Plugins, Resource, Tips and Advice

Some of you may have heard that there is a new way to make money from game development. It is called game templates and many developers already use it as an alternative way or in addition to publishing their games on the app store. The problems game developers face today on the different app stores is that with over 1 million apps in each one of these stores it is becoming really hard to get discovered. This is especially true when big publishers are pouring money into user acquisition and paid marketing campaigns. Some developers are partnering with publishers hoping that they can get some of that budget into their games but the reality is that most publishers prefer to push a small number of games so they either focus on their homegrown games or simply wait to see what games monetize better and push them forward while giving the developers only a small cut of the success.

Well, the good news is that like I mentioned before some developers have figured out a better way, which is stripping down your game’s design and keeping only the core, hence, the game’s “template”.  You can then sell the game template to other developers who will re-skin and re-publish it under a different title.  In fact, if you’ve made a really good game you can sell the source code for up to $500 and get dozens of orders per month from different individuals and companies who are looking to just focus on the marketing and distribution of the game. To get started, here is a list of the top 4 places to sell your game template.

Chupa Mobile – Buy and Sell Game Templates

ChupaMobile Logochupamobile.com is a marketplace for templates. It features 4 categories – iOS, Android, Unity and Coronoa although the last one is not as buzzing as the others. The website comes with an easy way to take care of the billing. The fee for their service is a 30% cut of your earnings. Very similar to the app-store’s cut.

Code Canyon – General Plugin Marketplace

CodeCanyon Logocodecanyon.net is a much broader website selling anything from jquery plugins to wordpress extensions and one of the categories is mobile which includes app templates. The quality here is lower, the games are usually more simple and they are priced accordingly. Another thing to note about Code Canyon is that they are very agressive on the share they take. From $100 you will only be making $36 if you are not exclusive with them and $60 if you are exclusive with them.

Apptopia – Data Driven Marketplace

Apptopia Logomarketplace.apptopia.com brings much more data into their store. Buyers can see the past performance of the game before they make a decision to buy the code. The site offers purchasing templates as well as games which are more exclusive nature.

Unity Asset Store – Community Asset Marketplace

Unity 3D Logoassetstore.unity3d.com is both a website as well as an integral part of the Unity game engine. There are many categories in the asset store but one of them is complete game projects. Due to huge size of the ecosystem around this leading game engine, you should consider posting your game template there as well. The guys from Unity offer a pretty fair deal and take only a 30% cut. Another advantage is that buyers are willing to pay more knowing that they can publish in multiple platforms and that customizations are easier.

Sell AND Buy Game Templates

The monetization strategy of building game templates leans on the simple fact that the genres of casual mobile games have consolidated to a narrow number.  Everywhere you look you’ll find Match-3, endless runners, platformers, single tap games and gyro-based racing over and over again.  So as a developer, you might consider not only selling your game template, but also for your next game – buying one.  This is a quick, cost effective method to bootstrap your next title.  You will of course be left with the duty of designing a new skin, backgrounds, characters, props etc. but you’ll save months of development dollars for the cost of several hundred.

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Open Source, Plugins, Store-Fronts

Those of you who remember SOOMLA from it’s very beginning probably remember the our previous product, the storefront editor, which we’ve decided to phase out in favor of the new GROW Dashboard.  The idea was that you could build a full-fledged storefront UI to be embedded into your game, with graphic assets, behavior and user interaction all baked in on top of our in-app purchase SDK.Storefront icon pack

Leaving the storefront editor, we were left with loads of images, icons and fonts in our hands.  All those assets that were once used in the storefront templates were now just lying around.  Since SOOMLA is all about building communities and giving back value to indie game developers, we’ve decided to contribute these graphical assets as free packages on the Unity Assets Store.

