Hiring, Resource, Tech Resources, Tips and Advice

Over the last few months, we’ve been conducting interviews for various positions and it’s been difficult. Exceptional engineers are hard to come binterview handshake_shadey. So between mobile game reviews and other technical posts, I wanted to take a moment and point out some do’s and don’ts for all you smart candidates out there:

Don’t Over Sell Yourself!

Sell yourself. Of course. But be careful, over selling yourself will lead to people not assessing your character and expertise correctly, which isn’t good.  This is bad not only for the hiring company, but also for you, as the candidate. A wrong perception of who you are may cause you to:

  • … be assigned to a position that doesn’t fit your knowledge.
  • … work in a company that doesn’t fit your character.
  • … be assigned a position that you don’t want.
  • … not get the job by seeming arrogant or sometimes over qualified.

What does over selling yourself look like?

I’m not saying that candidates are lying. If I had a feeling a candidate was lying to me then, of course, I wouldn’t want to work with him. I’m talking about candidates that create an image of someone they aren’t just to get the position. When you create a wrong image, you:

  • … say you know how to do something that you actually don’t.
  • … say you know how to do something that you’re actually just 20% experienced in.
  • … will try to put on a show and act like somebody you’re not. (If you’re not a loving & caring person, don’t try to be)
  • … will try to answer questions you weren’t asked, thinking it will impress your interviewer.
  • … will try to correct your interviewer and be wrong about it. (Oh god that’s a turn off :) )

How To Not Over Sell Yourself

The evident result of over selling yourself is that you will very quickly be back on the market. And that’s if people in the company you joined really care about you. Smart managers know when a new candidate isn’t right and can recognize when they’ve hired the wrong person. Therefore, the best thing is for both sides to say goodbye nicely. It becomes even harder for managers to do this when they know they took the candidate from a previous workplace, but still the smart thing to do is part ways.

In order not to over sell yourself in an interview, think how you can help your interviewer. The guy sitting across from you asking questions and assessing your abilities is not there to fail you. He’s there to actually hire you. Give him the right reasons to hire you and not just reasons to hire you. Ask your interviewer: “What do you need?” and see if you fit that description. If the description is not clear enough, ask him to rephrase and make sure you have a clear understanding of the requirements and that they apply to you.

Another smart thing to do in an interview, is stay humble. Be patient, calm and answer what you’re asked. Don’t try to show how smart you are, if you’re smart it’ll be shown.

So stay focused, answer every question you’re asked and make sure you’re the right man for the job. The goal is not to win the interview, but to win the position that fits you most.

Good Luck!!!
:)

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Guest Post

Trapped Dots: Built in 17 Days

I turned 25 this month. I have been a full time front end developer since 2007 and for a long time I have felt that I needed to get out of my comfort zone. Trapped Dots LogoSo in late March, I decided to learn how to develop an iOS game by April 17th, my 25th birthday. I spent the rest of March mapping out my game plan. I’m not a software engineer just a front end developer, so I have no experience creating applications. Also, I have zero experience developing games of any sort, so I knew this was going to be a challenge. On top of everything else, I have a full time job that is fairly demanding. The job is with a team that is 100% remote with people all over the world, so hours are unpredictable. Needless to say, this was going to be very hard.

Learning the iOS Way

I bought two courses on Udemy. One on iOS development as a whole and another that focused solely on iOS game development. The goal was to have an app submitted to the app store by April 17th which gave me exactly 17 days. Most people told me this would be close to impossible given that I had no experience and a full time job. I might have no experience developing any iOS app, but I knew I was a quick learner and practiced some intense productivity hacks. Logo shadowI spent the first two days going through the courses. I explored the Xcode’s playground and I was able to pick up the basics pretty quickly. After the the first 2-3 days of intense course work I felt comfortable enough to move forward and begin developing my game. I constantly had my goal in my mind: to create a game in 17 days. When I was reading and going through the courses I was focused. When I wasn’t eating, resting, or exercising, I was developing my game. I was constantly thinking about the different aspects such as the art, monetization, gamification, framework, and name.  I had decided on all these things before I was even done with the crash course, which enabled me to hit the ground running when the real work started.

After about three days I felt I had enough to get started on my app. I wasn’t by any means fully prepared to develop the app, but I knew the basics and that was enough for me. To keep me on schedule I followed a rule of 3: never give yourself more then three options before you make a decision. This kept me from wasting time on decisions. I designed my game in Sketch 3 and all in one very long evening. For me the hardest step is always the first one, but once I get going I don’t stop until I physically have to.  In one afternoon, I designed the entire game from launch icon to ‘game over’ screen. Once I had the main character created the rest just designed itself.

