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2019-08-20 - Premium vs Free
“How do you think a mobile dev should approach selling their game?”
well this question depends on a multitude of things. Are you a new dev or an established one? In which category do you want to sell your game? Is your game easily sellable in parts or is it one coherent experience which you need to sell as a whole package?
What i normally suggest to new devs is to look at similar games, especially ones that are know/successful in their category. Study their model and analyze what they are doing and how it would fit with your game.
Each model, Premium, Free with iAp or Free with Ads has it’s up and down sides. From what i’ve learned so far is that people are very picky when it comes to buying mobile games, if the upfront price does not match with their expectation of the game.
This is why a free game mostly is better to get players to try your game, but way harder to actually make money from once they are playing.
It’s no secret that big f2p companies employ full teams of data analysts and monetization experts to optimize their games in order to get players to pay after downloading them. Not in a sense of spending big cash but spending any cash at all. It‘s extraordinary hard, especially in a mature market like mobile to run a successful f2p business.
Another good point is to be sure to know which age group you think your game is targeting.
Each model has it‘s own set of players. Premium players are mostly 25-30+ with a stable income, most free players are way younger than 20, or in fact way older than 40, since they never went through the whole „buying a game upfront“ thing that was happening in the 90′ and 00′. They straight up started with mobile and for them mobile games means free games.
I think for a new dev it’s a good idea to test the waters with a bunch of smaller free games (monetized or not). There is no downside of establishing a small catalogue of games that you can refer to as your style of games. Once you have a few games out you can try to think more seriously about making money with games. But unless you have a lot of experience, special insider knowledge or be incredibly lucky, making money with (mobile) games is very hard.
2018-11-23 - Card Game Recommendation
Michael asks: “Which card games on iOS do you play or which ones would you recommend?”
there are a bunch of ports of classic card board games for example Lost Cities which i like a lot. But more interestingly there are a bunch of cool single player card games that are quite original. I like Meteorfall: Journey a cool deck builder, with Tinder swipe interaction. Pair Solitaire a cool simple solitaire game. Frost another quite dedicated deck builder where you outrun a deadly ice storm. Then there’s Flip Flop and Sage Solitaire two really cool games by my favorite designer Zack Gage. Then there is a really cool mechanical spin off of Card Thief called Mind Cards. Age of Rivals another interesting but very complicated card game, that has a unique mechanic where you share cards with your opponent. Obviously ugly looking but having an amazing gameplay depth Dream Quest is still one of my favorite recommendations.
2018-11-19 - Card Crawl Updates
Rohit asks: “Are there any major content updates coming to Card Crawl?”
Not at this point. I feel Card Crawl is pretty much done and i will only do smaller maintenance updates for it in the future.
If at all i would rather work on a new game that would be related to Card Crawl’s core idea and come up with a few new ideas for it. In general, free content updates for paid games are not really worth the effort unless you can drastically increase the player base with a really cool new feature.
2018-11-17 - Sales
Jerome asks: “I completely missed the Card Crawl special on Halloween! Any chance you’ll be having another give-away coming up soon?”
i’m pretty sure we will do another small sale around Christmas. But as always, not only for my games but for every other game as well: Buy games at full price. This way you can support the development of either more updates for an existing game or help to fund a new game from your favorite game creator.
2018-11-10 - PC Ports
Mitko asks: “Will we ever get a Card Thief/Miracle Merchant/Enyo port on PC, and do you ever plan on making a multiplayer game or adding a multiplayer feature to existing games?”
earlier this year we ported Card Crawl to Steam. Even though it was a fun project and did not took us too long, financially it wasn’t really viable. I feel it was a good project to test and after i’ve done it i can certainly say that my core strength is on mobile. I rather focus on a new cool mobile game then to port my older stuff that was never intended to work on Desktop.
