Mobile Success Spotlight – Vector Unit

FGL Community Spotlight – Vector Unit 

The Community Spotlight returns this week to highlight a recent release from a mobile developer in the FGL community.

We sat down with superstar mobile developers Vector Unit and asked them about their new game “MouseBot
 

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FGL: Welcome to the Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself and your mobile game development experience

Vector Unit:  My name is Ralf Knoesel, CTO and founder of Vector Unit Inc.  Our first mobile game was Riptide GP, which was designed to showcase the tablet/phone graphics capabilities of the time (2011).  We’ve since released the sequels Riptide GP2 (2013) and Riptide GP: Renegade (2016), which have been successful as premium titles on both iOS and Google Play.

Our first attempt at a free-to-play game was Beach Buggy Blitz (2012), which is an endless-runner style driving game.  This game has seen over 50M installs to date and taught is a lot about the nature of fee-to-play and video advertising.  Building on its success, we published Beach Buggy Racing (2014), which is a Kart racing game with fun weapons and power-ups.  By now this game has also reached the 50M downloads mark.
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FGL: Very impressive!  We were excited to hear you had a new project launching soon. What can you tell us about it?

VU: The game we’ve been working on is MouseBot, which has just launched.  MouseBot is a cartoon-inspired platforming game that will test your reflexes, skills, timing, and love of cheese!  You drive a robotic mouse through mazes of fantastical mechanical mouse traps created by the cat scientists of CatLab.
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FGL: You’ve utilized Enhance with several of your recent titles. How has Enhance helped your game development process?
 

VU:  I was excited to learn about the Enhance platform last year.  In the past we’ve spent lots of time integrating and updating various advertising SDKs.  The idea that this could be automated to the point of simply uploading a package file was a radical improvement to our workflow.

We since updated Beach Buggy Racing to use Enhance, where we proved out the benefit because we were able to switch to all the latest SDKs by only having to integrate the straight-forward Enhance SDK.  Any future updates are zero work!  We’re also excited to use Enhance on MouseBot, which allows us to spend more time creating a fun game instead of integrating SDKs.

 

FGL: What advice can you give for fellow mobile developers seeking that next level of success for their games?

VU: There’s lots of good advice out there (GDC, Gamasutra, etc) based on lessons learned for mobile developers who are just getting started.  One insight that you don’t read about too much but has helped make us successful is to publish your game to multiple platforms/channels.  Don’t limit yourself to just iOS or Google Play, do both!

Once you have some traction, explore more markets.  Find a publisher in China.  If applicable, publish your game to consoles (Xb1/Ps4/Switch).  Do a Windows Store version.  Make a Steam build.  Publish to Kindle.  Each one of these may be incremental, but at the end of the day they add up.

FGL:  Sounds good! How can your fans follow you and learn about your new projects?

VU:  Our official website is vectorunit.com.  Other good sources of information are Facebook and Twitter.  We also have a YouTube channel.

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I’d like to thank Vector Unit for answering our questions and sharing these stories with us. You can download “MouseBot” now on iOS and Android devices. If you have any questions for Vector Unit, follow them on Twitter, Facebook or post in the comments below! If you know someone who would be a good candidate for the Community Spotlight, comment below or send us an email at info@fgl.com.

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Indie Giving 2017 Was a Success!

Indie Giving 2017

We’d like to first thank everyone who participated in Indie Giving this year. It turned out to be much more labor intensive than previous years, but we were happily impressed how everyone stepped up to the challenge and kept the end goal in mind. After every Indie Giving event, we’re reminded how hard-working, awesome, fun and kind game developers truly are.

It was great to see some familiar faces. It means a lot to us to see you year after year taking part in this event. We’re equally thrilled to have met everyone participating for the first time. We hope you had a great experience, and look forward to seeing you back next year.

 

Brunch

Prior to our charity work, volunteers were treated to a delicious brunch at the Delancey Street Restaurant. The restaurant employs individuals who have fallen on hard times, but are eager to rebuild their lives with the support of the Delancey Street Foundation. All profits from the restaurant goes directly to house, feed and clothe the employees, as well as teach them skills and values to promote a successful drug and crime-free life. If you ever have a chance to visit the restaurant, we recommend MaMa’s omelet!

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Charity Work

This year, we partnered with the Parks Conservancy to help re-vegetate a threatened wetland area in the Presidio of San Francisco. We brought a small army of game developers suited up for a meaningful real life game of extreme gardening, and they did not disappoint! Donned with rubber boots, work gloves and knee pads, and wielding mini pick axes and shovels, we were able to successfully plant nearly 1,000 native plants in a few hours of work. With proper care and continued support by all the hard working folks in the Parks Conservancy, this area will thrive again one day, and we are proud to have been part of it. And even though there were dozens of game developers slashing at the ground with sharp foreign objects, we’re happy to report that there were no injuries 🙂

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Sponsors

Indie Giving wouldn’t be possible without the support from our awesome sponsors. Their donations afforded us everything we needed to succeed, and we can’t thank them enough. We don’t require sponsors to donate a specific amount, we simply ask for whatever they’re able to provide. UBM/GDC is always amazing to work with. Among many other things, they donate the GDC passes (which they upgraded for us this year) and also promote the event. FlowPlay has been a long-time supporter of Indie Giving and we appreciate their continued support. We were happy to work with Appodeal who took to the idea of Indie Giving right away and were very supportive. Without the support from these gracious sponsors, the event would be greatly diminished and might not happen at all.

