Resource, Tips and Advice

Game Genres for Developers

Most forms of media such as movies and books have distinct categories that were created to help users classify the different A glossary for game developers.films and novels made.  It is important to have clear, straight forward categories because they help users build relationships and correlations between the object and themselves. While movies and novels now have distinct classifications, video game genres are still evolving and changing which leaves unclear categories for players and developers.  Not only are the genres muddled, developers use different groupings for their games because there are multiple dimensions they must take into consideration.  A few ways to group games are player viewpoint, inner mechanics, and the content of the game. It’s important to realize that most games will also incorporate multiple features and fall into a few categories. Therefore, it is not uncommon to have hybrid games such as a third person shooter game that plays as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft.  Many of these genres also have subcategories that drill down even further into specific details of a game. To continue building the Soomla Game Developer’s Glossary, we’ve compiled a list of these genres.

Action

FPS: First person shooters are games where the player takes the role of the character in the game. Popular first person shooter games include Counter-strike, Halo, and Call of Duty. A FPS game for the game developer's glossary.
Shoot ‘em Up: This type of game is focused on shooting large quantities of enemies while also dodging enemy fire. Shoot ‘em up games are one of the oldest genres of games dating back to the 1960s with the release of Spacewars! Other examples include Ikaruga, R-Type, and another classic, Space Invaders.
TPS: Third-person shooter are 3D action games, where the avatar in the game is visible on-screen. For example, Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Assassin’s Creed.

Role-playing game (RPG)

MMO: Massively multiplayer online games are capable of supporting large numbers of players at the same time. One of the more popular MMO games is Clash of Clans in which players build communities, train soldiers, and attack other players to earn gold.A developer's glossary for mobile games.
MMORPG: Massively multiplayer online role-playing games are designed to be played with other people. To partake, a user takes the identity of a character and works their way up the ranks in the game.  Some games with this set-up include World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, and EverQuest.
MUD: Multi user dungeons are multiplayer games occurring in real-time virtual worlds.  Players take the form of an avatar and are able to interact with each other usually via online chats. A few popular MUD games are Discworld and BatMUD.

Strategy

Puzzle: Puzzle games test a player’s problem solving skills such as logic, sequence solving, and pattern recognition. Within the puzzle game genre, there are many subcategories such as tile-matching and hidden object games. A few popular puzzle games are Bejeweled, Tetris, Monument Valley, and Minesweeper.
MOBA: Multi online battle arena games have two teams opposing each other and users control a character in one of two teams. Their main objective is to destroy the other teams main structure. A popular MOBA game is League of LegendsA game developer's glossary in which a player becomes a “champion” and works with a team to destroy the opposing teams main building.
RTS: Real-time strategy games do not progress in turn, but are played in real time where players set goals and when they’re achieved the game keeps moving. A few real-time strategy games are Starcraft and the Command and Conquer series.
TBS: Turn-based strategy games have clear turns for players and users can take as much time as they need to make their move.  For example, Heroes of Might and Magic and War Chess are both examples of turn-based games.

Casual

Bubble shooter: A type of game that combines shooter and puzzle elements to the game. The goal of the game is to collect points by arranging the bubbles and then bursting them.
Endless Runner: Games where the character in the game essentially runs until they die. Temple Run, Despicable Me, and Jetpack Joyride are all popular endless runner games.
Match-3: Match-3 games, also known as tile-matching video games, have players manipulate tiles to make them disappear. Usually aligning three tiles is the “magic” number for the tiles to disappear. The most popular example is Candy Crush Saga.
Platformer: Games that operate on physical, virtual platforms and users control their character by jumping. These types of games tend to be simplistic and only involve one or two dynamics. The most well known game is MarA game developer's glossary including sports games. io Brothers.
Sports: Sports games simulate the playing of actual sports such as baseball, American football, soccer, tennis, and golf. The games are usually quite competitive and intense such as the real thing, which attracts a lot of game players.  While some sports games emulate the actual playing of the sport such as FIFA and Tiger Woods PGA Tour, other games will emphasize the strategy and managerial aspects of having a sports team.
Music: Music video games are quite popular because they allow players to “become” a music star while playing the game. Music games also include rhythm based games such as Dance, Dance Revolution. Some of the popular music games are Rock Band and Guitar Hero.
Card: This is any game that uses playing cards such as Solitaire, Gin Rummy, and Uno.
Racing: Racing games include any form of racing competition be it on land, air, or sea. These types of games are either in the first or third person perspective and can take the form of an actual racing league such as NASCAR 09 or in a fantasyland like the Mario Kart series.

Mobile Mechanics – Touch & Gestures

While the previous groupings included games that could be played on PCs, gaming consoles, or mobile
devices, this next group is geared solely towards mobile games.  Developers creating games for touch screens must recognize that games can further be categorized by the gesture or touch associated with the game. It’s also important to remember when developing mobile games to use gestures that are quick and decisive because fingers cover the screen.