The packages are available for your free use:

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Game design

Customer RetentionI recently had the honor to attend two events in Tel-Aviv: Mobile Monetization Summit and GameIS. One of the hottest topics was retention as the biggest focus once the game is launched. Philipp Stelzer from Wooga specifically delivered an interesting session about the topic and while I could not get his slides I did found a post by his colleague Henric Suuronen who shares his 40-20-10 rules claiming that successful facebook games have the following retention rates:

  • 40% 2nd day retention
  • 20% 7th day retention
  • 10% 30 day retention
The rates are a bit higher on mobile games but not drastically different so these are still good numbers to memorize.

The first date will determine your 2nd and 7th day retention

Now, one way to hack this curve is by using a tutorial at the begining of the game. This was measured and reported by Mixpanel. However, with player attention span getting shorter and shorter, you need the first date with the user to be really good and also quick. Exactly how quick? Dori Adar, Creative Director of TabTale claims you only have 90 seconds and has some really valuable tips in the slideshare below.

I also like his style of quick flipping with a single line in each slide (note to self – I should adopt that for online slides).

The love-hate relationship will get you that 30 day retention

If you already got your users in the door and they are giving your game a chance, your next goal will be to make your users develop a love-hate relationship with your game says Florian Steinhoff of Wooga. He suggests doing so by combining 3 elements:

  • Using the FUUU factor to make good difficult levels and not bad difficult levels
  • Giving the users 3-7 possible moves to keep it casual (slots has 1 move vs. chess has 20 moves)
  • Adding luck and creating F* Yeah moments

Here are his slides from GDC.

 

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GROW is SOOMLA’s crown jewel, community-driven analytics dashboard. Developers can use GROW to gain valuable insights about their games’ performance and compare the data to benchmarks of other games in the GROW community.

GROW analytics uses all of Soomla’s modules: Store, Profile and LevelUp. To benefit from the full power of GROW analytics, we recommend that you integrate all three.

To integrate GROW into your game, please follow our Getting Started Tutorial for Unity or Cocos2dx, and you’ll be ready to use the dashboard in no time!

Game Analytics Done Right

  • With GROW, you can see how all the core metrics of your game including ARPU, average session duration, social conversion in your game, and more.
  • Existing services such as GameAnalytics, Unity analytics and Flurry are all great, but the analytics you get are limited to the scope of your own game.  GROW is different because it allows data sharing. In the dashboard, you’ll be able to see aggregative analytics about other developers’ apps as well as your own. This feature makes it possible for you to compare your game to other indie games and see how you perform in terms of conversion, revenue and game progress.  It’s community driven analytics to the core – we like calling it “Unilytics”.

About the GROW Dashboard

To learn about the GROW Dashboard and the different metrics it displays, read our tutorial About GROW and watch our 5-minute video tutorial.

Enjoy using the GROW dashboard!

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Game Reviews, Tech Resources

If you are an indie game developer, you might have had the idea of submitting your game for review at different game review sites. At the end of the post you can find a list of 150 sites that post reviews for iOS games. First, let’s discuss some of the merits in pursuing that path.

List of Game Review Sites

How many people read review sites

While it’s hard to get a reliable data point on this for the gaming industry you can find some data about the movie industry and use it as a general guideline. In a survey made by Amazon they found that only 2-3% took professional film critics seriously in their decision of what movie they should watch. If we use this stat as a guideline, you might be asking yourself if its worth the trouble.

Paid games vs. Free 2 play games

There is a big difference between getting a user to download a free game vs. a paid game. Getting a user to buy something requires a bit more effort and so review sites are coming in handy especially if your game lacks a brand or recognizable IP.

The ripple effect

Another positive outcome of getting reviewed is that the review might impact decisions made by different gate keepers. You are more likely to get more reviews by other publications. In addition, many games that get good reviews end up getting featured by Apple and finally, you have a better chance of striking a publishing deal.

Where to get reviewed

As promised earlier, here is the list – List on Maniac Dev site

In addition, you can also submit a request to get reviewed on the SOOMLA blog

 

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Fun Stuff

Recently we published our first ever Unity infographic, where we showcased some information regarding the transformation of Unity, a once “garage startup”, into the game engine giant it is today. Posted on Reddit, the infographic received good feedback and even stirred a heated discussion on which were the best games ever created using the Unity engine.

