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Academy Spotlight – Interview with Solo Indie Developer Marcus Dobler

We were thrilled when Indie Game Developer and Academy Member Marcus agreed to answer some questions about his life and journey as an indie game developer.

Marcus has achieved so much including Apple App Store “Game of the Day” for his game AstroBlast along with multiple Apple Home Pages Features in “New Games We Love”.

Marcus Dobler - Indie Game Developer

You can see all of Marcus’s games over on his website Here.

Games Made With Passion - Marcus Dobler

Aside with recently being awarded multiple Apple features, you own 7 night clubs and you are successful businessman in the gastronomic industry. So what first drew you to this crazy world of game development?

I started programming on the Commodore 64 in my childhood. As I grew older my interests shifted and I began working as a DJ and opened my first club with two partners. Now I am partner of 7 clubs with capacity up to 2.000 people per club.

As you can imagine running clubs is a loud and hard business. Therefore I was looking for a hobby to bring balance to my life. Then I remembered my favourite childhood activity, coding and making games so I tried it out and it was a success.

I know you’re a fantastic coder, your games are all highly polished and of great quality, which software engine is your preferred tool for all your game creation?

Thank you very much!

I use different software tools when I’m developing my games.

I create all my 2D designs by working with Photoshop and Illustrator and recently I’ve started using Affinity Designer more frequently too.

For my 3D designs I use Cinema 4D. This is an awesome app that had made its debut on the Commodore Amiga and I have been working with this ever since it first came out!

When working on promotion videos, I use Apple Motion.

My SDK is Xcode and the code is written in Swift, Apples’ latest programming language. Swift is perfectly structured and fairly easy to learn. SpriteKit and SceneKit are used as frameworks which are both developed by Apple.

Since I don’t consider publishing my games on any other platform but Apple / iOS, I choose their native developing tools to make the best games possible. It always goes down well with the Apple Team also.

iOS Game Icons - Made With Passion - Marcus Dobler

Do you start off creating your titles with a strong vision in your head of the direction you want to take your game, or a particular type of player you’re aiming for. Or do you experiment with concepts and prototypes until a game comes together?

Developing a game is always a process. I usually have a very basic concept and then work it into a fun and enjoyable product. When I first started out creating games, I was satisfied as long as myself and my friends had fun playing.

However recently I have been developing games geared toward the Hyper Casual Player. I have made this change by looking at trends and evolving as a developer.

What’s your goto place for research and inspiration when coming up with the next unique game idea. Do you play a lot of games yourself that maybe spark new concepts, are there non-gaming inspirations such as architecture, films or music?

My greatest source of inspiration is my library of around ten thousand retro games!

Whenever I have the chance, I play these for inspiration and relaxation. I also enjoy watching Retro youTube channels like “Game Sack“ or “Sega Lord X“.

However, as most of these retro games require too much investment for the Hyper Casual Player and mass market, I can use parts of these classic games in my new creations.

The world of mobile gaming is forever evolving and a lot of focus in the market place at the moment is in the hyper casual style and aimed at a young audience. Do trends like this influence you to build specifically for what the market wants, or do you focus on making games that you love to build?

For me, commercial success is confirmation of a good performance, usually in terms of downloads and reviews. In order to achieve this success, I try to keep a keen eye on the market and stay up to date with current trends. Research is critical here.

To know all these trends the Academy is my main source especially the weekly Live App Store trend analysis sessions. So in summary, yes, I try to follow the hyper casual style in most of the games I’m building right now!

The trends right now tend to lean towards 3D and include levelling systems. With all that said though, I still try to create something unique and if my heart leads me on a particular route, I always trust my gut instinct I’d still build it anyways.

Once you have a game idea in your head, what’s your next process? Do you draw / sketch out rough plans and concepts the old school way, maybe put together a mood-board or palette ideas? Or do you jump straight into your software and mock up ideas on the fly?

Firstly, I’ll open Photoshop or Cinema 4D and create some simple characters. These are usually simple forms in the appropriate sizes so I have assets to work with. I’ll then start to code the prototype and bring the general idea to life. The details of the design are part of the development process and I’ll look to continually work on these as the project progresses.