Single Tap/Touch: Most mobile games involve some form of tapping, but the gameplay in single tap games use the tap-drag or tap-hold mechanic such as in Jetpack Joyride.
Slashers: Users swipe their fingers across the screen to play the game. A great example of a slasher game is Fruit Ninja. In the game, pieces of fruit are “thrown” on the screen and the player must use their finger to slice the fruit to earn points.
Swipe Action Based: The swiping gesture emulates the feeling of flicking or swiping which can create the sensation of hitting a ball, petting an animal, or rotating an object. This helps mobile games that utilize this gesture make their game more interactive and “real” for users. For example, Swiped, an Android based game, allows users to swipe the gems in the game to clear them and to earn more points. Another swipe based game is Flick Golf, an Android game in which users play golf through various swiping gestures.
Accelerometer: These types of games use various tilting motions of the device to control the game play. These games keep users’ fingers off the screen and they can usually be played one handed. One example that uses this mechanic is Cube Runner. The goal is for players to move their ship across the screen and try not to hit the cubes in the path.

A developer's glossary to hand gestures for mobile games.

It’s important to remember that not all games will fall into one category.  Most games will be hybrids and encompass a few of these dimensions.  When categorizing your game remember to look at all the various dimensions and be as specific as possible because this will help your game reach the right players.

In the next installment to the game developer’s glossary, we’ll be addressing the different types of gamers and looking at the Bartle Test which classifies multiplayer online game users.

Well, you’ve got the lay of the land as they say, so go check out our forum and put your new knowledge to use!

This is part 2 in a 3 part post. Click here to read part 1.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Game design, Game Reviews

shapeiconWith all the games today looking like each other in some form, one might easily think that humanity has reached its peak in gaming innovation on the platforms of today. One might also believe that we would need things like the Oculus Rift or some other insanely advanced technology to move forward in the gaming industry, but Mike Letellier, AKA Crab Cyborg is living proof we still have lots of room to move forward.Available on Google Play

He is a veteran game designer, who spent the last four months of his free time creating a simple, fun and addictive game for the Android platform.

He invested more than 400 hours in the creation of his game called Shape Up, which is a fast-paced hidden object game that, as he says, looks sort of like Tetris. It’s a free downloaded game for Android devices.

In the game, the screen is filled with shapes, sizes, and colours and you need to find the target shape as fast as possible.

Speed matching

In order to pass a level, the player must find a set amount of shapes in only 30 seconds. But be careful, just because you have a small display and big fingers, doesn’t mean you can simply press all over the display to get to the goal fast. It doesn’t work, I tried it. And trust me, I have fat fingers!

There are a total of 108 levels, and they have different entertaining designs, ranging from deer-looking levels to lips, hearts, trombones and many other shapes.

shapesimage32Letellier said he always saw hidden object games doing well, but they simply never ‘cut it’ for him – they weren’t enjoyable. So what do you do when someone throws a party you don’t like? You throw your own party, with Blackjack and hoo…

Anyway, that’s how he got the idea to make the game. “I tried making a game that incorporated the idea of finding an object, but in a new and exciting way, with a bit of a speed kick. The idea to use pixels came really naturally since they’re already designed to work that way,” he said.

But that’s nothing new or innovative, right? What’s so special about this game? I’m glad you asked. You see, there is not a single image file in the game; all the shapes are programmatically made.

Trial and error

Letellier explains: “I use Unity, which has a lot of cool features – one of which is the ability to make a graphic just by programmatically assigning colours to pixels,” he says.

“I would just list the level data as which coordinates shouldn’t have anything in them, but I realized I could use an old school approach and I paired together every eight pixels as one byte value. Zero would mean that there were no pixels in those eight spots, and 255 indicated they were all on, with everything in between.”

But just creating these graphics isn’t enough. He has to determine shapes, and place them next to each other, in neighbouring fashion. It’s not as easy as you’d think, and it required a lot of trial-and-error to get things working properly.

“There have been a lot of experiments with trying to generate good and random shapes quickly while trying not to leave any gaps. Picking through colours was also very experimental. No two colours should ever look too alike, and they can’t be too dark, or too light, or they risk blending in. I ended up somewhere around 30 colours that may go into a shape.”

He decided to give the game out for free, with in-game purchases as optional. Within the game, players can buy the Ad Blocker to block incoming ads, as well as multiple levels.

The SOOMLA assistance

He decided to use SOOMLA as the Unity plugin which saved him precious time and gave additional options.

shapesimage1“I’ve implemented SOOMLA for Store functionality because I wanted a free Unity plugin that worked with Android. It ended up saving me a lot of time, opened up early access to Amazon’s IAP 2.0 and gave me analytics without any real effort on my behalf,” he says.

“I also love that there are checkboxes to switch between Google Play and Amazon that prevent the wrong services from being in my Android Manifest automatically. I plan to use Profile for Facebook and Twitter with my next update.”

If you guys think you can do even better, you’re in luck. Letellier says he’s looking into releasing the level editor in the future, so you just might be able to give it a shot.

This is not where Letellier plans on staying, though. He wants his game on PC, iOS, Nook and Facebook, and he’s currently getting it translated into Russian.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Tips and Advice, Unity

Many of you have heard the term SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization. This term mostly refers to optimizing the search results of Google, but in reality so many things nowadays are search drivSEO rounden. One of these things is the Unity Asset Store.

