Archive for the ‘IGF’ Category

Because We May Sale

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Because We May, a grandiose cross platform mega sale is on right now. Android, iPad, iPhone, PC (Desura), and Blackberry Playbook versions of Smiles and Smiles HD are all heavily discounted and available for about $2. The sale ends June 1st.

(more…)

Mike the Multi-Winner and GDC Champion

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

So, holy cow! GDC was absolutely insane! I almost don’t know where to start, but lets start from the beginning.

First thing first, I won again!!

Argh! They used that squished photo again! I even sent them a square one!

Argh! They used that squished photo again! I even sent them a square one!

Yes, as if winning a free car wasn’t enough, I also won a free trip to GDC. So Intel ended up covering my flight, putting me up in a fancy hotel, gave me some spending money, treating me to dinner, AND giving me nearly front row seats to a San Jose Sharks hockey game! Whoa!

Left: Good Hotel | Right: Parc 55

The picture above is a comparison of my Hotel last year and this year. Last year I was staying at the Good Hotel (yes, that’s actually its name). It was an enjoyably quirky little establishment that’s also probably the cheapest hotel within walking distance of Moscone. I’m not exactly rolling in the dough, so I need to keep my costs low, splitting rooms and everything. You know, being responsible with my money. πŸ™‚

Then this year, thanks to Intel, I’m on the top floor (32) of this crazy 4 star hotel just a few blocks from Moscone. Staying in luxury and all that.

Not my photo, but my room looked pretty much like this

Seeing how we were on the upper few floors, we had access to special “club lounge”. Now sure, while hanging out in a classy “lounge” for the social elite would be cool, the part that was really awesome was that the lounge featured free food! A continental breakfast in the morning, then hors d’Ε“uvres and desert in the evening.

Fruit, Yogurt, Croissants, etc. Bagels, juice, coffee were off to the side

So wow, quite exquisite.

Oh, and did I mention? I had a driver! He even had a “Michael Kasprzak” sign with him when he picked me up at the airport!?! Wild.

Even I admit I really look out of place in this photo

But of course, I was down in San Fran for the Game Developers Conference. It’s the one time of the year us game making nerds from all around the world can all get together in one place, discuss our craft, and get drunk together. So yeah, the other thing Intel did for me was give me a better conference pass.

I don't know about you, but I really did have TWICE the GDC as you

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent the majority of my days at the Independent Games Summit. I did sneak in to an Android talk Google was giving, but for the most part I was on the indie side.

The danger of being an indie, other indies might give you gifts!
Photo by Ted Martens of Intuition Games

Thursday and Friday, in between talks and roaming the expo center, I ended up doing a few interviews. Two with Intel (one in their “made just for GDC” mini TV studio), and one with an enthusiast site Netbook News. I’ll post the interviews here once they go live.

Not the best pose to be caught in, but still awesome to have
Photo by Ichiro Lambe of Dejobaan Games

But GDC for me is all about the social. Getting to hang out and chat with your friends and peers you only ever get to speak to via the internet. Real live people! Wow!

Left: Mysterious secret gathering | Right: forums.indiegamer.com dinner

The Ludum Dare Meetup. Wow! I actually helped organize this! Wild!

Jani of Secret Exit is totally awesome (not seen here). He was my next door neighbor exhibiting in the IGF Mobile last year, and brought me along to the VIP area of the IGF Awards this year. You rock Jani! This photo is of the IGF DJ, since it was the best photo I took from the inside.

Indie Art Jam. Yet another shot where I'm making an odd face
Photo by Bekah Saltsman

Just like last year, I left San Fransisco filled with truck-loads of inspiration. The indie games community is such an amazing group of people, words can’t describe it. I’m humbled to be a part of it.

Even though Smiles is a great product (as evident from all the winning), I can’t help but feel that I have to step up my game even more. That I need to create something truly fantastic main competition IGF worthy, just to pay my respects to the community. I leave San Fransisco filled to the brim with excitement for game making, and telling myself “Lets get this business stuff out of the way so I can pay back the awesome with my own awesome”. So very inspiring.