Dream Bubblez™

Featured by Apple in “New Games We Love” & “Daily Brain Training.”

Download From The Apple App Store


Dream Bubblez Game iOS - Apple Featured

As developers, there is always that moment when you struggle or have doubts with whether an idea is any good. You build the prototype and are still unsure, at what point do you reach out for feedback on your game, or do you wait until your idea is rock solid and you’re happy with it before showing anyone?

I like to always finish things! Of course there are ups and downs during the creation process, but even at my lowest points, I will always complete every project.

Usually I only show nearly completed games to family and friends. This way I manage to stick with my original concept and not have my ideas watered down by critics during my creative process.

This doesn’t mean I do not appreciate constructive criticism, nothing could be further from the truth, however, for me, it’s crucial to choose the right point in time during my creative process to receive exterior ideas.

An exception to this are the Academy’s TestDrives, the videos and comments help me to refine my product even at an early stage.

Good game design is all about keeping the players attention and ultimately returning to play your game time and time again. It’s about designing an interactive world for players with rules to follow to achieve the end goal. What’s your process when you start your game design ideas for keeping players attention and game progression?

I once read an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, legendary game designer at Nintendo, in which he said the most important thing about a game is having fun playing!

This is just like the way children like to jump and run, just for the sheer joy of it, because it’s fun.

I think that’s what brings players back day after day is if they enjoy the activity and they simply love to play. I always try to achieve that!

Also, giving my players simple, small goals coupled with some enjoyable tasks. I build in “unlockables” or “level Ups” where possible along with usually including “High Score leaderboards” in my games.

The majority of your games are in the meditation/ brain training and puzzle genre, do you play these types of games yourself, or do you purely enjoy the creation of this type of gameplay?

Tetris is definitely my favourite games. I actually consider it the be the best video game ever invented, so yes, I play my fair share of puzzle games.

As already mentioned, I don’t really have a strict plan when developing my games, but often they’ll have some kind of puzzle element to them. As the designs and details evolve during the development process, it’s a pretty organic process and so my games naturally evolve too!

The market for puzzle games is a tough one.

Generally speaking, due to the natural complexity of puzzle games, it’s a difficult balancing act to reach the Hyper Casual Player with them. Right now I am focusing on creating simpler games for the Hyper-Casual market that can potentially reach a wider mass market along with broadening my creation skillset and giving me a personal challenge.

AstroBlast™

Featured by Apple in “New Games We Love” & “Game of the Day” in Japan.

Download From The Apple App Store



AstroBlast - Game of The Day in Japan

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a novice developer just starting out in the world of game design? Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started in games?

I think the most important thing for a novice developer is to gain experience.

My best advice would be to start out with small projects and aim to actually finish them!

The biggest mistake you can make in my opinion is to do too much and not finish anything.

When I started out, I simply began programming and I didn’t know anything about recent trends and the situation on the market. I would have saved a lot of money spent on senseless marketing actions if I would have known earlier about the Academy.

I really wished I had been a member of the Academy back then when I first started out!

Lastly, we’ve been honoured that you’re a huge part of the Academy family and it’s been a pleasure to watch you grow. What’s your favourite part of the Academy and what would you say to any game developer thinking about joining?

The TestDrives are its best feature. Kevin & Jilly actually play your game whilst recording the whole session on video. They give you invaluable tips on how to improve it and it’s massively insightful and helpful to get their perspective.

This is so helpful to me and has supported me in refining every single one of my games.

It doesn’t matter if you are new in game development or if you are already successful in the market, the Academy is most definitely the place to be.

They provide you with an endless supply of resources including videos, tutorials and a ton of fantastic community posts!

You can also find ideas for your next games as well as they help you to get a publishing contract. They also advise you on how to get your games featured by Apple.

The Academy has helped me in every stage of my creational process and it will help you as well! I highly recommend you to join.