As with all games, emotions were running high and everyone was rooting for their favourite.

Following that idea, we decided to ask Redditors what were the best Unity games in their opinion. At the end of the survey, some games had the equal amount of points and share the same spots. Here are the results:

Deus Ex: The Fall Icon

#10: Deus Ex: The Fall

Published: 2013
Developed by: Eidos Montreal, N-Fusion Interactive
Genre: FPS/RPG

The Fall is the fourth instalment of the Deus Ex series, and the first one to hit the mobile platforms. It’s a cyberpunk action RPG/stealth video game developed by Eidos Montreal and N-Fusion Interactive, for Android, iOS and Microsoft Windows.

In the game, players take control of Ben Saxon, a former British soldier turned augmented mercenary. It’s set in the near future, the year 2027, and is story-wise closely related to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, published in 2011.

Assassin's Creed: Identity Icon

#9: Assassin’s Creed: Identity

Published: 2014 (beta)
Developed by: Ubisoft, Blue Byte
Genre: Action, RPG

Assassin’s Creed doesn’t need a special introduction, or description. Identity is the latest in the AC series, currently in beta and set for a worldwide release in early 2015. Assassin’s Creed Identity is the first game in the Assassin’s Creed universe built for the iPad and the iPhone, and it’s a 3D third-person RPG game.

It lets players create, develop and customize their own assassins and lets them play in the most famous AC environments – the Italian Renaissance. It’s built for iOS 7, iPad3 or later, or iPhone5 or later, and older versions are not supported.

Satellite Reign Icon

#8: Satellite Reign

Published: 2014
Developed by: 5 Lives Studios
Genre: Tactical RPG

Satellite Reign is a tactical RPG game developed by Brisbane studio 5 Lives. It was funded through Kickstarter, where it asked for 350,000 GBP, in late June 2013. A month later it was successfully funded with more than 460,000 GBP, and was released in December 2014. The game is available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, and has been dubbed the “spiritual successor” to the Syndicate series.

In the game, players control a team of four fighters that battle inside a Blade Runneresque city. Satellite Reign offers different styles of play, like stealth, direct combat, hackings or propaganda.

Escape Plan Icon

#7: Escape plan

Published: 2012
Developed by: Fun Bits Interactive, Wholesale Algorithms
Genre: Puzzle

Escape Plan is a survival/puzzle game created by Fun Bits Interactive, made for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4. In the game, the players take control of two characters, Lil and Laarg, and must guide them through a series of deadly obstacles. Failing to do so usually results in gruesome, yet humorous and entertaining deaths.  The game was built with the Unity 3D engine, and is praised for its creative use of Vita’s inputs, such as the gyroscope and the front and rear multitouch panels.

Back in April of 2012, Escape Plan was the number one selling PlayStation Network game on the PlayStation Vita.

Temple Run Icon

#6: Temple Run Trilogy

Published: 2011
Developed by: Imangi Studios
Genre: Endless Runner

Temple Run Trilogy is a set of three games made for mobile platforms iOS, Android and Windows Phone, where the player basically does only one thing – runs away from things. First published in 2011, the game became an instant hit. In the game, a player has stolen a treasure from a temple, and now has to run away from “demonic monkeys” who are after him, trying to get it back. Talk about Indiana Jones…

The game is endless, meaning the player either falls off the temple, or gets eaten by the monkeys. The goal is to last as long as you can.

Rust Icon

#5: Rust

Published: 2013
Developed by: Facepunch studios
Genre: Survival, Action, Adventure

Rust is a survival action-adventure game developed and published by Facepunch studios. Even though it’s still in alpha phase, the game has gotten incredibly good reviews, including a 9/10 on Steam, and positive comments from the likes of IGN and Gamespot. Built on the new Unity 5 engine, this survival game is a combination of Minecraft and DayZ, where players run around through an open world, trying to collect resources to survive and build things to help them last longer.

