Lamanite. The initial idea was an RTS describing the various battles from the war chapters in Alma. You've got generals, heroes, resource management, diplomacy. The backdrop is all there for an EPIC strategy game.

And there is the crunch. One man can't do EPIC with all capitals in between work, family, church and everything else that is this thing we call life. epic maybe, but not Epic or EPIC.

So my next idea was an infinite runner. These are pretty easy to build. Trouble is its almost two easy. The coding behind these games is pretty straight forward. The games get their appeal from content. Mostly in the form of art work. If Pond Wars taught me anything its that I should avoid games that rely on heavy art work.

But an infinite runner got me thinking heavily on the Tree of Life theme. Its one of the most iconic stories from the Book of Mormon. Every primary kid grows up knowing about it. And while its full of religious symbols, the actual content is not that religious. At the face value the story is simple. There is a tree. There is a path leading to the tree. Lehi is attempting to get people to the tree. There are a variety of environmental hazards (rivers, mists of darkness) preventing this objectives. This is all starting to sound like some backwards tower defence game.

So that's what I'm building at the moment. A sort of reverse tower defence game, where the objective is to build towers to help the critters reach the end. And you loose points for critters that don't make it. There will be some RTS elements thrown in as well, you'll be able to send out units to help.

One core mechanic I'm keen to include will be a light/darkness. Mists of darkness will actually prevent you from seeing what's happening in game. Critters will also be affected by darkness, with reduced line of sight and movement speed. Units like prophets and pastors, or buildings like temples, will all provide light to dispel darkness.

The other core mechanic will be faith. Critters with high faith will stay firmly attached to the iron rod, no matter what they can or can't see. Once they loose faith they will tend to wander at random and be subject to the various environmental hazards. Prophets and missionaries will increase faith, as well as buildings like chapels.

I'm currently working on prototyping the light/darkness system. Look forward to seeing a demo of this system soon.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pond Wars

So I'm relaunching Pond Wars. This time the game is being distributed free. Play the game. Share it with your friends. Tell everyone you know. And comment here or send me an email if you have suggestions.

About the game

Pond Wars is a simple two player game. Each player takes control of a ship and attempts to destroy the other player. The game is designed to have two players on a single keyboard, in the style of classic games like mortal combat or wacky wheels. Player fire cannons at each other in an attempt to sink the other ship. The twist is that player can't aim. As cannon balls hit the water they create waves. Players must time their shots to the movement of the waves to aim their shots.

Where can I get Pond Wars?

Pond wars is playable online at Kongregate
You can also play it online on Facebook
Download Pond Wars for PC 
Download Pond Wars for MAC

This game is so awesome, I want to pay for it!

If you liked Pond Wars and want to give something back, share the game with your friends. Spam everyone on Facebook. Share screen shots and videos of the game. Send the game to reviewers. Write blog posts about it.

And above all, have fun playing the game!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Don't monetise your games: Response

So, the game development community has been abuzz with this blog post. The basic premise is this "New developers should not monetise and should instead focus on building their craft and reputation". There has been a lot of hate for it, but I think the post is right on the money. Here's why. My first game Pond Wars was released a few months ago. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to site lock it so no one could steal the code. I spent a lot of time searching for ways to place ads within and around the game. I even refused to release it on Facebook because I didn't get a share of Facebook's ad revenue. I signed up for a bunch of different ad networks. 62 cents later I was sitting wondering what went wrong. Ultimately what I missed was traffic. The game just did not get enough plays to generate revenue. All of my focus on monetisation had distracted me from making the best game I could make. There were areas of the game I knew needed polishing, but I'd spent that time developing a way to place a banner ad on the screen if it played in a webplayer I didn't have a revenue share agreement with. I'd ignored ninety percept of the casual games market by not deploying on Facebook. I'd ignored the desktop avenue. All for a measly 62 cents. After reading this article I'm currently in the process of rewriting the game. I'm striping out everything related to monetisation. Its surprising how deep monetisation gets enmeshed in a game. When its done I'll be rereleasing it in every format I can get away with. Sure, I won't make a cent. But I don't think losing out on 62 cents will break the budget. And this approach seems far more likely to let me earn dollars into the future. When I get to the point that I can guarantee my games will actually get played, then I'll be back to consider monetisation. Until then watch this space, I'll be releasing a version of Pond Wars for desktop and Facebook totally free in the near future.