A Huge Academy Thanks 🙂
We’d like to thank Marcus for being so generous with his time and sharing his thoughts and experience with us, he’s seriously a class act!
It’s been an absolute pleasure to share a small part of his game development journey so far and it’s super exciting for us to see him reach the much deserved success on the App Store, especially as we get a glimpse of what he’s working on.
As we’re sure you’re aware, game dev can be a tough gig so it’s always heartwarming to see a fellow indie dev reach their ultimate goals through incredible hard work and wonderful talent.
We can’t wait to see what Marcus creates next and we wish him continued success in all his endeavours.

All iOS Screen Resolution Sizes 2018 ( iPhone XS, XS MAX & XR )

New iOS Screen Sizes - iPhone XS - iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

Each September brings new iPhones and as game developers, that also means brand new screen sizes to deal with too!

Here’s the low down on all the iPhone screen sizes you’ll need to cater for in 2018 including the brand new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR.

 

Device Portrait dimensions Landscape dimensions
12.9″ iPad Pro 2048px × 2732px 2732px × 2048px
10.5″ iPad Pro 1668px × 2224px 2224px × 1668px
9.7″ iPad 1536px × 2048px 2048px × 1536px
7.9″ iPad mini 4 1536px × 2048px 2048px × 1536px
iPhone XS Max 1242px × 2688px 2688px × 1242px
iPhone XS 1125px × 2436px 2436px × 1125px
iPhone XR 828px × 1792px 1792px × 828px
iPhone X 1125px × 2436px 2436px × 1125px
iPhone 8 Plus 1242px × 2208px 2208px × 1242px
iPhone 8 750px × 1334px 1334px × 750px
iPhone 7 Plus 1242px × 2208px 2208px × 1242px
iPhone 7 750px × 1334px 1334px × 750px
iPhone 6s Plus 1242px × 2208px 2208px × 1242px
iPhone 6s 750px × 1334px 1334px × 750px
iPhone SE 640px × 1136px 1136px × 640px

 

022: Behind the Scenes – Reasons why you should revisit your old games.

Episode 022 - Revisitting Old Games

For all you seasoned game developers out there, when September time rolls around and Apple releases new devices and iOS versions, more often than not we need to update something to ensure our old games still work correctly.

Whilst this can be a pain the you know what, it can actually be turned into a positive, and a time to revisit our old games, breathe some life back into them and bring them up to date.

Generally speaking, updating all our App Store Creatives ( EG: App Icons / App Store Screenshots / Game description ), any external SDK’s and perhaps even adding App Store Previews to our store listing is a great way to refresh our game portfolio’s.

We have often left out features or mechanics that we originally planned to include in our games, but for one reason or another ended up ditching.

Reasons for this are varied, perhaps because of time constraints or even software issues we faced at the time of build, often down to our own skill levels at this early time for the Studio. So this is a great time for us to take another look at our project as a whole, what the game possibly benefit from and if it’s worth a small overhaul whilst we are doing the necessary iOS updates.

Sometimes even culling part of the original project to inject the ‘missing parts’, can have an huge impact to the feel of the game, as can changing out colour palettes or altering the pace. With a seriously long break from the project, it’s amazing what fresh eyes, gained experience and a different outlook can make.

We made a lot of mistakes that are now clear to see, almost to the point of saying “What were we thinking!”

But with that said, we also did a lot right and we can take this opportunity to hone in and polish up some of the successful gameplay and mechanics. We dropped the ball not keeping some of our games alive, to capitalise on their early success and really flesh them out more. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

For a large part of our game portfolio, these were built back in the day when rage games were popular and trending, but this not so much the case now. With the market constantly changing, by updating even a small part of your game, you can keep up to date with the current landscape and what players are now demanding.

Perhaps it’s time you took a look at your portfolio and older games. Are there any that you can breathe some life back into, revamp or even create a sequel to? Your mission if you choose to accept it is open them up and think about doing just that!

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

018: Top 5 Hacks to Stay Motivated When Building Your Games.

