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Virtual joysticks – use them or not?

I always thought, that implementing virtual joysticks for iOS games is a mistake. They try to emulate the real thing (big console’s pad) and as such, they will always be worse. There must be something better to use the full potential of a touchscreen. And indeed in most iPhone games I tried, I didn’t like them. They were not precise enough and, even worse obscured large portions of screen, which was pretty infuriating, especially when something interesting (like a new enemy) appeared just there. I always preferred a touch & slide approach. Touch the map where you want your character to go and slide to move the map.

This was the case until I happened to spend some time with this tiny little game called Solomon’s Keep. Way too much time actually. My iPhone was getting hot from playing it. I had to recharge 3 times a day sometimes. My son played it. Even my wife tried. This is simply a great action RPG game. Little Diablo in your pocket. Various character development paths (fire mage, lighting, cone of cold, magic missile), very well thought out, randomly generated levels, some interesting bosses and more.

But most importantly (for this article at least) it has virtual joysticks implemented right. The left one for walking, the right one for shooting (err… sorry… casting spells). Most of spells are directional, so aiming does matter. These joysticks are precise enough to make complex maneuvering among enemies (which is a must at later stages of the game) and shooting at them at the same time a purely joyful experience. And I know what I’m talking about, I’ve spent like more than 30 hours in this damn game…

On the other hand, recently I tried Emissary of War, another action RPG created by some Bioware employees as a side project. It uses the touch & slide control scheme and was praised in reviews just for that (among other things of course). But you know what? It felt incredibly clumsy to me, compared to Solomon’s Keep. Maybe it’s just because I used so much to these joysticks? I don’t know. But now I have a little dilemma designing my own game…

So what do you think is the best controlling scheme for an iOS action RPG? Virtual joysticks or touch & slide? Or maybe something else entirely?

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Design, Gameplay

 

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Royalty free music

Update: as pointed out by jandujar, these tracks are not completely free for commercial use after all. They are royalty free (which means you don’t have to pay a royalty to the author for every sold copy of your game), but you do have to pay once for the license. And there are not exactly cheap, especially for an iOS indie developer. Check out the comments below for more details. Or click the “jamendo pro” link on jamendo website. As I should do before writing nonsense here. The album is great anyway. But not free to use in a game, sadly. Sorry for confusion.

And here goes the original post:

Recently I started to consider the topic of music and sounds in my game. What is an RPG without climatic music? Nothing. Abomination. Good music in an RPG is a must. But I have no skills to create music myself. Virtually none. And I also really don’t want to pay for creating professional, orchestral music for my iPhone game. The risk of spending more, than my profit from sells would be is just too great. I already commit lots of my time for this project, right? That should be enough, at least for the first title.

So what should I do now? Search the internet for free, quality music, right? Right. I did just that. It’s not easy. Most of things you can download for free is crap. There is some free music, but free to download does not necessarily mean free to use in your paid game. You must pay close attention, even CC (Creative Commons) license is not enough. There are various kinds of CC license and the one you are probably looking for is called “CC BY”. Which means, the only thing you are obliged to do to use the music royalty-free in your commercial project is to mention it’s author in your project. For example in the credits of your game.

Anyway let me tell you this… it’s not easy to find good fantasy themed music published under such a license. But I managed it. And there is more out there, I’m pretty sure. You just have to look for it.

Without further hesitation I proudly present an album called “Chronicles III” by Mattias Westlund. Completely free to use in a commercial project. And the quality of this music is just… astonishing.

I’m going to use the first track “Breaking the Chains” for the exploration screen and the sixth one “Legends of the North”for the fight screen.

This music is really great, so be sure to check it out!

Another matter is, you can safely assume, that a percentage of people playing your game using headphones is close to zero. Even I, being a kind of audiophile (most people I know pay much less attention to quality of sound in various situations, than me), play mobile games using headphones only occasionally. Which means, your music has to sound good through these tiny external speakers of an iPhone. There is no way around it.

Luckily and to my huge surprise it really does sound pretty decent. Good job, Apple!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Art

 

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IAP model not worth effort in offline games?

I researched the whole freemium vs lite/paid matter a bit more (basically looking for experiences of developers, who already released games with IAP) and now I have even more doubts if selling level/adventure packs as IAP really makes sense in case of my game.

Here is an article, which got me thinking.

And here are the conclusions:

Free to play gamers will pay for power-ups and self-expression, but not for new content.

…and more:

When building your micro-transaction game, you should put equal weighting on creating virtual goods that make players more powerful and on those that offer them the chance for self-expression. But if you were thinking about selling extra levels (a standard model for puzzle/casual games), forget it. The market just isn’t there.

This is not the only evidence supporting this statement. Just the most clearly and logically written one, so I quote it here.

Back to my game. There is no way I can make it an online game as a one man team with pretty tight budget. So offline it will be. The plan is simply to create a game, which I, as a gamer would enjoy most. Which means classical offline RPG / dungeon crawler. There is no place for IAP in such game, except additional content (levels/adventures). I don’t think power-ups, like potions or more powerful weapons or armor would work. Items used only to improve looks of your avatar – without any actual meaning for gameplay – obviously won’t.ble

So, tell me what you think.

  1. Does it make sense to publish a free RPG offline game with extra levels sold in app? Or is the lite/paid model a better option?
  2. What about paid in app items to make game easier and faster (more powerful weapons, consumables etc.)?

