Flickball (working title)

November 25, 2011 No comments yet

We’re really pleased with the positive reaction to our AR Football game ‘Flickball’ (working title) that Sony showed in their Vita launch event earlier in the week!

The history of Tic Toc Body Pop

June 11, 2011 No comments yet

 

I’m taking what may seem a bit of a lazy approach to a blog today by talking about our latest release which came out this Thursday 9th June. I’m going to try and cover the history of the game which is possibly a bit longer than people would imagine. Hopefully people trying the game will realise that a lot of effort has gone into us trying to get everything right with it that we can.

 

The game idea was originally conceived by Simon Butler (see his website here and get in touch with him if you need some great artwork), a great artist and friend who we’ve worked with for many years.

The original text description had a few major differences to the final game

  • Possibility of two figures to fit through holes at once
  • Pickups that come along the conveyor to provide the speed up / slow down abilities

Coupled with the description Simon had also produced a mockup video which we’re showing here for the first time

Compared to a shot from the game as it is now

 

You can see the UI was a bit more complicated than it is now and at this stage we didn’t have the awesome art style that Simon developed along with the Tic Toc character. It certainly had the craziness aspect and the Abraham Lincoln character popping in was great but we decided to drop (for now) from the full game.

This original video + text description were sent across on 14th July 2010, we discussed the ideas for a few months before having original prototypes around the inverse kinematics we were going to use to help the control system only be driven by the ends of the limbs.

Simon had the first 50 levels of the game put together very quickly and we had what seemed like most of the final assets by November, the implementation was still in a very early phase at this point due to other project commitments. We were however talking regularly about the plans and design for the project.

In January we started showing the game mockups around to people  and getting a bit of feedback we also started working out the interface elements and arranging the game structure. We wanted to be familiar and try and emulate what Cut The Rope / Angry Birds (and many other games before them on other platforms) have done well in terms of the sets of levels and the simple advancement method that still encourages replayability  by giving you a gold/silver/bronze type achievement status per level.

In early February the implementation was working well and we had a nice data driven system for putting all the levels together, we also integrated the music for each of the levels (each level has its own short loop to match the level theme). We also established the logo for the game and introduced the concept of the unlockable costumes.

At this stage we also killed off the initial idea of walls that rotate to provide an extra challenge as with the obstacles we had on later levels the game was fairly hard as it was!

During March / April we performed a LOT of tweaking of the levels, our main fear during this time was making it too hard a game as many of you will know when developing a game it’s easy to start mastering it and then tweaking it to challenge yourself but then anyone new to the game faces an impossible task.

We integrated OpenFeint (who have been great to work with) and finished off essentials like the app icon, below is only one of the many pages of icons that Simon produced before we got to the final app icon.

 

May and the game is pretty much done, we’ve also been working on reducing the size of the game significantly and Phil performed his research into the simple but effective methods mentioned in the last blog post I did. We switched to zlib at the time as we wanted to keep the graphics lossless while we tested and evaluated other methods further which is why the game upon release is a fairly large 149mb.

I do believe that this could be a concern for us in terms of selling a lot of copies with it to start with and we do plan to reduce this down in the future (and also make some slight tradeoffs for <20mb lite versions if we choose to release one) however with the effort put into the art style I felt we should show it off the best we can upon release and try not to trade off on that.

Speaking of the artwork I’m going to leave it for another blog post but we have a lot of in progress art images that would be great to show, some of these show the subtle tweaks we made to the menus and level graphics which I believe have left us with a very polished feeling game.

At this point we were ready for submission, our final hurdle was some approval problems in terms of our OpenFeint use causing some concern with the Game Center features we were advertising, we got this turned around in about a week and ready to launch 6 days later. This delay unfortunately pushed us into WWDC/E3 week but we felt that we should still get launched.

We’re expecting slightly slow sales to start with but our marketing push has begun and we’ll hopefully see more of this coming online the next few weeks. From that the game should pick up a bit and get up the charts, if it doesn’t we’ll be pushing out a Lite version and trying some different tactics.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief (and hopefully interesting) look at the development of Tic Toc Body Pop and please try the game – available for 59p/99c for a limited time .

Click the icon for a link to the App Store.

Also a big thanks to our programmer Lewis for his pretty much solo work on most of the project and Gary, Phil and the rest of the team for their contributions in either tech or feedback.

 

Things we’ve been enjoying this week

  • Tic Toc Body Pop – oops mentioned it again 😉

QuizQuizQuiz – iPhone sales numbers – ‘US-eh?!’

August 28, 2010 7 comments

Welcome to our first iDevBlogADay post, if this is your first visit please have a look at my recent introduction post.

