Gamenific

Ludum Dare 29 – Vaults Inc

Ludum Dare! The famous indie game competition has just ended and I once again locked me out of the world for 3 days to design, program,
In this edition, the theme was “Beneath the Surface“. In comparison with other editions, a very easy theme because it defines only the thematic aspect of the game. Most of games can be adapted to fit the theme, from shooters, strategy games, platformers. It is much harder when it restricts the mechanics of the game, like “10 Seconds” from Ludum Dare 27.
In my case, even with an easy theme, I face a lot of difficulty to design the game. I know that Ludum Dare audience is mainly indie designers with very little experience and they appreciate mostly popular action game genres, like platformer, top-down adventures and first person shooters. But it was definitively not what I wanted in this edition. With an easy theme, I wanted to innovate in the mechanics.
In Brazil, the competition started Friday by 10pm. It is generally a good thing, because we are tired from work and it is close to sleeping time. Because the openness we got from the theme, I faced a lot of difficulty on designing, because designing requires restricting yourself. I only closed the final mechanics by Saturday lunch, 12 hours after the competition start.

Vaults Inc

Vaults Inc is a turn based strategy game. It is like a city building, but underground: you build a bunker from a post-nuclear-war universe. Imagine Fallout‘s vaults. I wanted to grab a little of its universe, specially the visuals and humor.
Each turn the player have to build a new block in the bunker. Each block can increase or decrease or Income, Money, Fame or Population. The strategy comes from the interaction that each new block generates: Landfill decreases Fame is placed next to a residential block; slaughterhouse generates more income if placed next to a restaurant; fancy restaurant decreases fame is other fancy restaurants are built. Timing and Location are crucial.
Bigger bunkers means bigger problems: the more you grow, your fame and income start to go down. The game has typically 50 turns and the player have to reach the biggest population possible.“The most complete Fallout-Bunker-Simulator. Learn it for a future not that improbable”
PS: this post was originally written in 2014-04-29, but I forgot to actually publish it.

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Creator Saga Story Tycoon – Post Morten

Ludum Dare 28 has ended January 6th 2014. The theme “You get only one” was hard. It was rather abstract.
My game, Creator Saga Story Tycoon, game ended begin the 107th best game of the competition, among more than 4000. It really is something. There are things that went well and we liked the final result but there are some other that simply did not paid out. Here is an analysis about Creator Saga Story Tycoon.

What went right

Music

The music was almost unanimously praised. Thanks to AudioTool user amoeba. The calm ambient background definitively helped to create the proper mood of a God.

Graphics

This was controversial, but mostly positive. People liked the visual effects and the general look, but some pointed the confusing icons, that they could not identify the creatures due the pixelated style. Well, since I’m not an artist, I have to say that it is very close from what I wanted, so I am really proud of it.

Analytics

I discovered a lot using analytics from GameAnalytics in the game. The player average session length, what powerups they bought, how much clicks they did. I had several insights and opened an opportunity to make several modifications and improvements.

Gameplay

Addictive was the most common adjective to describe the game. The simple mechanic went very right. Some even pointed pointed out the potential for commercial release of it.
To balance the “boring” nature of clicking indefinitely, I originally designed the creatures to have a intricate net of requirements and special powers. It could no be entirely implemented in time, however.

Angel Phrases

That was the last feature added. The little angel was a solitaire being in the skies until couple of hours to be shown to the world. I knew it was missing something so I wrote about 50 mini chit-chat texts to be displayed at random. It definitively helped to create the mood and humor of the game (2 highly voted categories). I believe it could be better written.

Marketing

Due several posts at Ludum Dare page, the game gained a lot of testers. I blogged about 5 times during the first days after the deadline, so tens of players were curious enough to try it. The game had much more reviews that most of the games that ranked better, so it had more grades than the always high one from close friends. So I strongly believe that the 107th overall rank has more value that the 50th from a game with 10 reviews.

Fun

Statistics show: AVERAGE play time was 2940 seconds (49 minutes) PER SESSION. 50 minutes pressing a single icon (or waiting the money flow)! Wanna better proof?

What went wrong

Bugs!