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Spreading the Love

In association with our volunteering, we will also be donating directly to the Parks Conservancy, with portions being donated to Episcopal Community Services, who provide housing, jobs, shelter, and essential services to over 7,000 homeless people in the bay area, and the International Rescue Committee, a refugee-centric worldwide organization which helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future.

 

Indie Giving Explained

The Indie Giving event is a special program designed to help independent game developers attend the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. Everyone who signs up also takes part in a charity event to support a local organization. This community effort is organized by FGL, with the support from our sponsors. We use the sponsorship money to pay for tools, food and anything needed for the volunteers. Every penny leftover is donated. Together, we’ve not only saved these organizations hundreds of work hours, but we’ve also donated tens of thousands of dollars on behalf of our contributors over the last 7 years.

Thanks again to everyone involved!

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Mobile Success Spotlight – Handless Millionaire developer Vasiliy Kostin

FGL Community Spotlight – 

“Handless Millionaire” 

The Community Spotlight returns to highlight a recent release from a mobile developer in the FGL community.

We asked Vasiliy Kostin about his smash hit mobile game “Handless Millionaire” and got his thoughts on modern game development.

(This interview has been translated from Russian)

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FGL: Welcome to the Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with game development

VK: I started making games a long time ago but it was always only a hobby. My first big game was ‘Pick and Dig’ (in Russian i named it ‘Kirkop’)’. In total, I made eight versions of this game for different platforms. Two of them were published on CD in Russia; I even bought both in a store in my small city! This game was a big part of my life, and my friends even nicknamed me “Kirkop”.

I also made “Normal Tanks” (a 2d game with normal mapped lighting and shadows).  The first time i published it by myself and sold licenses via SMS, but some months ago, after huge improvements, its was finally published on Steam as ‘Iron Impact‘.

For android I made some not-bad titles (and some bad too!); the most successful of them are the series “Pinata Hunter” (with my friend Marcus Hadlock), “Galaxy Siege”, “Flash’s Bounty” and, of course my most popular game “Handless Millionaire“. In all my games i used my own game-editor; it’s helped me through different times, languages, and platforms. First version was on Delphi(Pascal), then 3 versions on c++ (borland, MSVS, Qt) with intervan in 1-2 years, and latest and most powerful is the game-editor I made on flash. And all this time I had never treated mobile games as something serious, and was wrong as its turns out!

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FGL: ‘Handless Millionaire’ now has millions of installs and the franchise has a loyal following. What can you tell us about developing it?

VK: HM is simplest game I ever made, and most successful too. As i remember, I spent less time on it than I spent to make any of my other games. About 2-3 weeks. At first, I thought of making a platformer game about small round creature out of fur, with a long flexible tail. You have to pass levels as you do in other platformers and care about your tail.

The main feature was cutting off tail by bad guillotines and boxes when you do something wrong. Later I simplified this idea, mixed it with the ‘Millionaire’ TV show and it took shape into what you see now. I never thought about the genre of HM; maybe it is ‘limbcutter’ or ‘guillotiner’!

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FGL: What game developer services do you use in your games? 

VK: I started working with FGL about 6 years ago when flash games were at their peak. Its was best game development experience I ever had. When you make a lot of small games you grow your skills very fast. You don’t stay stuck on one thing; you look and try new things with each new project, which change before you get sick of them.

At first, Handless Millionaire was a flash game for web-browser only, but I ported to mobile because you could do it in a few clicks. On android, HM1 was released 3 years ago and at start had a few daily installs. With time it grew, and now it gets about 10k installs daily. Without any promotion.

I decided to try Enhance because I was having problems with managing the adMob account, and there were also issues with the approve code Google was sending.  I just know, that now it is great. Enhance helped me fix all the problems with my account approval and the mess you can get when working with big lazy ad networks. Also, it helped to forget about pain of using SDKs and updates to Extensions which can force you to hate doing game development at all, as its was with me sometimes.

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FGL: Do you have any advice for other mobile developers?

VK: Of course my words can’t be the universal recipe for everybody, and there many people who will argue with me and some one will start kick me, but all my game development experience taught me one simple thing:

Don’t make big projects, even if you have enough powers and skills. Make a lot of simple, small and maybe pure ridiculous games. Between them you will find the true project of your life, which will contain something that we can’t describe, that makes that game “grow-able” and worthy to spend your time and soul to make. It’s the only way to not be disappointed. All big projects are always not first project of their authors. It’s always long journey of forgotten games and trial-and-error.

