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The Final Stretch and a New Idea

// October 24th, 2011 // By LordBron // iDevBlogADay

Today is the Start of the End (Sorta)

Smiley and I have never developed a game before, much less released one. We don’t know much about crunch time or any of the other horrendous stuff you hear about when you read about game dev. We will very soon though.

Today marks the day that we begin the final process in wrapping up the first version of our first game: Fling Shot.

I’ve been slacking in the dev department because of some big deadlines in my personal work life. We should have started this process a few months ago. Oh well, it is what it is. There’s no looking back now, only moving forward.

This is where I think those full time Indies have an advantage. To be able to dedicate 16 to 20 hours a day for the next few weeks would be awesome. However, Smiley and I both have full time jobs so that’s not possible for us. According to our realistic expectations, that will be the case for the next few years. Only, it’s going to get worse.

We’ve mapped out the next several minor and few major releases of Fling Shot. We have a lot more art and animation to coordinate. We have additional gameplay features to add like multiplayer, achievements, etc. Therefore, while we’re excited about the release, we realize it’s not going to be a point where we can release then sit back and be amazed at our work.

Version 1 wrap-up doesn’t really mean we’re done

The thing we realize is that as soon as 1.0 is uploaded for review, we have to immediately commence upon the next update to Fling Shot. In fact, we realize that we’re going to have pretty much a few years worth of work before we’re “Done” with Fling Shot, if we’re ever get “Done” at all. Here’s how we see the update cycle for Fling Shot.

Whole number releases (1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc) are major feature releases. Here what we’re thinking so far:

1.0 – Initial release; One dart type (a bee), one board type (a hive), single player.

2.0 – Second dart type (TBA), second board type (TBA), local multiplayer.

3.0 – Third dart type (TBA), third board type (TBA), internet multiplayer;

4.0 to whenever – Additional dart and board types, plus other features we’re brewing but aren’t ready to speak of yet.

Dot releases (x.1, x.2, x.3, etc) are minor artwork/animation releases. Here’s what we’re thinking so far:

x.1 – Add a character type (fat, skinny, dopey, jock, etc) for the current dart type

x.2 – Add a style type (disco clothes, athletic uniform, tutus, etc) for the current dart type

x.3 – Add a slight modified look (damaged, bigger/smaller, different background, etc) for the current board type

x.4 to x.9 – Repeat the above 3 steps for 2 more iterations.

“We can barely make one game.” “I know, so let’s make two!”

This is where things get hairy. To be a real game company, we realize that we’re going to need more than one game. Go figure! LOL Luckily, Smiley is finding his groove so we have several concepts in the wings. Our problem now is not coming up with game ideas, but rather determining which one to execute upon next.

Fling Shot is a cutesy, fun game that has one unique device interaction: making your iPod/iPhone seem like a wiimote with your iPad and/or AppleTV. While we think it will sell some, we’re realizing that it’s not going to be the next top seller. Our game requires at least 2 devices (3 if you want to play on an Apple TV) in it’s first release and up to 4 or 5 on later multiplayer releases. The masses don’t have multiple devices…yet.

Smiley has come up with other game ideas that are sort of along the same vein: Cute with a technical twist to create a unique device interaction. Which to me is more of the same. They’re content wise different than Fling Shot, but in my head they’re the same because they’re simple games with a simple technical design. (Note: Simple is a relative term here. Making your device act like a wiimote isn’t simple [Well, actually it is when you see the code, but I digress.], but by simple I mean having only one technical hurdle to overcome to make the game.)

One of his ideas though (which technically, hasn’t even really been nailed down yet) is vastly different. The thing I like about this idea is that it has mass appeal. It will take a long time to build it, especially with our small inexperienced team. However, for a sophomoric offering, I can think of no better game to release.

Smiley said, “We can barely make Fling Shot. How are we going to be making those updates to Fling Shot, while also undertaking this  massive new game?”

My response was, “I’m not sure how, but we’re going to have to.” The way I see it is this. We both realize that we’re not going to be able to retire on Fling Shot. It’s going to be a fun game and we hope it generates decent sales, but in no way are we delusional that in a few months we’re gonna be swimming in cash. In order to do that we need something that’s going to sell not because it’s a “better” game but because it appeals to a different customer segment.

Project Codename: Mario

I officially dub our next game with the codename: Mario. No, we’re not making a copycat game of Nintendo’s Mario franchise. It’s not a riff on Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart, etc. Instead, I’m dubbing it Mario (Smiley doesn’t know that’s the codename yet, but I hope he likes it! LOL) because this idea was born out of a challenge that I issued to him: “You need to come up with the Mario game for the iOS ecosystem. We need to have the iconic game that when people think about iOS devices, they think about this game.”

I think about how Myst forced many a people to buy a CD-ROM drive simply to play it. My hope and expectation is that Smiley’s idea is so compelling that people who don’t have any iOS devices (or have only one) will say, “Wow, I HAVE to play that.” Thus, they will go buy some devices simply to play it. If they already have multiple devices, they will get it and say, “This is what the iOS platform was created for.”

Dream Big or Go Home

I mentioned in our last post that you need to dream big. Project Mario is as big as you can get. The reasoning behind wanting to do this though has nothing to do with ego, cockiness or anything of that sort. Rather, it has to deal with money. No, we don’t want to be rich and have money to buy Ferrari’s or anything like that (though we both agree we need to buy a place in Hawaii that we can vacation and work together at). The reason we need a blockbuster has more to do with practical reasons vs selfish ones.

The way I see it, once we launch our second title, we will have two games in the upgrade process I described above. In addition to that, we will have to begin work on a third game. Simply due to the amount of time it will take for us to work on three games, we HAVE to be full time by game three. That’s why we need to do our massively appealing game next. We need the most bang for our buck (or in this case), the most buck for our time.

By game three, Smiley and I will have to transition ourselves into new roles. He’ll have a staff of creative people to inspire with his grand ideas and I’ll have programmers that I’ll need to inspire to figure out how to execute on the output of the creative staff.

In addition, by the time game three is released, we’ll have to start working on those custom devices that I also mentioned in the last post. Those will require a lot more work because it will be hardware as well as software.

One Step (and thus Game) at a Time

As you can see, there’s a lot of stuff we have to do in Area 161. However, none of that can happen until we release Fling Shot. Yeah, we could abandon Fling Shot and move straight to building game two, but that’s not right. I’m sure there are many people out there, constantly changing to chase the better idea vs finishing up what they’re working on.

My dad (our artist) loves the music composer: Philip Glass. Philip is extremely successful. In an interview with him (sorry, can’t find the link) someone asked him, “Were you the best student in your music classes?” He responded, “No, there were students who were far better than me.” The follow-up, “Why do you think you succeeded and became well known while they didn’t?” His answer has always stuck with me. “I guess it’s because I actually finished pieces. They were brilliant but would never finish anything, just wander from one great idea to the next.”

Smiley doesn’t think he’s one of the greatest game designers of our time yet, though I know he is. I don’t think I’m all that great of a programmer, but Smiley knows I’m brilliant. On our own, we’re destined for mediocrity. Together, we’re destined for greatness…but only if we deliver. With that, I’m off to code.

One Response to “The Final Stretch and a New Idea”

  1. [...] through the app store. I think this is where Area 161 may have hit on something. If you look at our roadmap for our first game, you’ll notice that a true “1.0″ release won’t really be until version 3.0 [...]

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