Saving is a critical feature of the game and I manage to break it in the final build! Arg! The analytic reports described that 90% of the users that played more than 5min tried the save/load feature (and found out that it was not working!). The abandon rate after that was enormous. 🙁
The tooltip features added also was badly implemented and brought several problems later on. Not only it was not being displayed in several occasions (because there was an invisible object over some of them), but it also was too small and was taking too much time to display. Many player on notebooks did not notice them at all.

Updates

I promised to release a new, Enhanced, version of the game few days after the original, mostly dealing with the critical bugs. But time went by and the Picubic Indiegogo campaign was running out of time, so the Ludum Dare game a became secondary issue.
I finally did several improvements and fixes for the last day of the competition, but it was too late. People voted poorly to categories like Overall due the lack of polish.

Resolution

I originally designed the game for mobile devices. But for a popular game contest, Windows version is simply a requirement. There is also the web version, which is much better suited for distribution. But creating a vertical app does not work well on desktops. I had to shrink the resolution too strongly, so all icons and texts became too tiny.
Also, now that I have and use the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro with the giant 3200×1800 resolution, everything big seems small here, so I ended setting up a very big screen for the game.

Power-ups and Achievements

Implemented in the last day (in the last few hours) of the competition, they were badly implemented and very disorganized. I did not pay attention to details, but people did. Not many actually used them, according to data. So it brought me more disadvantages than advantages. For a definitive version, it MUST be redesigned from scratch.

Gameplay

Several people pointed out the similarity to the Cookie Clicker, the game that I discovered during the making of CreatorSST. In fact the gameplay is very similar. But the CC is based on watching things go one, while I wanted to make the player actually do something.

Translation

As a Brazilian game designer, having the game in Portuguese was very satisfying. But for the competition, it simply takes your focus out of the main product. The game was entirely done in 2 languages, which consumed a lot of time of management.
For my friends and family it was a must. For the competition, it was a mistake.

Theme

There were a couple of good candidates for the theme, so I was not expecting this one. The first idea that came into my mind about having only one was the universe. I immediately grabbed this idea and tried to develop it, mixing with the mechanic that was already decided. But the result was clear: no one got it. I think it could be more explained in a tutorial or even changing the name of the game to something more suggestive like “One God”…

Bottom Line

Ludum Dare again proved to be an excellent moment to put ourselves in a test. There are points to be improved and there are indication of a potential commercial product. We will write here about any new event.
And of course, I’m going to continue to participate in future editions of the competition.

Amen!

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

2013 and a Happy New Year

2013 has ended. A full year.
2013 marked the start of Gamenific. Well, technically, our first game, Picubic, was started before as a prototype by the year 2011. But it stayed frozen for 2 years after I finally decided to launch it. It was the year that I decided to invest on game making, currently as a second job.

 

In 2013 we created 3 games, 2 of them to Ludum Dare game competition: 10 Seconds to Speech and Creator Saga Story Tycoon. This means that we can create things in a very short time frame; also, it gives a tremendous morale boost. We still need to find the right formula, but we evolved.

10 Seconds to Speech (tStS) is an idea that was in my head for a quite some time. I wanted to create a Solitaire game. A game to play alone, a game that makes you think about the short and the long term strategies. I play it now and them and I’m very proud of it. But for a 48h competition, it was a mistake: without a proof-of-concept prototype, it demanded too much time in the game logic. Graphics and music was a over thought. Tutorial? Forget it. The result was several comments about the it’s potential but zero about actually being good.
Creator Saga Story Tycoon was also created for this competition. The focus was to create a very very very simple mechanics to avoid the problems faced during tStS. The result was exactly this: a game that the player only clicks on the icon at the center of the screen. Numb? Not at all! The feedback was AMAZING! Despite its several bugs, I was praised by several people. Opinions polarized in the right way: many people loved it (and data proves it) or people disliked it. Many complements about graphics and sound too. The bottom line is: it could be transformed in a commercial mobile game.
Our very first commercial game, Picubic, was an old concept I did that I always liked. The wood+gold visual theme attracted me. The gameplay is fun and light. Because the prototype represented 85% of all the work due the simple mechanics, it was a very good candidate for the very first full game. In December we launched the funding campaign and failed to gain traction (I will write about it in another post), but it gave us several insights and experiences for future projects. In 2014 it will be finished and launched.
In the business side, I launched our first Indiegogo campaign to finance a game. I hired about 8 freelancers in oDesk (from writers, logo makers, site designers, and artists) and I loved the experience. The blog and the main site now register excellent page views and recurring readers, which is critical for further success. Google+, Facebook and Twitter accounts were set and started gathering fans.
2013 was a very exciting year. Several new experiences. It was a perfect lab to test some techniques.
For 2014, we want to:

  • consolidate the company
  • launch 2 new games, one per semester
  • continue to participate in competitions
  • participate in game festivals
  • interact more in game communities, specially Brazilian ones
  • write at least one article per week in the blog
  • hire a full time artist

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Funding efforts

The Picubic funding campaign is live at Indiegogo. And things are not going as good as I expected.
Against my rational mind, I was thinking that everybody would rush to get a copy, at least close and not-so-close friend would promptly contribute to the cause. Nope. Wrong. I personally email every group of friends and particular the ones that more into gaming but selling the product is a whole other story. It was not supposed to be different since my preliminary pool indicated that most would help on spread the knowledge but would not contribute. Even on smaller tiers.
A big portion of the guilt I take for myself.
During the pre validation stage with friends the feedback indicates that people don’t quite understand what the game!e is about. The whole material is too abstract, with metaphors and such.
Similar to the above as the almost complete lack of in game images and videos. People trust what they can see and touch.
The pricing is not quite right for asking $10 of a pre releasing puzzle game. For a mobile game, it is far too expensive. Not for a desktop game, but maybe lite puzzles might have a lower perceived value.
I did not spread the campaign to important vehicles. I was simply too shy to create press release material to specialized media.
I did not create follow up material. I planned to do so, if it counts. I planned to post about 12 updates, including bonuses for the contributors, videos and images and possibly some live virtual meetings showing the game and talking to people.
Finally, the Ludum Dare competition draw too much of my attention. All the weekend that I could work of marketing material, writing and working on the product itself was taken to another project. I’m really proud of the tiny Creator Saga Story Tycoon exponential game, but focus should be given to Picubic.
This post is about the diagnosis. All of these I already acknowledge.
They will all be addressed. Picubic is too good to be forgotten easily.
Stay tuned.

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Ludum Dare 28: Creator Saga Story Tycoon

Ludum Dare is the famous competition about creating a game in 48h. With a very restrictive rules and surprisingly amazing results, the competition became huge! Last edition there was more than 4000 games submitted!
4 thousand! In a weekend!
Among them, a dozen of really nicely crafted games.
Last weekend happened the 28th edition. The theme, selected in secret voting and only announced at midnight, was You Only Get One. Yes, it is quite weird but we there was no turning back. The time was running out and each second counts.
In the last edition, I decided to create a whole game logic from scratch, but it took me so long that I had no time to make graphics, sound andolish the gameplay. The game, while fun to play, is completely impossible to understand for 99% of the people.
This time I decided a different strategy: I would revisit an old game prototype that I’ve already create and rebuild it for the competition.
I was working during that week in a prototype of a simp!e game mechanic: exponential income/difficulty growth. In the prototype, you had only to click in the main icon that would generate coins. You could then buy buildings that would generated coins automatically for you. But the more you buy the buildings, the more expensive the become.
Due the VERY simple mechanics, I was afraid of a massive rejection. But thankfully, after making some friends play the prototype, I discovered that peopke had a very polarizing attitude towards the game: love or hate approach. But all at least recognized that it was very funny experiment.
Excellent news.So Creator Saga Story Tycoon was born. (The name implies a joke with popular game name suffixes). For the theme, I mentioned that we have only one god and universe. The coins were kinda replaced by a praying concept.
In the very first day I finished the main game dynamic. I tried to make a generic system so it would be possible to tweak the gameplay. The second day was all about make auxiliary systems work (translation, achievements and power ups) and create all basic music and sound effects.
It took me the whole third day to create all the graphics and other contents like tutorial. These moments I remember that I’m not an artist at all: it demands too much time to make something that I like. At least this time i  was very proud of results.
Several things were missing and others simply went wrong. But that is the whole thing about this kind of competition.
You can see the result at gamenific.com/ludum-dare-28. It’s free to play. Also pay a visit at the competition entry at Ludum Dare.
And always remember to pray!