When I finally had a prototype, I was ready to purchase my SDK license. This is where things got tough though because work picked up. I finished what I intended, but it wasn’t easy. I normally sleep about 5 hours a night, but that week I was lucky to get 4 hours. I tested the prototype on a few phones and felt ready to move forward and develop the production version. Creating the prototype was the hardest part for sure and that’s clearly where my inexperience showed.  The game is simple and I got a lot inspiration from brick breaker, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to design and how much trigonometry I needed to know.

The main goal of the game is to keep the dot trapped in the round platform. If it touches the purple outer ring you lose.  The only way to keep the dot trapped in the cirlce is by moving the red platform around the circle. Every time you touch the red platform you score a point. If you are able to aim the dot into a white diamond you get an extra point. However, if you cross a red diamond then the dot goes into frenzy mode and things get even harder.

Tapped Dots background_shaded After 17 very long days I finally finished! I submitted my app in the late afternoon and it was then approved about 7 days later. While it got approved quickly, I haven’t been able to pull the trigger and publish the game. I decided it wasn’t ready and in the 7 days it spent in limbo I revamped it and gained so much progress.  I’m currently working on implementing Soomla’s framework to add the social integration. After doing a lot of research, I found that it’s pointless to launch an app without social integration. I will be submitting my app again in early May, and I’ll hopefully be able to launch it around mid-May.

To learn more about my journey and keep up to date, subscribe to my blog. Lately, I’ve been writing posts on productivity hacks I utilized to get through this crazy journey. I’m very proud that I was able to accomplish my goal and it’s good to know that I’ll be faster next time. I have a new project brewing in the back of my head that I’ll hopefully begin in June, so be sure to stay tuned!

-M. Antonio Jaimes

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Game design, Game Reviews

icon175x175For this time I’ll be reviewing iRacer, a bike stunt game for Apple devices and I’ll tell you straight away: it’s a great game with awesome visuals, simple controls and a solid progress curve to keep you hooked for days.

Available on iTunesThe iRacer is a game built by Syed Shariefi from InfernalSoft, exclusively for iTunes. In the genre classification, I’d place this game somewhere between a racing game and a survival one, as racing in this game means you will have to work extra hard to survive the tracks and not have your head flying around the screen (yes, that actually happens).

Stunt driving

In the game you take control of a bike racer that needs to complete a 2D platformer course, going from left to right. While completing the course, you will get a chance to jump from ramps and make various stunts, adding bonus points to your overall score.

You will also collect stars for bonus points and gas canisters to keep you going until the end.

There are also obstacles along the way, in the form of cart boxes, wheels, traffic signs and whatnot, slowing you down and testing your balance, and getting off balance right before you make a ramp jump will definitely see you land forehead first. You will see your body parts fly all over the place.

The game requires iOS 5.1.1 or later

The game requires iOS 5.1.1 or later

So how do you keep your balance? The bike drives itself, you don’t need to (and you can’t really) add more gas or break. You only have two buttons, located at the bottom left and right side of the screen, that push the bike’s weight on the front or the back wheel, accordingly.

Impressive performance

Not only will you use those buttons to keep your balance, but you will also use them for stunts (flips and turns) in the air, which will help achieve a better overall score.

Like I said in the introduction, I was really impressed by the graphics of this game. Looking at the game’s screenshots, you might wonder why I say that, as the game is not visually exquisite, but look at what the game’s developer, Syed Shariefi, had to say:

“It was my first iOS game. I developed this game in Unity from scratch and used Soomla for level ups. It took me almost a year to complete the whole project, and from wireframing to the app store submission, I did everything by myself, alone. I never saw that these kinds of 3D games were developed by any team less than 5-10 developers and designers.”

Yes, he did it all by himself, which makes this game 5-10 times more impressive, for every potential developer and designer that should have assisted this man.

iracer2

The game offers a huge customization garage.

OK, so he made the game by himself, implemented seriously stunning visuals, realistic physics and good controls. Is there anything else? Why, I’m glad you asked because, there is.

The game also features a HUGE customisation shop, in which you get 10 fully upgradeable stunt bikes, and they feature a total of 35 engine parts and boosters. For example, you can increase your bike’s top speed, acceleration, spin rotation or spin handling. You can also increase the petrol tank, nitro booster and the magnet force, which basically gives this cool looking game enormous replay value. Play this game for 20+ hours, and it will no longer be the same game you played when you first installed it.

The Upgrade status

There’s also the option of building your own garage and using it to collect all 10 riders and the different outfits.