See you all next year.

Ludum Dare 16 Results are Live!

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I know it’s hard to compete with the wake of the IGF Finalists announcement yesterday, but the Ludum Dare 16 winners were announced yesterday too.

Go here for the Top 20:

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-16/?action=top

Here for the categorical listings:

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-16/

And here for the news post:

http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2010/01/03/ludum-dare-16-results/

Trying to compete with the IGF Buzz would be silly, so I’m going to push back my little LD retrospective until things are a little more calm. πŸ˜‰

And speaking of the IGF, special congratz to Sparky and Crackerblocks, whom are are both finalists this year.

Mike’s 2009

Friday, January 1st, 2010

So wow. That’s finally it for 2009. Like doing taxes ever year, I feel a special sort of obligation that I write some sort of retrospective, especially after such an eventful year as this one. Far more awesome than taxes. πŸ˜‰

I wasn’t sure where to start, so I ended up categorizing aspects of the year. I’ll free form rant about each topic as I come to it.

Let’s begin.

Releases

Free Smiles – iPhone Lite Version
Smiles (all 3) 1.1 – New Sound Player
Smiles (all 4) 1.2 – Improved Controls
Smiles (all 4) 1.3 – iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 3rd gen compatibility (PowerVR SGX)
iPhone Game Projects Book – Wrote a chapter on portability
New Trailer for Smiles – Doesn’t sound like much, but I animated a mushroom for it
Smiles Zen for Samsung Omnia II (English)
Smiles Zen for Samsung Omnia II (Italian)
Smiles Drop for Samsung Omnia II (English)
Smiles for Windows XP and 7 Netbooks (Intel Atom Store)

Including all the update SKUs, that’s 18 things released this year. The last 4 items are only now starting to show themselves. Smiles Zen Italian has been available since the 30th, and is rocketing up the Samsung store charts. Yesterday it was #66, and last I checked this morning it was #31 in the UK… which makes me feel bad for the Brits, since it’s in Italian. πŸ˜‰

The English versions I hope get approval early next week.

Smiles for Intel’s Atom Store got the thumbs up a few days ago as well. The Atom store is new and unreleased though, so I’m still a few months out seeing anything from that. CES, the Consumer Electronics Show is next week. And while we don’t have confirmation that Intel will be demoing the store at the show yet, as far as I know I should be part of the App Store roster. It might be purely for back room dealings between Intel and the OEM’s, but hey, that’s something. As for my contest placing, I can only hope they noticed niceties like the game automatically hiding the mouse cursor on Touch Screen computers. Subtle, but still. Smiles is a lot of that.

So while the last few months have been crazy busy and full of developments, the year itself has been jam packed with interesting and notable things for me.

There was the book chapter. As of about June, I’ve been able to slap the official title of “Author” on my list of credentials. I have one copy of the book framed and hanging on my wall, along with the various console games I’ve worked on. Pretty cool.

Also, my “Lite” version actually came out this year. I’d forgotten all about this. It was in the Apple queue late January as I found out I was an IGF finalist, which was neat. It meant I could play the “Try IGF Finalist Smiles for Free” card… not that it was a particularly profitable card, but it was one more for the deck.

During the last couple weeks of the summer, I made a brand new trailer for Smiles. Working with video was something I’d hoped to spend more time doing this year. The original trailer was hacked together using the most bizarre collection of tools I could find. Virtual Dub, Paint Shop Pro, my Canon G7 photography camera, and a really terrible video editing suite Video Edit Magic. For the most basic of editing tasks, it wasn’t that bad. But when I realized I was creating proxy files in Virtual Dub just to achieve the simplest of effects (rotation), yeah, something wasn’t right. The new trailer was my first real project using Sony Vegas (Movie Studio), a relatively uncrippled video editor priced under $100. I easily mixed together FRAPS footage, PNG files with Alpha (lower 3rds), a mushroom I animated in ToonBoom, video from my Canon G7, and some music I licensed to tie it all together. It all just worked, which was sooo nice. I’ve since picked up an HD 1080p Sanyo video camera (HD2000), and as soon as there’s a sale, expect to upgrade to Sony Vegas Pro.