In this multiplayer game, players must search for cloth, food, stone, iron, sulfur and wood, all while other players are out there, doing the same thing and potentially wanting to murder everyone. Players will face numerous challenges, but can also form alliances and pacts to help them survive in a cruel world full of bad, bad people.

Battlestar Galactica Online Icon

#4: Battlestar Galactica Online

Published: 2011
Developed by: Bigpoint, Artplant
Genre: MMO Browser game

Battlestart Galactica Online is a browser game based on the television series of the same name. It’s a massive multiplayer online game in which players take control of a spacecraft and fight other players in order to level up and rank as high as possible on the leaderboard.

Players get to choose between two fractions: Colonial (human), or Cyclon, and they battle for resources, which they use to buy ships, equipment, ammunition & upgrades of ships they already own. The game was published back in 2011 and has since become a big hit, with over 250 million of registered users.

Wasteland 2 Icon

#3: Wasteland 2

Published: 2014
Developed by: inXile Entertainment, Obsidian Entertainment
Genre: RPG

Wasteland 2 is a turn-based RPG game set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future. It’s a sequel to the highly acclaimed game Wasteland published in 1988. It was funded through Kickstarter, and follows the story of a group of nuclear war survivors, which call themselves The Desert Rangers.

The game takes place 15 years after the original Wasteland and sends you on a quest to find the source of a mysterious radio signal that sends disturbing messages about the merging of man and machine.

To make matters worse, someone uses those messages to threaten the rangers, one of the rare surviving institutions of law and order. Besides the depiction of a grim future, the game is rich in dark humor and great dialogues. The game uses the device’s accelerometer to control the character’s movement, by tilting the device left or right.

Heartstone Icon

#2: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Published: 2014
Developed by: Blizzard
Genre: Card Game

Heroes of Warcraft is the next game built in the Warcraft universe, and unlike other Blizzard games, it’s a completely free to play multiplayer card game. It uses the rich Warcraft world to create big card sets comprised of shamans, warlocks, warriors and mages, and its simple yet effective gameplay will have everyone hooked to it, in a matter of minutes.

This game taps into other games of the genre, like Pokemon or Magic: The Gathering and combines it with the Warcraft lore to create a well-known, yet completely new game. Its simplicity and competitiveness is the ultimate combination for a multiplayer giant.

Kerbal Space Program Icon

#1: Kerbal Space Program

Published: 2011
Developed by: Squad
Genre: Space flight simulator

In shortest possible terms – Kerbal Space Program is rocket science made simple. It’s a game of strategy, planning and execution – careful planning and proper execution give some of the most rewarding feelings achievable in video games.

The game revolves around Kerbals, little green humanoid aliens, who build space ships to get into orbit, or to land on other planets. It focuses on real physics, meaning constructing a proper space ship and sending it to outer space is an extremely challenging and fun task. And given that Kerbals are little green creatures that remind me of Minions, the game offers hours and hours of great fun.  Two weeks ago the game regained online headlines prominence when legendary vehicle and space entrepreneur Elon Musk conducted an AMA session (ask me anything) on Reddit and confessed his love for Kerbal.

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Game design, Game Reviews

Sky Force Attack IconSky Force Attack HD is a 2D arcade shoot-em-up game, developed by Azure Labs.  It has great graphics and simple controls, and it’s available for Android powered devices. It’s fast to immerse yourself into the game and the intuitive controls will make you feel like you’ve been playing this game for years, even though you just installed it.

Google Play Badge

Dive right into it

In the game you take control of a fighter plane and fight your way through waves of enemies, ultimately fighting the boss, in order to clear the stage and move on.  In order to pass the stage, the player must complete three out of four tasks assigned. Most often those include destroying a set number of enemies, surviving the course without getting hit, or collecting a set amount of coins.

What I really liked about the game right from the start, is that it doesn’t have a long intro, or a menu with dozens of options you must choose before actually getting to play the game.  Once you start the app, there is only one option, and that is to start the game.  I get the feeling that it was designed for people on the go, mostly in public transportation, because the plane flies as long as you keep your finger pressed against the touchscreen. Move your finger to the side you want the plane to move.  Lift your finger, and the game will pause within the next couple of seconds, prompting up the pause menu.