Keywords make a big difference

It’s sometimes hard to believe that something this small could be so important, but that’s the reality of search driven discovery. Unless your package is so well known that developers will look for your brand name, your main way to get discovered is through search. Now, lets consider these search phrases:

  • Beep sound effect
  • Beep sound FX
  • Beep SFX

Go ahead, you can try them on the asset store. Pay special attention to two packages:

  • Universal Sound FX
  • Spearhead Sound Effects

SEO tester

SEO search term test

When searching for “effects” versus “fx” in the term, the package that has that keyword in the name floats higher, although they are semantically identical and the Universal Sound FX has a 5 start rating from 212 people compared to a 4 star rating from 5 people. This gets worse when you get to the last term “beep sfx” – search results do not even present the highly popular Universal Sound FX package.

SEO search terms test

How do Unity Asset Store search results work?

While this is all very interesting, can you actually do something about it? The answer is YES. There is actually quite a lot you can do. Let’s first understand what happened in the example above. The search engine looks at 3 things to find keywords:

  • SEO search in the Unity Asset StorePackage name
  • Description
  • Package content (this is top secret so don’t tell anyone)

If we look back at the results from the small test we did, you can clearly see the impact of the name. However, when we were looking for the term “beep sfx” – none of the names actually contained the term. Now remember that the engine does not know that “sfx” really means “sound effects” or “sound fx”. It keeps looking in both packages for the term “sfx” to see if the package should be included. None of the descriptions contain the term so the search engine becomes disappointed and turns to the package content to see if the term can be found there. It joyfully realizes that the “Spearhead Sound Effects” package has all the sounds named SFX, so it includes that package in the search results.

Discovering what words users search

By now you are probably convinced that you should include every possible word in the universe in the description or the package content to rank for everything. That’s not recommended, of course.  So, if your package is an aggregation of 100 sounds, including a word for every one of them will make the description unreadable for humans and might lead Unity to reject your package. Instead, try to find the top 5-10 words that represent 80% of the search volume. Unity will not give you this information, but you can actually use the Google AdWords tool to predict that. There is a special tool called Keyword Planner that is highly useful to figure out search trends and understands how people think when they are searching for something. Try running the following list in that tool. You should select “Get ad group and keyword ideas” in the first step and click on the “keyword ideas” tab once you get to the results page. Try these terms:

  • beep sound effect
  • beep sound fx
  • beep sfx

AdWords as a SEO tool

The results are surprising because “beep sound effect” is a much more popular search term.

Google AdWords, a great tool for checking SEO.

You can also use the same method to determine what sound names you should include. Let’s try this list:

  • beep sound effect
  • blip sound effect
  • blop sound effect
  • explosion sound effect
  • swosh sound effect
  • swish sound effect
  • ding sound effect
  • tada sound effect
  • button sound effect
  • attack sound effect
  • warp sound effect
  • coin sound effect
  • roar sound effect

In terms of popularity, we can clearly see that the explosion, the ding, and the beep stand out.

Focus on words that are right for your package

As you may have realized by now, these are very powerful techniques that can double and triple your downloads. However, you should be mindful of what happens once users download your package. If you optimize for explosion sounds and your package doesn’t include those sounds you are going to get bad reviews and might even find yourself banned from the Unity Asset Store. The idea is to help users reach your package when they are looking for things that you actually have.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Announcement, Unity

Spartonix made a complete Soomla template

The wait is finally over! We’re happy to announce that the first Complete Soomla Template is now available on the Unity Asset Store or, if you want to test it first, in the Google Play Store.  Our innovative friends at Spartonix did a great job developing this plugin that is one-of-a-kind.  It’s one of the most helpful Soomla tools out there because it is a complete project template that showcases all features in Store and Profile. The template includes:

An image from the new all-inclusive Soomla template plugin

Soomla Store:

  • Currencies (coins)
  • Single use goods
  • Single use packs
  • Lifetime goods
  • Equipable goods
  • Upgradable goods
  • Currency packs
  • Refresh inventory
  • Restore purchases

Soomla Profile (with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+):How Profile looks in the complete Soomla template.

  • Login/Logout
  • Share status/story
  • Like
  • Invite
  • Upload Image
  • Rate App
  • Get Feed
  • Get Contacts

Soomla Grow Integration:

There’s also an added bonus of integrating our new dashboard which is a data platform for community-driven analytics and benchmarks.  All you have to do is register in the dashboard, get your keys, and then you’re good to go!

The Complete Soomla Template from Spartonix.

This is a great plugin for all developers because for the low cost of $15 all Soomla features will be seamlessly integrated into your app. It’s a high quality plugin for game developers that want to quickly replicate these features in their games.

Build Commercial Unity Plugins with Soomla

Soomla is devoted to providing free and open source technology for indie developers.  All of our code is released under the Apache license, which is very permissive and liberal with respect to commercial re-distributions.  This means that developers are allowed, moreover encouraged, to make reuse of our software for their own paid Unity plugins, no questions asked. Creating Soomla-powered plugins for aspects such as virtual economies, social interaction and level design, will serve the community and the Unity Asset Store.  The more tools our community has, the larger it’ll grow to fulfill our mission of standardizing game development.  We were thrilled when Spartonix wanted to work with us and create our second plugin in the Unity Asset Store. We also have another project in the works with a Studio in the UK using LevelUp.

We’d like to give a big thanks to our friends at Spartonix and encourage all developers to download the plugin now for ease of use. Make sure to check out our forum to see what the community has to say about it!