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

FANding a game

Picture

We are about to launch a funding campaign on Indiegogo for Picubic, our very first game. I say we but it could be very much I, because Gamenific is, for now, an one man company. I hired some freelancer in the past but the proportion is 99% to 1% of the work for me.
Mainly for this reason, we need some extra help to give it some polish. I know it makes a lot of difference when a job is done by a pro and by a wannabe. I’m a pro of being wannabe. I created the company, its site, blog, marketing materials and the main product alone so far. But there is a lot of room for improvement.

I want to give Picubic an extra boost, transforming it from a good game to an excellent one.
But I was re reading all my materials and I suddenly found out that I actually have a different reason for the campaign. The money is good, it will help, but if it is needed, I will pay for everything by myself, like I’ve always did. What I really wanted is to build a fan base.
Picubic is a introspective kinda game. You play it alone, trying to solve each puzzle. But it can have a social impact. Somewhat like Minecraft, in Picubic you can create some 3D objects and then play them. You can share them if you like.
And it can go beyond the game itself. Thru a funding campaign, people are asked to not only passively follow our progress, but contribute to it. It generates even stronger bound between artist and the audience. It turns people more than an spectator. If one pays for something, it will not rest until one gets the full package. Fair for me.
I believe it is possible to build, thru this game, an amazing fan base, with people that trully loves gaming, that want some honest challenges and want a chance to be involved into the making of one. If you want to participate, follow Gamenific, either in this blog or in Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
by the way…
The campaign will be launched this Wednesday, 2013 12 04.

Social Networks

Today is so easy to keep a dialog with our fans. Rich media can be used to communicate and there are several tools to share it to the world. People that like you, can re share and the message will spread at light speed.
There are already the blog and the forums for a more direct contact:

Picture


Picture


Social Networks
You can follow us from wherever you are! It is like a Big Brother, but on reserve. You keep always your eyes on us, like stalkers. All the videos, announcements, all the blog posts, all the victories and problems we face we are going to share with you. We can be a family. There is always the possibility of muting the ones that talk too much 😉
Also, we want to build a community in which fans can know each other and share experiences, make friends and play together.
We are going to deal, initially, with 3 major social networks: Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

Picture

google.com/+Gamenific
We consider Google as a major partner. We use it’s infrastructure for almost everything: blogging, email, site hosting, forum, file storage and collaboration, direct communication…. and social networking. We love Google+, despite now being that popular. It’s full of features and very integrated with the rest of our environment. Also, it is our major platform of integration with our own products.

Picture

facebook.com/Gamenific
Love it or hate it. Facebook is omnipresent. It is showing signs of slowing the growth but they are a reality. We will embrace every Zucker user.

Picture

twitter.com/Gamenific
The microblog is useful for quick chat and announcements. I personally do not use it much, but I promise to feed it more with relevant information. It will be a challenge.

The ones that we are proud of not participating: LinkedIn and Orkut.
Managing the chaos
Managing so many entry points are a very very very difficult task to do. We are going to use Hootsuite as our main social network monitor. It is easy and very intuitive. We are going to monitor your comments are reply then as fast as we can. Direct messages or indirect.
Lets maintain contact in first degree.
Follow-us-NOW

Non-core simplicity

For a business, it is important to create a knowledge center. A repository of ideas and decisions. In a virtual office, spread in several places in the world, this cannot be only in physical form: only few will be able to check paper notes.

For that reason, we adopted a online intranet site, closed to only those inside. We wanted to plug into it all the online services we use (every small company that is smart should [ab]use of them), form calendar, chat and meeting, programming, document and file storage, CRM, finance manager…

The perfect solutionI wanted to do something scaled for the future. I personally love Drupal. I’ve created several modules myself. It’s powerful and flexible. The idea was to create a main intranet site that would control our projects and administrative work. Calendars, costs and meetings. Why not put some HR processes like hiring? Maybe integrate it with a external e-commerce solution! Some modules can do miracles.