For the Multiplayer part i have a pretty simple answer. Multiplayer is super hard in terms of programming and i’m just not capable of doing it at the moment. I would love to add more multiplayer features to my ideas but at the moment my skill level is just not good enough to do it technically. Maybe in the future when i’m either a) compelled to try it or b) have enough funding to hire a programmer that could help me with my projects. But for now i will focus on single player games.
2018-11-05 - New Games
Bach asks: “Are you currently working on a new game or planning some updates for the existing games? If so can we have some sorta info or sneakpeek kinda thing?”
my main focus right now is to work on something new. Since the release of Miracle Merchant i worked on quite a few prototypes and ideas some of them more promising than others. From time to time i post about these on my Twitter. A few examples are Hex Harvest or this rough idea, or this one, or my most recent attempt Hex Crawl. All of them have not yet convinced me in a way that would justify serious development. So to answer you question: I’m still in the prototyping phase.
For updates i can’t give you any news. I feel like that my current games all are sort of done and adding more content to them would only be reasonable if it would a) increase the current amount of players significantly or b) would be profitable with my current players aka. payed content. For both i don’t see any real opportunities right now and to be honest i rather work on something more exciting and new.
2018-10-25 - Education
Mario asks: “What school education did you do?”
since i’m born in Germany this answer might not be applicable to all countries, but if you have a similar education system it might help.
In Germany you start with elementary school from there you can pick from several secondary school forms. I went to a form of high school called “Realschule”. After that i did a 3 year technical college with the main subject of information technology. The graduation there allowed me to apply to a University of applied science. I studied communication design in 11 semesters and my final thesis was focused on creating an interface design concept for touch screens.
Note: Even though we had a few game related courses at my university i never explicitly studied something related to games or game design.
2018-10-11 - Development Schedule
Michael asks: “Do you create a plan/schedule for a new game in development, or rather keep on working until the game is ready?”
my process of creating a game is a mixture of a clear plan on one side and creative chaos on the other. It might not be the best way but works for me. You have to keep in mind that i mostly work alone on the idea and the prototype. This phase is pretty chaotic and i just bang my head against a new idea unitl i can clearly say “Yes, this is a concept that is worth working on.” or “No, even though this concept is interesting i can not make it work.”. Especially the second part, the failed attempts, are difficult to master since you need to know when to stop working on an idea. There is no best way to do this and it’s mostly a thing that you will get better with the more you do it.
After the prototype proved worthy i start to create a rough schedule on what features (besides the core game) the game should have and which would be nice to have. For working with my contributors i mostly use a mix of Trello, Google Docs or plain Emails with a rough guideline on what needs to be worked on next. For my games i’m also the project manager and most of the things are in my head. It’s great if you can work with people who have experience with the game making process, because they can also contribute to scheduling and time management. For the type of games i make and from the experience i had so far i’d say 6-8 Month of production are optimal, anything longer will make the development more difficult. Again, there’s no real solution to this, because some games take longer than others, but i’ve developed a pretty good sense for when a game is taking too long to release.
Sean asks: “When testing out a new card game, what would you say are the first game mechanics that you try to get right in order for the game to continue to grow in a positive way?”
each idea is different, but relies on a specific core mechanic to work. For me it’s mostly about analyzing the parts of your idea that are very crucial for the game to create the experience that you are looking for.
For example in Card Thief i wanted to create the experience of sneaking around and hiding in the shadows as the core of the game. I took me several month to find a proper core mechanic, the path that connects several cards and increases the value of them based on the number of steps you’ve taken. Once i’ve had this set of core interactions that built the core mechanic (select cards to form a path) i could build everything else around it.
I’ve learned a lot through Keith Burgun’s work on the Core Mechanic, the one central idea in a game, that should inform every other part of your design in a meaning full way. I highly recommend checking out his 3-Minute Game Design series on Youtube and also read his book Clockwork Gamedesign that goes into great detail about creating the core of your game.
