Fun Stuff

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

Some background

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

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

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

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

The corporate experience

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

But the heart wanted more …

A new journey

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

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

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In App Purchase Tips, Industry News

Google recently announced that they are considering adding In-App Purchase price ranges to the Play Store. This comes on the heels of Google’s loss in court that forced them to pay $19M in IAP refunds as well as the fire Google and Apple have been receiving for the poor control users have over their IAP payments especially when it comes to children. Apple also faced the same problems and were forced to add more controls and more transparency and today it’s Google’s turn. in app purchase price ranges to be added to google play store

Password requirement and price ranges

Google already made one change earlier this year. They improved the control users have over In-App Purchases by adding more configuration options regarding the password requirement. This week Google also hinted that they are going to display the price range of virtual goods offered in any app in the store.

What developers should know?

One impact of this change on developers is that these moves by Apple and Google potentially increase users’ trust in their stores. Developers that considered alternative stores should check to see where the wind is blowing with regards to store download volumes.
The more important change is how the new change might impact users’ decision to download the game or not. Parents might not allow their kids to download games with IAP items that reach $99 so savvy developers might limit the items in their in game store to $19.99 or $29.99. The change unintentionally gives advantage to games that focus on selling consumables. Even when the biggest item in the store is $9.99, payments can accumulate quickly if the game allows the user to purchase them over and over again. I expect to see more developers adopting a virtual economy model that includes single use items, resources and other consumables such as: lives, shots and fuel.
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Game Reviews

Angularis is one of those games that when you first look at them you have a feeling that with the right music it can put you in a trance. Something about it’s darkness and the beams of light I guess. The game is made with Unity for iOS and Android

Rotate and match  the light pattern

The gameplay itself is pretty easy to pickup. There are two short beams in the center which you can rotate left and right in 90 degrees at a time while there are 2 longer beams that come towards you. Every time, the beams are coming towards you, you should rotate the short beams to match the pattern of the longer ones. That’s it. 

Instant gratification for matching

While this can be fun for a short while, I think the game has more potential with some adjustments. The first thing I would do is make the longer beams closer together but moving slower. This gives a stronger sense of dimension, and in this case it will create a movement illusion. In addition, it will give the user a chance to read the next moves if he already matched the pattern and has a split second to look ahead. In other words, it gives the user instant gratification for matching the pattern early.

Diversify the difficulty curve

The other thing that can make a big difference here is to split the game into quicker patches and slower patches and even cool down patches. It makes the game less monotonous and give users some time to breath and enjoy what they accomplished. During cool down the game can add some visual elements in the sides of the screen as well as different music to create transitions between sections. 

Find your game progression scheme

The game is currently using Gamecenter for scores and achievements but is actually lacking the more basic sense of achievements - there is no sense of progress. Fixing it requires some work: the first step is come up with missions that are related to gameplay and are things the users can control. Here are some examples:

  • Do a 360 rotation to match a pattern
  • Do a 270 rotation when 90 degrees are needed
  • Match a future pattern before its turn reached
  • Survive the first quick patch
  • Match 10 patterns in the least amount of rotations possible
  • Reach a certain score
These are obviously just ideas, but they are much more interesting and actionable than the current ones. The next step is to communicate the missions to the users as they enter the game mode. This is pretty basic if we want users to be aware of the missions. The last step is to celebrate the completion and reward users for their success.

Upgradable goods will bring your users back

Another important suggestion is to take advantage of virtual goods to create a sense of progress and make the games more interesting. In games that have no levels, it is common to add upgradable virtual goods to give users something to work for and motivate them to keep playing. The options in this game are quite limited but there should be an opportunity to set this up around “temporary shields”. What I mean by temporary shields is the type of virtual goods that lasts for 10 or 15 seconds and provide immunity from traps, enemies and other stuff that will normally kill you. In Angularis, the main reason for the turn to end is when the user doesn’t match the beams on time. A shield might look like a round source of light that can connect beams even when the user fails to align them. Developing further on this concept means creating two main virtual goods:
  • Upgradable good – shields that has levels that increase their effectiveness
  • Single use / resource good – energy that is required to power the shield

The combination of these two usually provides better results. The single use goods, increase the engagement of users with the virtual economy and the upgradable goods give users motivation to come back and make it to the next level.
 

