TAG | iphone dev
We spend a lot of time being all creative and fuzzy and nice here at The Voxel Agents, but often we need to stand back and have a good hard think about what’s actually happening out there in the mobile games space.
To make sure we are all still on top of everything, I spent all of last week researching the mobile market space. I forgot everything I knew about iPhone and Android and had a good hard look at the information that is out there. Some of my findings certainly will be old news to you, and some might change what you thought you knew. So, if you’re interested in the business (pronounced “biz-niz”) side of being an indie game developer, check this stuff out:
You may think the iPad is a mobile device, but you’d be wrong.
- 43% of iPad owners use their iPad more than their desktop computer
- 28% say it’s their primary computer
- 34% use it more than their TV
- 83% use it primarily while at home. Only 11% use it on the go.
Developers are flocking back to the iOS platform
Even though iOS has more Apps, Android has more free Apps
iOS has served 15 Billion downloads compared to Androids 4.5 Billion
Android App installs per day may be reaching parity with iOS installs
500,000 Android devices are activated every single day
and most importantly of all…
Train Conductor 2 USA (TC2) is the best game we’ve ever made. We’re really proud of the way it looks and plays, especially when compared to the original Train Conductor. However the launch hasn’t been without issues. In fact, we’re quite embarrassed by some of the bugs that crept into the game before we submitted it to Apple.
We are really sorry that the graphics on iPad and iPhone 4 were not up to scratch. The complaints are totally warranted – we are and have always been listening. It’s completely our own fault for wanting to get the game onto iPad and iPhone 4 right away, but not having enough time to stick to our own quality standards.
Here’s how we’re planning to adress the iPad and iPhone 4 issues:
We’ve been working nights and weekends and, fortunately, we’ve been able to fix many, many bugs while giving the HD graphics a major overhaul! On both iPad and iPhone 4, all text is now crisp and hard edged, buttons are pixel-perfect, train models have increased detail, particle effects sparkle at high resolution, the HUD is cleaner.
We’re pleased to say that this major “World Leaderboards + bug fixing and graphical improvement update” was submitted to Apple just *yesterday* and it will arrive on the App Store shortly as a free update soon!
Graphical improvements in the 1.1 World Leaderboards update:
Since submitting the update we’ve continued to improve the HD iPad and iPhone 4 graphics — they will be prioritized and made better with each subsequent update. We’re really hard at work developing techniques to make better use of the screen space and to have the graphics render more cleanly on all resolutions and devices – not a simple task for the first major game to be distributed as a Universal App.
These improvements will arrive alongside new locations (such as Seattle), a bevy of achievements to keep you busy for hours, and some exciting new gameplay that we are still hush hush about.
We read every single bit of feedback that we can find. We believe in making super fun, tight experiences that feel great to play and so it means a lot to us when people aren’t happy. Here’s a list of feedback to date, and what we plan to do about it:
- “I miss the multiplier” (Georgina, TouchArcade) – We can’t satisfy everyone on this one. There were complaints from the original game arguing that the multiplier system was too complicated. We tend to agree that it needed simplification. Ultimately though, with endless play mode that old system just couldn’t work. Your multiplier would be reaching numbers larger than human beings have ever imagined. We wanted to start with a simpler scoring mechanism, and build on it. Stay tuned.
- “Missing the PROGRESS METER. Now we have no visual indicator of the requirement for unlocking the next area” (thespaciousmind, iTunes user review USA) – We agree that the experience points of Train Conductor Australia were a motivator. With TC2 we really wanted to focus on high scores and sharing and competing with friends. We felt that high scores didn’t receive anywhere near enough attention in the first game, yet they were a core part of the train conducting experience. We will fix this issue in a future update by giving more feedback about what you have to do to unlock the next level.