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But, if you have your great project already, which you can launch on a mobile device, forget everything I said and go to the guys from FGL. That’s my best advice on game development for now!

FGL: How can your fans follow you and learn about your new projects? What are you working on next?

VK: Maybe I never have enough attention to represent myself, but there’s no one place where you can find everything about my games or about me. In last year, I seriously researched HTML because I feel that it will be the future of WEB.

My latest experiment with HTML is roguelike game Pixel-Cave (you can say what you think about this game here). Its actually my first game without any sounds or music, and now I appreciate how important sound is for games. I have enough knowledge about WEB to make my game-editor in HTML, and soon games should be more polished. 🙂 I am also making a simple multiplayer realtime strategy game, but it is too raw to show it now.

Finally, you can see some short and rare videos on my YouTube channel.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll find time to collect videos about all my games and their history there.

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I’d like to thank Vasiliy for answering our questions and sharing these stories with us. You can download “Handless Millionaire 2” now HERE. If you have any other questions post in the comments below! If you know someone who would be a good candidate for the Community Spotlight, comment below or send us an email at info@fgl.com.

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Indie Giving 2017 Survival Guide

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The indie giving event is a special program designed to help independent game developers attend the 2017 Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. Everyone who signs up will get the chance to take part in a charity event to support a local organization!  

The goal is to show gamers know how to have fun, and give back. This year we’ll be helping the San Francisco Parks Conservancy clear out many invasive species from the Presidio of San Francisco. The Presidio is home to 20 rare plant species, including five protected by the Endangered Species Act. Participating in habitat restoration by removing invasive species and re-vegetating with native plants is the most proactive way to help conserve this landscape. Our work will be outdoors, and last a few hours, which includes meet and greets beforehand, and closing comments afterward.

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What is Provided?

  • Water Bottles
  • Work T-Shirts
  • Tools needed for event

What do I need to bring?

Just yourself, and your willingness to work.

What if I want to bring something?

We’re able to accommodate 1 backpack per person, so feel free to bring along anything you think you’ll need. Keep in mind, you’re responsible for anything you bring with you.

Possible items:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Jacket
  • Football or Frisbee

What should I wear?

We’ll be working outside, so please wear closed toe shoes and pants you don’t mind getting dirty. Please no shorts or sandals.

How many people will be there?

We usually have around 30 or so people helping out, so there’s always someone from the gaming industry to chat and team up with.


Signing up for Indie Giving also includes an Indie Games Summit GDC Pass:

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For more information, check out the GDC website for details

Sign up for Indie Giving today at indiegiving.com!

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Community Spotlight – Sonny developer Krin Juangbhanich

FGL Community Spotlight – “Sonny” 

 

The Community Spotlight returns to highlight a recent release from a mobile developer in the FGL community.

We asked Krin about his new release “Sonny” and got his thoughts on modern game development.

 

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FGL: Welcome to the Spotlight, Krin! Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with game development

Krin: My name is Jakrin Juangbhanich, and I first got into game development when I was 13 or 14. I had the thought to turn one of my highschool teachers (someone that wasn’t very popular with the students) into a boss fight. It was a very short game, and once the teacher was defeated, she blew up like a Megaman X boss. From there, I developed games as a hobby. I didn’t have any background in Computer Science, so I had to learn by just ripping apart example projects and copy pasting things a lot.

Between 2004 and 2010, I made a few Flash games that gained popularity on Newgrounds and ArmorGames: Sinjid, Crimson Warfare, Flight, Colony, and Sonny. Flash games were only starting to become big, so I guess there wasn’t that much competition at that time. That’s how my games were able to get so much exposure, and it really encouraged me to do something better than what I had done before. That’s how I grew my skills over the years, and that’s how I met all the amazing people that I’m working with today.

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FGL: We’re very excited you brought your latest project “Sonny” to mobile.  For fans new to the series, tell us about the Sonny franchise

Krin: The first Sonny game was originally a Flash game about a zombie who wakes up tries to find out who he was. The gameplay was a linear turn based combat RPG, with core focus being on the skills and buffs. It was immediately really popular, and to be honest I’m not sure why either. The game is really easy to learn, and I think people enjoy leveling up skills and items in general. Maybe it was the weird environments and story, or the voice acting. The music was incredible too (courtesy of David Orr – thanks mate!), so I guess it was a combination of those things.

What really surprised (and motivated) me was all the people who wrote in the comments or forums who were really into the game. They were talking about strategies, skill builds, and the story. It really made me so happy to know that I was able to create that kind of entertainment and value for other people. That was when I started to seriously consider game development as a career.

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FGL: As a highly successful Flash developer, what was it like making the switch to mobile?