I thought it would be nice to start with a numbers post as they’re usually popular!

There is a focus of this particular post and it’s not meant to be a negative – more of a ‘this is a problem we have’ and ‘now we want to fix it’ advice / support is very welcome!


The Game!

“Very slick + addictive”; “Fantastic value for money.”; “Hugely addictive.”; “Perfect for snackable gaming”;”QuizQuizQuiz is the ultimate iPhone trivia game.”;”QuizQuizQuiz sets the bar for trivia apps.”;”QuizQuizQuiz is a breath of fresh air in the trivia genre.”

QuizQuizQuiz is

  • An addictive pick up and play trivia game
  • Packed with over 36,000 professionally written questions for English US, English UK, English Australian, English New Zealand, English International, French, Italian, German, Spanish markets
    • Specific topics related to each, i.e. less ‘soccer’ questions for the US, no baseball questions for the UK.
  • Adjustable difficulty setting offering a challenge to everyone from children to masterminds!
  • Features a unique sub-category selection feature letting users pick the topics they want as they play through
  • 4 different game modes (2 single player, 2 on-device multiplayer)
    • Beat The Clock – answer as many questions (correctly) in a specific time
    • QuizMaster – 3 lives, 3 lifelines, how will you do?
    • Challenge – Head to head multiplayer all players answering the same question
    • Passaround – Select a category and all players answer a different question from that category each round

Personally I believe that as long as a trivia game modes are fun the question content is the main value in any game of this genre, our cost to the user per question is probably 3 times lower than any competitor. The questions are also written and checked by professional quiz writers.

What shall we do tonight Pinky?

World domination wasn’t quite our plan but we felt we had a very strong title upon launch though we knew we were up against some big traditional trivia brands.

A chart of worldwide sales then

Just looking at the chart and ignoring the numbers this looks like a lot of initial sales charts I’ve seen (or even a retail sales chart) – high initial sales with a long tail.

Including the numbers however we were very lucky and had high initial sales (on this chart around 70,000 at $0.99 – $2.99, more the lower end), unfortunately the long tail numbers are fairly small right now though do pay for the free drinks and beers for everyone in the office I guess!

The main reason for our high sales was mainly due to being featured by Apple after a strong start in both UK, Europe and US. Our support for all the major markets helped massively with this we feel.

Once we were in the top 10 charts (and #1 or #2 Paid App in some European stores which was an awesome feeling!) we wanted to stay there and so dropped the price when we dropped below 5th. We believe this kept us up there longer and I think this was the correct decision as it kept us in front of peoples eyeballs and allowed us to build something of a recognised brand – at the time at least.

Time to order the Aston Martin? Not quite!

If you’re not in Europe it’s likely you’ve never seen our game anywhere on the charts, if we look at US sales it unfortunately doesn’t match sales in Europe.

This is further illustrated on the following piechart (which also shows Spanish localisation support wasn’t that worthwhile!)

When we were enjoying the success in Europe we were praying that we’d get a staggered mirror of the results in the largest App Store market, this didn’t happen and our US sales before Europe took off were actually higher than anything we did later on bizarrely

To be honest though we didn’t expect sales to ever be massive in the US and Canada due to the lack of brand attached to the product.

Speaking to other local British developers not as informed about the product they assumed we didn’t have US specific content and therefore we were putting people off but we had custom written App Descriptions explaining the content for each.


Riddle me this!


Of course with this kind of App Store evaluation you never really know why at a particular time something didn’t sell.

I do think A/B testing is possible on the App Store I imagine it’s just a bit of pain (both in setup and maintenance) and still has uncontrollable variables depending on how you do it. i.e. Release a separate app in different regions you believe to be similar, try a different price in each, release under two different names / icons across certain regions (possible to upset people buying twice here though).

Some ideas

  • Lack of brand
    • Still our main theory though this doesn’t seem to matter for all iPhone games (see Doodle  Jump / Angry Birds – although I guess they did become brands in their own right?)
  • Losing featuring in the US store
    • We lost feature in the US pretty quickly, this is most likely directly linked to lack of sales during the featured week however. I’ve not checked what else was released / featured that week but something probably took our sales if this was the main issue.
  • Poor initial reviews in the US store
    • We had some pretty harsh reviews early on, I seem to remember someone getting one of the few incorrect answers in the 5,000 US questions we have. Obviously some sneak through the QA and we’re quick to correct them. When people see something featured the current reviews is the only other guidance to go off I guess (as there is no indication of that items chart position).
  • People thinking that we didn’t have US content
    • I put this on here as lots of people say this to us, I don’t really think someone looking on the App Store at the game would actually think this – please let me know if you think otherwise though!
  • The US don’t like trivia games
    • I’ve been told that some of the popular multi-platform trivia games don’t do full releases in the US due to lack of interest in the genre. This may be true but obviously we’d still be higher up in the specific Trivia category chart if this was the case.