However, there is one thing which is a bit confusing. It’s called The Upgrade status. In order to get your bike upgraded, you need to fill the upgrade status bar, which seems to be filling up after each ride. I say “seems to be” because I haven’t really deciphered the way the upgrade bar is filled and what affects its filling.

Is it just the number of games played? The number of successful backflips, or the number of stars collected? I’m not entirely sure because I haven’t found it written anywhere.

Well-polished

I’d love to see more clarification on how the upgrade system works. Truth be told, maybe it is written somewhere, but I wasn’t able to find it. Which also means other people won’t be able to find it, so I’d suggest placing the description in a more visible location.

For the impatient ones, the game allows users to purchase characters and other power-ups for real money. The shop was implemented with great care, it’s properly designed and straightforward – it’s virtually impossible to purchase things by mistake.

All things considered, I was very impressed by this game. It really looks as an entire team of young professionals worked hard on it. It is visually stunning, the physics are realistic, the controls are simple and intuitive, and the customization garage is insanely good.

The game has huge replay value, with good free-to play and in-app purchase balance. For what it offers for free, investing extra dollars to unlock the characters and help the developer surely sounds like a good deal.

Click here to download iRacer.

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Tech Resources

This is the second of a 2 part post about how we improved query performance on our analytics dashboard by over 7000x. All just by moving some of our data from MySQL to Redis. Part 1 was a technical explanation of the setup, while part 2 shows the benchmarks we saw when comparing fetching data from both systems.


We use Redis a lot. It is fast, stable, effective and awesome! This time, we found Redis useful in solving a painful problem: counting unique users for multiple different filters.

We recently found a new feature in Redis (new for us at least): HyperLogLog. HyperLogLog is a growth arrowprobabilistic data structure which makes estimating the number of distinct objects in a set very fast (Actually, more like blazing fast), but with a minor standard error (You can read more about it here). The moment we read about HyperLogLog we knew there’s something in it. And now that Redis has made it so easy to use, our testing started almost immediately.

We Want Real-Time Data

Until now, we used to keep all data about unique users in MySQL. The data was saved in different variations and ready for filtering (country, day …). As time went by, our queries became slower and slower. It was a pretty grim situation when all our different optimizations on MySQL showed us there’s no real solution here. We were offered to take many different approaches using Redshift, Hadoop or ElasticSearch but we didn’t want to have our data presented in any delay to our users. We wanted a complete, real-time data presentation in our dashboard that is being instantly updated using our background workers.

Redis to The Rescue

Once we had Redis running and migrated the MySQL data in, the results were astonishing. We’ve been tweaking MySQL to try to make distinct counting faster for a couple of months now, and results were mediocre at best (not to MySQLs fault, we were counting cardinality in 10 million+ row tables), but Redis was FAST. Although speed wasn’t the only thing we had to benchmark, we weren’t sure how well the 0.8% error deviation Redis promises for HyperLogLog stood up when we ran queries on our data.

MySql is Under Performing

To get us started, here is a benchmark of part of the many many different ways we tried tweaking MySQL specifically for COUNT DISTINCT

mysql-performance

We tried different query and index structures, the conclusions we drew from the process:

  • SELECT COUNT(*) FROM (SELECT * GROUP BY id) seemed to constantly work better than SELECT COUNT(DISTINCT id).
  • MySQLWorkbench is awesome.
  • With 10M rows and getting larger every day, MySQL just wasn’t the tool for counting the cardinality of our user-data.

Revelation of Goodness

Once we migrated all of our MySQL data into Redis Keys, we saw Redis zip by MySQL in a blink of the eye.

mysql-redis

There’s no mistake in that graph. We tried to chart both performance times of MySql and Redis on the same graph, but you probably can’t see redis’s values there. Here’s a close up of Redis performance times.

redis-performance

Amazing!

The Fly in The Ointment

This can’t be all so good. HyperLogLog only gives an estimate, so then it was time to compare the estimates to the actual MySQL counts. For most queries, the difference was much smaller than the 0.8% error deviation (the smallest was 0.03%), but after benchmarking many different queries, we also had 2 that reached an error of 1.1% and 1.7%.

redis-difference

In the end, these error deviations were acceptable for some of our use cases. We’re still saving exact counts outside of Redis … Just in case.

HyperLogLog is a very powerful tool for counting unique entities. You should definitely use it if you’re willing to accept its minor standard error.

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Tips and Advice, Unity

More and more remarkable social networks for games are rising, offering a great variety of fSocial SDKeatures to help developers maximize the revenue of their game by increasing retention, engagement and virality. Yet, most of us only know about Facebook.