Krin: Prior to Sonny, I made another mobile game called Gemini Strike. It was the first mobile game I ever made, and the first game made using Unity. Double whammy! It was so challenging and uncomfortable at first. I chose to do a space shooter game because I always feel that is the best type of game to make when learning a new platform. But the project eventually grew into a space shooter with procedurally generated loot and RPG mechanics and a massive story script. I had a lot of fun on it, and it was a great project. When that game was done, the very same team began to work on the new Sonny game.

Even with the previous exposure to Unity and mobile, there were still many challenges. Not having vector graphics, or a Movieclip animation system like in Flash meant that we couldn’t just clone the game. We had to re-think how a lot of things worked, but also keep it feeling true to the original. The same was true with gameplay. Sonny was very popular back when it was released in 2007, but now it’s 2016 and the players will have higher expectations. The big design challenge for me was to bring in something fresh, but with the same flavour.

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FGL: Do you have any advice for new game developers or developers looking to make the switch from web / browser gamedev to the mobile space?

Krin: Every developer is different and has their own story! But if you’re like me, you are an impatient creator. You get bored if you spend too much time learning or reading and not seeing results. You’d prefer to hack something together and have it work, than spending time to do it the ‘right’ way (bad habit, I know!). We’re like the hares of the fabled race. We’ll burst out the gate sprinting, but then stop dead down the track. Whether it is from laziness, or lack of energy, or willpower, it doesn’t matter.

But eventually to grow, you have to be patient. Learning a new technology or trying something new can take time. It can feel like a step backwards at first. So I think the key is not to give up, but just switch the approach. Stop being the hare for a while, and be the tortoise! Just make slow and steady progress, and bit by bit you’ll get where you want to be. Even if some technologies get obsolete, there are many more skills you’ll gain along the way that will be useful forever.

 

FGL: Where can your fans follow you and get updates on your games?

Krin: I’m in the process of re-creating my blog. In the meantime, my most active channel for updates or conversation is my twitter – @krin_jj! I My shoutouts are to my team (David, Jet, Panit, Akhanan!), to ArmorGames and all the support they’ve given me (Dan, Ferret, Sean, Tass, Dora!) and to all the amazing people I don’t know who create all the free YouTube video tutorials, podcasts, and answers on Stack Overflow. Thanks guys!

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I’d like to thank Krin and Armor Games for answering our questions and sharing these stories with us. You can download “Sonny” now HERE. If you have any other questions for Krin, you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/krin_jj or post in the comments below! If you know someone who would be a good candidate for the Community Spotlight, comment below or send us an email at info@fgl.com.

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Flash Marketplace Shutting Down

A very brief history of FGL

When FGL started – almost 10 years ago now, as FlashGameLicense – it was a marketplace for the Flash gaming industry.  Flash game developers could find sponsors for their games, and publishers could search through thousands of games to find great content.  The site and community grew very quickly.  I don’t think it’s boastful to say that FGL was ubiquitous in the Flash game industry.  If you made a Flash game, you knew about FGL.

But things have changed. There was a time, years ago, where we would see developers using FGL making over $400,000 a month with Flash games.  Last month, we saw closer to $5,000.  Partly this is due to changes we’ve made, but mostly it’s due to the changing market.  Mobile gaming grew at a startling pace, and the PC gaming market has become more accessible than ever.  When you add in browser companies’ desire to limit (or eliminate)  3rd party plugins like Flash, you can see where the Flash gaming industry (and web gaming in general) has taken quite a beating.

Luckily, FGL has always been about developers – not about any specific technology.  When we saw mobile gaming getting more popular we started adding new services to help developers on mobile.  Some of those didn’t work out: Flash on mobile-web, the mobile app marketplace, and HTML5, for example.  But others did extremely well: our Mobile Platform, where we help developers monetize and market their mobile apps, and most recently Enhance, where we help developers integrate with third party services with no need to implement SDKs.  In fact, this year we will make developers more money than we ever have in the past, and that’s with almost no revenue from Flash games, which was our sole source of revenue just 5 years ago. FGL will continue to be about developers.  So if another technology or market comes along, we’ll be there to help developers. That said, right now we believe focusing on mobile makes the most sense.

The FGL Flash Marketplace

A little over a week ago our Flash bidding Marketplace went down due to some server issues.  As we dug into the issues we found that it would take considerable work to get things back up.  Also, we noticed that there wasn’t a large outcry.  If the Marketplace was down for even a couple of hours, 5 years ago, my email inbox would be full of concerns and complaints.  Now… I think in total we received a dozen inquiries.

We built the marketplace nearly 10 years ago, and much of that code hasn’t changed.  And much of it was built for the hardware it ran on.  Hardware now that is so out of date it isn’t supported by updated versions of the software running on it.  As an example, when the “heartbleed” bug came out we weren’t at risk because our system is so old it had never introduced the update that carried the bug!  So, when the server recently went down, and we determined it couldn’t be brought back up we found we were in a really rough spot.  We’d have to re-write much of the code that was written nearly a decade ago.

When we considered this, and looked at the lack of use and lack of money flowing through the Flash marketplace, we decided that we would not bring the marketplace back up.