- “I was surprised about lack of Plus as well. Perhaps they are holding off in anticipation of Game Centre?” (eugekav, TouchArcade forums) – Two reasons; first, Game Center is on it’s way and we didn’t want to have Plus+, Game Center and Facebook – it would have been a complete mess. Secondly, we wanted to integrate the leaderboards into the experience a lot better than we could with Plus+. With Achievements (a.k.a. Awards in Plus+ speak) we’ve actually got all of the important Plus+ functionality anyway. World Leaderboards will arrive in a couple days, and Achievements shortly after. What features of Plus+ you’d like to see in TC2? Let us know in the comments.
There are some big things coming, so keep your eyes peeled and your fingers ready
Please keep posting with suggested improvements, levels you liked best, questions about design decisions, etc… We plan on keeping an active conversation going so we can keep improving the game.
TC2 Development Team
Our number #1 fan, 4 year old Andrew of the U.S., has been waiting MONTHS for the chance to play Train Conductor USA.
He is a massive fan of the original Train Conductor Australia, and back in March we got an email from him wanting to know when he’d have more levels to play.
Well, after the release of Train Conductor USA today, Andrew got his chance and he was kind enough to record himself playing. Andrew, I have to say that you made my day.
Click here to listen (Warning! Incredibly cute!): Andrew Plays Train Conductor 2
We’re glad you love the game Andrew and we’ll get some more levels made for you to play soon.
Happy birthday to The Voxel Agents – now one year old!
This is Agent Simon here. Recently we’ve been reflecting on our first year as an indie game studio, and at the April meetup of the IGDA Melbourne Chapter I presented a retrospective of the business side of running the studio. I’ve posted the slides (link at the bottom), but first I thought I’d give some context to the presentation.
Going indie is very rewarding and enjoyable. It is also extremely hard to make a living from it. We wanted to share our experiences to help others who are planning to start an indie studio. The retrospective covers our mistakes, our successes, the things we did that gave the most value and some harsh realities of the indie financial situation. To succeed as an indie, you need to be well organised and have a clear plan. We set out with some pretty outrageously unachievable goals, and although that blind optimism has certainly helped to get through some difficult times, I think we’ve mostly stuck to the goals and we’re now well on our way.
I like to think of running an indie studio as pushing a snow ball along. There isn’t any one single thing that you do that will make you successful, but each successive step forward helps to slowly build the snowball bigger, and hopefully one day it will be big enough to start feeding yourself from it (we’re not there yet).
There’s a very vibrant community of indie developers in Melbourne, and in the hope that we could help, we were really happy to share all the details. The presentation covers how much we invested, our income and expenses and a quick summary of our marketing and production approaches, as well as other tidbits.
The slides are available on slideshare and in PDF. There is a lot more detail I would have liked to add but couldn’t in a 30 minute presentation. I am now developing the retrospective into a full article and if there’s any aspect you’d like covered in particular just leave a comment. You can be notified when the full article is ready by following us on twitter, facebook or via RSS.
Good luck to those who applied for the Film Victoria funding round.
Assistance starting an indie studio in Australia:
- IGDA Melbourne Chapter – a bunch of friendly developers
- GDAA – Game Developer’s Association of Australia
- Multimedia Victoria – ICT industry support body
- Film Victoria – the Victorian funding body for game and film production
- Freeplay – Freeplay is an independent games festival that focuses on the creative and artistic side of making games
- New Enterprise Initiative Scheme – government income support for new enterprises
Logan Dowell and Derek Pritchard were selected to join the Agent ranks as part of the QANTM college internship program. together they developed the level backdrops of Sydney and Melbourne, created numerous train models, and designed the entire menu art style. They also collaborated together to produce the wonderful loading screens and game website, amongst many other things. The pending release of Train Conductor marks their explosive debut into the games industry.
Joe Gatling, a long standing friend and fellow university graduate member of our sif90 roots, initially set the style of the game seen in the early teaser images, and they became the defacto style guide for the rest of the development process.
Jarrod Andersen connected with The Agents through a serendipitous reddit post in July 2009. Jarrod developed the Mr. Train Conductor character and set the initial train model style, as well as the scary Skull Train.
We are tremendously grateful for their assistance and the beauty of the final game is a tribute to their efforts.