To make it easier, we have created a list reviewing 10 Unity SDKs and their features:

facebook-logoimage-facebook-logopng-moshi-monsters-wiki-dmua0wep1

Platforms: iOS, Android, Web Built-in Facebook Connect: Yes
Plug-ins Support: All Example Game: Candy Crush Saga
Known Model: Free Offers Monetization: Using FB ad network
Key Features: Facebook connect, share, invite, requests White Labeled: Yes

Download Facebook Unity SDK

NP_LOGO_BACKGROUND_400

Platforms: iOS, Android Built-in Facebook Connect: Yes
Plug-ins Support: Unity, Cocos2d-x, LibGdx, ANE, GameMaker Example Game: Safari Party
Known Model: Free (ads) Offers Monetization: Select developers
Key Features: Facebook connect , friend invitation via Twitter / Whatsapp / iMessage / Hangout and more, chat & messages, sync / async challenges, stream, multiplayer, adding other players as friends, leaderboards, search White Labeled: No

Download Nextpeer Unity SDK

Google_Play

Platforms: iOS, Android Built-in Facebook Connect: No
Plug-ins Support: Unity, Cocos2d-x, LibGdx, Corona, Marmalade, GameMaker Example Game: Fruit Ninja Free
Known Model: Free Offers Monetization: No
Key Features:
Achievements, leaderboards, real-time multiplayer, turn based multiplayer
White Labeled: No

Download Google play Unity SDK
logo-everyplay-part-of-unity

Platforms: iOS, Android Built-in Facebook Connect: Yes
Plug-ins Support: Unity, Cocos2d-x, ANE Example Game: The Crossing Dead
Known Model: Free (ads) Offers Monetization: Unity ads
Key Features: Video sharing, following players, discussions White Labeled: No

Download Everyplay Unity SDK

Soomla Logo - Blue

Platforms: iOS , Android , Windows Phone Built-in Facebook Connect: Yes
Plug-ins Support: Unity and Cocos2d-x Example Game: Guess the Character
Known Model: Free Offers Monetization:
Select Developers
Key Features: Connect, share status, like, upload image, get friends, get feed, invite. Unified API across Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Integrations with Game Center and Google Play Game Services coming soon. White Labeled: No

Download SOOMLA Unity SDK

kamcord logo

Platforms: iOS, Android Built-in Facebook Connect: Yes
Plug-ins Support: Unity, Cocos2d-x, Unreal Example Game: My Talking Tom
Known Model: Free Offers Monetization: No
Key Features: Achievements, leaderboards, real-time multiplayer, turn based multiplayer White Labeled: No

Download Kamcord Unity SDK

Apple Game Center logo

Platforms: iOS Built-in Facebook Connect: No
Plug-ins Support: All Example Game: Fruit Ninja Free
Known Model: Free Offers Monetization: No
Key Features: Achievements, leaderboards, real-time multiplayer, turn based multiplayer White Labeled: No

Download Apple Unity SDK

GetSocial logo

Platforms: iOS, Android, Web Built-in Facebook Connect: Yes
Plug-ins Support: Unity Example Game: N/A
Known Model: Paid Offers Monetization: No
Key Features: Friend invite, share, chat, leaderboard White Labeled: Yes

Download GetSocial Unity SDK

socialize_logo_w_sharethis

Platforms: iOS, Android Built-in Facebook Connect: Yes
Plug-ins Support: Unity Example Game: Pixelated – The Pixel Color Puzzle
Known Model: Paid Offers Monetization: No
Key Features: Share, invite, web dashboard White Labeled: Yes

Download Socialize Unity SDK

Logo_twitter_wordmark_1000

Platforms: iOS, Android Built-in Facebook Connect: No
Plug-ins Support: All Example Game: N/A
Known Model: Free Offers Monetization: No
Key Features: Share, invite followers White Labeled: Yes

Download Twitter Unity SDK

Each SDK offers something different and depending on what social features you want will determine which SDK is the right one for your game.

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Game design, Game Reviews

puzzle_iconPuzzle Warrior (singular) is a puzzle game, not to be confused with the Puzzle Warriors (plural). It is a cute game from IDKY Developments, built for Android and Apple devices.

The game is a real brain tickler that will challenge your abilities of strategic thinking and advanced planning, all the while not taking up too much of your time.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesPuzzle Warrior has a simple premise – you are presented with a specific number of cardboard boxes (it could be five, ten, fifty, depending on the level) which are spread around the map and inside those boxes are your furry friends.