Over the year, I released 3 updates for the game. The first was to solve a sound bug, since Apple seemed to have no interest in correcting a bug in their own API. The second was to fix a control responsiveness bug, something I didn’t realize was the problem until later. Finally, 1.3 which fixed several looming bugs (a statistical error, 1 last responsiveness tweak discovered in the Netbook builds), and adapted the game to reflect changes Apple decided to make to the OpenGL Driver. Fun.

So 18 things for 2009, all of them Smiles related. I would have liked something new, but 18 releases isn’t too shabby.

Events

Game Developers Conference – I was actually an exhibitor (see next item)
Independent Games Festival Mobile – Smiles was a finalist for Best Game
Silver Award from Pocket Gamer UK
Ludum Dare 14 – 123 Entries
Ludum Dare 15 – 144 Entries
Ludum Dare 16 – 121 Entries
“Cool Development” I hope to announce before GDC 2010
Bronze in Samusung’s Omnia II Contest (Smiles Zen Italian)

The big OMFG moment of the year had to be my IGF nomination. I’ve been making games as far back as I can remember, and before I got my game industry in (late 1999), the IGF contest had already earned itself some notoriety and my own attention.

While working in the industry, the Game Developers Conference also had a mystique about it. I attended E3 in 2004 which was “cool” (year of the DS and PSP), but I’d already become extremely familiar with the game businesses unimaginatively boring sequel/licensing side… making the majority of content on display less than appealing to me. I was a game maker, not a gamer. GDC on the other hand was what I cared about. I knew some day I had to attend.

Fast forward to March 2009, I’m (haha) exhibiting an iPhone game at the show. What the! When did!? Wuh!

Like most of my game making nerd brethren, I’m your textbook introverted social reject (well maybe not textbook, as many of my friends can attest to my unique personality). Add to that the secluded indie game developer lifestyle, saving money by cutting overhead costs way down, working from home. I quite literally hid away from the world for 3 years developing, prototyping, and pitching game projects.

So March rolls around, and I find myself in San Francisco exhibiting my game in a quarter booth. Ordinarily I’d expect my nerd-vousness to be doing something less than positive to me (my last public speaking engagement left me at a loss for words), but instead I’m going 1000 miles per hour tapping adrenaline and energy reserves I didn’t know existed, and loving every minute of it. I’m even at the show kicking myself for not Canada-fying my booth in some way, to give the CBC a reason to talk to me (the only Canadian in the GDC Mobile). Where ordinarily, I think the last thing on my mind is being on national television. πŸ˜‰

So if years started and ended in March, that week alone would have been enough for me to call 2009 my most awesome year as a game developer yet. But that’s just one month.

Some time after the conference, I received the most unexpected yet much appreciated thing in the mail. An actual frame-able award from Pocket Gamer. So now, alongside the framed copies of my various commercial games is this bright and colorful “Pocket Gamer Silver Award” for Smiles. Very cool.

Ludum Dare I’m going to dedicate a whole separate post to. In summary, we saw ridiculous growth in 2009. I’m completely baffled with everything that happened on that front too.

Cool Development. Yep, that sort of vagueness should be familiar to anyone that reads my blog. It’s something extremely awesome I did, that actually worked out. I expect this tease to crop up a few more times between now and GDC. If everything works out, I hope to announce it before the conference. Time is getting tight though, with just over 2 months left, so we’ll see.

Finally, a Bronze in the Samsung contest. It’s a pretty good xmas gift finding out $2000 is en route for my 3 week Samsung porting diversion. That covers the cost of the phone I had to buy, the Visual Studio license I needed for WinMo and Intel, with a little left over to buffer up my January(?) profits. I only wish the payout was last month, so I could have fattened up my 2009 taxes. I’m optimistic about 2010. πŸ˜‰

So without a doubt, it’s been an eventful year. Even with these past two lists, I have the suspicion I’ve still missed something. I’m almost certain the big things are all covered though, as well as most of the fun smaller ones.

The Business

They say few businesses are profitable in their first year, and I’m no exception.