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Resource, Tips and Advice

Game Developer’s Glossary

There are many details to take into consideration when developing a game such as what platform it will work on, theme, user experience, and monetization.  Each component must be addressed at some point during the development stage and depending on what you’re most interested in certain parts of the process may be more intriguing than others.  With each component comes new vocabulary and aA glossary for game developers.cronyms, so we’ve put together a comprehensive glossary of commonly seen words. This glossary is to help clarify any confusion you might have when exploring different websites or forums in the indie developer world. Following the glossary, we’ll also be publishing two other blogs in this 3-part series.  Upcoming topics will cover game genres and themes as well as the personalities of gamers using the Bartle Test.

Analytics

DAU: Daily active users is the number of unique users that have played your game in a single day.
MAU: Monthly active users is the number of unique users that have played your game at least once in the month.
ARPU: Average revenue per user, is closely synonymous to average revenue per monthly active user. For example, if I have 100 unique users and $5 revenue my ARPU would equal $0.05.
ARPPU: Average revenue per paying user is the division of all your revenue generated from your unique paying users. This number tends to be higher than your ARPU because it calculates only paying users as opposed to all users.  If your total revenue is $5 and you have 10 unique paying users than your ARPPU would be $0.50.
ARPDAU: Average revenue per daily active user is the total revenue on a day divided by the unique user who played your game that particular day.
ARPMAU: Average revenue per monthly active user is your total monthly revenue divided by your monthly unique users.
Churn: The amount of users who stop playing your game at any given time.

General terms

AAA games: These are games that have a high production budget and are multi-million sellers. In the film industry, they’d be known as a Blockbuster movie. Some of the most popular AAA games are Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, and FIFA.
DLC: Downloadable content is content purchased after the game is downloaded. For example, purchasing more levels, add-ons, and in-game items. The reason for using DLC, especially in mobile games, is to reduce oversized network transfer and download extra content only on demand.A game developer's glossary to end users.
End User: Synonymous to user. This is the person who actually ends up playing the game.
Freemium: Games that are free initially, but then cost money as a user continues going through levels and must unlock certain features, acquire certain virtual goods, or pay to progress beyond certain points.
In-app purchase (IAP): Purchases made within an app usually accessing special features or levels. For example, “Remove Ads”, new levels, virtual currency (coins), power-ups, and accessing special characters are all considered in-app purchases.
Mobile app Alpha/Beta Testing: A testing process for your app that is done before the actual release version of the app. Usually involves defining selected users (by email) and allowing only them to download and test your app on their mobile device.
Push notifications: A notification tool that alerts users of new messages or updates in your app. This is a great tool for engaging users and encouraging them to use your app, as well as retaining users who haven’t used the app in a while.
Virtual Goods: A good or product with no tangible substance, but resides in the virtual world. They are usually in-game items to enhance a user’s experience such as power-ups, weapons, and resource boosts (more time or double energy).

User TaxonomyA game developer's glossary to user taxonomy.

Minnow:  Spends the smallest amount of money possible in a month.
Dolphin: This user tends to spend the “average” amount of money.
Whale: These users tend to spend a hefty amount of money each month and are committed to your game.
Heavy Spender: These users spend a lot! They are putting lots of money into your game.

User Acquisition

Attribution: The practice of attributing is a marketing technique to see where your installs came from. For example, were they from a paid ad on Facebook, a mobile web ad or a banner in another mobile game. It helps determine what campaigns and media efforts are driving installs.
CPA: Cost per acquisition pertains to the cost to acquire new users.A game developer's glossary to user acquisition.
CPI: A specific form of CPA. Cost of install is the cost per installs from new customers. This is calculated by dividing the cost of an advertising campaign by the number of new application installs attributed to that specific campaign.
LTV: Life time value of a user is an average based metric that estimates the potential net/gross profit from a future relationship with a customer. Say an average user plays your game 2 months and spends $0.75 each month, then the LTV would be $1.50. Meaning, you want to make sure that you acquire a user for less than $1.50 to make a profit. This value helps understand if marketing efforts are actually returning their investment and helps developers retain a greater portion of their marketing margins.

Now that you have a strong understanding of the lingo, our next installment will investigate the different game genres and their subcategories. This will help you further discern the types of games and how to eventually categorize your own.

You’ve got the lingo down, and this glossary for reference, so go check out our forum and put your new knowledge to use!

This is part 1 in a 3 part post. Click here to read part 2.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Game Reviews

carsEvery parent knows he or she should keep their kids away from computers, smartphones and tablets, or at least limit their access to these devices.

And rightfully so, but these gadgets can also help children of younger age to develop their cognitive abilities, in ways previously thought impossible. Some can even help children with different disorders.Available on Google Play

Also, using smartphones and getting used to interacting with digital devices prepares children for the inevitable part of life which awaits them. One of these apps is called Live Kids Puzzles: Cars, developed with the Unity engine by Hogsmith Games.

It’s currently available only for Android devices, but the Hogsmith devs confirm they’re working on an iOS version, too.

A game of logic and cognition

It’s a small, lightweight and interesting puzzle game about cars and similar vehicles, built for children aged one to six years.

