2022-08-17 - Tinytouchtales
On the 17th of August 2012 my then girlfriend, now wife Wiebke and I released a small mobile game called Super Zombie Tennis on the App Store. I always knew that I wanted to work on my games since the very first moment I manage to get something playable on my phone, but little did I know how amazing this journey would be. Today marks the 10th anniversary of me as an independent game developer under the alias of Tinytouchtales.
When Super Zombie Tennis got released, I was still working full time at a bigger f2p games company and mostly used my evenings and the weekend to work on my on games. Back then the game development tool Stencyl made it possible for me to create games without proper coding knowledge. Until the end of 2013 we also released several smaller casual games, my Tetris/Match-3 hybrid game Matchagon and my physics puzzle game Zukis Quest. Both of them still beloved, were financially failures even by the standards back then. But somehow this did not discourage me and the will to make more games led me to the decision to quit my job. At the beginning of 2014 I finally became fully independent and used my saved up money (around $15000) to give me a runway of about 1 year, to learn Unity3d and to work on my own games full time.
At the time I worked on a small idea, that combined Pachinko-like physics with a dungeon crawler theme. One Tap RPG released in the Summer of 2014 and was the first game that actually made some profits. It was also the first game that where born out of the realization that I need to make games that I want to play, instead of making games for a “market” that I have no understanding of. I consider this realization still one of the key successes of my games. Make games you want to play and you probably will find others, who will enjoy the games as much as you.
Inspired by the new hot thing Hearthstone and Kurt Biegs and Zach Gages unreleased game Scoundrel, I started to work on my own card based dungeon crawler solitaire style game. After a few month of intense prototyping the basic gameplay of Card Crawl was finished. Since the game needed art, I took a chance and contacted my old teacher from University who I knew was an avid gamer and fantastic Illustrator perfect for a digital card game. Lucky enough Max Fiedler agreed to join the project and even brought in Oliver Salkic for Music and Audio. Somehow we managed to release the game within 8 month in March 2015. Looking back, I think working with Max and Oliver was another big key success: Work with people who are way better than you in their field and they will elevate your ideas to a whole new level. Card Crawl was my 9th released game and the first that was finically tremendously successful for a team of 3. It generated $30824 in its first week and around $100000 in its first year on iOS and Android. And even today after 7 years Card Crawl is still my most successful game with a total revenue of $400000.
After Card Crawl I struggled quite a lot to follow up on its success. I remember weeks and month agonizing about the next game and how to follow up Card Crawls ideas but also the desire to bring something totally new to the virtual card table. But with enough perseverance I manage to break through this mentally straining time and came up with the initial design of Card Thief. We assemble the old Card Crawl crew and released Card Thief in March 2017 to even more critical acclaim. Card Thief was another big hit financially for us bringing in $340000 over its 6 year lifetime. Card Thiefs development taught me that it’s not smart to agonize about past successes and that there is only one way: forward.
The third „big“ release, which wasn’t planned as one, rather as a small side project, was Miracle Merchant. The potion brewing card game that found big success with people who enjoy small and chill games got a lot of attention on release and continued to amaze us. This time I collaborated with Thomas Wellmann (Art) and Craig Barnes (Audio). Despite the often critiqued lack of content the game could generate $172400 in a period of 6 years.
My other small releases were ENYO (2016), Maze Machina (Jan 2020) and Gnomitaire (Dez 2020), most of them less successful then the big card games but still important to me since they represent game ideas that were worth pursuing even though they never hit big with my usual card game audience.
While working on my big releases I also worked with many other talented people on my many Jam games throughout the years, and released a lot of old prototypes on my Itch.io page. Making these smaller jam games were always great opportunities to get out new ideas quickly and to get inspiration from ideas outside my main focus.
And last but not least our big new title: Card Crawl Adventure. Probably our most ambitious game of all combining ideas of Card Crawl and Card Thief into a new fresh experience, influenced by roguelike deckbuilders like Slay the Spire. The development was unusual in many ways since its inception was initiated by Matthew Dunstan who pitched his idea to me and we both build the final design ontop of his original ideas. The core design of Card Crawl Adventure took almost a year to be fully formed and another 2 years on and off to be fully completed. The sheer amount of content needed for the game was quite overwhelming but everyone involved did an amazing job and I’m very proud that we finally released the game in August 2022.
At this point I can’t write much about its financial success since it’s way to early to tell and the times of big first week numbers on the App Store are definitely over. I suspect that the process will be much slower and that overtime the game will find its niche, its players and also enough people that are willing to pay for content in the game.
Looking back at those 10 years is an amazing thing and I could not be happier with how it went so far. Despite all the bad things that happened outside of my small bubble, I still love games and I still love making games. And if I can look back in 10 years on this post and say „Damn, now I really want to make a new game!“ – that is all I wish for.