Apps World Berlin Having gone to the same event in London I already knew what to expect from this one. With so many analytics/advertisement/monetisation companies around you can see many stands with the words “ad”, “cash”. This time there were insanely inspiring speakers. The keynote was given by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and talks were given by Peter Molyneux (Lionhead Studios) and Ian Livingstone (Games Workshop)As usually in these types of events, companies were giving away all kinda of free stuff and I ended up leaving the conference with a cool Heroku t-shirt.
Thank you Heroku for an awesome shirt!
AMaze Festival After the Apps World it was time for AMaze festival once again. It’s great to see how the event grows every year. This year instead of being a volunteer I unfortunately had to work during the days but tried to participate as much as I could. It was once again a great event and it was a very inspiring few days. AMaze will remain as the must-go game development event in Berlin and even in Europe from what I heard. It’s definitely the most fun game development event I’ve been to as it’s really just focused on the developers community unlike in too many other events where it’s all about business which can get fairly boring.I got to play a number of great and crazy games at the exhibition out of which you can see list on their website. As a personal highlight, it was the first time I got to play Gang Beasts and I had a blast (this maybe shows that I’m far behind in PC gaming?). AMAze always featured very strange and out-of-the-box games that you just can’t play anywhere else and especially some physical games were really interesting. Every year there are also more and more VR games which is great as I don’t own my own set and can rarely try them out.All the talks from the event are available on Voicerepublic (in audio format for now) and I really recommend checking them out!
The almost romantic settings of the conference venue
The visitors were first greeted with a cool list of the nominees
I heard a horrific story about developers at AMaze getting their stuff stolen worth around 17,000 euros! Some of the developers and their friends started up an Indiegogo campaign in order to refund these developers. So please do check out their campaign on Indiegogo and support the developers!
I decided to upgrade my marketing endeavours by introducing two new methods/tools into my development cycle and I hope to use them both in my future apps!
PlaceIt.net PlaceIt.net is a ridiculously easy-to-use service for you to create beautiful photos and videos featuring your apps and/or websites. They offer a wide range of different sets where you can simply drag and drop your screenshots and as a result you can get amazing photos you can use as part your marketing materials. I’m planning on using PlaceIt with my future apps as the pricing models are quite indie-friendly. Choosing the right set was actually hilariously funny as I played around with making really silly ones.
Learning Pi has never been this fun!
“I wish this dinner was already over..”
“Look, this app doesn’t even work in landscape”
“Can’t talk right now, I’m at the gym”
App Preview video Like suggested in a previous blog post about ASO, adding app preview videos can greatly influence the app store visitors into downloading your app. Despite Tap to Zap being an older app, I still wanted to make a proper update for it and I got a simple gameplay video made for it. It’s not visible in the app store and hopefully will help people download the game as I will find it really fun!
Some weeks ago I was asking for help to learn more about ASO (App Store Optimisation) on Twitter and Iain from @twobluesocks offered to help me with one of my apps. He ended up constructing an amazing report on Tap to Zap and I learnt so much that I wanted to share the results of the report in the blog. The following report is constructed by Iain from Two Blue Socks
App Icon Being the first element seen by potential customers, the app’s icon is critically important. It needs to convey what the game is about in an eye catching, memorable way. The best icons accomplish this via the use of vibrant colors and a polished graphical illustration. Very few successful icons contain text.
Unfortunately the Tap to Zap icon fails to hit the mark due to its black background and dull, dark color palette. The featured objects (dots) take up only a small percentage of the icon area. These issues lead to an icon that lacks impact and would be unlikely to catch many potential customers eyes as they scanned a page full of other brighter, more colorful and vibrant icons. On an iPhone users see only 2 icons within a search results screen, but users will tend to be scrolling quite quickly, so grabbing their attention with your icon is again a critical requirement.
App Name The current name “Tap to Zap” describes the game mechanics well, is quite catchy and memorable, and rolls off the tongue easily. Having said all of that, it could be improved upon by extending the name to include more keywords, while keeping it 35 characters or less to avoid the name being cut short when displayed in App Store search results. All words in the app name are viewed as keywords by the App Store search algorithm and words within the app name carry the greatest weighting, so it pays to take advantage of this, if possible, by including relevant and strong keywords in your app name without just keyword stuffing for the sake of it. A few suggestions are “Tap to Zap – Dots Shooter”, “Tap to Zap – Laser Dots” or “Tap to Zap – Laser Cannon Wars”.