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We are happy to announce the brand new Profile module, now available to the SOOMLA community.

The Profile Module

SOOMLA is always looking for new ways to help game developers make their games better. One of the key elements in modern game development is social network visibility, game developers want their games to interact with social network, this way the players become the evangelists of the game, and the game gets noticed, which leads to more players.

The Profile module helps game developers connect their game to the social web. With Profile integrated into your game, you can easily authenticate players using various social networks, allow the game to post on players’ feeds, get information about their friends, and much more!

Player Motivation

What is the player’s motivation to grant your game access to their social network? one word… Rewards!

Players love to get rewarded for preforming social interactions within your game, with Profile it’s easy to do so. The module allows the developer to attach a reward to almost every social interaction within it, when players preform it they get rewarded. Since Profile is a part of the SOOMLA framework, it’s easy to attach a reward which is bound to your Store virtual economy, meaning the player can get virtual item rewards for his/hers social interactions.

Get It Now!

As with all SOOMLA modules we try and cover as many platforms as possible, the Profile module is currently available for iOS (ios-profile), Android (android-profile), Cocos2d-x (cocos2dx-profile), and Unity3d (unity3d-profile).
Much like our other modules, this module is open-source, so there’s no reason for not getting it right now, and if you wish you can even contribute to the project.

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Game Reviews

the tower is a fun action game that can give you ideas about virtual economies and game designThe Tower is a fun game from the makers of 2048 – Ketchapp (here is a link for iOS). If you want ideas for making great games, read on.

Simple mechanics – tap at the right moment

The goal of this game is to build the highest tower by adding bricks/levels on top of each other. Each brick is moving back and forth from right to left and tapping it at the right moment will place it perfectly on top of the existing tower. Missing the perfect moment to tap means that some of the brick is falling down and the building becomes narrow. The less wide the tower is the harder it is to land the bricks on top of it. Sound simple enough – it is! I personally find this mechanic extremely engaging. Another game that uses the same “tap at the right time” mechanic is CSR racing. While that game is far more advanced and rich in terms of the virtual economy and graphics, the basic mechanic is very similar – you have to shift gears by tapping at a very certain time and if you miss it you are likely to lose.

The height of the tower is the achievement and score

This game has an extremely simple system for keeping users engaged over time. Your goal is to always break your previous record. The only scoring and progress system is the height of the tower which makes for a very visual representation that contributes to users’ engagement with the score. Who wouldn’t want their tower to be the tallest? Of course, this system usually creates a problem of convergence – the higher the record the harder it is to break it. Lack of progress can lead to frustration unless there is a mechanism to handle it. In this game, the virtual economy gives the game an extra layer. Once users master the basic principals of building tall towers, they discover more depth that is introduced by the ability to turn collected coins into virtual goods that assist in reaching for the sky.

Focus on rating to get viral

The main social action in the tower is rating, there is no use of a facebook connect plugin here. There are multiple buttons to direct the user towards rating the game and before the user is redirected, there is a nice dialog that makes the transition smoother. There is one place for improvement here. For users who already connected on Game Center, I would recommend switching the rate button action to open Game Center instead of redirecting to the App Store. This allows users to rate the game without leaving the app.

Virtual economy with no in-app purchases – wait what?