Simple controls

Sky Force Attack HD Screenshot

This type of in-game controls is something I’ve never seen before, and it intrigued me. It’s very simple, creative and useful for people who, for example, have to use the other hand to hold the handle in a bus.  However, it also has a downside. There are certain types of enemies that are fixed to the ground, and if you miss them, as you move, they will end up behind you and firing.

It’s very hard to dodge missiles that you covered with your finger and can’t see where they’re flying. And if one of your assignments is to stay untouched, that can be quite a nuisance.  Adding an option to control the movement of the plane using the device’s gyroscope might prove useful in this situation.

Spend your money the right way

The game has an in-game currency that has been implemented in the most natural way possible.  Every destroyed enemy leaves behind a certain amount of coins (depending on the difficulty of the enemy), and the user must fly over the coins in order to collect them.  Collected coins can then be traded for three different upgrades: a health bonus, a shield, and extra fighter assistants.

Here’s what’s really interesting – to get to the upgrades menu, the player needs only to remove his \ her finger from the display. The game moves into pause mode, and there are the upgrade buttons. One click and you’re ready to go back.  However, I feel these upgrades are too basic. In various games of the same type, players could buy different types of weapons, extra bombs, speed boosts, etc.  I’d love to see more options in the upgrades menu in future versions.

Addictive to the core

Even though it’s fairly repetitive, and some might say too slow for an arcade game, it is fun and can easily become addictive. One aspect of the game that forces players to stay is the progress bar every stage has.  On top of the screen, players can see the progress bar, how long they’ve played and how much longer it takes them to reach the boss. It’s a simple addon, but one that motivates players that might have given up at some point.

When it comes to social integration and achievement sharing, the game unfortunately falls a bit short.  Once the gamer completes a course, he or she are prompted with an option to post a comment on various social media, over e-mail, etc. However, all it does is posts a link to the game’s Android page. There is no high-score list, achievements, or anything else that could make others install the game, or compete with friends.

And given the fact that coins and scores can be collected, I don’t see a reason why a more competitive social media aspect wouldn’t be implemented in the future.  At this point, the game is a single-player, 2D arcade shooter that has great graphics, it’s easy and fun to play.  It has a great virtual economy implemented, it’s fairly addictive and shows great potential to create buzz and a big social media outreach.

I’d easily recommend it to any gamer, be it casual or hard-core, looking for a quick fix.

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Game design

What is a game state?

Game state is a snapshot of the condition of all the objects in the game. In other words, its the values of all the variables representing the progress of the user through the game. It’s the level progress, the balances of the virtual goods, the virtual coins in the wallet, the missions completed and the badges awarded. It’s all that and much more if you are using AI to simulate a world with other automated players in it.Blog post meme - Game State

Mobile games are mostly single player games with local DB

The most natural way to store a game state in a mobile game would be…. Right – on the device. It’s simple, accessible and does not require setting up servers and spend a lot of time and effort that could have been invested in perfecting your game. Single players games are dominating the app stores and of course, these games, don’t require a server so setting up one only to save the game state would be a significant effort.

Players are expecting more now

However, times are changing and what game developers could get away with 2 years ago is not flying with users today. In a world where every user has multiple devices and those get upgraded quite frequently, users are expecting for more, and the standards are being pushed higher by well funded game developers. “Why can’t I pick up the game from my iPad on my OnePlusOne device and continue from where I left”, users are asking. Not to mention the frustration of the users who lost all their progress and had to start from scratch after they upgraded their phone.