App Description Most people who get as far as tapping your icon will only read the first sentence or two of your description (if you’re lucky), so you only have a few seconds to grab their attention and make them want to read on, or tap the “Get” button. It’s generally recommended to make your description long enough to include all relevant information and features, but ensuring that each piece of writing is concise and to the point. So don’t place your focus on keeping it short, but don’t pad out text purely to end up with a longer description. You should make use of bullet points where possible, use short sentence structures, and keep words simple to make is easy to read and understand, including for people whose first language may not be English.
Current Description: Tap to Zap is a fun one-touch arcade game. Follow the laser zappers and once aligned with the balls bouncing around the screen, release the fury of a thousand years by tapping the screen and bursting the balls to oblivion while creating 2 smaller versions of the ball..
This game is designed for people who like to zap things. Sound fun? We think so!!
Suggested Description: Fire your laser cannons to blast cosmic dots to pieces, but be precise as one miss and your mission is over!
Tap to Zap is a casual endless shooter style game where dots have to be blasted when caught between the two laser cannons you command. A perfect balance of speed and patience is required as you aim to blast as many dots as possible, while ensuring the moving laser cannons have at least one target between them before firing!
The game starts with a single large static dot. When shot it splits into two smaller dots and these begin to move randomly around the gameplay area. Every time a dot gets blasted by your laser cannons it again splits in two, creating an increasing number of smaller and smaller dots. Be patient and be precise, as the first time you shoot your lasers but fail to hit any dots… game over!
– ?Addictive and challenging gameplay ? – Completely FREE to play (no In App Purchases) ? – Bonus scores when multiple dots (combo’s) are zapped ? Full Game Center integration ? – Challenge friends to beat your high score
Visit Us: darksquaregames.com Follow Us: twitter.com/DarkSquareGames Like Us: facebook.com/darksquaregames
Screenshots Screenshots are another critically important element when it comes to enticing potential customers to tap the “Get” button. They should be eye-catching and aim to show the best parts of your app.
As with the icon, the colors in the screenshots are muted and do not match the vibrancy of the colors in the actual app. Compare the existing screenshots (above) to an adjusted set below.
Your game would also be well suited to the recently introduced App Preview option offered by Apple. This is a short video of your game being played.
Keywords The ideal keywords are those that strike the right balance between relevancy to your app, search volume, and level of competition. In a perfect world you want to use only keywords that are searched for often, bring up only a handful of apps when searched for in the App Store and are highly relevant to your app. Unfortunately very few, if any, such keywords exist these days, so you are aiming to select those that hit the best balance.
A good place to start is to write down every word you can think of that relates to your app. From that list you then want to check the expected App Store search volume for each one and note the number of competitors, i.e. the total number of apps returned when you carry out an App Store search using each keyword. Beyond that you need to analyze your target audience and think of the words and terms they are most likely to be using when looking for games to download.
Apple allow 100 characters for your keyword list which includes the comma used to separate each word. To optimise your allowance DO NOT use spaces between words. Maximize your benefit by using all 100 characters, or as close to 100 as possible.
Suggested Keyword List: laser,dot,dots,ball,circle,cannon,gun,shooting,shooter,game,war,zapping,tapping,target,hard,accurate Other possible keywords: arcade,lasers,cannons,casual,zapper
If you choose to extend the game name, as suggested earlier, by adding more words, be sure to remove any words used from your keyword list (including the suggested list above), and replace them with others.
Ratings/Reviews When presented with a list of app options, potential customers will tend to tap more on those with high average ratings. The problem is that Apple require 5 ratings to be recorded before they will display an average rating for your app in search results, this includes updates to your app. When you release an update Apple resets all ratings data for your app back to zero (ratings for prior versions are still available on the main app page if the user taps the “Reviews” button then “All Versions”).
Recent ratings and reviews can help boost your app in the eyes of the search algorithm, with greater weight being given to the most recent ratings.
Currently Tap to Zap has 4 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 stars (1 in each of India, Finland, Australia and Italy). This means no average rating will be displayed by Apple in any of its worldwide app stores. You should attempt to encourage users, friends and family to rate and review your app. Though if you plan to release an update wait until the update hits the App Store before putting this ratings / review push into action.
