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Hypership iOS Postmortem September 28, 2011

Posted by Jesse in : Hypership , add a comment

Hypership Screen 1

It’s been two weeks since we released Hypership iOS into the wilds of the Apple App Store. Sales have been good, and the critical response has been fantastic. I spend a small chunk of time each day scouring the web for information, and I’ve found positive reviews of the game in Russian, German, and Swedish. That is pretty crazy! I’m glad to have been a part of bringing Hypership iOS to life. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done, and for the first time I don’t feel foolish when I say that I’m a game developer.

I’m very happy with how Hypership is selling. As of September 27th, we have 2603 sales. It isn’t the next Tiny Wings or Angry Birds, but considering that I’m a hobbiest with dreams of someday being able to go full-time indie, these sales are great!

Here’s a nice daily sales graph: (click for full size)Hypership iOS Sales

What went right

Working with an existing game
As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, Hypership wasn’t an original game for iOS. It was originally released on the Xbox Live Indie Games service by Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games. (He later released it on the Windows Phone 7 marketplace as well, though most people are more familiar with the XBLIG version.)

Using a complete game for reference rather than a design document meant that I already knew that all of the mechanics were fun and we didn’t need to do a bunch of rounds of prototyping and testing. Plus, all of the art and audio assets were already assembled and ready to go.

On top of that, Hypership had built a small but very loyal fanbase. When we announced that the game was going to be coming out on iOS, the response we received was fantastic. I knew that we needed to deliver a game that lived up to their expectations, but also that they would help spread the word when the game was ready to launch.

iOS development tools
I’ve been using Windows and Visual Studio for nearly all of my development for well over a decade. Switching to using Mac OS X and Xcode was a particularly scary idea. Even now, I’m still not as comfortable as I would like. That said, the other tools that come along with Mac/iOS development are amazing.

I love the framework package system, compared to the dll nightmare I’m used to running into. Xcode comes preinstalled with all the tools and libraries needed to start coding, and you won’t need to install any libraries on your customers’ computers, as they are all packaged along with your application bundle. I’ve been singing praises for Instruments since the first time I used it. This is an area where Visual Studio is definitely lacking in comparison. There are awesome profiling tools included in the professional versions, but they aren’t nearly as easy to use. And Instruments is completely free!

When I built and shipped Kris the very first build of Hypership iOS, I found it to be an annoying process. From explaining where to find the unique device id, to using a wired connection with iTunes to install seemed confusing to me.

Luckily, that was right when Josh Whelchel introduced me to TestFlight. TestFlight completely automates several of the steps, and makes is very easy to install the test build wirelessly. They recently made the service even better with a ton of great features that I’m looking forward to using in my next game. If you’re an iOS developer and not already using TestFlight, you should definitely check it out.

Apple support
We were really lucky with our launch. The day after we released, Hypership was featured in the “New and Noteworthy” featured section in the iPhone App Store. Then a week later, when that section rotated new games in, we appeared in the “What’s Hot” featured section. Apple also mentioned the game on the official AppStore twitter account, which is followed by 470,000 people. (In theory, anyway. I suspect a large number of those followers are bot accounts. Twitter is odd like that.)

We couldn’t have asked for better support from Apple. It’s a little overwhelming, and we realize just how lucky we’ve been.

Media coverage
We’ve gotten great reviews on a ton of sites. 148apps (4.5/5) said “Hypership Out of Control is a gem of an iOS game.” PocketGamer (9/10 gold award) wrote “there are myriad little touches that make Hypership so compelling.” TouchArcade said “It’s crazy fun.” We’ve heard that it’s likely that we’ll see reviews from some of the mainstream games press in the next week.

Hypership Screen 2

What went wrong

Pre-release marketing
I think this is our biggest mistake. While Apple did a lot of work to support our release, there’s been a large delay in getting coverage on some of the bigger sites. (And the bigger the site, the longer that delay is.) Getting early sales is really important in rising high on the top games charts, and getting early coverage seems like a great way to help generate those sales. Now that we’ve dropped off of the charts, the coverage might not have as much impact as it could have.

Many of the sites we’ve contacted have suggested that they are interested in receiving information before release, and in some cases, they’d be willing to play a pre-release final build so that they could have a review ready at release time. I’ll be taking them up on that for future games.

