Cranking The Wheels, Open Development Style

Over the past year or so I have been really inspired by blogs which are open with their development. The best example I could point to is Those guys are pretty amazing and  inspire me from design all the way to marketing. I think the biggest concerns with game developers not being open with their development is a) they don’t want to spoil gameplay/story and b) they don’t want somebody stealing ideas. I share the same concerns, but my main goal is to inspire the curious and, hopefully, generate some thoughts from you. Since most of you reading are developers, and not yet quite “fans,” hopefully, we will all benefit somehow.

That said, there will be spoilers… So run if you’re a fan. Let’s give this a whirl.

Here are a few highlights dug from the repository since the last blog update.

Added a Notification for Unread Mail Message

The first pass resulted in only a mail icon, with no clear indicator showing the user has something to read.

Well, the only reason why I would tap on something like that is because I’m a news junky and I would be curious to see what’s in there. Most are probably not like that, and need a little eye candy in order to see what is behind door #3. I decided to add an indicator.

Moved Game Center Achievements / Leaderboards from Custom Views to Game Centers standard GK*ViewController

Last month I roughly implemented Game Center in my own custom views. I did that for a few reasons, a) Cocos2D was not handling view rotations very well, so using the standard GK*ViewController was not something I felt like diving further into, and b) I wanted to give them their own custom look to fit in with the game.

I decided against the custom look mainly because I didn’t feel like it was going to look right with the direction I took it. Luckily, I saw that Cocos2D 0.99.5 was unleashed which handles rotation on the iPad much better. Well, a few tweaks later I had the modal view coming into the screen correctly.

Improved Capture Method and Combo System

Before I began polishing the existing method a player only had one way to capture a butterfly.  You touched the screen and created a circle.  In order for a capture to be a success you had to come within a certain distance of your original touch. While this worked perfectly fine through play-testing, I wanted to give the player another option for a little more action. Now they can snip the line wherever they want to commit a capture.

This naturally introduces a much more entertaining combo system. As long as the player doesn’t pick up their finger and they capture within a certain time frame, a combo point is earned.

Implemented Stage 2

A couple of challenges await the player. Each stage will have 20 levels. This stage is by far the trickiest for me to play. In addition to capturing butterflies, the player has to mix primary and secondary butterflies together in order to meet the objectives. Later in the level the player will have to be concerned with specific butterflies that fall into trouble and act quickly.

I have not play-tested this one so I’m curious to see how people handle it.

Flurry Analytics

How many people completed Stage 1? How about Stage 2 and 3? How far did the player get before they quit?  These are some of the questions that I’m curious about in order to improve the game in areas that are weak.

And some other interesting questions I’m curious about; How many people tapped mute? Are people tapping More Games? Are they tapping the links within More Games? Does that mail notification grab attention?

Beginning the Brand Building, Again

This deserves it’s own post, but generally speaking, I put together a small mini-site at and continue to speak with the game developers community again on several fronts. Yesterday I added olark to the website that will allow fans/customers to directly reach me with support questions. If a fan takes the time to visit my website, I doubt they’re looking for trouble.

The Hunt to Find an Artist

I decided that with my future projects I would NOT play the do-it-all guy.  I needed an artist and refused to release something without one.

Well finding an artist to work with us took an extremely long time — somewhere around 2 months?

A lot, and I mean a lot of artists do not like working on a project without earning a high $/hr and many artists completely misunderstand the independent nature of being an independent game developer.  Taking the time to spot someone with that passion is absolutely critical.  If you bring on an artist and they can’t rattle off an independent game, or even a game, that they’ve enjoyed recently they are not the right person.  The core problem I envision is someone bailing midway through the project, which would really, really suck.  It also helps having someone who understands games and how they can create an interactive experience with their artwork.

I find it very interesting to be around creative people, but for whatever reason I have yet to make a lot of contact with artists whom are interested in game development.  It’s the common dilemma surrounding coders.  I could rattle off quite a few coders I know.  Artists? Not so much.

I started this adventure to find an artist by taking advantage of my current environment.  I work with 300+ artists of varying degree at the visual effects studio I work with.  I had a surprisingly small amount of people interested in collaborating.  I say surprisingly, mainly, because I see quite a lot of independent things going around the studio.  So I know people are doing things outside of work.  We even have quite a few folks that are from the game industry.

During the time above, I listed something on a freelance website for an iPad project I will be doing after the current one.  My experience was pretty lackluster.  The artist had a great reputation/portfolio, but it has taken a long time to get anything out of them.

I then moved into some of the independent forums and craigslist.  Craigslist, by far, was where I gained a tremendous amount of traction.  You can skip paying $75 (bay area) listing fee by posting in gigs.  Within that first evening I had over 20 responses.

What is really interesting here is that I specifically tried to narrow down the responses immediately by asking a simple question within my listing.

What was a game you recently played that may have inspired you artistically?

This question was aimed to gauge if the person had any knowledge of games (bonus if they mention independent games) and also served as a way to filter submissions that were merely spam.  I was very shocked here.  Only 5 – 10% of my responses answered the question.  From there, maybe 2% actually put an effort into answering the question.

Yet, people wonder why they can’t find work?  You need to show some passion and some interest into what you’re responding to!