Updating Glide – The Full Breakdown

 

It was always the plan when we started building • Glide to run a fair few updates to game this year. This is a breakaway for us when, in all transparency, we usually build a game and once finished, we simply move onto the next one.

After being featured by Apple in 110 countries, we knew that we had a great foundation to build upon, and within a week or so we added a new “Arcade Mode” along with a Remove Ads In App Purchase, which I’m convinced was a huge mistake on launch.

Arcade Mode


 

My gut feeling tells me this cost us a few feature spots in the important tier 1 countries, especially in our own back yard here in the UK. In hindsight this is probably one of my biggest mistakes in a long time, and that’s saying something!

But, hey, you live and learn and I never dwell on these things, there’s just no point.

For our next update, I wanted to add some new modes that significantly upped the speed of the game, as whilst the Zen mode was ok, we really wanted to inject a bit of pace 🙂

So, 3 new modes, Blast, Duo & Reverse, each with 20 short levels in each, usually just 1 or 2 actual Buildbox game play scenes.

These are pretty tricky and perfect “bus stop” or “queue” games lasting around 20 seconds each. Hyper Casual to the extreme.

Here’s the Buildbox Mindmap for the new level mode additions. You’ll see the new sections on the left, I’ve re-coloured them to make it stand out more, and the original game on the right, quite a difference!

Updated Buildbox Mindmap


Glide Updated Buildbox Mindmap

Blast


Duo 


Reverse


 

Next on the list was the UI and a fresh new look to reflect the new modes. With 20 levels per mode, and of course the new modes themselves, I wanted to do something a little more that just a new button.

This also lends itself really nicely if/when we want to add some new modes into the game, we can simply bolt these on without any major hassle, something you should always be mindful of when creating your games, this can go along way to save you a huge headache further down the line.

 

Updated UI Screens


Glide Updated UI Screens

 

Also on the plan was adding a character trophy room, which was actually built inside one of the very first versions of the game but never made version 1.0 for some reason. This idea came up during one of our weekly Live Q&A sessions discussing one of our members games, and after adding a Quick Win Video Training Lesson on how I built it into the Academy just a few days before, I really liked the idea again, so that’s what I did.

But of course, there’s not much point building a new character store without having anything to put in it, so over the next few days I set about building new Glides.  I settled on creating around 20 more, doubling the amount that is currently in the game and these were all created and animated within Photoshop.

 

New Glides added!


 

As I mentioned previously, the lack of in app purchases in the game was an issue for me. So it was time to address this further and there’s usually no easier way to add in IAP’s to a game than to lock some of these new characters up, 10 in total, and have them paid.

Character Store/ Trophy Room with In App Purchases


Glide Updated Character Store

 

With all this new content being added to the game, we needed to make minor UI tweaks to align everything together so all the world select screens looked the same. This was quite a challenge as the Zen Worlds are completed with a 3 Star system, which is unique to this mode. I think we pulled it off successfully. Often the seemingly simple things like this are the hardest to get right.

 

New Select Zen Worlds UI Screens


Glide Updated Zen Worlds

 

Next up was a fresh new icon, in for a penny in for a pound as they say, so I knocked up a few variations and just as we teach, posted a few of the variations onto our Facebook Page to get some feedback.

 

A/B Icon Testing on Facebook


Glide Updated Icon Testing on Facebook

 

It was a really close call between B & C, we actually like them equally, but we’ve opted for “B” and here’s the version we’ve settled on, for now at least!

You can also view the icon as it will look on the Appstore and devices over at our Free Icon Tester Appsparky.com.

 

Glide Updated Version 2 Icon

 

http://www.appsparky.com/?id=cPCkGp

 

Summing Up


We’re pretty happy with how the update is shaping up and we’re all but done for this version. We have a ton of play testing to do and some minor fixes here and there, a ton more polishing also, but it will be great to wrap this version up.

It’s taken a little longer than I’d hoped as we’ve been flat out creating content for the Academy, along with finally finishing off our Epic eBook Appstore Foundation which has delayed both Jilly and I dedicating our full attention on this.

We’ll also be creating 2 new App Previews video’s, making 3 in total, for our Appstore product page listing which is one of the great new features coming to iOS 11 real soon.

This should work really well, especially for this game, as we have multiple worlds to show off. Be sure to consider if any of your games could really benefit from having multiple gameplay video’s. Now Apple has given us the option of adding additional App Preview Videos to our Appstore pages, we should really take advantage and use all these available spots.

