SOOMLA_is_working_on_new_inventions_that_will_make_the_framework_more_open_more_data_driven_and_more_flexible_Developer_happiness_is_about_to_get_a_boost.PNGWe recently announced 2 new modules the complement SOOMLA’s successful Store module and creates the SOOMLA framework something extremely useful to mobile game developers. Those 2 modules were LevelUp and Profile and their purpose is to solve the pain of managing game in the background (LevelUp) and easily handle users’ social engagement (Profile).

Twitter and Google+ introduced in SOOMLA Profile

When Profile came out, it supported user engagement operations using Facebook. We said that we’re going to add more social networks and now it’s happening. You can now use profile to connect your users through Twitter and Google+. It’s another major capability of the SOOMLA framework and another easy way for game developers to add features to their game.

Twitter and Google+ integrations were done using native (Android or iOS) integrations connected to Unity and Cocos2dx through wrappers that are integrated into the plugins. We keep working in the same successful architecture as we did in the Store module to provide you with these new features to Profile.

And it’s all open …

The SOOMLA Framework is an open source initiative so these new features are also open at:

https://github.com/soomla/android-profile
https://github.com/soomla/ios-profile
https://github.com/soomla/unity3d-profile
https://github.com/soomla/cocos2dx-profile

As usual, we encourage game developers to share their ideas and code by contributing code, fixing issues or answer others at: http://answers.soom.la

 

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Announcement, Open Source, Plugins, Tech Resources

new vungle plugin allows unity developers to add video ads to their games and monetize betterPlugins are coming! The first one is Vungle. The great Video Ads monetization service for mobile apps is now available to SOOMLA developers. With the new soomla-vungle plugin you can easily use Vungle to show ads on Android, iOS and Unity3D.

Give rewards for watching videos

The most important feature in this plugin is the ability to give rewards for watching a Vungle video. Rewards are a new concept we recently presented after watching many games and figuring out how rewards are given to users. There’s even a VirtualItemReward that you can use to give your users a curtain amount of a curtain VirtualItem when he finished watching a video. You can also decide not to use rewards and just use Vungle to present a video at any given time.

Easy to use and (of course) free !

To use the new plugin, just go to the new Github repo at: http://github.com/soomla/soomla-vungle and click on the folder of your selected platform. Follow the Getting Started carefully and you’re golden!
Don’t hasitate to asking anything involving this plugin in SOOMLA’s new answers website at: http://answers.soom.la. You can also just use it to say how much you enjoyed using this new plugin :)

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Unity_Logo (1)I’m not sure if you guys see what’s going on with the SOOMLA opensource framework but you should know it keeps expanding every moment. We’re adding features and fixing bugs like crazy but the new feature (or major improvement if you like) that I’ll tell you about in this post is one of our most important ones so far.

Improving your game development environment

Community members keep asking us why unity3d-store isn’t available in the editor. This was one of the most wanted improvements for the Unity3d flavor of SOOMLA Store and now it’s here. We knew how important it is to you and we always felt like the SOOMLA library is not complete without it. I’ll explain why …

Working in the editor is beneficial in so many ways. You can now test your games with the SOOMLA Store economy mechanisms as if you were running your game on a device. All balances and other information will be saved in a local storage on your computer and will be available to you through multiple testing of your game.

Your game with SOOMLA everywhere!

Easily testing your game is not the only benefit of working with SOOMLA in the editor. If you want to publish your game to the web or as a desktop game and you don’t need in-app purchases then you can now do that with the amazing features that SOOMLA is offering you. Everything from economy management to level design (unity3d-levelup) can now be used in the editor and built to multiple platforms.

Another option that this major change provides is the option for more billing services to be integrated with SOOMLA Store. Anyone from the community who want to add a billing service for desktop or web games is encouraged to do that. If you feel like contributing today you just start doing it or contact us for assistance at support@soom.la. If you don’t feel like it today, that’s fine, you can do it tomorrow :)

Cocos2dx users, don’t feel left behind. We’re getting the work-in-editor spirit to you soon. You will also be able to build and test your games on a desktop emulator and release with SOOMLA inside to multiple environments.

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Cocos2d-X

Cocos2d-x developers that are interested in using SOOMLA, turned to us for help with the integration of the store into their app. So, we decided to create a video tutorial on how to do that.

The just-over-10-minute video will show you how to:

  1. Integrate SOOMLA’s cocos2dx-store into a demo app with a “No Ads” button.
  2. Create your version of CCStoreAssets and initialize the SOOMLA SDK.
  3. Implement functionality for the “No Ads” button.
  4. Run the app on an iOS device (8:56) and an Android device (10:27).

SOOMLA’s cocos2dx-store “No-Ads” video tutorial

Find more information in our Knowledge Base

Our Knowledge Base provides a detailed tutorial of how to get started with cocos2dx-store, along with examples. The Knowledge Base also contains lots of useful information about the different entities SOOMLA provides, event handling, debugging tips, and more. We recommend that you browse through the materials and take advantage of all the media available. If you still have questions after that, feel free to ask us at Soomla Answers.