But though my wallet isn’t bursting with profits, and I didn’t ship anything new, I did achieve pretty much every other major business goal I had for the year.

I gave myself the freedom earlier in the year to begin development of my next “Big Deal” project. But as the summer was winding down, smart business thinking meant revisiting what I had and making the most of its momentum.

That’s what lead to the PC version of Smiles. And while the PC version isn’t yet available for sale, I did manage to ship a version of it before the end of the year. So to look at it one way, in 2008 I was able to brand myself an iPhone developer, and in 2009 I added PC developer to the list.

In addition, I somehow found time to finish the first Windows Mobile port of the game. I was expecting Android to be the first non iPhone platform to get the game, but it turns out Google doesn’t like us Canadians yet (free Apps only).

Finally, the thing I’m referring to as the “Cool Development”. Being vague may as well be my middle name, but I think that name does it justice. If you pay any attention at all to our industry, you can probably do the math and figure out what it is. But if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to act like it’s a complete surprise that nobody saw coming. You’ll act surprised for me, wont’cha? πŸ™‚

So with all that ground work in place, 2010 could see me moving back to a decent wage purely from royalties… which is pretty awesome. That’s the hope at least. It is a lot of work, but luxury and freedom of being self employed is totally worth it. Also, I still like Ramen and Kraft Dinner, so I can make it work. πŸ˜€

What’s Coming up in 2010

GDC again, more ports, 1-2 new products, and progress on the big one.

GDC 2010, after the awesome that was this year, how can I not go to the next one? I imagine many people go to the conference for networking and all that businessy stuff. Me, I think of GDC as “Nerd Party”. Perhaps in actuality it’s just networking, but I prefer to think of it as dangerous. Fill a convention center with nerdy game creator types, and dangerous things can happen. πŸ˜€

Ports are the obvious one. I already have Smiles running on Windows, Linux, and Windows Mobile (but just one specific device currently). So expand on the already growing list. My business strategy boils down to essentially: if it has 3D hardware, supports native C++ development, and offers a 70% (or better) royalty rate, then I may as well support it. As far as the ports are concerned, I already finished the majority of the heavy lifting over the past couple months. I have a few things I personally require before I can release a “PC proper” port of Smiles (Netbooks are totally different), but for the most part it’s all there now. After some cleanup, it’s just a matter of adding all the new targets.

The 1-2 new products is exactly that. The Smiles porting is all about adding more platforms, so if there’s something new, it too can be ported to many new devices.

And of course, the “big one” is the project I’d like to be doing right now. The majority of this porting work is, as I see it, the ground work needed for the next game. It’s far more demanding graphically and technically than Smiles is, so Smiles also helps me by acting as the benchmark. If Smiles runs 60fps on a platform, the big one can probably pull 30 fps. If it runs 10fps, well, further assessment will be needed. I don’t expect to ship it this year, but instead am looking at it as my IGF Entry for 2012 (i.e. October/November 2011). Even the smaller projects I’m considering for this year are incremental steps towards this larger one.

So that’s my look back at 2009, and my look ahead at 2010. Next I need to find the words to summarize the insanity that was Ludum Dare in 2009.

The shelf-life of Smiles

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Smiles has been available for nearly 6 months in the App Store now. From the stories you may have heard, not all iPhone titles necessarily do well. But if you consider that the game was developed by one person in 4 months, it lives under the charts, and has only 1 Apple mention to it’s name, it’s actually done alright. I’m hardly “rolling in the dough”, but I can make ends meet.

It’s been a great ride. Smiles scored itself a nomination in the IGF, which is something I’m immensely proud of. It’s also been collecting extremely high regards on nearly every website that’s taken a look at it. One of the cooler ones to date has been the Silver Award from PocketGamer, which I just recently found out is actually more than a mere banner graphic.

smilessilveraward

Pretty awesome. πŸ™‚

But in the perspective of things, given the whole pace of the iPhone market (30k Apps in less than a year), I’d say it has finally run it’s course.