One of the reasons I really like this game is that it uses virtual economy purely for engagement and not for monetization. This sounds almost crazy in today’s trends towards in-app purchasing but it shows the designer actually grasped the original purpose of virtual economies and their potential as a retention mechanism. While at first it seems like the game is about tapping at the right moment, the only way to build tall buildings is to master the use of the upgrades. After a few sessions, users already have one or two thousands of coins and can immediately start buying items that are priced in the hundreds:
  • Save Me
  • Extra lives
  • Headstart
  • Redo last move
  • Coin doubler
Most of these items are priced for real money in other games but the tower takes a casual approach and sells them for in-game currency. This adds the game another layer of complexity, increases retention and solves the game progression problem. A+ on the use of virtual economy here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Back in July I gave a session at the Casual Connect Conference in San Francisco. The talk was about designing games with virality in mind to maximize the amount of installs the game gets from online sharing and rating as well as from offline word of mouth.

After getting a lot of positive feedback about the session, I decided it’s worth sharing it here with you.

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Game Reviews

PickCrafter is a Minecraft themed incrementer game. It was made with popular graphic engine Unity and is leveraging SOOMLA for in-app purchase. You can download it for iOS devices or Android using the links below.

iTunes_download_link.PNG    Google_Play_Badge.PNG 

Gain resources and make investments

The goal of PickCrafter is simple, get as many picks as possible. Users can start gaining picks by clicking on their screen or tilting their phone as if they were using a pickaxe. Every few picks, users will discover a new resource units – these are the coins of the game. Once users gain enough of these units, they can start making investments. These can be divided into two categories:
  • Items that increase number of picks users get by tapping on the screen
  • Items that give you picks while the game is running
This model usually works in getting users engaged into the race for becoming a billionaire however, there is some room for improvement here.

Gradual complexity increase to ease users into the game

increasing complexity too quickly can confuse your players. its better to ease users into the game by unlocking elements over time.PickCrafter starts with 6 different types of currencies / resources you can gain by swinging your pickaxe and then there are 30 items you can buy and each one is only purchasable with one type of resource. Even complex simulation/strategy games have a max of 3 currencies so 6 would confuse most players. The solution to this is to give users time to learn the different types by gradually introducing them. This serves another purpose which is to give users a sense of progress in the game

Adding items that increment while the game sleeps

If you look at some of the other games in this genre you will discover that some of them also give users a way to make money while the game sleeps. The way this is set up is that users start off with a base rate off incrementing and a limit to how much they can accumulate before they have to check in again. Users can then buy items to increase the rate or the limit. There are two reasons why you want this functionality in your game:

  1. It forces users into making strategic choices and defining their investment philosophy
  2. It makes users work the game into their daily schedule – this is what makes games addictive 

Creating a sense of progress in the game

This game genre has no levels or scores like most other games. Users basically get a sense of progress when they either have a lot of virtual currency or a high rate of accumulation. It’s important to represent both in the game. One thing that PickCrafter is missing is the rate of picking per second (PPS in the game) resulting from the users tapping or swinging action. Another way to improve here is to create some missions and celebrate their achievement.
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Store-Windows-Phone-04Good news for the SOOMLA developer community: Windows Phone is supported by SOOMLA Store.

Windows Phone need is now satisfied

We’ve been hearing a lot of developers asking for Windows Phone integration as part of their attempt to release games to more app stores and we just couldn’t stay indifferent to all the requests. We were looking for ways to get Windows Phone support to the community and it was with a lot of luck that we found Guillaume and Fabrice and the rest of the guys from Shinypix, a great indie studio from France, who were already doing it and agreed to polish it and release it to the SOOMLA community. We LOVE contributors! Thank you guys.

wp-store is actually a pretty big thing for us. We wanted to support Microsoft’s great mobile platform for a long time now and we’re very happy it’s here now. It won’t take long until we get it connected to Unity and Cocos2dx (as we do with all native platforms we support).

Same conventions through all Store modules

When you’ll look into the code of wp-store, you’ll see that the features are identical to all SOOMLA Store modules. It includes all the main classes you already know like StoreInventory and StoreInfo as well as the the storage and connections to IAP. We will soon also add detailed docs and articles about wp-store into the new knowledgebase at http://know.soom.la.