I’m also considering changing our screenshots too, but we’ll just concentrate on getting this wrapped up so we can move onto the Android version and potentially seek out a publisher for that.

Watch this space! August has been a very busy month 🙂

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What is a Core Loop in a Mobile Game?

 

So what exactly is meant by the ‘Core Loop’ and why is it so important?

 

The core loop is essentially the very heartbeat of your game. It is a series or chain of actions that is repeated over and over as the primary flow your players experience.

 

So let’s take a city builder as an example. I have to earn coins to craft various items and only once I’ve crafted my items, does my Town grow. I then rinse and repeat this process and my Town becomes a City. I want a City full of nice new buildings, so I complete the loop and I get my reward. It’s the core essence of why we return to play games over and over again.

Let’s take a look at a couple more examples.

Clash of Clans

Now I’m sure you’ve heard of Clash of Clans or played it at some time.

Clash of clans core loop goes like this:

Collect Coins & Elixir :  Build your clan/settlement :  Expand your Troops & battle to win more coins/elixir. This goes around and rinses and repeats, but the aim stays the same, Collect / Build / Expand.

 

Supercell Clash of Clans Core Loop

Of course, there is an absolute ton of other stuff that goes on in within the game, but this is the core loop, the base from which it all works around. A genius game that has thousands of followers all over the world.

Now, clearly, Clash of Clans is a super complicated game under the bonnet, and most casual games don’t come remotely close in terms of complexity, although they hold the same game loop theory.

Stack by Ketchapp

So let’s take a look of what a casual game core could look like, and let’s use Ketchapps Stack as an example.

 

Ketchapp Stack Core Loop

So as you can see, it’s not hugely different from Clash of Clans in essence, slightly more basic of course, but these loops are present in every game you’ll see.

Play /  Earn diamonds /  Replay to earn more coins to unlock new game themes.

 

So why is this important to you?

Your core loop is essentially the very heartbeat of your game. Once you have firmly settled on this core loop, you can start to expand on this and also ensure that your gameplay doesn’t deviate too much from the actual purpose of the game itself.

In short, it’ll keep you in check so the majority of things you add to your game will stay true to this loop. Once you have this solid foundation, you can start to think about your game structure.

So the base to any game will work something like this :

The Actions in your game.

The Rewards the players receive.

Unlock new characters or new level and progress.

Or simply looked at from a players point of view, your core loop will be :

What do I collect/do : What are my rewards : How do I progress?

 

What about the Game Story?

Well, I’m pretty sure many would not clump these 2 fundamentals together in one post, and there’s certainly arguments for not doing so, but as we’re focussing really on casual mobile games, rather than traditional console or PC games, stories are often non-existent. They’re just really not applicable for casual phone games.

When we look at most of the top casual games on the App Stores, a huge majority of them are high score chasers. If they are not high score chasers, then most likely they are level based or stage based, so, for me, the story actually is the core loop itself.

Final Thoughts

Once you understand the core loop and the critical part it plays in the designing of your game, you’ll have a super solid base around which to build your project. If well designed, your core loop will invoke a sense of achievement, engagement and keep your players motivated and challenged with layers of difficulty added as your game progresses.

This is the essence of great game design.

 

How to get ideas & inspiration for your Mobile Games

 

How to come up with that great Game idea & the resources that we use to inspire us. Looking at the world around you, using the App Store for inspiration, TV & Films, online resources. This is one of the lessons taken from our Platinum standard foundation course available to all Academy members.

 

  • Looking at the World Around You ( 0.33 )
  • Using the App Store for Inspiration ( 1.53 )
  • Television / Films ( 2.37 )
  • Online Resources ( 3.45 )

Ideas & Prototyping

It can be in the strangest places where game ideas can come from, and every morning Jilly and I will take about an hours walk around the local lake. Although we generally talk about the schedule for that day, many game ideas have come from simply taking ourselves out of the office, and getting out and about.


The World Around You

You’d be surprised at how much you can absorb just by being in a different environment. I recently spoke at Carter Thomas’s Bluecloud Live Event in Amsterdam, and just four days before I was due to leave, Jilly realised my passport was out of date, oops! Thanks Jilly!

So as I made my way to the emergency passport office, I arrived at Westminster, London, by train. The architecture in the underground tube station was incredible and immediately caught my eye, and instantly a game was conceived in my head.

This is just one example of how different environments can spark such an idea.