Check out the new Dolphin Hero update now available on the App Store!
The new update comes with a score of features and tweaks:
- Integration with Twitter, Facebook, and AGON for international score-posting. We integrated the AGON Online Social Platform and you can now pit your skills against your friends, people locally and the world!
- There are 15 in-game achievements to be found! Each one you collect increases your AGON PocketScore. We have had very good experiences with AGON and hope that many more games join the trend, allowing you to continue raising your PocketScore in many more games too.
- Drastically improved graphics! We improved the rendering so that the graphics are now crystal clear. It was a simple change, but it made a huge difference.
- Advanced tactics for collecting massive scores!!! There are many tactics, from simple to advanced, that you can employ to get higher scores. Read up on them on our previous post about Dolphin Hero tactics.
- More intense action for experienced pro’s. The game starts easy and adjusts to your ability, so its non-stop fun the whole way through.
- Although the graphics are improved, we managed to keep good control over the performance and framerate and the game nows runs more consistently.
Many of the new features and tweaks we’re inspired by suggestions and comments given by the community. We really appreciate everyone’s feedback and the game has improved drastically with each update. If people continue to talk about Dolphin Hero we’ll continue to make it better! Thank you everyone.
And Dolphin Hero is still less than a dollar!! Just 99 cents in America, $1.19 in Australia and less than a pound in the UK! (Other countries vary). BUY IT NOW – JUST 99 CENTS!.
Become the greatest Train Conductor in the Golden Age of Steam!
These are the settings of the first two levels.
We’re not showing the gameplay just yet, it’s top secret!
The great Australian Outback.
Enjoy the gorgeous beaches of Queensland.
So I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the game and general development. I thought I’d post them here to help anyone in the same boat. So without further ado…
D: I don’t have an iPhone! Where are the screenshots and videos?
Agent Matt: You can find screen shots and videos on the Dolphin Hero website.
A: Downloaded, played, enjoyed – hope this is the start of amazing things to come! How did you find the submission process?
Agent Matt: Approval was a breeze. The only thing that caught us out was the display icon, we had a small one for the iPhone, but didn’t realise we also needed a 512×512 version, and our designer/artist was in Italy, so we just had to size up the small one. We had also got to the end without some proper screen shots, I wasn’t looking forward to cropping up snapshots of the simulator, but we found out you can take them on the device by hitting lock+home quickly.
A: Nice work. I’ve been making my own game using C++ so far, we’ve barely touched Objective C. Which one did you use?
Agent Matt: We started out with Objective-C because we thought we should at least give it a go first. Agent duski ended up being a mix of the two. We’ve since thrown away all that code and moved to C++, which is what we will be using for the rest of our games.
M: General feelings working with the iPhone, any other points?
Agent Matt: iPhone dev has been pretty smooth sailing. It was a bit scary to find that what runs at 60fps on the ipod Touch is about 30fps on the iPhone… But as long as you do all your dev on the phone, it should be fine.
Also try and support 2.0. We were tossing up whether or not we would bother, and ended up releasing for 2.2.1, at least 2 of our friends had to upgrade their phone just to play our game, so you’re definately cutting some of the market out (we assumed that people not on 2.2.1 werent buying apps anyway – don’t assume).
A: The music is great! Where did you get it from?
Agent Matt: Agent Simon’s brother (Joel Joslin) is a professional musician who has been writing and performing for more than a decade He wrote all the music for us, and provided the sound fx.
M: I’m looking into putting sounds into my own iPhone app. Should I use CoreAudio or openAL?
Agent Matt: We used openAl for all our soundfx. and GBMusicTrack for music (copy,paste,edit from http://www.idevgames.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15280 ) We originally were using core audio, but thought we’d get more control in OpenAL. Also core audio didnt seem to work on iPhone 3.0, we didn’t look into why.
A: I really want to develop my own game, but I can’t find the time.
Agent Matt: You just have to do it, it’s a fantastic feeling having a game in the store. It’s also the first game released for me, so doubly exciting