Save your pets

Your goal is to smash open all of the boxes and save your friends. However, opening the boxes is the “puzzle” part of the game. They can only be opened by your characters, which are located around the boxes, and you can only smash them in straight lines. Think of them as chess rooks.

Some characters can open just one box in the line in front of them, while others can do more.

Even though this might sound a little too simple to accomplish at first, the game is actually designed quite well. At the start, the game fazes you in slowly and then picks up the pace with some great, mind-boggling puzzles.

Puzzle Warrior Screenshot

Completing the level faster gives you additional bonuses.

And it knows how to hold a person’s attention. More advanced levels bring extra complications, such as iron boxes or boxes that change directions which is quite refreshing.

The design follows the ‘cute’ pattern, as it obviously wants to be attractive to both younger and older audiences. The main antagonist is the vile Red Hoody (big sister), who teases her little brother by hiding his pets.

The Token

The brother, on the other hand, is a little kid in a dino onesie (he even has a tail), while his pets are some strange creatures I’ve never seen before so I’ll just have to go with Pokemon here.

Even though the game looks decent, it’s obvious that the graphics are not the center of attention here.

The game is completely free to play, but does have two ways it can make money. The first way is through pop-up ads, which show up every once in a while, usually after you complete a level. They don’t interfere with the game itself and don’t show up too often, so I can’t really consider them a nuisance.

The other way it earns money is through an in-game shop. The game has its own currency, the Token, which can be used to skip a level if you get stuck. Tokens can be earned by playing the game (the game rewards you with a set amount for completing a stage) or can be purchased. The shop is simple and straightforward, and offers players three packs of tokens – the bigger the pack, the bigger the discount.

However, it’s disappointing to see that Tokens can only be used to skip a level if you get stuck. With an in-game currency the options are basically limitless, so why stop at skipping a level? I’d love to see at least a hint mechanism for purchase, where the game could show you the first or last move, depending on how much you’re willing to spend.

A solid product

All things considered, Puzzle Warrior is a solid game. It runs smoothly and I haven’t seen it crash once. The artwork is pleasing to the eye and together with the music it forms the ‘cute’ look the developers were looking for.

The puzzles are good and will keep the player interested, both young and old(er). The social aspect of the game is missing, as there’s no way to share your achievements with the world, but this obviously being an offline, single-player game, doesn’t really seem to be an issue.

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Developer interviews

Making the Move and Going Social with NextpeerNP_LOGO_ICON_250X250

We had the opportunity to sit down with Nextpeer’s CEO, Shai Magzimof, to discuss their newest social SDK.

1. Tell us a bit about yourselves, the team, the vision, the journey.

Nextpeer was founded in 2011 with a simple goal, to help developers add multiplayer to mobile games. We wanted to bring the fun and enjoyment of multiplayer games we had back on PCs to the mobile era. In 2014, our multiplayer SDK was integrated into more than 7,000 games and the gamer activity across the platform was staggering. We started to communicate directly with our gamers and to collect some very interesting feedback. We quickly realized that gamers want more than just multiplayer, they want to connect with the people they play with, communicate, share their experience and invite friends to the games they love. This led us to create the Nextpeer Social SDK – the most powerful social SDK for mobile game developers.

2. Tell us about your new product – what has radically changed in Nextpeer?

The Nextpeer Multiplayer SDK allowed any game developer to add a synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer tournaments into basically any mobile game. Our latest SDK offers much more than that. Once integrated into the game, you get a complete social network with all the functionalities you’d expect in such a network, including player relationships, messaging, a news feed and much more.

iPhone_android_screens@2x

On top of the standard social network features, the multiplayer functionality has been further extended. Players can challenge friends for matches, show-off their moves with in-game snapshots and even meet new people by inviting a random player from anywhere around the world for a match.

3. What are the hardest problems you guys solve for developers?

The problems out there for mobile game devs are pretty well known, the top two being discovery and retention. The staggering amount of apps, and games in particular, available today in both the AppStore and Google Play Market makes it super difficult to move the needle for game developers.

When developers use our SDK, they are essentially connecting their game to a community of gamers who play other Nextpeer games. Those players are always looking for new, fun games to play. Discovery is done in a variety of ways, for example, players can check what other players are playing by looking at the stream. This is a revolutionary new channel that can help game developers attract new players to their game.

ANDROID_STREAM (2) (1)

Another helpful tool the SDK offers is the friends invitation screen. Players can invite friends from various social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp to join them in the game.

Come play Safari Party with me. Download the game from https://r.nextpeer.com/eyJnIjoiMTIzIiwidCI6M30 and search for my Nextpeer ID 1RP62 or my name Dror Hadadi.