The ideal solution – syncing game state seamlessly for free

The ideal solution from a developer stand point of course would be to store the balances to a local DB on the device and that everything else will take care of itself. In other words, its a solution that associates the game state with the social ID of the user and automatically backs up the state of the game to the server. Of course, this solution will also be free in a perfect world. In the real world – this solution is not to be found. That is, unless you are using SOOMLA.  We’ve recently opened signup for our new service GROW – community-driven game analytics.  We’ve also developed a stellar solution for cross-device game state synchronization which seamlessly syncs all user progress, balances and game state between different devices that are logged in with Facebook, Twitter or Google+.  If you’d like to apply for exclusive early access, drop us a line to highway@soom.la.

 

 

 

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Game design, Game Reviews

unnamedChicken Outbreak 2 is a 2D platformer for iOS, Android, Mac and PC, built on the V-Play game engine.  It’s is a fall down game, similar to Doodle Jump or Fall Down: Elemental, making it a very simple, yet effective entertainer, ideal for the casual gamer.

What is pretty cool and in the open source spirit, is that the V-Play developers decided to share the full source code of this game. You can get the game with the free download of the V-Play SDK. V-Play uses the Soomla framework for its virtual economy, so you get a published game example to use it in your own games.

Available on Google Play

Available on iTunes

 

 

Simple controls

In the game, the main protagonist is a little chicken, trying to escape the terrors of its hen. During the escape, it jumps downwards, from one platform to another, while the whole level scrolls upwards.  It’s a casual game with an easy learning curve. It’s the type of game that’s easy to learn, yet hard to master. This is mostly because the level scrolls faster and faster as the game progresses, and different obstacles appear allowing users to show some real skill and good reflexes, all while having loads of fun.

The controls are as simple as can be, with the game using the device’s gyro sensors. As the user tilts his or her device to the side, so does the chicken move.

virtual eco

The visuals of the game also show real quality. The textures are clean, the game runs smoothly, and the chicken has a cute look, making it a potential sweetheart to animal-lovers around the world.

The game has implements a diverse economy with great quality.  During the escape, the user collects corn and spawned power-ups. Power-ups, such as angels (extra lives), teleports and parachutes help the gamer in difficult situations, while corn increases the overall score.

Based on that score, the user is rewarded with coins, a special in-game currency that can be spent on those power-ups, as well as a few cosmetic upgrades, like skins for the chicken.

Spending coins

The game often offers angels, or extra lives, drawing the player to spend more time with the game, while a fairly high price on teleports and parachutes asks for some thinking and careful consideration before heading towards the shop.  Building an economy that requires attention and craftsmanship for “how-to-spend” is a best practice in gaming which retains and engages players and is built quite well here.  Also, the button for the shop is in a visible place, and the shopping process is seamless.

I see great potential in the shop, with the possibilities of adding different skins, depending on current affairs (for example: creating a football skin during the World Cup, or a Santa-chicken during Christmas), as well as reverse marketing potential (The main character can be integrated, for example, into Viber’s or Facebook’s stickers).

Compete with friends

The game has an integrated leader board, where you can choose to be matched globally or with your Facebook friends, and it pops up every time the user reaches a new high score.  The “celebration” of a new high score is a another best practice that we commonly advise developers about and is beautifully executed in Chicken Outbreak 2.  It also has a set of achievements for collecting corn and using power ups, another way to keep players interested and engaged.

To conclude, the Chicken Outbreak 2 is a lot of fun. It’s easy to learn, it’s interesting and engaging.  It’s visually beautiful, with simple and effective controls. And it has good ideas on how to implement virtual economies and social integration.  A big thumbs up for V-Play.  If you’re a developer we encourage you to have a look at their game engine.  Especially as you can use the full source code of Chicken Outbreak 2 to build your own falldown games.

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Announcement, Fun Stuff

Unity is a curious company. What started from a 3-person garage stint for Mac game development has grown over 10 years to become a game engine behemoth. Today, Unity dominates the game engine market and boasts the biggest developer community in gaming. But just how big is Unity? How has it grown? What are some of its prominent milestones as a company?

Scouring the internet yields lots of data, but nothing visually appealing, concise and succinct as an infographic. That’s why we decided to set out to remedy this shortcoming. So, fellow developers – lo and behold – we give you… the first ever Unity infographic!

 

Unity Infographic

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