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Tips and Advice

Most developers in the SOOMLA community rely mostly on organic discovery through the app store. The good thing about getting installs for free is the price. The bad thing about it is usually the quantity. There are many resources about how to get more visibility in search results int he app stores and if you are lucky enough you might also get featured. However, there might be a time where you would want to experiment with advertising a bit. This post is a must read if you are going to do that.

Now, it’s really not a secret any more that Facebook advertising is the best channel for player acquisition in mobile games. Most companies name it as their first channel and some of them claim that more than half of their installs. However, advertising your app or buying users as some call it requires a lot of experience. This post will give you a clear recipe for your first attempt in this field in a way that is relatively bullet proof.

Here is the recipe in bullet points:

  • Find the IDFAs of your best users
  • Implement Facebook SDK and add revenue events (IAP + Ads)
  • Create a custom audience
  • Expand the audience by creating a lookalike audience
  • Create an ad group and a campaign that promote your game to the best audience

Pulling the IDFA from the device and building your list

The most critical step in this method is to build your list of IDFAs. There was a lot of talk about Apple rejecting apps that take the IDFA but the reality is that as long as you show ads to your users (most apps do) you are probably fine. You can guess that the magnitude of the reaction was mainly because so many people do it. I had to work hard to find some guidance about how to do it. Here is what I found on StackOverflow – IDFA retrieiving – this answer just gives you the client side code. There are still two things you will need to figure out:
  • Figuring out what defines a good user – I would recommend 3 lists:
    • Users who passed x levels or broke the record y times
    • Players who used their collected coins to buy advantages
    • People who chose to watch incentivized videos or take some other offer for some ingame coins
    • Whales – people who paid in your game
  • Build a server solution to collect the IDFAs you want to store.

Tracking revenue events with the Facebook SDK

Getting more installs is nice but it would be a lot better if the users would generate more revenue than the price you had to pay for bringing them in. When that happens, you can keep buying users knowing that with any users you are generating more money. The easiest way to know that is to implement the Facebook insights SDK and more specifically the app events that allows you to correlate the source with the outcome so you can measure the effectiveness of each ad-group. Here are the official instructions from the Facebook dev portal.

Creating a custom audience

Custom audience is basically a list of users you upload to the facebook platform. In step 1 we created lists of highly targeted users that actually played the game and engaged with it. Put the IDFAs in a CSV file, go to the Facebook ads manager, click on the audiences item on the left side menu, hit the “create audience” button on the right hand side and then select Custom Audience and Data File options. You will be presented with a screen that allows you to upload your CSV file.

Finding users that look like your best users

Lookalike audiences are a simple way to find more users like the ones that already worked well for your game. Facebook would allow you to expand a custom audience to 1% or 5% of the population of the counrty you are targeting. You should choose one of your custom audiences and expand that in a certain country. Note that this feature works well when the custom audience you are using as seed is 2,500 users or bigger.
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Game design

I recently came across this slideshare from Dori Adar, the creative director of TabTale. Dori puts the highly gamified app – Tinder in standard under the prism of game design principles and tries to explain its popularity. He attributes much of the success to something called the hunter loop – a highly effective action and reward loop that is embedded in our brains very strongly since the times where hunting was a survival instinct.

Dori also explains how to build a hunter loop in your game in order to increase user engagement and retention. Basically, how to make the game more fun for users by leveraging their primal instincts. The presentation has 95 slides but it’s a fast flicker with a single line or visual in every slide so you can go through it quite quickly.

If you want to better understand the psychological and biological aspects of why the hunter loop is so effective, I highly recommend this TED by Simon Sinek. In the talk, Simon explains the effects of dopamine in focusing us on goals and motivating us to achieve them (Minutes 8-10 in the talk). The example that Simon users is hunting for food and while mobile games can leverage the hunter loop, you can imagine that the dopamine levels are higher when the prey is real and reflects a very primal instinct as in dating apps.

So if you find yourself addicted to Tinder, you can blame it on the dopamine.

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Game Reviews

kaya game is tetris meets candy crushKaya is a cool game with really nice design that seems to draw some of its inspiration from the flat iOS 7/8 design. The game is available for iOS through this link.

Dropping and matching

The gameplay is pretty straight forward and might remind you of the game Tetris at the beginning. There are shapes you can drop from the sky except that in the game they are all kind of rocks. Unlike Tetris, the shapes don’t fit each other nicely and while some space can be saved by smart placement, there is no way to complete lines and remove them but instead, users can match rocks to get different effects.
 

Crank up the difficulty and make it fun

One of the areas where the game can improve is the difficulty curve. Completing the first 10 levels didn’t pause a real challenge for me when I tested the game. One way to add some difficulty is to follow the original Tetris game – in other words, making the pieces fall slowly adds another level of complexity. A more simple and immediate fix, is to add a global time constraint. I like it also when games mix these various modes in different levels to create harder and easier levels. That really adds fun to the game and increases player engagement.