The SDK also includes a massive feature set to deal with the issue of player retention. As we all know, retaining players is super important in the monetization process for games. For instance, players can interact with others via challenges and messaging. Those generate push notifications and social triggers which can lure the player right back into the game. Research also shows that socially engaged players are more “sticky” and tend to use the game more often.

Even after those basic social features, the Social SDK, much like its predecessor, offers instant multiplayer features that can be integrated into any game. Multiplayer is an important aspect of any mobile that wants to remain relevant in today’s competitive app market. The latest version of the SDK offers even greater flexibility when it comes to multiplayer gaming (now offering three different multiplayer modes – synchronous, hybrid and asynchronous) and it’s now even easier and can be done in even less time. Eager developers can even create advanced multiplayer games where players can see each other and interact in real-time. This can help the game differentiate itself from the rest of the market and capture the value it needs.

4. Which platforms does Nextpeer support?

The Nextpeer SDK supports gameplay across both iOS and Android so that players can interact and play regardless of the device they’re using. Game engine plugins are available for Unity, Cocos2d-x (both versions 2 and 3), libGDX and UIKit. We even have complete open source sample games with multiplayer for cocos2d-x and Unity.

5. How much effort does your new SDK save developers who want to implement multiplayer and social?

Building your own servers, including maintenance and support for cross platform devices is very expensive and time consuming. If someone wants to build a game, the last thing they want to do is deal with databases, Facebook IDs or matchmaking algorithms. Nextpeer takes care of all of that, leaving developers to focus on the really important aspects of their game. It’s up to the developer to decide if they’d like a simple high score challenge or utilize the more advanced capabilities which allow for a fully interactive multiplayer game. The SDK definitely can save months of valuable time.

6. There are lots of social and multiplayer SDKs out there. How do you guys stand out?

Nextpeer is currently the only social layer that can connect a game into a thriving network of players. This allows us to basically guarantee discovery and exposure for games. In terms of multiplayer, Nextpeer doesn’t lock you into one device category or social network, Nextpeer allows players to play head to head regardless of the device they’re using. It doesn’t matter if your players are on Android or iOS, our SDK supports gameplay across both platforms.

3_DEVICES

 

7. What does Nextpeer offer to developers who’ve already incorporated a multiplayer solution?

Since the SDK offers way more than just multiplayer, games that currently have an existing multiplayer solution can just as easily utilize it. Our focus is about creating a community within the game so that the game can enjoy better discovery and retention.

8. What if I’m just a single indie developer? Is Nextpeer the right solution for me?

Integrating the SDK into your game shouldn’t take more than a few hours and the basic plan for Nextpeer is free. This makes this a perfect fit for indie developers or anyone that just wants to start out and explore its abilities.

One of our more famous success stories about a game that integrated Nextpeer is 2048 (by Guntis from Estoty Entertainment Lab). Guntis developed the leading 2048 game on Android and is one of the better examples of how a single indie developer can make it big. With very few resources he managed to reach the top of the Google Play Market, overtaking big studios with huge marketing budgets. With Nextpeer, Guntis was able to add amazing social features to his game, features that only a few years ago were only accessible for top level studios and companies.

Another great example of indie success is Muoyo Okome. He was an anonymous indie developer that toyed around with various casual game titles. The thing for him was that his games were all too similar to what was popular in the market. After integrating the Nextpeer SDK into one of his games and making it multiplayer the game soared to the top of the AppStore, netting Okome thousands of dollars a day. In this case, Nextpeer proved to be the game changer in the making of that AppStore hit.

9. Can you share some numbers?  How many developers and end users has your platform attracted to date?

Nextpeer has already attracted 7,100 developers who have shipped more than 8,100 games to various app stores. The SDK itself is present in over 175M game downloads and players have already played enough multiplayer tournaments to fill up 10,000 years worth of time.

10. To wrap up, what message would you like to convey to all indie game developers out there?

Life is not easy for an indie developer. Game development is pretty hard by itself, not to mention the battle that ensues post development in the AppStore. Indies need to focus on breaking the “use it once or twice” usage habit that players habitually have.

When we created Nextpeer, we wanted to tackle those issues head on. The Nextpeer platform hosts a very large community of gamers, and by simply connecting your game to Nextpeer, developers can benefit from improved discovery almost instantly. Our social features can boost any game’s retention, and help turn those players into actual paying customers. Integration is super simple and our basic plan is free, there’s hardly any reason why developers shouldn’t at least try it and see how it performs for them.

A big thank you to Shai for sitting down with us and sharing Nextpeer’s latest additions. We can’t wait to see how the new SDK performs and make sure you check it out!