But.

But it is also not that click-and-play kinda product. Especially for multimedia stuff, it can be really rigid. There is a lot of trial and error in order to find the best combinations of modules and features.

Also, hosting our own server and site requires a lot of work. It is now trivial. Security issues for a start.

The site was supposed to be a plus, but it was consuming too much time for itself. It was time to simplify drastically
The ok solution
Scrum philosophy preaches that, in order to achieve results, you should focus on adaptation instead planning. Simplify and adapt. I strongly recommend the book Rework, from 37signals founders. Be lean and fast. A compact and powered team can achieve more than a big slow one.
So we had chosen Google Sites for internal communication. We created a main intranet site, so we can organize ourselves. Everybody has the access to view and modify it. Also, anyone can
The Google Site offers some things that we looking for:

  • Its free*
  • It offers nice deal of storage for free*
  • Google is responsible for scaling it
  • Integrate well with other Google products, like Drive and Calendar
  • Integrated access control via Google Apps administration

* free for personal use and included in the basic offer for businesses
However, it also have some huge drawbacks:

  • It shows those annoying notices at the footer
  • It is really weird to create new content
  • It has rather limited manage options
  • It has a VERY few specialists that would give you support and consultancy

But I mentioned it is FREE?! Whatever is their limitations, we can move to another one later. We now have to concentrate in more important matters.
And more!The experience with internal was so good that we moved one step further: we are choosing Google Sites for our main external communication too. Gamenific.com is now powered by Google. It is quite risky to move the company face to a limited service. But as long we get things done, communicating with our customers, it will hold. We need to put videos and photos, and post new content and it must allow us to say and listen customers.
I don’t think it will be our future platform. But it doesn’t matter anymore. It is decided. We will think about it again in the future.
IN THE FUTURE.

Picubic blog moved in

Picubic project, as most of the part time projects, comes and goes. Time to time, we face other interests that grab our attention in a such way that cannot spend a second on our old projects. Picubic suffered this problem since mid 2012 to almost 2013.
While ago I established an objective: release Picubic as a final product and start another one for “full” part time project. One of the initiatives needed is to create an a company, a necessary layer of business abstraction. Gamenific was born.
To give it traction and for the sake of the management, we are now moving the product blog into the “corporate” blog. We will start to post about the game(s) here, with the proper tagging and categorization, so if you want to see only you can find a specific content, it would be easy to search here. You can find all posts about Picubic using it’s label.

Searching the visual identity

Picture

Project Picubic is advancing each day and it is now time to preoccupy with the communication and marketing.
The game itself already have a face. The logo was created a quite sometime. Now it is time to give the company an identity. As the name implies, we do want to be recognized as Magnific (Magnificient) Games. The theme we chose is vintage. It allows us to create a fun and weird atmosphere. Imagine Fallout for example: the awkward mix of new and old.
We were looking at some reference, so there are some:

Also, we designed a several inspirational drafts, but the one that we used for reference is this one, designed by me, Bruno Massa. The draft shows a badge in the shape of an exclamation mark with a banner (that would contain Gamenific’s writtings). The badge was supposed to be a reference to a surprise (Magnificent!), but you know, what we want transmit is very different from what we actually do. Specially with my special drawing abilities.
Once again I went to our freelancers to handle the actual production. The process to choose the right contractor was very difficult: it would be responsible for our main face: the logo! The job was posted on oDesk, one of our favorite places to find great people. We hired some talented artists with enough background to give us confidence that it would be high quality.
The instructions were:

  • The company main theme is vintage, retro
  • The name is a mix of Game + Magnific (Magnificent). We want to be associated with surprise and uniqueness
  • We are from Brazil
  • We want something that would work Black & White
  • We want something that, in case we put the logo in a very weird context, like a space or racing game, it would be still fun and adaptable

The whole visual have a critical importance for a company. The results we will present in a few days, among with the new site, blog and other identity stuff. Stay tuned.