Gamify game progression

This sounds like a silly advice but many games get it wrong. In order to get users engaged for a long time and retain them, the game designer needs to build a narrative for the game progression as well as a persistent world that the user will want to get back to. A lot of casual puzzle games lack that component and Kaya is not different. I would recommend coming up with a reason why should users bother about fitting the rocks in the place? Once there is a goal, the game can visualize the progress towards achieving it. Users will want to come back and play more to complete that goal.
Give users a reason to celebrate! Why are they stacking the rocks?

Celebrate success

Another aspect where this game is lacking is what happens when you succeed in a level. Instead of recognizing users achievement and celebrating his success, the user is immediately transferred to the next level. Some users like a pet on the back when they do something good, others wants to see that they collected coins that can buy them game advancements, and some players like to see that they beat their friends. Anything that can give the user a reason to feel good about completing the level will make him want to complete more levels.
 
 
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Cocos2d-X

Here at SOOMLA, we’re constantly working on developing new materials that will help game developers easily use our open-source. Our Knowledge Base provides lots of guides, tutorials, and examples, and we are currently working on expanding the video tutorial section.

Our newest video demonstrates, in a little less than 10 minutes, how to get started with cocos2dx-store.

The video will show you how to:

  • Integrate and setup cocos2dx-store
  • Download the cocos2dx-store-example called Muffin Rush
  • Run the example app on an Android device (in the video at 6:05)
  • Run the example app on an iOS device (in the video at 8:39)

SOOMLA’s cocos2dx-store Getting Started video tutorial

Find more information in our Knowledge Base

Our Knowledge Base provides a detailed tutorial of how to get started with cocos2dx-store, along with examples. The Knowledge Base also contains lots of useful information about the different entities SOOMLA provides, event handling, debugging tips, and more. We recommend you browse through the materials and take advantage of all the media available. If you still have questions after that, feel free to ask us at Soomla Answers.

 

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In our quest to provide the ultimate game design framework, we can’t ignore developers’ efforts to easily create and maintain their game’s state and structure. Actually, this is what game design is all about. So we were looking into expanding the SOOMLA framework in that direction and LevelUp is what we came out with.

LevelUp is a set of objects, rules and behaviors for better game design and management. Using LevelUp, you can define EVERYTHING in your game. From Worlds to Missions, from Rewards to Scores, it’s all baked in and ready for use. On top of the game modelling, LevelUp provides a set of functions, events and configurations to help you manage your game state. You can increase or decrease scores, catch events to show notifications to the user, or open and close gates. And of course, everything is kept on the device in SOOMLA’s small encrypted database.

LevelUp Model Overview

When you combine all the 3 modules of SOOMLA (Store, LevelUp and Profile), you get a most powerful tool that can help you manage your game design better than ever. You define everything once and the framework takes care of everything else. Amazing! isn’t it? :)

To make this deal even sweeter, we are working on integrating this module with Apple Game Center and Google Play Game Services, so keep following this blog.

You can get LevelUp today for Unity3d and Cocos2d-x (v2 and v3). Make sure you go through the docs before you start modelling your game. The more you understand how it works, the better your game design will be. We’ll keep working to add more documentation, examples and tutorials so LevelUp will be easy to understand and work with.

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Fun Stuff

After working one year at a major corporate here in Israel, I can say one thing, it’s not for me, at least not right now.
cor_vs_st

Some background

At the beginning of my career as a software developer I found a QA gig at a startup company in Rehovot. The idea was pretty awesome, but too much politics and too little professionalism led to it’s closing. Obviously, I wasn’t really devastated when one day the CEO told us to pack our stuff and leave because I had bigger fish to fry back then, I was a full time student.

Oh well, the QA thing bothered me as well, “why would a computer science student do QA?” right?  So I decided to pursue a “real” job and wanted to become a software developer.

I went and found me another student job at a small company, not a startup though. They seemed to have it all figured out, they have been working for 20 (!!!) years at a competitive market, you gotta appreciate that. I can say that I did do a lot of code. Not all interesting and involving cutting edge technology, but still I got my hands dirty and wrote tons of code. The problem was, this company was so dependent on it’s legacy product that most of the code I did was for inner purposes and I began to lose interest.

So until now we have a failing start up and a small, well managed and experienced business.

The corporate experience

Fresh out of the University i decided to experience the “corporate” world. After working there for a few short months I could already see the advantages: free food and flexible working hours.
Now seriously, there are a few things I’ve learned from the corporate organization, for example, everything needs to work according to strict methodologies and procedures. This understanding now helps me plan and manage my time better. Also, I’ve learned the dynamics and politics of working in a large team, with people of all ages, shapes and cultures.

But the heart wanted more …

A new journey

I wanted to truly be part of something new and exciting, I knew that a start up was the only way to go and after being there for almost a month, I can say – it’s awesome.
Not only that I get to work with some of the amazing tech out there, I finally do things end-to-end and not one small piece of the puzzle. The best thing is to learn a whole lot of stuff every day and still feeling that I have so much more to learn – something I never had at my previous job.

This journey has just begun and it already feels like the right choice, will keep you posted :)

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SOOMLA - An In-app Purchase Store and Virtual Goods Economy Solution for Mobile Game Developers of Free to Play Games