Honestly, the writing has been on the wall for some time.  And I think many other companies would have taken the site down much sooner, especially since we are doing so well on mobile.  But, there’s nostalgia there for me.  I’m extremely biased because, 10 years ago, Adam and I started this whole thing with that site.  I wrote the first bits of code for the site in my living room.  My developer account is still the first one listed in our database.  I think I remember every developer and sponsor who signed up in the first months, if not year, and I can remember every single game that was uploaded.  In fact, Adam and I were the very first Game Reviewers, so we played every game – good or bad! – that went through us.  I’ve easily played thousands of Flash games 🙂 So, you can see why I might find reasons to delay shutting down the Flash marketplace.  But, the time has come.  Bittersweet as it is: we can no longer support the Flash marketplace, but we are helping mobile developers make more money than ever.

The Good News

The good news is the community is still as lively as ever.  Our forums went down briefly when the marketplace went down, but we have them back up.  Unlike the marketplace, we received lots of complaints about the forum being down.  You can find the forums here.

We know that there are still Flash developers and sponsors and we want to support them as much as we can. So we will also still support Flash developer and sponsor interaction through the forums.  Feel free to make deals and meet each other there!

Also, if you are a mobile developer, or are thinking of making a mobile game, as I’ve mentioned we are seeing a lot of great success there.  I suggest you check out Enhance.

And, we’re always open to feedback.  Feel free to email us at info@fgl.com

Best,

Chris and the whole FGL Team

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Frequent Conference visitor, newbie at PAX…


I thought I pretty much knew what to expect at my first PAX. After all, I’ve been visiting game conferences for almost 10 years by now. How different could this one be? Well, let’s start at the beginning.

PAX Dev.
Two days of lectures and panels from developers for developers. I expected the usual kind of talks about app store ranking, monetisation, etc etc. Boy was I wrong. PAX Dev is a blackbox-event. This means that everyone agrees that no one will tweet or post or publish any lecture content in any way. Do we sign an NDA for this? No. It’s all based on trust. And here’s where the event starts to feel different already.

A few hundred of us gather in the big lecture room to listen in awe to Elan Lee’s kickoff keynote about Exploding Kittens and their rocky ride of becoming the most backed Kickstarter project ever. An incredibly inspirational talk to start the conference.

In between 2 packed days of lectures there are short coffee breaks where at first it feels hard to network. Usually I see plenty of familiar faces at conferences, but I don’t know anyone here. How do I start talking to people? And then someone walks up to me and says “Hi! How are you?” Oh, right. That’s how you start a conversation. I get reminded that everyone here is attending to learn, to be inspired, to share knowledge, and to share the passion for our industry. I don’t feel like an outsider anymore.

The rest of the days I attend talks from the people over at Kickstarter, Amazon and Google Play. Where else do you find people from these massively important platforms willing to share their data? Not many take-aways from a black-box event that I can share, but I can share one.

Ty Taylor, the creator of Tumblestone, talked about his automated level generator and how he designed it. He pointed out specifically that all this info is ok to share.

We conclude PAX Dev with a closing keynote by Raph Koster about Game Grammer. This is not a good time to zone out after a long day full of lectures. Raph drills down to the core of game design within a 1-hour talk. My head is spinning and I feel like I have to rethink all my game ideas. By the way, I highly recommend his book “A Theory of Fun”.

Next day. The real deal. PAX Prime!
A 4-day consumer event for gamers. With a few years of Gamescom experience I feel like I know what to expect. Big crowds of gamers, long lines for the most exciting upcoming releases, a loud show floor, and standing in line for lunch behind Link and Zelda.

A few points where PAX turned out to be different:
  1. Not just computer games. The event offers a nice balance between online and offline. The popularity of card games, tabletop RPG’s and board games is on the rise again. Magic: The Gathering had it’s own dedicated conference hall across the street, Pathfinder was being played by hundreds of people at the same time, and there were plenty of opportunities to just sit down and with strangers and play even stranger board games together. The new definition of social gaming, perhaps? 😉
  2. Lectures are well attended. Spread out over different lectures halls in the building, and even at different locations in the city. Developers talked about the process of how their game was made, professional gamers shared their experience, introduction talks to the game industry, the history of games, the future of games, games, games, games! Indeed, no lack of love for our industry here!
  3. Big publishers don’t rule the show. At Gamescom it’s quite normal to see 8-hour lines of people who hope to get a 10-minute gameplay demo of the next upcoming blockbuster. At PAX, those lines were relatively short. Also, at Gamescom the indie area always seems quite abandoned in a corner. At PAX, the Indie MEGAbooth and the PAX 10 were buzzing!

My personal favourites?
Well, I just downloaded Armello on Steam; a stunningly beautiful RPG/boardgame game by the Australian developer League of Geeks. For someone who grew up loving the Redwall books, this game ticks all the right boxes for me.