Episode 018 - Finding Motivation

This week we discuss our Top 5 hacks to ensure you stay motivated during your game development cycle. Keeping energised and focussed is critical to meeting those deadlines, however loose they may actually be. We all struggle with motivation from time to time, it’s inevitable, however  you can definitely influence your own motivation if you can actually figure out what you want, set and commit to your goals and try and push through those difficult phases.

Make That Commitment

Set the goal and just start! Often starting off can be the biggest hurdle. Once you have something working and moving, the hurdle will suddenly feel less of a huge obstacle. Often, and especially if you’re a solo developer, game creation needs to take place between family and / or other work commitments. It’s a very fine balance to achieve.

Try setting a daily / weekly time ( say between 8pm and 10pm ) where this becomes your regular game building session, and don’t deviate from this. Pretty soon you will be accustomed to turning up at your computer and you will start to see results.

Set Bite-Size Achievable Goals

Set small goals. Your frequent progress can be super rewarding when you hit each mini milestone. Write down no more than 3 tasks to complete at any one time as long, exhaustive lists can be massively overwhelming and daunting. These will blast your motivation out of the window so avoid them at all times. Small, manageable lists will move yourself forward faster. Period.

These do not have to be anything major however, but by making 3 small steps in progress each day or session, will move your project along at a healthy, steady pace.

Public Accountability

Write a contract to a friend or you can even make a pledge and donate the proceeds to charity if you lose. This is quite out there and controversial so really depends on your personality type.

There are many people who I know have done this and it works really well for them, but it’s not something I have ever done. That said, there have been plenty of times where we’ve put rewards in the air to motivate us into completely a certain task.

Think of this like a pretend competition:

“If we finish this by 4 o’clock today, then we take tomorrow off – deal?”

or

“if we can get this done by the end of the week, then we’ll have that fancy dinner”.

Using this Punishment / Reward tactic, albeit slightly left-field is pretty powerful and to be honest, kinda fun. It’s really whatever works for you.

Don’t Break the Cycle or Skip

Turn up everyday no matter what. Showing up and doing something is great to push through any barriers you’re procrastinating over. This is a great way to form that habit of working on your game.

When you begin to string together these consecutive days or sessions, you’re way more unlikely to want to break this sequence that you’ve built up. It’s pretty powerful stuff.  Again, this comes back to habit forming behaviour and well worth experimenting with.

Join a Community

Big Tick! Go you 🙂

Get around likeminded people who won’t let you quit – be vulnerable and open, it actually really helps!

Post your game progress / Set up your own Devlog to track progress and be accountable.

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

013: The 6 Golden Rules & Principles for Effective Game Icon Design.

Episode 013 - The 6 Golden Rules & Principles for Effective Icon Design

How to Design Games Icons & Icon Importance

Your icon is arguably one of your most important assets when it comes to your App Store presence. It is usually the first opportunity to impress potential customers and therefore makes it critical to your overall branding.

When speaking about icons, there is without a doubt some best practices that should not be ignored. Often when we think of icon design, less is usually more. However, the icons main purpose is to fully encompass and capture the very essence of your game.

Ideally, this should be achieved with as few elements and colours as possible. The best rule of thumb, and at the very core of great icon design, is that you should try and head for a single element that is clearly visible when viewed on the device itself.

So let’s go through some best practices and what to keep in mind when designing your icon.

 

Try to use a single element and keep it simple

Games like Monument Valley execute this particularly well. Whilst they have stunning artwork throughout the game, they focussed entirely on the character and single platform.

Monument & Canabalt Icons

Another great example of the would be Canabalt. The single Pixel character running shows you exactly what to expect from the game.

 

 

Choose a limited colour palette that fits

Whilst your game may be super colourful, it’s important not to over complicate your icon, try and pair back where possible. GramGames hit game 1010 has done a great job of this. They could have chose to include many of the pleasing colours, but opted to focus on the single red cube.

1010 & Merged Icons

They also did something similar on their massive hit Merged. The simple tricolour icon is really effective and works particularly well.

