Here a recorded video about the talk (The talk is in Arabic so I will post the slides with English explanation to everything in here as I done with A Maze talk)
P.S. The talk is not recorded from the beginning they started a bit late (10 mins late)
Let’s cut the crap talk I am doing and let’s get to the talk itself The talk is called Tossing a Coin which is mainly my personal experience and trip about publishing commercial games till my latest game Atomic+ and telling people there is mainly a huge part of luck in all that but in the end do your best and may be the luck be on your side
How many people know this game? [lots of people raise their hands]
Yes its Flappy Bird
You play as a bird that falls with gravity and when you touch the screen the bird flap its wings and jumps up. You have to pass through the pipes and avoid hitting into them or falling off the screen.
The game is stupidly hard and that’s because of the game having bad collision (hit boxes are a bit larger than object).
The pipes are same pipes from Super Mario.
So nothing unique about that game.
Although of all what I said the game had millions of downloads, it was the top in AppStore (for long time).
Everything started by some school students who downloaded the game and started challenging each other.
After sometime some people started recording weird vines about people playing Flappy Bird and getting angry and frustrated and because some of these vines are pretty weird and funny it caught people attention started wondering about the game and downloading it.
Also the cute little bird icon caught some people eyes.
But that’s not enough reason for getting to top of AppStore. The main reason is LUCK
because of it school children found the game and because of Luck someone started vineing and these vines went viral.
Tossing A Coin
is the name of my presentation today where I am gonna talk about my personal experience of releasing Commercial games in different stores.
Who am I? I am Ahmed Abdel Samea Khalifa
Indie Game Developer / Designer.
Created around 5 Full games (2 flash games, 1 pc game, 2 iOS games) you can check them from games section on the website
Created over than 30 prototypes mostly are done in gamejams.
Now working on new mobile game.
Why do I make games? First answer because I love games (love playing games, making games, watching games).
Its the only way I can express myself, as you can see I am terrible writer I can’t write good lines, sometimes feel shy talking to people. I make games to express a feeling I have, explain idea or thought or/and telling people my opinion about certain topic.
Games make people happy and I love seeing happy people with smiley faces so its another reason I make games.
How many people know this game? [Some people raise their hands] yes its 2048
You have to swipe the screen in any direction so all tiles moves in that direction and equal tiles are combined in one tile with summation of both tiles. You have to get 2048 to finish the game. Every step new tiles entered the map with value of 2.
How many people know this game? [very few people raise their hands] Its called Threes
Its the original game of 2048
. Its same as 2048 but instead of 2 you play with 3 (From here come the name).
2048 is a copy of a game called 1024. 1024 is a copy of Threes but we can’t blame the developer he was just a little kid trying to learn programming so he created open source game 1024 based on his favorite game Threes.
Although Threes came out before 2048 but 2048 is much more famous and having more downloads than threes. So why is that?
Some people says because 2048 is a free game while Threes is paid one that makes people download it rather than threes.
Also being an open source project lots of clones of 2048 are placed in the store and on web and on every platform so it was easier to find 2048 than finding Threes.
Developer thinks that colors and animation he used is better than Threes (my view because it use de-saturated colors while Threes colors are more vivid) I think that reason is lame.
Also some people (like me) prefer number 2 and its multiple rather than 3.
But the hugest part of success of 2048 over Threes is LUCK
because of it people noticed 2048 after Threes was out and become famous somehow.
is a game I made for PC with a friend of mine Omar Khaled Shoukry
(that’s why we named ourselves Omidos (Omar + Amidos)). The game is top down shooter where you play with antivirus who wants to destroy viruses infecting the system. Viruses in the game act like real life computer virus (ex: Port Holes cause more viruses to enter the system, viruses infect files and replicates, Worms replicates themselves very quick …etc).
Since me and Omar love top down shooters so we decided to create one with a twist where the player can shoot from front and back (back is not for aiming its just supportive gun so you should choose carefully the best supporting gun in the back).
The game was part of Imagine Cup 2012 as a request from my friend Omar and also as a target and ambition to us (That’s why the game is about viruses and antiviruses).
We worked on the game for 6 Full months we everyday test the game and add new features and create new levels (I work more than 10 hours daily during that period on the game).
It was my first commercial game since I felt I put huge effort in the game. I thought I could charge some money from people for it. As I can’t find sponsor for it (like flash games) as it was made in XNA framework.
On the release day the game FAILED
I always learn stuff by the hard way after releasing the game and something happens I start thinking why that happens so let’s analyze why it failed.
Since we had small time frame for the game and we aimed very high and I wanted to have aesthetics that makes you feel you are inside a computer so I got inspired by Geometry Wars graphics. Since Geometry Wars also a top down shooter people called my game Geometry Wars clone without even playing the game (as its different). So the look hurt the game a lot.
We designed around 75 Levels which was a huge mistake because most of them are just redundant levels with nothing new so the unique levels are just about 40 or 50 level max and all other levels are just repeating levels so people gets bored quickly before seeing different kinds of mechanics with different levels.
The game was designed by me and Omar and tested by us and other friends who are very good at top down shooters so the game was very very hard to any newbie and we didn’t notice that at all because for us its easy. Even when we where designing levels, I test the level and found it easy so I ask Omar so he agrees so we increase the difficulty of the level till making it insanely difficult.