On a more realistic note is ECO, developed by StrangeLoopGames. A complex world builder based on community driven rules. I’m not only looking forward to this as a game but also as a social experiment, since users have to vote on laws and restrictions regarding hunting and building expansion for example. Will we treat this virtual world better than our real one? Their Kickstarter is still running!

Unfortunately I had to leave PAX Prime early. Too little time to play all those amazing games. At least I will still be able to check them out online!

It was time to go to the airport. Or wherever I would end up in one of those bad-ass Mad Max Ubers….

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FGL Community Spotlight – Game Jam winner 2D Heroes!

FGL Community Spotlight – 2D Heroes

In preparation for our big Game Jam with Playcrafting at the end of June, the Community Spotlight returns with the winner of May’s FGL Game Jam, 2D Heroes’ Andrew C Sandifer.  A veteran of the gamedev community, Andrew shared his insight and talked shop with us in a one-on-one interview this week.

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Q: Welcome to the Spotlight, sir!  Introduce yourself for the people watching at home.

2D: My name is Andrew C Sandifer. I run a studio called 2D Heroes.

Q: Tell us a little bit about 2D Heroes.  How many people are in your studio?  Where are you based out of?

2D: It’s myself and my managing partner, Luke. We’re based near Seattle, WA.

Q: First off, congratulations on winning the May Game Jam!  Your game (Speed Dotting) was really impressive, especially considering the time crunch you were under.  Do you have much experience building games in such a short amount of development time?

2D: Thanks! Most of my games are actually built under constraints posed by either a game jam or myself. I really like seeing what I can do with limited resources in a short time frame.

I think the longest I’ve spent on a finished game is still under 3 weeks.

Q: Despite the short dev time you give yourself per game, you’re one of the top earners (and current record holder for number of account renames) on FGL.  You’ve traditionally done well with Flash, but your game entry was made in Unity and I understand you’ve explored other formats as well.  As the earning potential of other markets expand, what formats do you see excelling in the near- and long-term for indie developers?

2D: I’m actually dipping my toes back into Flash after having been away for awhile. I’ve been working on a long-term PC game project for a while now, but I’ve been missing the rush of creating something from start to finish in under a week. I think mobile is and always will be strong for the people who can get their foot in the door, something I’ve been neglecting for far too long.

Q: Let’s talk about your highly addictive 1st place entry “Speed Dotting” for a bit.  What’s next for this game?  What’s your high score, and what’s the highest score you’ve seen anyone get?


2D: I’m actually working on polishing this game up as we speak. We’re going to release on Android early next month to see what happens. My highest score is 21, just shy of Luke’s 22 that he keeps bragging about every chance he gets.

Q: Bah! And here I was proud that I even got to 15!

Got any advice for newer game developers out there?

2D: The best advice I can give is to try to get your game on as many platforms as possible. Most of the new consoles have programs for getting indie developers involved, and with modern engines like Unity, doing so is easier than ever.

 

Q: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, Andrew.  How can your legions of new fans contact / support you?

2D: Our website can be found at 2dheroes.com, twitter.com/2dheroes, facebook.com/2DHeroes, twitch.tv/2dheroes, you get the idea. Smile

Q: Easy to remember!  Any shout-outs / thank-you’s before we wrap up?

2D: A quick shout-out to my roommate and fellow independent developer, Robert Busey, for giving me the initial idea for Speed Dotting. The concept I was about to run with was far less addicting. Follow the progress of his Zelda-like, Sword ‘N’ Board, at facebook.com/SwordNBoardGame

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I’d like to thank 2D Heroes for answering our questions and sharing these stories with us. If you have any other questions for Andrew, you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/2DHeroes, ‘Like’ him on Facebook at facebook.com/2DHeroes, check out his website at 2dheroes.com or post in the comments below! If you know someone who would be a good candidate for the Community Spotlight, comment below, send a PM to FGL_Brian or send us an email at info@fgl.com.

 

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FGL Community Spotlight – Talking Mobile with Rolltower Studios

The Community Spotlight returns this week, and we’ve got a very special guest.  We caught up with Patrick Goncalvez from Rolltower Studios to discuss their recent success in the mobile space
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Q: Welcome to the Spotlight, Patrick!  Let’s start with a quick introduction for those who may not know about you or your studio yet

Patrick at Rolltower: I’m Patrick and I run Rolltower Studios, a development studio primarily creating “freemium” Hidden Object games.  I’m currently the only full-time employee and contract out certain other parts of the business ( like artwork ) as needed.

Q: What made you decide to become a full-time game developer?  Did you start with mobile gaming or other formats?

Rolltower: Long ago when I was in grade school I got into programming because I like video games and wanted to make them on my own. I decided to study programming and work in the field later on, but didn’t really expect to end up working in the industry. But my first job out of college ended up being at a social gaming startup called Playdom, which made Facebook games. They were later acquired by Disney and I continued to work there for another year or two.

