A few months back I received an email from Marmalade Studios. Marmalade is the system I used to give me cross platform support. I pay for a licence yearly which is still covered by the ongoing sales on the long tale of the game. Anyway, the email informed me that Marmalade were pulling out of the Tools business to focus on their own development. They laid out a timetable and final release plan for the current tools but ultimately from March 2017 they will no longer be supporting their toolset. There was an offer to purchase rights to the source code, but as a small indie, that’s not really an option.
This doesn’t affect the current releases, but what it does mean is that any chances of me producing updates in the future have almost certainly been removed. And with every new OS release, the chance of the game not working are increased.
I know I have not been prolific with updates since the release of Doomdark’s Revenge settled. There was so many things I wanted to do, but just haven’t gotten around to. The reality is two fold, as amazing as the sales of the games have been, they are obviously not enough to support me full time, and secondly, the games were written quite frantically in the end and I never regained that sense of purpose after their release; this is not just for these games but for everything that I have been doing creatively.
I’ve been trying recently to tie up another release. The main reason for this is to produce a build with the latest version of Marmalade and get it out there to properly support the latest devices. In theory a new release should keep its visibility in the App Stores for a few more years. As part of this I’ve been slowing adding a couple of features: Discovery Mode, Difficulty Modes, Rationalise the code base between DDR and LOM. etc..
So with all this in mind I have been toying with the following: Uploading the source code to GitHub and making it open-source with the objective of transferring it to another cross platform solution, Cocos2d-x for example. Or, allowing people to port the engine to any other coding languages they like, so it could be used however they like.
The current codebase is written in c++, and thus moving to Cocos2d-x makes sense, but I quite like the idea of porting to c# or swift.
Moving to open source could also allow for the tool chain to be fully developed which would allow for more work to be put into ongoing development of the games.
Anyway, I shall think on this more, but if anyone is interested in getting involved, then drop me a note…
A month or two back, Amazon approached me about putting The Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge on their new service. It had just a project name then, and I had to sign a whole host of documents before I was even told watch the service was, and then another whole host of documents when I agreed.
Before deciding that I would, I thought long and hard. Essentially, I never wanted the Midnight games to be advert driven, and I couldn’t see a compelling way to have “in app purchases” that would generate the kind of sales required to support the game, without an amount of work that would be loss leading.
By having the Midnight games as a full purchase game, it has probably stopped it from being installed as many times as it might have been when free, indeed I have seen the spikes when the game has been reduced in price for promotion. But even those extra sales have not amounted to much in the way of cash as the price reduction has obviously hurt.
That said, the games have sold around 30k units which I couldn’t be happier at. That just hasn’t resulted in a great deal of money, in the scheme of things. Rough fag packet calculation, if you take the average price at £2.50, taking into account price reductions, different platforms, and multi-currency, you get a turnover of £75k less Commission 30%, and VAT at 20%, it’s just £37.5k – and divided between Jure and Mike’s family, pretty much a three-way split, I’m looking at £12.5k over 2.5 years. Without doing an accurate calculation, I can say that number feels about right, and it’s still a long way from covering my time costs if I apply a day rate to it.
Android sales of the games are well under a 3rd of Apple, but they appear to have a 10:1 piracy ratio when taking into account rough internal data calculations.
So, as we hit the tail end of sales, I wondered if the Amazon pay-for-play where they pick up the tab, might be an interesting approach for some additional Android sales. The gamble was, will people who won’t buy it on Android, possibly pick it up and play it for a while, enough to generate a small trickle of income, that might be greater than the normal Android sales. This could all possibly be maximised by being an official launch app for the service.
Android still accounts for about £50 a month in sales, this last week has seen and additional £3k units downloaded through Amazon Underground, accounting for less than a £1 worth of pay-for-play. Amazon pay a fraction of a penny per minute played. So not a great start, but I’ll have to see how it goes.