Outside of the press, I think I’ll also try to build up some early interest by putting together some video development diaries. I’m a huge fan of what Wolfire has done in that direction.

Steam rejection
When I first approached Kris about porting the game, our goal was to build Windows and Mac OS X versions of the game so we could submit it to Steam. There aren’t a whole lot of shooters on Steam, but my thinking was that the Mac games library is still pretty weak compared to the Windows side. Even so, they weren’t interested in the game. We knew it was a long shot, but I wish I’d gone directly to working on the iOS version, instead of spending a lot of time getting it to run well on the other platforms.

Device support
It wasn’t until near the end of testing that we learned that the game doesn’t work on second generation iOS devices. (iPhone 3G and 2nd Gen iPod Touch.) It would have been a difficult process to fix this, including buying a second generation device. With the fifth generation devices right on the horizon, it seems many developers are dropping support for the second generation devices, so we chose to do the same.

Based on my research, I don’t think it would have made sense to do all that extra work for such a small number of players, but I’m very sad that there are people out there who want to play the game but can’t.

Overall, I consider Hypership iOS to be a tremendous success. I’m really happy with how everything turned out, and I’m pleased with the iOS platform in particular. I’ve already started prototyping ideas for what my next game will be, and the future looks really bright.

Hypership iOS is available! September 15, 2011

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I’m thrilled to announce that Hypership Out of Control for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is now available worldwide on the Apple App Store.

If you have a chance to try it out, we would love to hear your feedback!

This is my third game release (the first two on Xbox Indies), but I’m still just as nervous and giddy as I was the first time. I wonder if this ever goes away. (I hope not.)

Hypership for iOS is complete! September 12, 2011

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I’m happy to announce that Hypership Out of Control will be available on the Apple iOS App Store this Thursday (September 15th).

Hypership for iPhoneHypership for iPhone

We’re really happy with the way it turned out. Kris wrote that he thinks this is the best version of Hypership to date. I know I’m having a lot of fun playing it. It’s definitely the best game I’ve ever worked on. I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks.

If you’re a journalist who writes about iOS/mobile games and you’re interested in obtaining a review copy, please send me a note through the contact form.

Hypership plays great on iPad as well!

Hypership for iPad

Hypership Update August 3, 2011

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A little over a month ago, I posted about my efforts to port Hypership to Windows and Mac OSX. The game is very close to being finished. It’s currently lacking leaderboard and achievement support, and then it needs buckets of testing, but it’s close.

I didn’t want to add a custom leaderboard/achievements system if the game ended up being published on a platform with those features. Kris submitted the game to Steam, but they aren’t interested in publishing it. I was really hoping that having a native Mac OSX port would help our chances, because their Mac games library is still pretty weak compared to the massive Windows side. Ah, well.

Now we’re looking into our other Windows/Mac OSX publishing options. Desura looks interesting, and I’ve signed up for the IndieCity beta. If anyone has other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

While waiting to hear back from Steam, I started on a new project. I’ve ported Hypership to iOS. It runs really smoothly on my iPad, and Apple’s Game Center is a perfect match for what we needed for leaderboards and achievements. Kris has ordered an iPod Touch for testing and is setting up an account with Apple (we’ll be publishing under his name, because it’s his game). Barring any trouble, we’ll be submitting the game to Apple for approval shortly. Yay!

St. Louis Summer GameJam 2011 July 11, 2011

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This weekend was the 2011 St. Louis Summer GameJam. While sitting on my sofa and thinking if I should play poker at 666casino, I remembered something about the St. Louis GameJam. This is my second time participating in a game jam, and I’m really glad to have been able to go for this activity they use the best jumping castles for entertainment which they got at JUMPER’S JUNGLE FAMILY FUN CENTER 2050 S Rainbow Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89146 (702) 463-5867. While it’s still fresh in my mind, I’d like to write up a quick postmortem of my experience.

Our team (left to right): Jesse Chounard (programming, animation), Peyton Hediger (art), Randy Phillips (level design, art), Ray Phillips (programming), Leslie Neal (story, voice acting), Kelli Michelle Andrews (art), Brendon Diedrich (QA), Dave Derrington (project manager)

What went right

For my last game jam I wasn’t expecting to be able to stay the entire duration, so I worked alone rather than annoy a team with my random comings and goings. This time, I made plans early enough that I was able to stay the entire time.