I always wanted to run my own business and felt I had a good understanding of the gaming industry and knew how the business worked, so I took a shot at running a small development studio and it’s worked out! This was about two years ago now, and the primary focus has always been mobile gaming as I see that as a huge, growing field.

Q: That’s great.  So how did you wind up working with Tamalaki for your most recent projects like Hidden Object Blackstone?

Rolltower: Blackstone was about a six month-long project of mine that I eventually released to several markets including Android. As its success started to pick up on some smaller markets like BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8, i noticed the Google and Amazon versions were just sitting there, pretty stagnant. Android is of course a huge market and I decided it made a lot of sense to find a publisher who could help me distribute a game that had been proven to be a success on other markets. I looked around at similar games in the Google Play store for publishers and came across Tamalaki that way around June or so of last year.

I introduced myself over email to Martine Spaans over at Tamalaki and explained my situation and it really seemed like a perfect publisher/developer fit. We met up in person at Casual Connect and moved forward with publishing plans from there, making some tweaks to the gameplay model for the Amazon and Google markets. Blackstone released through Tamalaki soon after that and has done quite well, and it’s been great working with Tamalaki. 🙂 Since Blackstone did so well, I doubled down on the Hidden Objects genre with Mystery Society, also with Tamalaki and FGL on the android platforms.

Q: Like you said, it has done really well!  What was the original montization plan for Blackstone, and how did you have to adjust it to reach this level of success?

Rolltower: Blackstone’s original monetization plan revolved around selling in-game coins and gems through in app purchases. Those coins and gems could then be used to purchase hints, collection items, access to more levels, etc. that could otherwise also be earned by playing the game and collecting them over time.

That worked okay, but FGL and Tamalaki had a lot of success with the ad-based revenue model, around which users view and interact with advertisements to earn in game rewards.  Since Blackstone has a flexible economy, these offers could be easily added to the existing game as an additional way for users to acquire coins and gems faster than grinding and without making an in app purchase.

Q: And from the reviews, it seems like your players really appreciate that option

Rolltower: That’s right! Since some types of players prefer to pay a premium for an ad free experience while others prefer viewing advertisements for in game rewards, Blackstone’s monetization plan now involves both options. Users do seem to enjoy this option and it also increases revenue for the developer. Our overall revenue per user increased 2-3x!

Q: So, what’s next for Rolltower?  Any new projects, or are you going to continue updating Blackstone with more new content?

Rolltower: Blackstone and Mystery Society are going to continue receiving new content and features throughout the year. Mystery Society is playing a little bit of “catch-up” as a new game without as many scenes and collections, so it’s getting most of the attention right now. But the goal is to set up a regular set of content updates between the two, so long term players don’t run out of things to do.

There are definitely going to be new games this year, too. I haven’t quite decided on the next set of plans yet, but I do like to add some big improvements with each new game. There will probably be a new Hidden Object game in next few months with some new gameplay aspects that really make it stand out.

Also, we’re in the process of translating Mystery Society into a few different languages. We think its a game with fantastic potential international appeal, and we’d really like to increase the game’s audience that way.

Q: Those sound like great additions.  You’re really keeping busy!  We usually like to wrap up these spotlights by asking for some advice you can give new devs.  Are there any tips you can give a new Mobile game developer about developing in the mobile space?

Rolltower: The main thing that really comes to mind is to take a look at what successful games are doing. You’ll find a lot of very different games are doing a lot of the same things, whether it comes to the core gameplay loops or monetization or icon design, etc. When I worked for larger companies in the game dev industry, we called a lot of these things “best practices” – game design techniques that many developers have come to realize after a lot of trial and error work better than others. Some simple examples are in-app purchase pricing points, in-game sales, gameplay session length (for games with energy or lives that come back over time) , and features like achievements and leaderboards.

I think sometimes as an indie developer there is a tendency to want to innovate on every part of the game in order to stand out. But as a newcomer to the field you have an opportunity to learn from the experience of a lot of other developers, and save yourself a lot of time and headaches.

So really take a pause and analyze what successful games are doing and try to emulate them while you add your own innovation on top of that. Your game will still stand out on its own appeal, and you wont make the same mistakes thousands of developers have already made before you.

Most of these things are usually learnt through experience and a lot of trial and error, and I did my fair share of that too. But if there’s any shortcut to learning from your own mistakes it’s to learn from other peoples’ mistakes.

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We’d like to thank Patrick and Rolltower for taking the time to share their experiences with us.  Be sure to follow Rolltower on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rolltower and comment below with your questions!

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FGL Community Spotlight – Tamalaki’s $10k+ month!

 

Mobile games publisher ‘Tamalaki‘ has been one of the most successful participants in FGL’s mobile platform and recently hit a big milestone.  We caught up with Martine Spaans to chat about tech, monetization and what’s hot on mobile right now.

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FGL_Brian: Before we get started, I wanted to congratulate you! You’ve hit several big milestones recently as a mobile publisher, including $10,000+ monthly mobile earnings last month.  Is that $10,000 the total of what all your developers made last month?

