Posts tagged ibots
Posts tagged ibots
I’ve spent the last 10 years as a web developer. My partner in crime (actually graphic design) is a lawyer. What the hell were we doing creating an iPad game!?
I’d wanted to make games since I played King’s Quest when I was 12. My first “game” was a double dragon remake for the commodore 64 with ascii graphics. My older brothers thought it was hilarious. When I got a 486 pc it was all about plasma fires, spinning cubes, starfields and the mandelbrot set all lovingly coded in Turbo Pascal 6.
A taste of real game development came during University. We had a PS2 running linux and a fat manual on how the chips worked. It took me a week to get a 10 line assembly program running that wouldn’t crash the system. It took 2 minutes for the system to restart. I loved it.
The days and nights of Uni game dev ended alas and I was thrown into the real world, where the only offers of professional game dev positions I received seemed to consist of 80 hour weeks and a janitor’s salary. At the same time there were all these companies offering comfy positions with good pay, all you had to do was code .net!
I’d been making good money as a .net consultant for a while now and I was at the end of a contract. I had cash in the bank, a buddy I grew up playing video games with who had an eye for design and an iPhone in my pocket. It was time.
We knew the game we wanted to make. It was a remake of an old arcade game we’d sunk a lot of coins into. We were going to make it exclusively for the iPad. In 4 hours I had a running prototype:
This was going to be totally awesome.
Andy started rushing to get graphics in. Years of design projects on the side had given him wizard like photoshop skills. We also knew where we needed help.
The theme: super cool futuristic action space game. With robots. We needed 3d models. Luckily you can buy them fairly cheaply from turbo squid. We found an animator who we worked with remotely to rig up the characters and create all the animations we needed.
Given that I had a working prototype in 4 hours, I didn’t expect it to take six months to get the game out the door.
Cocos2d turned out to be a fantastic choice. It’s put together really well with an intuitive API. The community is large and active too. I strongly recommend looking at it for 2d games.
We rushed our prototype to a visually polished game in a few months. We had the menus done, full graphics and animations for all the characters, the sounds and the soundtrack all in place.
There was a problem though. The game wasn’t fun.
The controls are too hard!
We reworked the controls three times. Each time we created new graphics and recoded the control code.
We need powerups!
We did the powerups twice. The first time we had them activate as soon as you picked them up. But this didn’t work well because we wanted to have offensive and defensive powerups and the defensive powerups you wanted to wait to use at the right moment.
We need a single player mode!
This was a pretty late addition and some of the most difficult code I wrote for the game. I tried to make my life easier by embedding Lua to write the AI so I could iterate faster. This turned out good and bad. I was able to get the AI up and running a lot faster than if I’d coded it in objective-c but now I had some tough memory leaks to track down.
Instruments in Xcode gives you some pretty amazing tools for tracking memory leaks and performance issues, but with the Lua VM it was a black box. After a lot of trial and error I did get the memory issues sorted out but I spent a lot more time on that than I would have liked.
The release date kept getting pushed back. Like the fabled hare we’d rushed too fast to the finish line when we should have been iterating the game design much earlier. This was much longer than we intended to be in development for and we sorely wanted real market feedback to justify further development. We had to make some tough decisions, cut out a lot of things that we wanted to ship with and just get the game out the door.
So we released! I announced it on twitter, facebook, my blog, forums I used and told as many people as I could. The spike up was fun. Thanks to App Figures I was able to obsessively watch the game rise through the rankings.
We got a very thorough and positive review on Touch Reviews. Also the app store reviews from around the world were fantastic:
LOVE LOVE!!! Just got my iPad, one of first games I’ve downloaded & I’m totally addicted!
Fast fun and furious…. This is what iPad was made for ! I think this game ROCKS. I’ve bee looking for a good fast pace multiplayer game to play against my kids and whoop my wife at too :-). The game is great even the AI is very challenging. Make sure you play in ARCADE mode cause that where it’s at !!! Great action very polished and balanced gameplay and the perfect balance of power ups. Well done developer, this is what the iPads touch screen is perfectly suited for.
Très bon surprise ! Simple mais diablement efficace ! Jouabiliter au top, et très tactique. Possédant le jeu de hockey (le très connu), et étant fan de ce genre de jeu “2 joueur 1 iPad” je ne peu que sucomber a cette approche plus tactique et plus maniable de ce jeu.
Unfortunately this didn’t translate into great sales numbers:
We made it to #45 in Games in Australia which is where I live and I was pretty happy with that. And then we crashed! Unfortunately we didn’t make much of a dent in the US rankings.
We did get the feedback we were looking for though: The game has potential. People liked it despite its flaws, and for a few days there it sold OK. If it had climbed as high in the US as it did in Australia and the sales were maintained I would be a happy man and wouldn’t have to go straight back to building web apps to pay the bills!
I think there’s a pretty good game hiding in here. Here are a few things I know would improve the game:
More reviews and ratings and press wouldn’t hurt either.
While the game hasn’t bought me an island in the Caribbean, staffed with robot servants, it has provided me with one piece of knowledge:
Transitioning from a freelance web developer to a self supported indie game developer is not a pipe dream.
I’ve had a taste of the app store market and I want more! There’s a lot more work to be done, on this game, on the next one and the one after that. But I’m not giving up.
After about six months of hard work, sweat and tears I’ve finally let loose the iBots!
iBots is unique in that it’s designed specifically for the iPad and as a (mostly) two player game. It’s been compared to pong, air hockey and speedball but it’s most influenced by an old arcade game called Windjammers.
I’ll be posting updates on the game’s progress and also look forward to a project retrospective!
In the mean time, go buy it! ; )
Check it out, fireball powerup!
Andy D made an awesome teaser trailer for iBots Launch. More info over at http://ibotslaunch.com
This is STEEL one of the characters from my upcoming game iBots Launch
This is STING one of the characters from my upcoming game iBots Launch
My upcoming iPad game iBots Launch. It’s a mix between air hockey, ice hockey and ultimate frisbee. With robots.