I know the t&c’s for the Amazon offering are a little harsh, and the privacy settings quite extraordinary, but still understandable considering what they need to achieve, however I figure that the target audience who don’t want to pay for the games in the first place, probably don’t care. And those who do, have either already bought the game, or still have the option to through Google Play, or Amazon Store proper.
I just need to keep an eye on whether the Amazon Underground sales hurt the Android sales, better them, or just become another small income stream.
Just in case you missed it… Doomdark’s Revenge is out on all formats.
The main reason for this change is purely logistics. I have to get the website ready to go, PR and Press Packs, Screenshots, Video, submit all versions, and create the store for direct selling.
However, the other reason that I hadn’t taken into account until thinking about submission congestion, is that, during the week of the 17th, it would have been Mike Singleton’s 63rd birthday. So it feels appropriate.
The iOS version is ready to go, and I intend to submit to Apple tonight. Apple usually take 7 days to approve a new submission. If there are any problems, then I would likely miss the 7th. The real area of concern is that from Feb 1st, Apple are insisting that all submissions are done using XCode5 and target iOS7 as the build SDK. In theory this shouldn’t be a problem, however in order to guaranty this, I need to build with the latest version of the Marmalade SDK 7.1.1 and as this version is only BETA at the moment I have slight concerns. I am currently not able to submit to MAC Appstore because of a Marmalade issue, and that affects my confidence in it.
The Android version appears to be ready. The first initial sweep has been done and a few small visual bugs stamped out. The game UI now seems stable across resolutions so I would suspect that supported devices will be the same as with The Lords of Midnight. I don’t foresee any issues moving forward. The turn around time on Google Play is such that I still have plenty of time to fix anything that crops up.
I have done a Blackberry build, and it all seems to be running in the simulator without issue. I need to perform an actual device test but again I don’t foresee any issues. There were some initial problems with the Q10 720×720 resolution but they have been ironed out. BTW: this version will allow the Q10 to rotate and I will include this fix in The Lords of Midnight ASAP.
Samsung and Amazon builds are just packaging. So again, I don’t foresee any issues.
Windows and OSX builds should be good, as this is how I develop. I expect to hand over a master to Fastspring and GoG.com early next week.
The only issue with the OSX version is that it is unlikely to be available in the MAC Appstore for a while. This is due to the aforementioned issue with the Marmalade SDK and OSX Mavericks. If the issue is not fixed soon, and I have a window of opportunity before the 17th ( preferably by the 10th ), I will install an OSX Mountain Lion machine and attempt to build the app. The OSX version will however be available direct or through GoG.com, where I don’t need to release a signed app.
Once the release is out there, I intend to revisit Windows Phone 8 version of both Doomdark’s Revenge and The Lords of Midnight.
I finally managed to push out the update to Lords of Midnight. All platforms have been updated to 1.11
This is the first time that all platforms have shared the same code base, and it’s the first time I have updated all platforms on the same day. It’s quite a big day as I’ve been trying to get this update out for a while, and I feel this marks the proper hand over to Doomdark’s Revenge. So, I really hope I haven’t missed something massive somewhere!
This will likely be the last update this year, unless of course I’ve messed something up. For the next 6 months I suspect all my focus will be on Doomdark’s Revenge. Not only getting it released, but those first few updates that will happen to it early next year after the initial release.
I full list of changes can be found here….
But I thought I might pickup and summarise a few of the items.
Big change was adding new grouping controls. You can now scroll around lords that are grouped making it easier to select lords from the select screen when they are grouped. You can also merge groups, disband with one click, change the leader of the group, and drag a lord from one group to another. You can also disband a group or leave a group from the think screen. Video of it working here…
There is more keyboard support on screens. This is for the desktop version and hopefully Android where it has keyboard support.
Mouse wheel support is there for the desktop version.
The scaling on the map is now available to the mobile versions. You can scale with pinch and spread, but I have also left in the scaling gadget on the mobile versions too.
Selecting lords on the Map screen has had a little work. You can now select the multiple lord icon in order to gain access to all the lords.