Tamalaki: Thanks! That’s Tamalaki’s share only. Typically we take 10-20% depending on how many games a developer publishes with us.  That means the developers we work with made nearly $50,000 last month.

FGL: That’s huge.  You’ve also had two different games (Rory’s Restaurant and Blackstone) make it into the Google Play top 10.  Do you attribute those successes to anything new that you’ve been trying recently?

Tamalaki: We’re always trying out new marketing partners and advertising partners in search for the best results. In order to succeed in this market you constantly need to reinvent your business since the ecosystem of the app stores changes so quickly. Thanks to the strong cross-promotion of all games that use the FGL Mobile Services we were able to build up a big following of Hidden Object fans over the last few months. We learned how to effectively release our marketing actions at the right moment to hit that sweet spot up in the top lists.

FGL helps us out with pretty much everything in that regard.  Ad mediation layer, discovery and retention tools, QA, a complete and easy to use tracking dashboard, tech support, SDK support, distribution.   All these services really free us to focus on the game and strategy of the monetization vs. all the technical requirements.   On top of that, user acquisition is the HARDEST thing to achieve on mobile and FGL has lots of solutions in place to solve that.  I know that if we can get the metrics right in a game then FGL can bring 100,000s of players to it.

 

FGL: Hidden Object games must have been hot for you last month.  What kinds of games are you looking for these days?

Tamalaki: Since I started publishing in 2013 I specialized in Hidden Object games. I did try out some other kinds of games, but only the types of games that really resonate with my audience make sense for me to publish. So next to Hidden Object games I also put out Match-3 games, Point&Click Adventures, Puzzle games, Time Management, etc.

FGL: You’ve had a lot of experience with the ‘free-to-play’ game model.  Any tips or advice you can pass along to the FGL developer community?

Tamalaki: Focus on your core game loop. Most F2P games are eventually about letting the player “grind” (play the same content over and over again) for more coins/points. If that becomes a boring repetition, you will lose your players.

Also, your meta-gameplay should be interesting enough, because that is where people will eventually spend some money.

FGL: Do you feel like your hits monetized appropriately in this manner?

Tamalaki: Blackstone Mysteries is a great example.  The Hidden Object levels are fun to play, since they offer many different gameplay modes, level mastery challenges, a highscore list, etc. And every time it’s a surprise what reward you will get for completing a level.

Next to that the quests you get in the game are not the only meta-game system. There is also a Collections-system where you can earn Awards for completing item-collections. Check it out HERE and see what I mean Smile

FGL: Did you have to make any drastic changes to your monetization strategy once you realized the game was getting popular?

Tamalaki: Well, before we tried F2P we were mainly publishing Free games with Advertising revenue, and an ad-free premium version for 0.99USD.  That worked well, but those games mainly had a beginning and an end. Once the user reaches that end, they will no longer see ads, so they will no longer monetize. This will limit the lifetime value of a player. The maximum lifetime value was 99 cents when they would buy that upgrade.

By making a game endless, you will have endless opportunities to show a player ads. That’s something we mainly discovered through the release of Home Makeover 1 & 2. Our first Hidden Object game without an ending. At some point people started emailing me “I’m at level 275. When will this game end?” At that moment we realized that people love to play on and on as long as the game allows it. And that opens up a whole new range of advertising opportunities, like showing people a video ad in exchange for some coins or extra energy.

FGL: You ended up experimenting with a Reward Video in Rory’s Restaurant, correct?

Tamalaki: Like I said in the beginning, we’re always looking for additional marketing and advertising partners to increase the benefits for the developers we work with. When we started working with an ad provider that specialized in Rewarded Videos we were happily surprised with the great results. Our players love to watch a 20-second video or to answer a few questions in order to get more playtime or some extra coins in the game. We first tried this out with Rory’s Restaurant and it really boosted the game revenue significantly. We even got complaints from players who upgraded to the premium version of the game that they were missing out on these ads now, so we actually had to update the premium version too to show these rewarded videos (which will only open when the player agrees.)

FGL:  That sounds like a lot of work.  How do you know which company to use?  Do the videos have a consistent fill rate?

Tamalaki: Again, that is the great part about working with FGL.  They handle all the technical needs, sourcing many different providers, monitoring the inventory, etc. This lets me focus on the developer and on the strategy of the monetization. Of course we’re closely in contact with FGL about all the new things and partners we can try out together.

FGL: Thanks for taking the time to share this with the community today, Martine. Is there a good way for developers to get in touch with you?

Tamalaki: Sure! They can always PM me through FGL, or they can email me at martinespaans@gmail.com.

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I’d like to thank Martine and the Tamalaki crew for answering our questions and sharing these stories with us. If you have any questions for Tamalaki, post them in the comments below!  Know someone who would be a good candidate for the Community Spotlight? Leave a comment below, send a PM to FGL_Brian or send us an email at info@fgl.com.

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