 

Westminster Tube Station

Westminster Tube Station

As I stood taking in this unfamiliar location, my mind wandered into game mode. I was getting my fair share of strange and funny looks, but I didn’t care, as a game designer, training your brain to see opportunities in the world around you, can be highly beneficial. Looking at the pipe structures, steelwork and cubby holes I could imagine a character running across these, maybe dodging bullets, jumping obstacles and leaping from escalators. Of course this was just a seed of an idea, but an idea none the less. There are literally dozens of these moments that happen every single day, if you choose to identify them.

 


Landscape Vs Portrait

Another great strategy for improving your game ideas is to simply download some of the top Games In the App Store, and draw inspiration from them.

Fatal Landscape & Portrait

What’s a favourite game you’re playing at the moment? Have you ever tried turning the screen on it its side? For instance if it’s landscape game, try turning it to portrait. Just seeing the mechanics in a different way can be enough to spawn something new.Another great strategy for improving your game ideas is to simply download some of the top Games In the App Store, and draw inspiration from them.

Whilst this can be very effective, it’s also incredibly difficult not to simply end up copy an existing game, your job here is to find the mechanic that you can modify and make your own.

By garnering inspiration from other sources first, you can create a hybrid of some of the popular successful games in the App Store, and fuse them together to create something unique and commercially proven.


Matte Paintings

Inspiration can also come from television and especially films. I can’t say how many times I’ve been watching a sci-fi film where just a small subsection of the movie could potentially be turned into a game itself.

Most of the famous blockbusters are usually incredibly high budget projects and are visually Epic experiences. These are designed by world class set designers and production teams, and we can learn a lot by studying these award winning film makers.

Such inspiring moments can manifest themselves literally infinite times and in many different scenarios and spawn new ideas if you train your brain to look for this.

Matte Painting Inspiration

 

Often browsing Google images can also be a quick way to identify classic film moments and iconic scenes. As I was putting this lesson together I did a quick search for Matte Paintings and Concept Art. There are literally 1000’s and here’s just one that caught my eye. It’s a very cool Sci-fi scene of what could be a skyscraper with some people looking out onto a futuristic city.

I took a quick screen grab and overlaid my concept idea directly into photoshop. I think there’s a decent idea here and will definitely work some more on this.


Online Gaming Sites

We also often look at online gaming sites to see if we can touch upon any unique gameplay mechanics, or stumble across games from the past.

Sites like GameJolt.com are often packed with unique game mechanics, and although they’re usually little more than rough demos with poor graphics, you can often find a few gems on there.

itch.io is another similar site dedicated to the indie community but the quality is far superior.

You’ll probably recognise some of the games on here, and the sites popularity and constant evolution, continues to make this a great source of inspiration with regular updates.

Gaming Jam Sites

Game Jam Videos can also reveal some interesting ideas and you can find a ton of these on Youtube. Just type in ‘Game Jams’ into Google and plenty of videos both old and new will appear. These can definitely be worth a watch. It must be said there’s an awful of rubbish in these, but just occasionally, they may spark your imagination and uncover a strange type of gameplay.

In general, there is no particular quick way to surf through these sites, however if you are stuck for ideas I’d recommend spending some research time on these. Every once in awhile we will stumble across something that we can flesh out and start to prototype.

Once we have got that seed of an idea, we usually start sketching, be it in our sketchbooks, or on a white board. Our sketchbooks can also be an awesome resource when ideas are a little thin on the ground.

Browsing old sketches with fresh eyes, or even sometimes looking at rough drawings and scribbles upside down or back to front, can be enough to ignite an idea.


Buildbox

One of the other successful ways for us however, is to just dive straight into Buildbox.com, with maybe just a small idea that we’ve been thinking on.

Many times whilst trying to create a particular function for a game, or by making a character move in a certain way, we’ll do something by mistake, and this can create one of those lucky, happy accidents and take the project in a completely different direction. By having such a fluid and organic development process, prototyping based on one of our existing games can be a great way to form ideas.

Much like ‘writers block’ is a well-known phrase in the world of writing, in terms of game development we refer to this as “blank screen syndrome”. Of course we still have our days like everyone, but using a combination of the techniques above, we have now for the most part eliminated this “blank screen syndrome”.

If you are ever truly stuck and nothing seems to be happening, get your self out and about, go watch a film or even take a shower. Usually some of our best ideas come when you’re not consciously thinking about games at all.