2018-10-09 - Paper Prototypes
Tau asks: “How do you prototype your ideas? Do you ever make paper prototypes or do you go directly on a computer?”
at this point i’m only using my computer to prototype. The great thing about digital prototyping or using code to prototype is that you have to really think about your idea on a whole different level in terms of rules and structure. Since a computer is super strict about how things work you can’t just type in some stuff and it works. You have to be super precise about everything and that moment in prototyping is really amazing since you have to exactly formulate each part of your idea in code. This will mostly reveal a lot of flaws in your original design and will either push you forward fast or make you abandon an idea quickly.
2018-10-06 - Nintendo Switch
Yuri asks: “What are the odds of a Nintendo Switch port of Tiny Touch Tales games?”
to be honest i would love to see my games on the Switch as it seems to be a super cool platform. But the big issue for me would be certification for these kinds of platforms. It’s super hard to live up to Nintendos standards and with me being a self taught programmer (and a not very good one) i don’t think i would be able to get my games in a state where they could be released on any console like environment.
2018-10-01 - Game Ballance
Ejder asks: “I always wonder how to get a deck that has a nice well balanced amount of cards. How did you set the decks up for your games?”
balancing a game is very difficult and there are people who exclusively work on this, so i can only give you a few tips on how to approach balancing in general.
For my games i mostly play test a lot and try to observe which rules/mechanics/parts of my games make it easier and which make it harder to win. This can be done on a very general level like are there too many cards that hurt the player or are there too many cards that can swing the game in one direction. After i have identified the parts that need change, i either remove or add more of it to the game. Then i play test again unit it feels right. The problem here is that you always need some kind of outside validation, for example other play testers, but you mainly need to rely on your own judgement if a game is too hard or too easy. I mostly go by feel because i always assume that i am the target group of my games. I think a well balanced game is a game where if the player loses he can exactly pin point the moment he could have done something else to win.
Another trick that i use, as described here, is to create a card dealing logic for my games that also works in favor of the players. Often you just need the one crucial card to either win or lose a game. That’s why i mostly try to balance out the card drawing itself as well.
In terms of amount of cards i basically look at the playtime per session. If it takes longer than 7-10mins i will remove cards to cut down the length of one game and rebalance the difficulty accordingly.
2018-09-30 - Game Engine
Aaron asks: “I know you have stated you are not a programmer and used Stencyl previously. Were these recent games a custom engine or something else?”
all my recent games are made with Unity3d.com. It’s one of the most common game engines around. The great thing about Unity is that most beginner questions and problems are already solved and can be googled. In addition to that you can use the integrated asset store to solve the other 10% of issues you might have. For example: for all of my 2D game and UI stuff i use a great plugin called 2D Toolkit, which has helped me tremendously in building my games.
2018-09-24 - Artist tips
Kyle asks: “I’m an aspiring artist and I hope to one day get into comic art or game design. I was wondering if your team has any ideas or tips for me.”
i’m not sure how old you are, but when i was younger i would have loved to get this „tip“ from
someone more experienced like me. There is only one thing in any creative field that you need to know:
There are two kinds of people, those who aspire to do something creative, art, music, games and go around places to ask how to get into the field and those who just do it.
The secret to all succsessful creative people is that they never ask how to do anything they just start doing it. They pour their heart and soul into their craft and maybe one day they get into it. There is not one specific way, just a big open road with multiple pathways and opportunities left and right.If you really feel any creative drive you should be listening to that inner voice and start creating stuff right now.
For me personally i always wanted to create games but couldn’t because i had no programming skills. So i sat down and searched the internet for ways to create games without being able to program. After a short time i started making games using a visual programming game engine called www.stencyl.com.
My creative drive to create games pushed me through many failed attempts of making shitty uninteresting things, but that’s just part of the experience. Someone way smarter than me once said „Being bad as something is the first step to being good at it“.
So my advice is to stop worrying about how others did it and start creating now.