Contribution is key for success

We encourage everyone from the SOOMLA community to contribute. Contribution is the key for the success of any open-source community and at the end, you’ll be the ones benefiting from that. It can be more platforms, solving technical issues and answering others on forums. Whatever you can do to get the community forward will bring you respect and will drive technology forward.

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Game Reviews

Compulsive is a fun matching game with some cool twists and clear user interface. It was developed with cross platform engine Cocos2d-x and you can find it in Google Play as well as in the Apple App Store.

 

iTunes_download_link.PNG    Google_Play_Badge.PNG

Matching color patterns and chain reactions

The basic objective of the player in Compulsive is to match sequences of squares from the some color. When such a sequence is pulled together, it explodes into pieces allowing the top squares to gravitate towards the bottom and possibly create new matches by doing so. This can often cause a chain reaction which is one of the best ways to give the user an immediate gratification. That part of the game works quite well and the game is indeed fun enough to be featured by both Apple and Google.
drag squares across the screen to match colors and see what kind of a chain reaction you created as the rest of the squares fall down

Sequencing missions to create progress

The part represents the largest improvement opportunity is the game progression scheme. The current setup is that of 3 game modes with a leaderboards for each one and missions that most users are not even aware of. I would suggest creating a sequence of challenges where each challenge includes a mission in each one of the game modes. Users have to complete a certain challenge before they can move to the next one. The progress from one challenge to the next one can be visualized as a path. More importantly, the mission at hand should be presented to the user at the beginning of the session and the progress towards completion needs to be tracked in the session.

Game Center implementation

Unlike many other games that use the Gamecenter with the design that comes out of the box. The creators of compulsive were able to adapt the design to fit the rest of the game while still enjoying the server side benefits of Gamecenter. More games should attempt to do that rather than defaulting to the generic design.

Creating demand for virtual goods

The game currently offers three in-app purchase items that give users gameplay advantages. The problem is that the user don’t need these advantages. There is not enough challenge for users to feel like they really need them. The first step here is to present users with challenges as suggested above. Once they are struggling with making progress, suggesting them the powerups in the pre-session screen might get them interested in giving the IAP items a try. 

Opt-in videos as a light form of advertising

Another good idea is to give users a chance to own in-app purchase items by watching videos. This gives users a chance to try the items before buying them while generating revenue for the developer. One option to look at in this category is Vungle
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If you’re a Unity3d game developer, you’re probably familiar with Unity’s Asset Store, which looks like most app stores only that instead of apps it provides pre-built assets that you can import directly into your project. The SOOMLA team is excited to announce that SOOMLA is now available in Unity’s Asset Store! This means that with a few short clicks  you can have SOOMLA’s unity3d-store integrated into your project. You no longer need to clone the project from Github and drag the SOOMLA prefabs into your scene – you can just download and import from the Asset Store.

SOOMLA on Unity Asset Store

 

So why is SOOMLA so great and worth downloading?!

All Free to Play games use in-app purchases to monetize. SOOMLA offers game developers a free and easy way to do this. SOOMLA’s Unity in-app purchase plugin is the best tool to model your virtual economy and integrate IAP into your game. In addition to modeling and easy-to-use IAP this plugin will provide you with encrypted on-device storage and a single API to do all your virtual economy operations. SOOMLA for Unity is available for iOS / Android / Amazon. You can read more documentation and other articles at http://know.soom.la.

Easy as 1, 2, 3

To download SOOMLA from the Asset Store all you have to do is:

  1. Open the Asset Store in the Unity editor & search for “Soomla”.
  2. Click the “Download” button.
  3. Once the download is done, click the “Import” button to bring SOOMLA into your project.

Import SOOMLA

If you like SOOMLA, please rate us or write a review in the Unity Asset Store.

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