 

 

Avoid Using Words

Using words on your icon is generally a bad idea as they’ll be particularly hard to read once the icon is scaled down. It’s also mostly redundant as the name of your app is sitting right next to it on the App Store listing. Most bigger brands tend to either use the first letter of their company or just their logo as part of their overall branding, but generally speaking you see this rarely in the gaming categories.

Walking Dead & GTA Icons

The Walking Dead for Instance have chosen to use the title on their icon, as have Rockstar Games with Grand Theft Auto, but these are huge companies with a massive marketing machine in place, here the names and franchises themselves are instantly recognisable and quite honestly, their icons are way less of an important factor.

 

 

Avoid Using Photo’s

This is usually more common in the Photo & Video Categories, where it could make more sense, but it’s still a bad idea. Photo’s are non scalable and often will contain unnecessary details.

Ramsey Icon

The only exception could be for celebrity endorsed games where it makes sense to show the Famous Star to sell the game. The approach GLU took for example, is way better solution, here they used a realistic illustration rather than traditional photo.

 

How To Fail

Being consistent with your icon and aligning it closely to the artwork within your game, is a really good way to gel everything together. This also ensures it wont disappoint the user once downloaded. The last thing you want, is for a user to click on your icon only to discover that your game screenshots don’t match up with the promise on your icon and is essentially a different game altogether. Lets first take a look at a couple of examples, to explain this further.

Scramble Icon

 

This icon doesn’t look too bad, it’s kinda lively and looks decent enough. I’m thinking it depicts the game as a 3d scrambler, dodging through traffic and maybe has off road tracks.

Going by the exciting Icon, I’m ready to download and I want to have a look at the game screenshots.

So as we can see, the game does not reflect the icon in anyway whatsoever and looks absolutely terrible. As a potential customer I’ll be giving this a big miss, so even though the icon grabbed my attention and I clicked through to the product page, I am now feeling let down. Fail!

Of course this an extreme, albeit sadly all too common example, it does I think show exactly not what to do and something to keep firmly in mind when designing your icon.

 

How To Succeed

Downwell is a perfect example of successfully using the games art style for the icon. Revolver Digital has produced a cohesive marketing suite that truly brings the essence of the game throughout all it’s assets.

 

Downwell Screenshot

 

Super Sharp from 1buttonSarl have also done an incredible job of pairing back their icon and matching it to their in game art style. The simple cut effect on the white square against the blue background, sets expectations perfectly, and once inside the App Store product page, it really feels solid and fully connected.

This is definitely one of the factors that the App Store team look for when viewing a game and considering it for a feature place, and especially a key ingredient for snagging a banner feature.

 

Super Sharp Screenshot

 

Limbo is by far one of my all time favourites and its no surprise Limbo is continually re-featured time and time again and has truly earned its place in the App store hall of fame.

Apart from being a great game, Playdead did an absolute stunning job of capturing the games atmosphere and intrigue, then wrapping it all up in a shockingly simple icon.

 

Limbo Screenshot

 

The Importance of Scalability

So it’s super important when designing your icon, to ensure that all testing should be carried out by viewing the smallest sized version. Although your icon may look stunningly great at it’s largest resolution, the reality is that your customers will only ever see the icon on an iPhone or iPad.

There are various ways to do this but one simple way is to head over to AppSparky.com.

AppSparky.com Homepage

 

This website was actually built by us for this very purpose. Once your icon is ready, you simply either drag it directly onto the ‘upload icon’ button, or open up a finder window to browse for your icon image. This will take a little while to process and your icons must be in either .png or .jpg format.
Once the upload is complete you will see your icon displayed. As you scroll down the page you will see;

  • Large size icon displayed on different background shades.
  • How our icon will look on the App Store product page on both iPad and iPhone.
  • Viewed on the homepage of both devices, in the Category Section of the App Store.
  • How it will appear in the Top Charts section of the App Store.
  • How it will look on the Homescreen.

 

You can either drag one of your icons directly onto the upload icon button, or simply click the button and that will open up a finder window for you to browse.