The game didn’t focus to show the player what’s good about the new mechanic or how to choose the back weapon well so no one cared about the back weapon, so it was nothing to people as if there is nothing new just more headache.
I didn’t support XBox controller (as game was for PC) and most of top down shooter fans love to play games with dual sticks rather than keyboard and mouse.
Bad coverage hurt the game more because on day of release (I was still not very known) so when I sent emails to journalist in the indie press, it never got their attention because of the game look and lots of top down shooter games are released frequently, so rarely anybody wrote about it. Even the small amount who wrote about the game were not good reporters some of them didn’t judge the game and started judging me because the game was in English not Arabic and was for PC and not for iPad, another one gave the game bad rating because its PC game and he don’t like small games to be on PC and I should have made it for mobile devices.
Although all these reasons that caused the game to fail but the main reason behind everything was LUCK
as usual because Flappy Bird had nothing and it was a hit.
After that huge failure I got pretty depressed and in very bad mood so to get out of that mood I started creating more games (prototypes).
So I created that game.
And more prototypes than I can share here. I made all these prototypes just to forget about my sadness and get out of it but what I didn’t know at same time that this was some kind of marketing to myself. I built a big audience, built fans on twitter by posting to #ScreenShotSaturday and following people and talking to designers and developers. Also making lots of games made the press featuring most of my games without even me asking them. So I had better contacts with press and more fans than before. That’s also the same reason why people create free games because they want to create fan base for themselves before going commercial.
Match a Number
my first commercial game on iOS (also any mobile device) where you have to get the target number by holding a tile and move vertical or horizontal till you get the same result (blue tiles are positive, red tiles are negative, yellow tiles are multiplication).
The game was released on 14th Novemeber (I spend around from 1.5 to 2 weeks (Full time) working on it), I sent lots of emails to review sites, twitter friends and some of my fans, also made lots of tweets about game before release and on release day. I got nice amount of coverage but I just got 2.33K downloads (2.06K are free downloads as I set the game for free on my Birthday) I can say that game is a bit success compared to the massive failure of Clean’Em Up but still the money came didn’t cover the development cost [These stats are a bit old].
Atomic+ is my second commercial game on iOS where you play as that hollow circle that rotate in orb around the center and you should pick squares and avoid hitting white small dots (bullets) coming from the center. Getting a square make the player change direction of rotation and change background color and change the center shooting pattern (as center shoots bullets with a pattern that changes with each square). Touching the screen increase orbit radius and releasing decrease it. The game is nominated as Best Audio Game in IndiePrize 2014 in Amsterdam (Thanks to Essam Ghamdi without his music that game wouldn’t be possible or a hit).
The game was released on 19th December (I spend from 3 to 4 weeks working on it (Full Time)), I did same marketing for it like for Match a Number but this time I didn’t even cared a lot about resending again to people or following up with press. But the game was downloaded 31.8k times (23.2k are free downloads on my Birthday) That number is huge even the amount of money generated from it covered more than the development cost. Why that happens to Atomic+ and not Match a Number? That’s because Atomic+ was featured as Best New Game on launching week [These stats are a bit old].
So how and why I get best new game? As usual I think after something happens not before it.
It was Christmas time so people are willing to pay for a game and play in the weekends but that’s not a good reason because more games are released in Christmas than any day in the year.
Game vivid colors that matches iOS 7 design so maybe one of the reviewer found it sexy and looks nice on iOS and fits their new OS so he decided to feature it.
One button game which is easily to be played at any place and anytime with no hard or long time waiting or preparing to play the game.
The game was under Music Genre, how could that help? I didn’t think about it but it was great choice. All games should have two genres so Atomic+ was Action as first genre, but I got confused for the second genre I wanted to pick Arcade but there was no Arcade so I chose Music. So when some people started buying the game on release day (since there wasn’t a lot of games in Music genre as in Action genre) the game became on top charts of Music genre easier than Action genre so it helped it to keep for longer time with good rating.
But really the main reason behind that was LUCK
as in my view Match a Number is a better game and better design than Atomic+ but Atomic+ was the hit.
So is everything happens is related to LUCK
so why should put lots of work in games?
No that’s not true its not all about LUCK
You should build fanbase before launching your game by making lots of free games or prototypes, engaging with people on twitter or on forums. A good example of good fanbase game went to Steam is Anodyne, since the developer kept a daily devlog on Tigsource till the end of development so he had a huge fanbase on the release day so one of these people put it on torrents so Sean used that point very good and made a 1$ discount for the game and featured his game on the piratebay website asking people to vote for it on Steam Greenlight. He got lots of votes and it was greenlit.
Always think out of the box never repeat, never clone, try to look different, played different, focus on the new thing in your game not the traditional stuff. Bad example for that was Clean’Em Up because I use same art style like Geometry Wars people thought it was a clone (we are not on candy land anymore).
Polish your game never release game look so bad or feels bad in playing (even as prototype) if you are going to release it in the wild just give some polish. Try to make your game looks new and nice and looks you.
Choose correct audience for your game which means if you are going to release game for word games players so you should focus on how to make your game good for those people not on how to make your game better to all people, because in the end they are your main buyers and target player who will never let you down and if your game is good they will buy it. So focus on these people rather than trying hard to appeal to everyone.
Last thing is always do your best and leave the rest to fate (Don’t worry a lot about LUCK