There is currently no “Rate App” button, or any method to prompt, encourage or even make it possible (from within the app) for users to rate or review the app. Ratings tend to be hard to achieve, but this will certainly be the case when there’s no easy solution offered to the player, and no call to action (to rate or review)
Conclusion Thanks to Iain I have a big list of possible improvements to consider for Tap To Zap and a definite list of things to remember for my future apps. There will surely be an update to Tap to Zap in the near future.
Two Blue Socks I want to thank Iain very much for helping me out and teaching me so many things about ASO. This is a great starting point to build on. You should really check out their website as well as their newest game QuickFlicks for iOS which is a fun reaction based finger flicking game.
On Wednesday 3Spin was finally being approved by AppStore. There was a last minute scare as the app actually got rejected by the reviewer. I had mentioned there to be ads in the game but I had turned off the Chartboost test ads and when the reviewer didn’t find them, the app got rejected (poor guy, I wonder how long he played the game for in hopes of finding the ads) but luckily he got back to me quickly and we got it resolved in like 15 minutes and the app was ready to go live. Newbie mistake!
I published the app on Tuesday night and immediately got some nice feedback on Twitter. I was excited to see the downloads in the morning and was very surprised to notice that the game had been mentioned in several gaming websites. The source for the news was no other than Pocket Gamer. This was extremely exciting as I didn’t even contact them beforehand. The article, ‘3Spin is a free reflex-based game about matching colors, on iOS now‘ was written by Chloi Rad and mostly touched the colorblind friendliness in the article, which seemed to be the focal point of most comments about the game. The game was described as either “colorblind friendly” or “hard” which I suppose are as good adjectives as any! I guess it really paid off adding those color selection options into the game.
The first full day brought almost 200 downloads which was a solid start. Getting the game noticed in the Arcade/Action categories seems to be quite difficult as those categories seem to have tons of games each day. However the numbers are still looking good and I’m thinking of ways to improve the game and the results.
Another nice thing that happened was that Jane Jones included 3Spin in one of her Youtube reviews again, check out how she did and make sure to subscribe to her channel!
ASO One thing I’m really trying to learn about lately is ASO (App Store Optimisation) which includes all the things you do while submitting your app to the app store. I realised I have a lot to learn about writing descriptions, selecting screenshots and selecting keywords for my apps and I will be seeking for some help here with these questions and I will write about my learnings in future posts.
Install link that takes you directly to the App Store
You can see in the bottom right image that there is a direct Install button that allows users to easily install apps through the Pinterest app. And I think this is great! If for example someone searches for ‘Sports’, they might find relevant sport related apps and games and could directly install them through the Pinterest app.
My first instinct after adding my own apps to my board was to create a board based on my current wish list on my App Store app. I’ve never really been a very active Pinterest user but I see a lot of apps on daily basis and it would be fun to have a public collection of interesting apps that I could easily share with my friends and followers. I’d imagine this could also be interesting for many others.
As a developer I sincerely hope this will make the app discovering at least somewhat easier! We all know finding relevant apps and getting your own apps noticed is extremely hard. The feature currently only supports iOS but must surely be targeting other platforms in the future.
You can find my apps neatly in a row in my board here.
Catching a cold forced me to take it easy over the new year’s eve but it also made me rest and charge my batteries for the year to come! 2014 was a busy year for me in many ways but I finally took my first steps in becoming an indie game developer and I can only be happy over the games I created, the connections I made and the things I learnt over the year.
AdMob In order to better understand how advertising on mobile works, I wanted to do more research on the advertisement networks by jumping on the other side of the table. I decided to invest a small amount of money to advertising Tap to Zap and to see for myself, what kind of numbers you can reach. I decided to start with one of the bigger players in the industry, Google’s AdMob. Octrion helped me create a simple ad banner and with a 20 euro investment I reached the following numbers:
458,903 impressions 1,644 clicks 0.01 CPC (Cost Per Click) 70 installs Which makes the CPI (Cost Per Install) around 0.29 euros
First of all, it always amazes me just how many impressions you can get with such a small investment. On the other hand it’s also crazy how so many views only result in so few clicks but when I think about my own mobile gaming, i must’ve seen thousands of ads and only click on them by accident.