In the game, children are presented with a scene, which has outlines of different vehicles. Those vehicles are located in the left hand side of the screen, and children must recognize which car goes in which outline, and drag and drop them to the appropriate position. While playing, children can develop and improve their logical thinking, refine motor skills, reactions and accuracy, the developer says on the official Play Store page.  Once the puzzle level is complete, the scene comes to life, with certain elements animating as a reward for a job well done. The game has a total of ten levels, out of which four are free to play, and six can be purchased for $1.33. The in-game purchases were implemented using Soomla, and it’s a very simple, straightforward add-on.

Once the four free-to-play levels are completed, the main menu shows that the app has ‘ran out of gas’, and that further purchases must be made. In order to bring up the purchase menu, the parent must press and hold the gas indicator for a few seconds.

I like this approach, because it eliminates, to a large extent, the possibility of accidental purchase done by toddlers unaware of what they’re doing. Still, the additional levels cost $1.33, and if you own a smartphone or a tablet capable of running these applications, spending a dollar and a half is a good deal for occupying your kid with something of educational value.

Designed with kids in mind

As far as I’ve noticed, there is no exit button, which is also a nice addition. Once you start the app, you can give the smartphone or the tablet to your toddler without fear of the child quitting the game and calling your ex or sharing your private photos on Instagram.  What I don’t like about the game is that it has a total of (just) ten levels, and being simple as it is, I’d love to see more levels, even if it meant increasing the cost of the additional purchase.

Overall, it’s a well-built product. It’s colourful, simple and, most of all, useful. It will help your children increase their cognitive abilities and prepare them for a life filled with gadgets and technology. With four free-to-play levels (which also include a few hidden interaction elements), it gives you enough time to test it, and with protection from unplanned purchases, a missing exit button and no advertising, it’s very safe to put in a child’s hand.

This is a game I’d easily recommend.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Game Reviews

“First steps are always the hardest but until they are taken, the notion of progress remains only a notion and not an achievement.” – Aberjhani

Everybody, meet Andrei. Andrei, meet…. well, everybody.

crazy drive iconAndrei Bazanov is a professional developer, working on commercial software since 2008. Only recently did he try his luck in game development, and the first product of his endeavour is Crazy Drive – a humble opening to a whole new chapter.

Available on Google PlayWe got a chance to talk to Andrei, ask him about the game, about Unity and SOOMLA, as well as his future plans as a game developer.

Q: Are you a professional developer or an enthusiast, and is Crazy Drive your first attempt at developing games?

A: I am a professional developer. Only recently though, did I actually, try my hand at developing games. Crazy Drive was my first attempt at actually building and releasing a game. So, whilst I am a professional developer, I am not a game developer.  And since I love new challenges that involve learning new things, I really enjoyed developing Crazy Drive.

Q: Is this your first attempt at creating a game using Unity? Tell us more about your first Unity experience.

A: Yes, Crazy Drive was my first attempt at using Unity. I literally sat through endless hours of Unity tutorials. It’s so powerful that I doubt whether I am using 20 percent of its capabilities in Crazy Drive. Once you get the basic concepts, it is then easy and flexible to build the game you want.

I really appreciate the fact that an indie game developer can use Unity and publish a game for free. Unity works well with Visual Studio which is my IDE of choice. The Documentation is reasonable and their frequent patch releases are ideal. Overall, a very good choice.

Q: Tell us about the game. Why did you choose a racing game? How long did it take you to make it?

A: I remember playing computer games when I was much younger, and I always used to enjoy racing games more than anything else. Even now I am a follower of Formula 1. I enjoy the exhilaration that you get from racing. It’s like no other game.

It takes much concentration. So naturally, I chose a racing game to cut my teeth into game development. Since I was working on it only during my free time, it took me a few months. The most time consuming task was “dreaming” up new levels. It takes a bit of imagination to come up with different things for every level that would make the game enjoyable.

crazy driveThe main thing I wanted to achieve with this game is the ability to play with one hand. Travelling to work and back on a bus, train, etc. you cannot always use both of your hands. Also the ability to play when all you have to spare is one minute. Short levels help kill that one minute of free time.

Q: Which Unity plugins were most useful to you and why?

A: Well, the most useful plugins for me have been the SOOMLA ones. I really wanted a store in my game and the ability for people to post their progress on social media. Implementing all that functionality on my own as a brand new game developer was very daunting. So I looked around and found SOOMLA.

I decided to give it a go and what a good move that was. SOOMLA has some dependencies on the FacebookSDK and so on, so that was included also, but not much else. SOOMLA helped by saving me months of development. Implementing the In-App Purchasing (IAP) for Crazy Drive would have taken me a long time.

By using SOOMLA Store and Profile unity packages, I was able to not only implement the functionality quickly, but also safely and reliably. Reading the code, I can see that real professionals have written it, and that gives you that peace of mind when sending your game into the wild. It is good when a game developer is busy about creating what’s upon his imagination rather than getting slowed down by billing code and other things like that.  SOOMLA helps developers by allowing them to concentrate on their creativity whilst doing the hard work for them. Not to mention saving some money also, since SOOMLA is free to use.

Q: What would you add to Unity to improve your game-making experience?