For iOS I have added an option to toggle between an ebook novella and pdf novella. I hadn’t considered that people might not have iBooks installed. But I have also added ebook support to the OSX version now that Mavericks is shipping with iBooks.
Two biggies that will make a difference to the game. You can no longer select a lord from the map screen when Luxor is dead and Morkin does not have the Moon Ring. This was a bug that would have allowed you to still control your lords even though you didn’t have the Moon Ring – sorry that exploit has now been plugged!
And, armies were fighting double at night. Which means battles would have been quicker than they should have been because double damage was being dealt out. This would have meant that you could have lost a fight without the chance of escaping, because you should have had a turn between the two battles. Or the armies on both sides are unable to get reinforcements between the two battles.
I hope you enjoy…
Last night I submitted a new version to the Apple App Store. The review process usually takes a week. So hopefully release 1.06 will be ready for Monday 18th.
Unfortunately during my device testing, I found a problem with one of the new features, and made an 11th hour decision to drop it from this release. The feature in question was the Map Pinch and Zoom. The problem was that not all the graphic elements were scaling correctly and during the zoom the focus point of the map was changing. The end result was that it was a little messy and I wasn’t happy letting it out. An evening of work will see the problem fixed, but to do that would mean delaying this release, and I’m painfully aware that the slow down problem needs resolving. So I decided to pull the feature. I know it would be have easy to just delay the release, but I need a working version ready and available on the 18th…
Thankfully, the Android version doesn’t need to be submitted until the end of the week, so I will make the changes and hopefully have the Android version ship with the feature. As long as testing this week proves everything to be working correctly, I will submit another Apple version with just this new feature as soon as possible.
I will upload the current version to the test servers tonight, as I would like it to take a good test pounding this week.
After this month release schedules will be slowed down, and I will go back to utilising the test process more fully!
I have identified the new features that will be in the next version.
Next version should bring Android, iOS, Playbook, and BB10 all into sync.
The features are…
1. Change Swipe up on look screen for showing map to be two finger swipe.
2. Add two finger swipe down on map screen to return to look.
3. Save game Meta Data for identifying stories – “Day 5 – Luxor – Tower of the Moon”
4. Option – Auto Unhide on move, or prompt
5. Option – Auto fight critters on move, or prompt
6. Option – Show movement indicator, On/Off
7. Hold down on main screen for compass, and then choose direction to look.
8. Tweak button sizes for small devices
9. Fix undo storage!
10. Tighten hit box on shield.
11. Fix stray line on certain images ( Android )
12. Fix Select screen shields being under Look Icon.
13. Option – Screen Transitions off
After uploading an update to the Android store at 1am last night, and then waking at 7am to see a tweet showing the location of the cracked version of said upload. It made me think about the issue of piracy.
Now I don’t think that £2.99 is too much to ask for an app, but some do. I’ve seen many comments since the release of the iOS version stating the the price was steep. I understand that nowadays some people might find it a high price to punt on a game, despite the large number of high rating reviews for the game. And I do need to find a way to allow people to experience the game for the first time. Now I don’t like the idea of Ad backed games, it’s not really a direction I want to follow. I also don’t want to reduce the price of the game. I think £2.99 is more than fair and reasonable, despite the prices of Apps in general.
I was thinking about doing a price promotion in Feb, around Mike’s birthday. But I was also thinking about releasing a Lite version. However, part of me is thinking about releasing a Free version.
The idea being, Free version and Paid version. Free version just has a nag screen pointing at the Paid version, and the free version will not get updates and new features. I’m kind of thinking almost like an honesty box version. You like it you buy it. But if you don’t buy it you miss out on any new features I add in the future. I’m sure others have tried this to varying success. But if anyone can cite some examples, that would be great.
I did wonder a little about should I remove a few items from the original free version, like. Remove a couple of the ways of destroying the ice-crown, or remove the quest entirely. Remove the grouping functionality. Remove the last undo. Remove the multiple stories. Should I remove more from a Lite version? Restrict the number of game days you can play it?