Secondly, I have to be very happy with the results as according to my research, the CPI can grow to be as high as $1. 70 installs doesn’t sound like a lot but there was definitely a spike in the downloads also the day after. When bigger mobile game companies often complain about how expensive it is to acquire users nowadays, I can really see why. As Tap to Zap only works on advertising currently, the return on the invest would depend on how long the players would stay engaged with the game.
The banner we used
The biggest thing I learnt was about targeting the ads. Some advertising networks divide the targeted countries into several tiers and the higher the tier, the higher is the cost for install from that specific country. This is because not only are the bigger markets more attractive for the advertisers, the average amount of boot-ups in those locations is also higher. Chartboost (a game focused advertising network I use myself) offers a pre-set list of their countries and their CPI.
From Chartboost’s blog http://blog.chartboost.com/tiering-campaigns-up/
Overall the experience was fun even though the money burnt really fast (like, really fast). The money I invested was obviously way too small to give real results, but I found this a great learning experience and made me consider these things further.
Tap to Zap is finally available on the AppStore and I thought I’d explain a bit how the game came to life.
I was playing around with some simple game ideas and remembered an old idea I had, inspired by the classic game Buster Bros, or Pang as I remember it. Pang is a sort of a platformer where you try to avoid bouncing balloons on a single screen and shooting them with a harpoon. Whenever you hit a balloon, it’s split into two smaller versions, until the smallest ones just disappear on contact.
Screenshot from Pang
I wanted to create something similar for mobile devices and came up with an idea where two lasers move randomly up and down on rails and the player has to touch the screen to zap, while trying to hit as many bouncing balls as possible. The game is basically a one-button game that has no timers and actually requires some patience to score a high score, which is exactly the kind of game I like to play when I’m commuting. The more balls you manage to zap in one line, the more points you receive. The first prototype proved out to be really fun and I found myself playing it on my way to work almost every day.
The game also has a double multiplier if you manage to clear the screen, but so far nobody has been able to do that! I’m curious to see if this will ever happen.
I sent a very crude draft to my friend Elliott about the idea, who brought it to life with his awesome minimalistic style. I’m very happy with the end result and I’m very excited to work on it further.
The actual image I sent to Octrion, explaining the game idea
The launch day brought me around 200 downloads and I’ve been receiving a steady stream of downloads since. I integrated Chartboost into the game and it’s been a great learning experience on how to monetise your apps using ad networks. I hope to learn a lot from this and use the knowledge in my future games.
Another very exciting thing that happened was that the game was also played by an iOS Youtube player @JaneJonesJJ (Youtube channel, check out her other videos too!). It’s all very exciting
Some time ago I had the opportunity of getting a tour at Game Science Center in Berlin. The permanent exhibition focuses on the future of gaming and interactions and features a number of really cool things. The whole exhibition is interactive and none of the exhibits really needed any instructions! There were no keyboards, mice or typical game controllers as the exhibition focuses on the new wave of interactive devices.
My #1 favourite thing in the exhibition was the augmented reality sandbox. It was basically a sandbox that had a Kinect 3D above it, calculating the heights and shapes of the sand, and a projector projecting real-time topographic map on the sand surface. It was the first thing we saw at the exhibition and we basically had to be dragged away from it. So much fun and needed no instructions!
The exhibition featured a number of devices and toys that an average consumer would rarely buy to their homes, including Leap Motion, Oculus Rift and Choosatron. Even though I had tried them all out before, it was great to see what people had come up with in these demos.
It was also my first time getting to try eye tracking in games. As I’m focused mostly on mobile games, I didn’t really consider the other demos from a professional perspective, but I can really see eye-tracking playing a major part in the future of mobile devices. The game we got to test was a simple asteroids game where you were playing as the Earth and you were avoiding asteroids by .. looking at them. It was the strangest feeling when the main game objective was just to look at objects and they would explode under your evil eye. Definitely an eye-catching experience!
Choosatron – I didn’t make it.
A Dozen Sliders
Overall we had a great time at the exhibition and it was really great to get to try out all these toys we can’t afford to buy. I can really recommend the exhibition to all Berliners and people visiting Berlin.