A: I would add much better support for 2D game development. I know they are working hard on that, but there is still room for improvement. The other two things that I always find myself worrying about are security and performance. When I heard that PlayerPrefs was not secure I could not believe it. I think it should be secure by default.

Performance-wise I would like Unity to offer some easier way of implementing performance for people that are new to it. Maybe some warnings that say, ‘I see that you are using FixedUpdate() quite a bit, consider using Update instead’, or things like that. Obvious things should be flagged up I think.

Q: What’s missing in today’s mobile games, in your opinion?

A: I think there are the core gamers that all they do is play games day and night. They live it and breathe it. So people like that always look for best graphics, best virtual reality and so on. What I want to see more is games for the occasional gamer. The ones that could benefit from some light entertaining that games usually bring, but are not too clued up about how they work.

Simple games that have very few options and even fewer buttons. Games that do not take forever to complete a level. Candy Crash is such a good example, although it does have more options than I would like to see. Simple games that challenge your mind and solving skills without myriad options. That will help the older generation get engaged with the gaming world that we live in.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: My plans for the future are to just keep tinkering in my free time with Unity. I have another game in mind. It is difficult to produce a nice looking game without the help of a good graphics designer. Most of the graphics in crazy drive are graphics that I have done.

There are some royalty free graphics in there, but most of them are my work. And I am not a graphics designer at all. Whilst I have the imagination and the programming know-how, the graphics are not good. My plans are to solve the graphics issue by maybe selling the vision I have for the new game to a graphics designer and have him come on-board for the ride.

Also, I plan to publish Crazy Drive to iOS.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Game design, Game Reviews

dusk racer iconCar racing on a mobile phone never feels right. Luckily for everyone, Dusk Racer: Super Car Racing is the exception which proves the rule. This is a 2D arcade driving game developed by KeyGames Network, and available for both Android and iOS-powered devices for free.

Available on iTunesAvailable on Google PlayIn it, the player takes control of a sports car and has to drive it through three lanes of heavy traffic, avoid getting hit, grab as much power-ups along the way as possible and, in the end, survive the drive for as long as possible.

Innovative controls

Racing games on mobile devices are, in a way, similar to FPS games – no one never really got the hang of the controls on a touchscreen. However, Dusk Racer just might set an example for all future driving games on how to properly set up the controls.

For movement, the car is completely automated. This means it goes for the maximum speed as soon as the game starts and just stays that way. No acceleration, no switching of gears, and most importantly – no brakes. But I will get to that point later.  So with accelerating and slowing down out of the way, there’s just enough room for steering, and that’s where the game excels.

The game presents the player with a “virtual” steering wheel on the bottom of the screen with a red dot on it, showing when the wheel is in the front position. By sliding your finger in a half-circular motion (not a straight line across the device, but with a little curve), the player can steer the wheel and switch lanes.

Decent looks

This concept feels incredibly natural, and it’s probably the best single feature in the game.

The game itself has a birds-eye perspective and it looks decent. It has a few different roads for both daytime and night-time driving (headlights are turned on during the night, which is a really neat little effect), a couple of weather effects (rain, snow), and a bunch of cars, buses and trucks to get in your way.

The collectable power-ups include a speed boost, an instant repair for when you smack against someone in the traffic, and a bag of money.

That’s not the only way a person can earn cash in this game.  As the player drives through the game, he can collect money using the bags spawned around the lanes, or he can drive risky. The game rewards players who drive very close to a car in the other lane by giving them extra cash for taking the risk. And the more close calls you chain, the bigger the multiplier for the money gets. The multiplier goes up to six times, and gives more skilled players a competitive edge.

Deceleration issues

But why would you need a bag of money, one might ask?  The game has an integrated shop where players can go to buy different car models. Each car has its own advantages and disadvantages, and they are divided into three elements: handling, acceleration and top speed.

Here’s where it gets funny: Why would you need acceleration, if the game accelerates for you?  Handling and top speed make sense – the faster you’re going, the more money you’re making and reaching the checkpoints faster.  The better the handling, the easier it is to grab those multipliers and avoid crashing your car into a back of a four axle truck.

But acceleration seems to have no sense if you can’t decelerate.  And that’s the biggest issue I found with this game. Sometimes cars spawn in two lanes in such a manner that it’s impossible to squeeze between them, and if you made that wrong turn, you’re crashing your car, and it’s game over, pal. And sometimes you just don’t see that the lane is blocked until it’s too late, and that is such a shame.

Old ideas, new twists

I’d love to see a way for the player to control the speed of the car. Perhaps use the system seen in Sky Attack, where the player moves as long as he keeps his finger pressed against the touchscreen?

Edit: After the review was published, we got our attention drawn towards the fact that there is a way to decelerate. It’s not a classic brake pedal/button thing, but rather a trick in which the player must drift heavily to one side of the street or the other, and the car slows down. 

Still, I’d much rather see a classic brake in the game.

The game blends nicely with social media, having dedicated buttons for Facebook and Twitter, allowing for some easy and fast sharing. However, as with a lot of other games, Dusk Racer can only post a message with a link to the Google Play Store or iTunes respectively.  I’d love to see people notified whenever I get a better high score than them, or when I cross more checkpoints.