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Research, Tips and Advice

In 2013, we did a 7 Offer Walls Providers to Monetize Your Mobile Game, that laid out the top players for offer walls. Since then the industry has had its ups and downs and there offer-wallare some new players to pay attention to. Many of these companies offer various advertising platforms with offer walls being one option.

For game developers, one of the main questions is how to monetize the app. More often than not, paying users are only 1-2%. Most monetization comes from advertising be it through banner ads or native ads. Offer walls are one way for app developers to monetize their non-paying users and tap into the other 98-99% of users.

Top Offer Walls of 2015:

Fyber Official Logo

Founded in 2009, Fyber aims to help mobile game and app developers monetize their games by providing quality advertisements. They also assist developers execute smart monetization strategies such as utilizing offer walls. It currently serves over 320 million monthly active users. Fyber offers a Unity Plugin that integrates their Ad Monetization Platform and a Native platform for Android and iOS.

tapjoy

Tapjoy, one of the biggest companies in the industry, was founded in 2007 and currently has over 2 million daily ad engagements.  Tapjoy’s main objective is to help maximize the value for every freemium mobile app developer.  They achieve this through their Marketing Automation and Monetization Platforms, one example being offer walls. Tapjoy offers a Unity Plugin as well as an Adobe Air plugin for iOS and Android users.

supersonic-logo

SupersonicAds, founded in 2009, is a leading mobile advertising platform. They offer a cloud-based SDK for offer wall, video, interstitial, and mediation mobile advertising. Many of their ads are high quality and brand focused, so the advertisements are most likely to come from big companies such as Dove and M&M instead of Zynga Poker. Supersonic also offers a Unity plugin as well as SDKs for iOS and Android.personaly_Soom.la

Personaly

Persona.ly proprietary technology supports all major platforms (Android/iOS/Unity/Adobe AIR) and has a rich video inventory, as well as a large variety of apps and surveys. They focus heavily on the user itself, smart use of data and personalization tools – like gamification engine that helps to increase retention and LTV. Lately, Persona.ly has put a great deal of effort into monetizing emerging markets such as Brazil, India, Russia, and East Asia.

InmobiInMobi, founded in 2007, is one of the leading mobile advertising companies in the industry. Offering a variety of services such as a single SDK for ad monetization, an app-install platform, and a native ads platform. InMobi’s native content ads come in a variety of formats such as a content streaming, content walls, app walls, and as a chat list. All ads are seamlessly blended into your style of game and are relevant for your users. InMobi is compatible with a variety of platforms and offers an SDKS for iOS and Android and has a Unity Plugin.

mobileCore

Part of ironSource, mobileCore was founded in 2013 to offer app developers various ad formats and engagement tools that vary from traditional display ads. mobileCore believes that each app is different, so ads and the displays should be custom designed to each app. One of their features is the App Offer Wall, In-Stream ads, Top Page Widget ads, and Stickeez (custom developed by ironSource).

TrialPay, founded inTrialPay logo 2006, developed Evergreen, a single SDK that offers app developers the ability to leverage custom solutions and third party platforms to engage the right target audience. TrialPay’s offer walls have a wide selection of categories along with unique in-store offers and in app commerce.

NativeX_Logo

Originally known as W3i and was then rebranded as NativeX to emphasize their focus on their native ad platforms approach. NativeX was founded in 2000 and has acquired over 1 billion users across 178 countries.  NativeX takes a unique approach to in-app advertising by giving mobile game developers a variety of reward and non-reward ad formats such as offer walls.SuperRewards offer walls

SuperRewards logo

SuperRewards, a subsidiary of Playerize, was a pioneer of virtual currency monetization of social games has grown since its founding in 2007.  The two main channels of monetizations are direct pay and offer walls. SuperRewards’ offer walls are highly-targeted advertisements and directed to the correct users.

Everbadge logo

Founded in 2010, Everbadge offers two types of offer walls: incentivized and non-incentivized. The incentivized offer wall is geared towards games that deal with virtual currency or have a point system in the game. The non-incentivized offer wall acts more like an added feature in the game showing off other apps.

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Industry News

During the last decade, one of the biggest trends in the startup world has been lean startup and the push to release an MVP to the market early. In the gaming space, however, I have seen many companies shy awayLean Startup? from this approach. Obviously, a game success is greatly dependent on the quality of the art work and how lovable the characters are. Well, maybe it’s time to revisit that assumption.