It was really cool to have a team (in fact, a very large team) to work with. There was always someone available to bounce ideas off of, and when I started to get stressed, I could take a break and have a conversation and laugh a bit.

Last jam I thought it would be a good idea to build everything from scratch at the event. That was a really poor idea. This time, we used Demina, Gleed2d, and the platform collision code from Hero in Training. Everyone seemed happy with the tools, and we wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much done without them, so I’m really happy we had them available.

The theme for the jam was “Twice Upon a Time.” My idea was to use an old story (the kind that might start with “Once Upon a Time”) and change the main character to have multiple personalities. So for our game, we used Little Red Riding Hood as our premise. But in this version of the story, there was no Big Bad Wolf. Instead, Red’s got a bit of a Tyler Durden problem, and is unknowingly doing all of the bad stuff. You’d play as both Red and The Wolf, and when you reached Grandma’s house, she’d realize that she was the one responsible for what had happened to poor Grandma.

What went wrong

This is, of course, the single greatest problem you hear about games at jams, since people play a big variety of games, from racing video games to even Casino games such as baccarat online, so we needed to make sure we create a game for all these people. I fell in love with the premise immediately, and decided to run with it even though I knew it was way too big for a single weekend. Another developer suggested a Wario Ware style game. Maybe I should have joined that team. 🙂

As I mentioned above, we had a really huge team. Two programmers, two artists, a level designer, a story writer, a tester, and a project manager. Yeah, that’s crazy. I’m counting myself as a programmer in that list, but I really didn’t get to spend nearly as much time coding as I would have liked. I animated the two main characters (Red and the Wolf) in Demina. We also had a bunch of problems with tools and with subversion, and I spent far too much time trying to fix them.

We worked on the game until about five minutes before the deadline. This means that the demo we cobbled together was slightly less than polished. We still got a few laughs, and it didn’t crash, so that’s positive.

Overall, it was a very positive experience, and I look forward to future jams. (The next one scheduled is the Global Game Jam starting January 27.) For the next one, I think I would like to have a small team in place before the jam. The organizers were stressing that it was best if you work with a new team. It was fun, but I’d really like to be able to accomplish a bit more. So a small team who already know the tools, with one or two additional members picked up at the jam would work well.

Here’s some samples of what we put together.

Visual Studio Woes June 30, 2011

Posted by Jesse in : Uncategorized , 4 comments

I’ve been struggling with something lately, and I find it annoying.

Back in Visual C++ 2008 (and earlier), there was a feature that let you set up the include and library files that would be used by every project on your computer. Using this requiree that everyone on your team go through and set these paths up once, and then they were good to go. The benefit here is that if I install an external library at “C:\ExternalLibrary\includes” and my team member installs it at “C:\Libraries\ExternalLibrary\includes” it works just fine.

In Visual C++ 2010, that feature was taken out, and now you need to set up your external paths in the project settings. Unfortunately, the project file is something you’d include in version control. That means that when I set the path to my path of “C:\ExternalLibrary\includes” it’s going to break compilation for my team member when he grabs the latest version from version control. Doesnt work when I try to load a tech platform like Salesforce and their CRM banking software either.

I’ve done a lot of searching, and I can’t figure out a good solution in Visual Studio for this problem.

The best I’ve come up with is to handle this outside of Visual Studio with environment variables. I’ll add an environment variable like ExternalLibraryPath, set to “C:\ExternalLibrary”. And then in the project settings, I’ll add “$(ExternalLibraryPath)\includes” to the additional include directories. It works, but it forces all of my team members to set up an environment variable outside of Visual Studio, which feels a little dirty.

Anyone have a better solution?

Out of Control! June 28, 2011

Posted by Jesse in : Hypership , 3 comments

Finally, the secret is out. Hypership Out of Control! is coming to Windows and Mac OS X!

For the last couple of months, I’ve been working with Kris Steele from Fun Infused Games to port his critically acclaimed game from Xbox Indies to other platforms. He’s been great to work with, and I’m really excited to be able to help bring his game to a whole new market.