All things considered, Dusk Racer is a light, fun game with solid graphics and great controls. It builds on games like Crazy Taxi and implements them into the mobile platform with great quality. With a bit more depth in controls, and better social integration, it could be the perfect racing game for mobile devices.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Game design, Game Reviews

eskimo fishingHave you ever played a game so intense that you forgot the alphabet? A game so mentally demanding that, after finally quitting, you have trouble saying a simple sentence without sounding like Nicholas Cage in The Wicker Man?  That’s what Eskimo Fishing can do to you. But it’s extremely fun!  Eskimo Fishing is an old school arcade game with simple gameplay, nostalgic graphics, great sound, and an “environmentally-friendly” idea underneath all that.

It was developed by KeyGames, built on the Unity engine, and available for Android-powered devices.Available on iTunesAvailable on Google Play

Speaking out on global pollution

The idea behind Eskimo Fishing can be described as a combination of Flappy Bird and Timberman. Flappy Bird requires the player to guide the bird horizontally, in Timberman the player guides the timberman while he cuts down a vertical tree, but in Eskimo Fishing, two Eskimos need to clear out garbage popping up from a hole in the ice. It’s also a vertical game, but going up.

In the game, two Eskimos have cut a hole in the ice to catch some fish, but instead, only garbage keeps popping up.  Plastic bags, old boots, tin cans, even nuclear waste, all pop up from the hole in the ice at some point in the game. During a single level only two types of trash can be seen. From both sides of the hole sit two Eskimos waiting for the fish. Each Eskimo is assigned with one of the two types of trash in the level, and the player needs to tap the right Eskimo (or his side of the screen, at least) for him to smash the ice and save the environment.

Besides being fun, it also raises awareness on the ever growing problem of pollution, especially in the North Pole.

Time Limit = Intensity

eskimo1Even though the game sounds simple enough, the time factor makes it intense
– there’s a time bar at the top of the screen, and once you run out of time – game over. Unlike Flappy Bird, where a simple mistake costs you the game, Eskimo Fishing is not that brutal. Trying to clear junk with the wrong Eskimo punishes you by lowering the time bar, but sometimes you can survive with a mistake or two.

So rushing to clear as much garbage as possible, while trying to remember which Eskimo is assigned to which type of garbage can soon become mentally demanding, and surviving a level becomes a real reason for celebration.

Graphics of the game can, and will bring tears to a grown man’s eyes. The younger generations might find no joy in the 16-bit graphics and the accompanying sound, but Eskimo Fishing will definitely ignite the old nostalgic flame.

The Social Minus

I was curious to see whether the game has any sort of virtual economy, and how it would award gamers for playing the game, and the results are a mixed feeling.

The game has an in-game economy of sorts – for each piece of garbage cleared, the player gets a point. Once he earns at least 10,000 points, he can spend it on a set of player characters: instead of Eskimos, the main characters can be polar bears, penguins, or seals.  The characters look sweet and funny, but these changes are purely cosmetic, and that’s why it gives a mixed feeling.

Edit: After the review got published, we got our attention drawn towards the fact that changes in the character sets are not purely cosmetic.

In fact, each character set has a ‘streak modifier’ – the more trash you chain, more points you score. And having more expensive character sets means easier points in the future, so it’s worth investing, and a good way to reward people for playing the game.

But these changes are very hard to notice – character sets’ streak bonus is labeled by stars (from one to five stars), with no textual explanation to what the bonus does, and during the game you’re just too focused on hitting the garbage with the right Eskimo to notice any bonuses flying around. That’s something I’d definitely work on in future versions of the game.

Also, the cheapest characters cost 10,000 points – it means you have to spend hours and hours with the game for these changes. Adding different power-ups, like slowing down time (which could help the player if he forgets which Eskimo does what) could add more dynamism to the game, and is something I’d love to see in future versions.

Even though there’s room for improvement, the social integration aspect of the game is decent. On the home screen there are two buttons for Facebook and Twitter which pull up the according app and prepare a post saying ״Play this game and raise awareness on global pollution״, or something along those lines.

Competition is crucial

eskimo2In the game which has tons of achievements, including number of levels passed, amount of junk cleared, number of characters bought, etc. – there’s no way to share those specific pieces of information on social media.  Expanding the community aspect in a more detailed matter might just attract a bigger crowd.

Still, the game has an integrated leaderboard which pulls data from the user’s Google account, meaning you can check out which of your friends play the game, and how well they’re doing. I would only add an option to poke / tag / notify specific friends once you beat their high score or get an achievement. As with any game – competition is key, and competing solely against an AI can’t hold water for too long, social aspect is a must.

Eskimo Fishing is a well-built game: simple idea with quality execution, ol’ skool graphics for extra nostalgia and a gameplay that will have you begging for mercy while your fingers twitch in agony on level 25 make up for a fine game.  All it needs is a little social push, where a player can notify a friend whenever he or she gets a better score, or completes a hard achievement, and Eskimo Fishing won’t be a diamond in the rough any more.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+
Events, Industry News, Research

e3Gaming and technology conferences are a great place for consumers and enthusiasts to come and get a sneak peak on what’s cooking in the near future. It’s also an instrument for developers and companies alike to showcase the results of hard work and get the much needed media exposure.

Just like everyone else, these technology conferences also live off sponsorship deals, often agreed with various game and software development studios. But just how big are the marketing budgets of such companies? How much are they willing to spend on a conference that promotes not only them, but also everyone else participating, including their competitors?