There is no place for growing frogs/crops or anything like that in an RPG game after all. And IAP seems to be best suited for speeding up such kind of activity, right? πŸ˜‰

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Design, Gameplay, Marketing

 

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Freemium vs. Lite/Paid

I was actually going to sell the game in a traditional way until now. Like this:

  • make a free Lite version with about 10-20% of the content (2-3 maps) to give potential customers a chance to try it out,
  • then sell the full version.

There is one problem with this approach. I’d like to “stay” with this particular game for a bit longer. Or even very long, if it proves successful enough. That means adding additional content (maps, adventures, items, monsters etc.), listening to what community has to say and tweaking things here and there from time to time and so on. This takes time and there is no way to get any revenue from such things in the traditional way (one sell). New content won’t result in any new purchases. Or in very little. It will only please existing players, who already bought the game. And give me something very pleasurable to do in my free time. But I cannot live from that, right?

So what are the options?

Either just make a new game each 4-6 months and sell it. Which means there is no time for polishing of existing titles, listening to the community, slowly making your game more and more perfect.

Or… freemium. I know, this sounds like a curse for some of you. Even I don’t like this term. Usually it means, you get something half baked for free and discover quickly, that it’s impossible to have an enjoyable gaming experience without paying for a horse armor or some potions regularly. This is unacceptable. This is why I don’t like DLC and and don’t like games with InApp purchases.

But recently started to change my mind. Especially when it comes to iOS games (or generally gaming on mobile devices). If done right, freemium games can be a winner for both sides – gamers and game producers. I think the key to success is, that a freemium game has to have enough potential to be enjoyable without making a single InApp purchase. You can buy this horse armor if you wish to have a shining horse, but you can fight perfectly well without it. You can never spend anything and still enjoy the game.

Can it work from a game producer point of view? I mean can I earn money comparable to the standard model (one purchase) this way? Well… this article suggest, that yes, it’s possible. Even more, if done right it can be much more profitable.

What would this mean for Infinity Dungeon (if I’m going to follow this route)? Probably a free to download game with the content I was going to pack into the Lite version. And InApp purchases of additional content (chapters, dungeons, maps etc.).

And what about in game items, potions and whatnot purchased for real money? I don’t know if this is such a good idea. If you can play perfectly well without them… well… maybe. But I’m also a gamer and as a gamer I don’t like this thought. What an inner fight… πŸ™‚

What do you think?

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Marketing

 

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Forest map

Here is another map I was doing recently with Tiled editor, this time in rock/forest setting. It was a bit harder to work with such irregular shapes (the Dungeon map was more rectangular, hence easier), but when you figure out which tiles are outer and inner corners, it’s going much smoother. Look here if you don’t know, what I’m talking about. What I still have to figure out is how to use shadows from this free tiles from Lost Garden. On my TODO list.

So… here is the map. It just another prototype, but looks very nice on an iPhone screen nevertheless.

Click the image for the full size version.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Art, Design, Screenshots

 

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First screenshot

This is actually no real screenshot, but a prototype dungeon tilemap created with Tiled using the free assets from Lost Garden. I wrote more about them in my previous post. You know Tiled Map Editor, right? You can create such maps incredibly fast and easy in Tiled. And it is supported by cocos2d out of the box.

I do already have working code showing this on an actual device (my iPhone 3GS) with scrolling, zooming etc. It looks even better, than on a PC or Mac monitor. Everything works fast and smooth. And it took about 10 lines of code. Cocos2d is really powerful!

So… what do you think?

Be sure to watch this in the original size (1:1), not downsized (click the image). It looks best this way. On an iPhone screen you can see a 640×480 window, which means about 1/4 of bigger rooms.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Art, Design, Screenshots

 

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Why cocos2d?

Here is my list why (I like lists, as you probably noticed by now):

  1. It’s open source. This is probably the most important thing about cocos2d, Not only free, meaning that you don’t have to pay for it. But free meaning, you can do with it whatever you like. Modify, learn from the code, see how things work, even if the documentation is lacking. It’s worth the little extra complexity over Corona, believe me.
  2. It’s build on a solid foundation of an Object Oriented language. Granted, it’s a bit annoying it has to be Objective-C and not old, good C++ or even better Java. But it’s good enough for me. And it’s not so much different from C++ anyway.
  3. You can use excellent Apple XCode IDE. With very good editor, syntax highlighting & autocompletion, code refactoring, templates, real debbuger, good integration with git version control and many more. It’s really much, much more, than Text Wrangler can offer.
  4. You build your code locally, on your own machine. It’s possible to do that without internet access.
  5. It offers particles and tilemaps. I’m going to use both in my game.
  6. It’s possible to use any 3rd part library, unlike in Corona. Like GameCenter or OpenFeint for example. Which I’m also going to use in my game. Well… not both. It will be GameCenter I believe.
  7. It has been around for some time and seems to be mature. Version 1.0 rc3 is the newest one.
  8. An impressive portfolio of good and commercially successful games made using cocos2d also shows, the engine is capable. Trainyard, Feed me Oil and many more. Look here for the full list.
  9. There is a big and helpful community gathered around coco2d. Here you’ll find their forums. Very nice and helpful place indeed. Of course Corona also have forums, but I personally got help much faster on cocos2d forums.
  10. It’s open source!

So… this list pretty much sums up all I have to say on that. I’m made my decision when it comes to engine. cocos2d it is.

Partial credits for the list go to wilczarz from cosos2d forums.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Technical

 

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