Uploading icons does take a little while to process, and your icons must be in either .png or .jpg format.

The first 3 views will give you an indication of a large size on different background shades. Underneath you’ll start to see the more relevant sizes, the first one being how your icon will look on the App Store product page on both iPad and iPhone.

You’ll also see the homepage of both devices, the Category section of the App Store, Top Charts section and finally on the App Store homescreen.

 

Getting Feedback

Getting early feedback on your icons is also a great way to see how effective your design is looking. Facebook can work extremely well for this, we do this everytime before launching.

Whilst you can post to any game or Developer Groups you may belong to, I wouldn’t rely solely on these as they are obviously filled with other developers who are generally not your target audience.

We always post to our Company Facebook Page, you can also use your personal profile too and this will attract more of a widespread audience.

Facebook A B Testing

You may want spend $10-20 boosting the post if necessary and run it until the boost runs out. If you’re familiar with Facebook ads, you could also use advanced targeting to really hone in on your ideal demographic.

There are also sites where you can go way deeper for really detailed stats such as ;

http://www.optimizely.com
https://www.storemaven.com
http://testnest.co

These do tend to be quite pricey and I’ve never used any of these personally, as I found Facebook to work well enough to see if we’re on track or not.

So do not under estimate the value of your icon and it’s importance when pitching, especially to Apple. Although I have no firm evidence on this, it is said that the App Store team will take all the Icons from the games that have a chance for a feature place that week, and line them up side-by-side.

They begin to discard any that do not meet their standards, or that simply do not stand out enough to be noticed. How much, or if any of this is true, I’m not sure. But if we put ourselves into the shoes of an App Store Editor once again, this doesn’t sound too unreasonable and a pretty logical way of doing things. Once a week they’ll have to choose the line up, and games will either go in the list or out.

Although a bad icon alone is unlikely to fully hamper your chances, it should be an important part of your process. It’s one of the things that is within your power to control, and you should be heading to create a striking Icon to give you the very best chance of making the list.

From personal experience, and as you’ll begin to notice as you delve deeper into your research tasks, the vast majority of featured games in any given week, will all have an extremely strong and clearly defined icon.

 

Highlights, Quick Wins & Takeaways:

1. Try to use a single element and keep it simple

2. Choose a Limited Colour Palette that fits

3. The importance of scalability

4. Avoid using words

5. Avoid using Photo’s

6. Get some feedback!

Thank you so much for listening! You’re Awesome.

We truly do appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen and hope you got some value.

If you enjoyed today’s show, it would go such along way if you hit that Subscribe button and also Share via your favourite social networks. You can use any of the buttons you see on this page.

We’d also be forever grateful if you’d consider sparing just a quick minute to:

Leave us an Honest Rating & Review in iTunes.

We always read each and every one personally and it always makes our day!

Thanks so much, Kevin & Jilly.

Kevin & Jilly RisingHigh Academy

What does iOS 11 mean for Indie Game Developers?

We took a deep dive into the New iOS 11 Appstore on our Weekly Academy Live Session.

Here’s the first 40 or so minutes where we look at the new Apple Appstore and what it means for Indie Game Developers and what we need to do to make ourselves standout.

 

 

I personally love the new look and feel it gives us a ton of new opportunities. Really dig the new autoplay App Preview Trailers and the fact they have upped the size and scale of all our Appstore assets overall.

The new daily curated collections are really cool and if we could ever snag a spot in one of those could really drive a decent amount of downloads and exposure.

Academy Inside Extra!

Access our  “Weekly Live Q & A Sessions” inside the RisingHigh Academy.

Each week we host a Live Event where we stay on top of all things Appstore and Mobile Gaming! Get Direct access to us and we’ll any question you have. We play test Academy Members Games and give practical, actionable advice and support to get your games Feature Worthy and Publisher Ready.

Not an Academy Member? Click Here to Learn More


 

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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Infographic – 10 Stage Formula to Create a Feature Worthy Game

 

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Infographic - 10 Stage Formula to Create a Feature Worthy Game

 

 

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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