Posts Tagged wtp

Filler for the iPhone, ScoreCaching, and Filler 2

Filler for the iPhone

Filler for iPhoneAt long last, Filler is now available on iTunes (you can see my little splash page + iTunes link here) for $1.99. I’ve never outsourced anything before, so it was a bit of a learning experience. I ended up working very closely with the team at ChaYoWo–they’re probably happier to be rid of my long bug reports than they are to actually launch the game (I kid). I’m very satisfied with the final product–even if it doesn’t sell a single copy, there’s a certain joy in being able to play my game wherever I go now. There are a couple of interesting things that happened during the development of the iPhone version.

The first thing I usually hear when people see I’m working on an iPhone version is that I should make it tilt-enabled so you can move the balls around. The problem is… that makes the game stupid easy. It’s not really that hard of a game to begin with (but man is it good to kill 5 minutes while you’re waiting for a bus…), so adding in more mechanics to simplify things just seemed like the wrong direction. Another idea I had was to use the tilt to move around the cursor, and have a button for making filler balls. We actually coded this one up, but… uh… it was terrible. In the end we decided not to use tilt and to keep the gameplay closer to the original Flash version.

One thing I noticed while playing early builds (which I also noticed while playing various clones that are already on sale) is that your fingers really do get in the way of dragging the Filler balls around while they inflate. Most of the strategies for the Flash version involve creating balls near the top of the screen and then using them as shields while they fall. “Finger-blockage” is at its worst when your finger is at the top of the screen, though, greatly diminishing the usefulness of those strategies. While playing those early builds, I did something radical: turned my iPhone upside down. Success! Sure, the balls are floating up instead of falling down–but man it was great to see the whole screen. Asking players to flip their phones upside down is just silly, though, so I did the sensible thing and reversed gravity.

ScoreCaching

While the ChaYoWo guys were coding the app to my demanding specs, I got to work on another integral piece: ScoreCaching (Update: ScoreCaching has been killed). Most of the iPhone games I’ve played with online leaderboards do just that–global online leaderboards. I wanted a little more than that, so I figured I might as well build it myself. ScoreCaching combines the idea of online leaderboards with geographic location (think Geocaching). Instead of comparing your scores to everyone in the world, why not compare your scores against everyone nearby? Even better, why not leave your scores behind as a mark of your achievement? Just as people used to line up at arcade boxes with the hopes of leaving their initials in the number one spot, ScoreCaching will (eventually) allow players to mark specific places. What’s your high score for the Golden Gate Bridge? What about Times Square? How about the pub down the street? Those features are a little ways out still, but for now you can compare your scores with your friends and those around you.

Filler 2 (Flash)

Kongregate!When Shockwave offered to sponsor Filler 2 as a three-month exclusive, it seemd as if the stars were aligning perfectly. That would give me extra time to finish up the iPhone version, ScoreCaching, and the XBox Community Games version (whoops!). I didn’t quite finish the XBox version (though I did write a hell of a lot of reviews over at Worth the Points), but Shockwave’s exclusive is up and now the rest of the internet can finally enjoy Filler 2. Kongregate, the totally-kick-ass sponsor of the original Filler, is reprising its role for the second go-around. You can play it over on Kongregate here or play it on my site with the link on the sidebar–I’ll start spreading it around the rest of the net sometime next week. If you run a flash portal, feel free to snag the SWF off my site (the one on Kong is site-locked until I verify it’s totally bug-free). If you’d like to license the game for your site (ad-free), drop me a line at learnyourabcs@gmail.com.

What’s Next?

On top of everything else, I’m also one of the developers in Mochi’s Brave and the Bold Contest. A $4k (minimum) payout is okay, but let’s get something straight–it’s freakin Batman. I watched the original Batman cartoon every day for years as a kid (I was a Marvel kid when it came to comics, but the Batman cartoon was awesome). Getting to develop an original game concept with one of my favorite characters–that’s a sweet deal.  I’ve also got a handful of other finished prototypes in the pipe that are currently on hold until I can clear some of this development logjam.

As always, stay tuned to this space for interesting facts and figures on how everything is doing.

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A Couple of Community Games Thoughts

In the last week, there were a couple of newsworthy items (loosely) related to Microsoft’s Community Games initiative. Their most recent news post over at the XNA Creator’s Club web site has a list of review sites which cover community games. They got a lot of details wrong for Worth the Points, but hey–there’s no such thing as bad press! More important than the tiny little traffic bump, game developers are now more aware that there are in fact sites out there promoting their games. While I have gotten a couple of emails asking for reviews in the past, since that news post went live they’ve started trickling in with greater regularity (about 1 a day).

The biggest problem with the community games review space right now has nothing to do with those of us that are actually reviewing games–it’s the larger review sites who don’t review them. Run a Google search for pretty much any community game (for example, google two recent games we reviewed–FreaKick or Planet Crashmania 9,000,000) and you get a litany of results from the “bigger” players in the game review space: IGN, Gamespot, GameRankings, GameFAQs, GameStats, Gamespy. All of these sites automatically create pages for all the XBox games, but the problem is that they don’t actually cover any of the community games. After a half-dozen search results yielding no actual content, it’s no wonder that only the developers themselves (who are willing to scour through pages of results for any press) seem to be finding the actual reviews. Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is time.

The second newsworthy item was the announcement that Amazon has started carrying XBox Live Arcade games. There are some kinks (you’re actually buying download codes, which means you have to punch them into your box manually), but this has the potential to be a huge boon for arcade games in general. While they don’t carry any Community Games yet, it’s a short leap from Arcade titles to Community titles (assuming Amazon doesn’t have any hang-ups over the lack of rating). Putting the community games on Amazon would instantly solve the number one request by community developers: game ratings. WTP and other review sites allow users to rate games, but for it to really be a useful feature you need a TON of ratings–something Amazon could provide. Having community games listed on Amazon would also create an instant revenue stream for any site reviewing community games (referral links). I doubt the conversions would be all that high (it would be MUCH better if Microsoft had their own referral program, as you can actualy tell your XBox to buy/download games through their marketplace site), but it would probably beat ads. The more I think about it, the more I think Microsoft should just let Amazon run THEIR marketplace–they’ve got way more experience in the space.

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