Getting the big picture

We tried to get a general image on the sponsorship deals, as well as who are the biggest spenders in the gaming and technology industry. We looked not only at some past conferences around the globe, but at future ones too, trying to understand who supports which conference, over a one year period (from late 2014 until late 2015) and to what extent.

As the results started coming in, we found that Unity, AdColony, and StartApp were the biggest spenders.

Unity was the only company with more than $100,000 spent, where both AdColony and StartApp spent more than $60,000 on various conferences. Even though there are events that haven’t disclosed the pricing of sponsorship deals, using only publicly available data, Unity spent a total of $135,000 over a one year period. With five conferences supported, Unity was also the most frequent sponsor, where AppsFlyer, StartApp and AdColony supported four.

Biggest events

The popularity of conferences can also be measured by the number of high paying sponsors willing to participate.

With such statistics, it’s plain to see that Casual Connect’s Amsterdam event (4-6 February 2015) was the biggest conference so far, attracting dozens of companies and having the biggest number of platinum sponsors (seven), out of 20 companies observed. Casual Connect’s San Francisco conference, planned for August 2015, comes as second best, with five companies willing to support the venue with platinum sponsorship deals.

Below is the table of top ten spenders in terms of marketing budget and the number of conferences attended. It’s important to notice that not all events share the prices for sponsorships, which is why these numbers are a (close) estimate.

Company Name Conferences Attended Estimated Minimum Conference Budget
 Unity Logo Unity 5 $132,500
 AdColony_Logo AdColony 4 $62,000
 StartApp_Logo StartApp 4 $60,000
 Admob_Logo AdMob 2 $50,000
 Supersonic_Logo Supersonic Ads 2 $34,000
 Appsflyer_Logo AppsFlyer 4 $33,000
 Tune_Logo TUNE 2 $27,000
 NativeX_Logo NativeX 2 $24,000
 PaymentWall_Logo PaymentWall 2 $22,000
 Mopub_Logo MoPub 2 $22,000

Getting the data

In order to get the bigger picture on the spending in this industry, we had a look at some of the biggest, as well as smaller conferences all around the world. We looked at how many sponsors they had, how the sponsorship tiers have been established, and how much each tier costs.

Most of these events have a pdf price list file with different sponsorship tiers and prices for each tier, available for download at their website. So, for starters, we looked at five Casual Connect events.

Even though every conference has the same pricing method (Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze sponsorship deals), every conference has a different pricing.

The Belgrade event, which took place in November 2014, had a four-tier system: Platinum ($15,000), Gold ($6,000), Silver ($3,500), and Bronze ($2,000). The Amsterdam event was more expensive: Platinum was €20,000, Gold €10,000, Silver €3,500, and Bronze was €2,500.

Next one up will be in Singapore in May, and its prices match Belgrade ($15K, $6K, $3.5K, $2K). The Casual Connect event in San Francisco will take place in August, and in order to become a Platinum sponsor, each company must pay $30,000. Gold is $12,000, Silver is $5,000, and Bronze $3,000.

The Tel Aviv event, planned for fall of 2015, has no data yet.

The PGConnects conference in London, which took place in January 2015, had a three-tier system: Platinum ($40,000), Gold ($16,000), and Silver ($8,000).

The Winter Nights mobile game conference, taking place in February 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia, is one of the most expensive conferences. It is organised on four tiers: Diamond ($50,000), Platinum ($15,000), Gold (10,000), and Silver ($5,000).

Aside from these conferences, we also analyzed the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco and Cologne, the GlobalMGF (Mobile Games Forum) events in Asia (Hong Kong), and Europe (London), all of which decided not to publicly display the prices of their sponsorship deals.

The Global Mobile Internet Conferences in the Silicon Valley, Bangalore and Beijing had very little or none information about their sponsors on their respective websites, and when reached out to, decided not to reply.

The biggest gaming show, The Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, has a list of sponsors, but no prices.

Crunching the numbers

We looked at a total of ten conferences, spanning from November 2014 to November 2015, and every one of them has tens, some twenty and more sponsors.

We tried not to get lost in the forest of sponsors, so we focused on 20 companies we thought were the most relevant and / or most present in the monetization landscape of the mobile gaming industry.  So we paid special attention to Chartboost, Appsflyer, StartApp, TUNE, AdMob, NativeX, Vungle, RevMob, HeyZap, Flurry, AdColony, Unity, Playhaven, TapJoy, Supersonic Ads, SponsorPay, NextPeer, MoPub, PaymentWall, Inneractive and Fortumo.

Unlike Unity, AdColony and StartApp, which are fairly present in the world of conferences, companies like Inneractive, Playhaven, Flurry, or HeyZap have not been seen as sponsors at any of the examined conferences.  It’s very important to stress that these numbers might not represent the exact budgets of the companies involved, nor the exact prices of different sponsorship deals.  The numbers and data presented here are based on publicly available information and represent non-confirmed, estimation-only budgets.

The source data we collected is available in this Google Spreadsheet.

Show us you care Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookBuffer this pageShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+

Join 5159 other smart people who get email updates for free!

We don't spam!

Unsubscribe any time

Archives

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