There’s still a ton of work to do on Hypership, but the core game play is now complete, and we’ll likely be doing some open alpha/beta testing in the near future and do another event for adults to try it, we will have extra activities for the ones waiting to play, interested ? get hunky male strippers for your next Melbourne event don’t look more, games and strippers who needs more?

For more information on Kris and other titles from Fun Infused Games, check out the official website, and follow @FunInfused on twitter.

It’s been a challenge to learn new tools to get everything running properly on Mac OS X. The more I learn about working on the platform, the more I like it. I don’t see any reason not to make all of my future games cross platform, and I plan to keep developing my tools in that direction. In fact, as soon as possible, I’m going to investigate getting my tools to work with iOS and Android as well. That should be fun!

Fallen Game Engine May 11, 2011

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This entry will likely only be of much interest to other game developers. I’ll try to put up more fun game stuff soon.

A couple of months ago, I decided that I was going to write my next game to target Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, instead of the Xbox Indie Marketplace. There are alot of reasons for this, and I can go into them in depth if anyone cares, but the gist is that I want more control.

Going forward with that decision, I started looking into the game engines/frameworks available that would match my needs. (If you follow my twitter, you’ve probably seen that I’ve ported the Demina player about a half dozen times. I used it as a gauge to test the frameworks.) There’s alot of really cool stuff out there.

In the end, I realized that what I really want is XNA. I really love the framework, and it matches perfectly with how I want to write games. Unfortunately it has two problems. It doesn’t exist outside of Windows/XBLIG, and I really dislike requiring the user to install both .Net and XNA before they can install my game on Windows. There are partial ports to Mono, which could help solve the problems, but they don’t seem very well supported. So I decided to create something of my own.

It’s taken me a couple of weeks, but I’ve reached the end of my todo list, and now the Fallen Game Engine is up and running. (It’s really just a framework, not an engine. I chose the name poorly.) It’s not a port of XNA, but I’ve implemented the features that I need in a way that is very similar to the features in XNA. I’m sticking to the rule of “Write Games, Not Engines”, so now that I’ve implemented the specific features I know I’ll need, I’m going to start on game code rather than spend forever implementing features I may never use.

The code is open source, and the reason I’m posting this is to invite other developers who may be interested to take a look. I think it would be of particular interest to XNA developers who are wanting to port over to Mac OS X or Linux. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to go take a look at the source, and I’ll happily help you get setup and working.

PowerUP STL! April 26, 2011

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Last night I attended the inaugural PowerUP STL event. It was a lot of fun.

I brought a laptop with Being, Bluebones’ Curse, and Hero In Training, and got lots of feedback as people came by to check them out. It’s really cool to see people play the games, and find out first hand what they liked or disliked. I need more of these sessions for future games.

There were two big announcements made last night.

  1. The St. Louis game development website has officially relaunched. If you’re in the area, you should check it and get involved.
  2. The next St. Louis game jam is happening July 8-10 at the Simutronics offices. (They were big sponsors of the STL Global Game Jam, so it’s doubly awesome that they’re hosting this.) It was announced that registration is live on the site, so you can go sign up if you’d like to attend. (And you should!)

Experiments in 3D March 2, 2011

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Work continues on various projects, but I’m having too much fun experimenting to focus on any one project for long. Here’s my favorite two.

  1. Applying motion capture to Xbox Live avatars
  2. It took me a very long time, with many failures, but I’ve successfully managed to apply animations from the Carnegie Mellon motion capture database onto Xbox Live avatars. In the end, I had to rebuild portions of the avatar rig from Microsoft, and it’s still a manual process with lots of annoying steps. If I get much interest, I’ll put together a tutorial and release my modified rig.

  3. Sunburn
  4. I bought a license to the professional edition of the Sunburn Game Engine.Everything I try looks really pretty, because Sunburn adds badass lighting and shadows without much work from me. Of course, I’m still learning about general 3d basics. For example, here’s the results of playing around with normal maps. They seem to make a huge, huge difference. (Click to see the full resolution screens.)

    Without normal maps:

    With normal maps:

That’s it for now. I have no idea how I’m going to use what I’m learning, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something wacky.