Summary

  • Looking at the world around you and how you can draw ideas from your environment.
  • Using the App Store for Inspiration, by simply playing successful games and thinking about how by just tweaking and twisting the gameplay, you can create something fresh and new.
  • Television & Films, especially of the science fiction and fantasy genre, are huge resources to draw from once you can see through your game makers eyes.
  • How Online Resources such as GameJolt.com, itch.io and Game Jam Videos, often contain weird and wonderful new mechanics, which can be the foundation and starting blocks to your new game.

Action Points

• Get out into the world

Go for an hours walk in an unfamiliar place, ideally a nature spot of some description. Be really present in the environment. Look out for any shapes, patterns, or movement around you.

Some examples could be a reflection in water, or the way the light hits an object. It could be a shape in the trees or clouds, or just like when I was travelling and noticed the architecture around me. Take your phone to capture a picture, or ideally a notepad, to record a quick sketch. It doesn’t matter how badly drawn it is, but by physically jotting these down, it really starts to build your “little treasure book of ideas”.

Watch a Fantasy or Sci-fi Film

If you have a favourite Science Fiction or Fantasy film, then load that up and watch it through your new game makers eyes. Just like when going for your walk, and as you saw in the examples I gave, look out for scenes and moments that are interesting to you. Keep your sketchbook to hand or take a photo of your screen.

• Visit GameJolt & iTch.io

Head over to these sites and start browsing around. Bookmark anything that catches your eye, be it a gameplay mechanic or art style. See if by fusing 2 or more of these games, you can create something unique and fun. Remember, do not simply copy, all these exercises are designed to start building your creativity.

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Game #Reboot – Don’t ignore your old games

 

It’s always fun to look back over your old games and remind yourself how much work actually went into the creation! I’ve been going through our portfolio and preparing some update plans to breathe some life into the old faithful, so don’t ignore your old games!

1st on my list will be 99 Moons, our very first solo Apple Feature and the one that launched our Studio. We loved this game and we gave it a ton of love in the creation.

Regrets, we’ve had a few 🙂

Whilst I felt we did get a lot of things right with this game, I also made some pretty poor judgements too, the biggest being the learning curve. The first few levels of the game were way too difficult. The silly thing was is that these first levels of the game were actually the original prototype levels. We tested each of these early demo stages to ensure we could sufficiently ramp up the objects and the difficulty to give us the scope to have a pretty large project, and for some reason these were never revisited to ease the players in slowly. Mistake. Too intense, too hard.

This no doubt resulted in losing players extremely early on as we hit them with super tough challenges before giving them enough chance to get a feel of the mechanics and controls. This is by far my biggest regret with the V.1.0 launch version.

App Store Marketing Assets

Whilst I felt we did a decent job on the iPad Screenshots, I’ve never been happy with the iPhone screenshots as there’s just too much empty space. We’ll be changing these for sure in this new update.

 

99 Moons iPad and iPhone 6s Screenshots

99 Moons iPad and iPhone 6s Screenshots

 

After a while on the Googleplay Store, I ran an experiment on the icon as although strongly aligned with the games character, is was a bit “kiddy” looking and this doesn’t fit so well with the games difficulty level.

 

99 Moons Icon A : B Testing

I created a completely new look and did a 50/50 test.

A = The Original Icon.

B = The New Icon Design.

 

99 Moons Google Play Icon Experiment

The dark green line on the top is the new design, so it’s fair to say it was a good move and had quite an impact. We promptly ran an icon only update to the Apple App Store to capitalise on this data.

You’ll also notice that I left this running for around 3 – 4 months. This wasn’t really a deliberate move, but more so as we get very few downloads on Android and basically set and forget. But this is something we’re now working on to improve, but nonetheless, I love this about Googleplay, so worth it for that alone.

99 Moons Official Game Trailer – iOS & Android 

I gave the original app preview game trailer a quick upgrade to a new landscape version for better sharing on social, and not sure we’ll change this much for now, but it’s on the radar as we look at all the assets for the new update.

 

Brain Storm Session

So, there’s the low hanging fruit that we’ll be addressing without thinking as we turn our attention to running an update.

Jilly and I will sit down and see what we’ll do, how big the update it will be, and how much we change overall. I like the idea of adding some kind of level based mode, something that was missing from the original, along with some new characters I think.

So don’t let your old games fade and die, a big lesson we’ve learned over the last 18 months. Whether you push an update, or work on a sequel, it’s always worth spending a small amount of energy to revisit your portfolio and see what can be done with a fresh pair of eyes and a good amount of time away from the project.

You can see our Game Page Here with all the links to download.

Let’s do this