Couple of weeks ago I attended a IGDA game jam in Tallinn and met a great number of both Estonian and international developers as well as participated in several interesting seminars about game business in general. As I had to travel there only for the weekend, I didn’t want to stress too much about working on a game and mostly focused on meeting new people and enjoying the whole experience.
One of the seminars was held second year in a row by a representative from cashplay.co about mobile game monetisation. The big change from last year’s presentation was the fact that Apple had also finally accepted cash tournaments in their apps somewhere along the last year so I had a whole new level of interest in the topic and I wanted to share my learnings in the blog.
So how do cash tournaments work in mobile games? The basic idea of cash tournaments is that it adds an online multiplayer layer to your games. Players will be joining tournaments and be paired/grouped against random opponents and play for free or for real money. The game developer itself gets a small rake percentage, very much like in online poker tournaments.
Once players register to cashplay.co they get a free $3 as a signing bonus. The lowest buy-ins I saw were $0.10 so this already gives plenty to play for. Most of the tournaments I found were 1vs1 tournaments, where the rake percentage is 10% (2 players pay $0.11, winner gets $0.20). The developer gets 60% rev-share from the profits which is extremely generous compared to other monetisation models.
During the event Cashplay organised a big tournament for all the participants playing Nitro Nation Drag Racing. After the hassle with registrations and people learning how to play the game, it became extremely hectic! People started cheering and yelling as the results page was updated automatically on the big screen. Overall it was a really fun experience!
One important thing about cash tournaments is that the games pretty much have to be skill-based games. The game experience has to be exactly the same for both players or it will be labeled as gambling. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a random factor in your games though, as long as it is the same for all players involved. For example you can have a random generated endless runner game as long as the enemies and obstacles are appearing in the same order at the same time.
Unlike pretty much any other monetisation model – cash play tournaments actually add something to your game experience. It can turn a simple single player game into a multiplayer online game.
cashplay.co offers a 60% rev-share rate, which is a very high rate compared to other models
If your game doesn’t have enough players, it might be hard to pair players
The measures required for avoiding cheating and fraud
Doesn’t work with all game types
What kind of games does it work with? As I mentioned before, cash play tournaments mostly work with skill based games. It can add a great new layer to a point scoring game if the players are suddenly competing for real money.
I’ve been a fairly serious chess player throughout my life and I used to compete in international level when I was younger. I’ve had a few game ideas related to chess and Knight Squares is the first one that came to life.
The idea to Knight Squares came from the mathematical problem called Knight’s Tour. Knight Tour is a tour a knight takes to visit each square of a chess board once, and only once. There are several mathematical articles on the subject but I won’t go too into much detail on those.
I wanted to make a simple game based on the movement of knights. I implemented a 5×5 chess board which seemed to be the perfect size for the iPhone screen and also provides a total of 1728 different knight’s tour variations. My original idea for a game was to make the player move around the board, collecting objects and avoiding illegal squares that moved around randomly.
How the game worked was that the white circles were collectables and the red crosses were unavailable squares. The red bar at the top was health bar, that was diminished if you didn’t collect the white circles in time or if you accidentally collected a red one. You can see the faint progress bar inside the circles.
Now this game wasn’t too bad, but I quickly realised it was WAY too complicated for unexperienced chess players. I even had a 9-part tutorial explaining how the knight moves and all, but people failed to understand the game and it was not fun at all. Just when they were about to reach a white circle, the timer ran out and it disappeared.
Due to life(tm) and lack of resources at the time, I decided to leave this game to a prototype phase to wait for better times. Until very recently, about 4 months after finishing the initial prototype, I started talking with a 2D vector artist on #indieteamup (@octrion on Twitter, check him out!) who was looking for new projects for his portfolio. I was going through my prototypes and realised that Knight Squares could look really cool with minimalistic vector graphics. I told him about the idea and already the next day I had all new assets for the game. I also realised I’d have to make the game way simpler, so I made the game only have one target at a time that doesn’t disappear until you collect it, and to have unavailable squares that change their location randomly. In addition to this, there is no health bar anymore but a simple 30-second timer which marks the length of the game. Collecting targets gives players a second of extra time. I really like the outcome of the game and I think it offers a cool challenge for experienced chess players but also teaches beginning chess players to think a couple moves ahead. Knight Squares will be available on AppStore for free!