At a recent event I attended, MGF Asia in Hong Kong, I sat-in on two sessions that discussed a very similar concept. Can a studio release an MVP and if so, what does it look like? Roy, the CEO of Forgame, argued that you can actually. He asked the crowd, “would candy crush be engaging with squares, rectangles, circles and triangles?” He then rhetorically answered that from their experience you can optimize the core loop without the graphics. He challenged the crowd to think about the production quality of Flappy Bird and had them ask themselves if a game could be enjoyable regardless of the art level. Roy explained that his studio is practicing the concept of a Minimal Playable Product and puts the focus on making the core game loop extremely engaging by iterating with a rather sketchy level of art.

In a subsequent session, Chris Natsume, of Boomzap, explained how investing in art at an early stage can lead you down a bad path.  If you invest in art in the early stages then it can sway your decisions, probably for the worse, to justify your earlier decisions since you’re already heavily invested. “Those littles cute monsters are now sitting on your back and making you less agile.” According to Chris, their approach is to “build dirty and change big” and never be afraid to kill a game if its not good. He explained, “you have to pretend you are the publisher and ask yourself, would I invest the marketing dollars.”

While the video from MGF might not be available for a while, I did come across a lecture on the same topic from Gabby Dizon, CEO of Altitude Games and a past employee of Boomzap. The same concepts are conveyed in this lecture.

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Game Reviews

twisted_logoTwisted Paths is one of those games you fall in love on first sight and after playing it for a couple of hours– you fall in love with it even more.

It is a well thought out game that has all the elements of a great game: a solid gameplay, quality controls, good visuals, nice music and a couple of twists
which will keep you interested for a long time. To say the least – Twisted Paths is a great game.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTuneswindowsstoreThis is a 2D arcade platformer, developed and published by Skakac Software for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

The premise of the game is simple: your goal is to guide a small white dot through a series of obstacles as long as you can. The dot will move horizontally, from left to right, until you press the single control movement button. Pressing that button changes the direction of the dot diagonally. First press, and the dot goes up diagonally, second press is down, third is up again, you get the picture.

Guiding the dot through obstacles means you need patience and good reflexes because while some of them are simple and static, others move around the field or rotate.

Neon is the way

When having such a simple game design, it’s easy to mess up the visuals and have the entire game collapse. The game is centered around a simple dot, which the player puts the majority of his focus on, so having too graphics can draw his attention away and he’ll end up dropping the game altogether. Twisted Paths makes no such mistake and creates beautiful, simple graphics – with a touch of pure class.

As you progress through the game, the surroundings will change colour almost insensibly. The colour types are mild, with a ‘neon glow’ feel to it, without drawing too much attention to it or being agonizingly bright to the eye. It’s a great final touch to an already solid design.

Mobile games should be about simplicity and effectiveness.

 

But that’s not the only detail I spotted that separates this game from the others. A lot of thought has been invested in the music, as well.

There are a lot of games with short ‘rounds’, where a player makes a mistake early in the round and is forced to start all over again – think of Eskimo Fishing.

What makes these games additionally annoying is the music, which is restarted together with the round. Sometimes you’ll just end up replaying the first ten seconds of the music background for hours, just adding to the frustration.

Twisted Paths has a cool, Daft Punk style background music which plays on even if you lose. It creates the feeling that even though you lost and have to start over again, you’re not really starting over again.

Twisting and turning

There is another detail worth mentioning. I’ve seen, more often than not, games similar to this one get published without any extras – power ups, boosts, bonuses, anything that spices the game up. It’s a shame because simple, straightforward games need that little ‘extra’ something, otherwise they get really boring, very fast.

Colour-changing background adds another layer of awesome to the game.

 

Twisted Paths (again) makes no such mistake, and offers a range of boosts and power ups to add another layer to the game and it does it with great style.

While moving through the game, you can collect coin like fragments, which can be traded in the shop later. The shop offers three power ups: Magnet, which draws all nearby fragments to you without you actually needing to pick them up, Ghost – to let you walk through obstacles for a few seconds, and Shield which serves as an extra life, in case you hit a wall.

I really like this approach – it rewards you for playing the game and motivates you to continue playing, as with power ups you can reach bigger high scores and progress even further. The game links up with your Google+ account and there are two leaderboards: a global one and one for your friends list.

Well done, lad

Twisted Paths is a game that has it all – great gameplay and good controls. It has quality graphics which are accompanied by suiting and pleasant music, and various power ups and boosts are the proper icing on the cake.

While reviewing, I was trying my best to analyse every aspect of the game and looked for any areas it could be improved. Honestly, after a couple of hours spent with the game, I can’t think of anything.

Twisted Paths is a well built, finished and polished product that has everything it takes to become great. It’s a perfect mobile game.

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