Avast, me hearties!

We were told by other developers that piracy was a big problem, at the time I posted a few times on twitter saying this either wasn’t a problem at all for us or our piracy test was broken. I had tried to find someone posting the game online and it just seems the pirates weren’t big fans of trivia.

That was until almost 1 month exactly after launch when a version got posted up on a file sharing site. The current stats show that 23% of the people who have played the game were playing pirated versions.

As I mentioned we do detect pirated copies but we didn’t do anything about them as we hoped they’d convert to purchases or encourage friends to try (though I guess they’d encourage them to try for ‘free’ as well!). We also have stats showing these people did play just as much as paying users though they tailed off a little earlier (due to less investment in the product I would think).

What we did next

With Christmas fast approaching we decided to try a ‘Lite’ version in the form of a Christmas edition, this featured around 300 questions for all the markets we supported in the full product. It contained a splashscreen which popped up quite a bit with a link sending people to the full game on the App Store.

The chart above shows around 210,000 downloads.

Believe it or not this still gets downloaded a lot and we think it has helped maintain our long tail of sales of the full product.

This again failed to touch the US market but did have a massive uptake in the Italian market which encouraged us to increase the amount of Italian content in the main game in the first update we did.

The first update fixed a couple of question selection issues, some of the incorrect answers and added even more question content making ours the highest value quiz game on the store.

What we should have done (maybe?)

So what should we have done next – or what could we still do perhaps?

  • Engage with more US journalists sooner, we mailed and tried to get their attention but they’re busy guys and Trivia is a hard sell (or it feels like it is!). We sent out review codes and had offers of reviews but unfortunately few materialised at the time.  We met a few of them at GDC and this will hopefully help in the future.
  • Actively look for potential buyers on twitter and forums, we could have done this while we were in the European top charts and talked about the success a bit more to help that transition to the US.
  • Buy advertising space focused on the US with the money we were making in the UK/Europe.
  • Produced an actual lite version rather than just the Christmas version. I’m not sure if this would have helped.
  • Produce more updates. This is one I really would have liked to do though we didn’t have much feedback after the first update which perhaps caused us to lose momentum on this, people seemed generally happy with the changes and we saw playtime increase.
  • Maintained the website. I’m not sure how much this does effect things and due to various reasons we didn’t have much access to site analytics. It’s still pretty out of date however and in the future we plan to make website updates something we schedule in with other marketing updates.

What we’re currently doing

We’ve been working on lots of different projects this year and now QuizQuizQuiz and our other trivia brands are getting even more of our attention.

We released QuizQuizQuiz World Football as a 59p app as a mid-way point lite version before the World Cup, this unfortunately got a little lost in the World Cup app frenzy. It did seem to gain us some extra fans though and the content is valuable for the future.

We’re currently working on updates for the app for the upcoming iOS features to see if we can revitalise sales of the game as the content is still very current.

Another trivia game You Are The Ref (a football / soccer trivia app based around the amazing artwork of sports artist Paul Trevillion) which we have developed is gradually growing its fanbase and we plan to cross-promote all of our apps in the near future.

We’re also listening and learning more as we go along, at the end of the day we’re developers trying to do marketing which is really good fun but we’ve learnt that we need to be disciplined in the approach we take and make sure we don’t let the ball drop at anytime.

Thanks!

That post certainly ended up a lot longer than I imagined!

Any feedback / ideas for us would be very welcome (and indeed any comments on the article or the blog in general).

Thanks for reading! (please check out the mini section below, will see how long I can maintain that too)

Things we’ve been enjoying this week

QuizQuizQuiz

October 17, 2009 No comments yet

QuizQuizQuiz after a slightly slow first few weeks has taken off the last few days after being featured by Apple.

We’re now number one in the US and Canada trivia charts as well as being in the top 10 in the majority of the other stores.

Simon also did an interview with Pocket Gamer Biz which can be viewed here

Develop Conference

July 12, 2009 No comments yet

Since our last post we’ve been hard at work on various projects both self-published (with various development partners) and work-for-hire on some exciting new download platforms. We’re really excited about working on some of the digital distribution platforms with their easy access to market and through Facebook/Twitter it’s much easier to communicate with end-users than it ever has been in the past.

We’ll be attending the Develop Conference in Brighton this week, if anyone would like to meet for a chat with us please drop us an email via the details on the contact page.