I launched Smiles at $4.99, a price point that was ballsy at the time, and even more so today. I was offering quality and content comparable only to the top tier titles, and games for other high profile systems as the DS and PSP. Those that noticed appreciated it, but it was message that was hard to communicate to people. The only way I could really say this was with the price itself. So I stuck to my guns. For nearly 5 month, I sold Smiles for the benchmark price of $4.99. I never really sold in high volume, but I sold in enough volume.

In the iPhone market today though, I no longer think $4.99 is doable. Unless you’re one of the lucky few featured in Apple’s banner or TV campaigns, you need to play the impulse volume game. The higher the price, the more a user will think before buying.

After my IGF sales bump during GDC, I put Smiles on sale for $2.99. This revitalized my already declining bumps sales, and gave me a solid few weeks of record earnings.

As a test, I put the prices up to $3.99 earlier in the week. I was going to give it until Monday before considering any further price changes, but my sales dropped so much the past 3 days I had to put it back to $2.99. Statistically speaking, Monday and Tuesday are my worst days, but Monday at $2.99 was far better than all 3 days combined (and then some).

Smiles has exhausted pretty much all the major iPhone gaming sites. In promoting the game, I contacted nearly every major gaming blog and site that covers iPhone games (even off hand). Obviously with a very cutesy casual game look, and being a matching game (one of the most tired and done genres of casual games), it would be a battle getting though the e-mail tips box of larger blogs like Kotaku, TUAW, or IGN. It was still worth a try though.

And now… it’s not quite bargain bin, but I have to be conscious of what people will actually pay in the off chance they discover it. Lite version to full version up-selling, and finding new ways for it to be seen.

I’ll continue talking about the Smiles ports soon. I’m finishing up my writing project shortly, taxes today, running Ludum Dare this weekend, and perhaps attending something in a few weeks.

Smiles Statistics at GDC

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

For GDC, I decided to make a special version of Smiles. On the surface it would look like the Lite version (Free Smiles), except I re-enabled statistic tracking and high scores.

Here is how the visitors at my IGF kiosk did.

General Statistics
Total Time Played: 7 hours, 39 minutes
Games Played: 131

Zen Statistics
Total Time Playing: 4 hour, 12 minutes
Games Played: 78
Games Won: 33
Total Moves: 2640
Total Undos: 29

Drop Statistics
(note: limited to 200 matches per round)
Total Time Played: 3 hours, 26 minutes, 59 seconds
Games Played: 53
Total Matches: 5500
Highest Multiplier: x44
Total Ice Cracked: 1098
Total Rocks Broken: 1
Most Floating Matches: 2

Zen High Scores (by Moves)
3/25/2009 – 33 Moves – 1:59
3/25/2009 – 34 Moves – 1:30
3/27/2009 – 35 Moves – 1:22
3/25/2009 – 36 Moves – 1:55
3/26/2009 – 37 Moves – 1:45
3/26/2009 – 38 Moves – 1:57
3/27/2009 – 39 Moves – 3:40
3/26/2009 – 40 Moves – 2:54
3/26/2009 – 40 Moves – 3:14
3/26/2009 – 40 Moves – 4:14

Zen High Scores (By Time)
3/27/2009 – 35 Moves – 1:22
3/25/2009 – 34 Moves – 1:30
3/26/2009 – 37 Moves – 1:45
3/26/2009 – 45 Moves – 1:50
3/26/2009 – 42 Moves – 1:51
3/25/2009 – 36 Moves – 1:55
3/26/2009 – 38 Moves – 1:57
3/25/2009 – 33 Moves – 1:59
3/25/2009 – 50 Moves – 2:34
3/26/2009 – 62 Moves – 2:51

(note: Drop was limited to 200 matches per round, except it let you finish any combo you had going before stopping)

Drop High Scores (by Score)
3/26/2009 – 87,320 – 64,830 – 200 Matches – 2:16
3/26/2009 – 80,455 – 38,190 – 228 Matches – 2:30
3/25/2009 – 57,260 – 30,855 – 206 Matches – 2:48
3/26/2009 – 38,840 – 16,430 – 215 Matches – 5:56
3/25/2009 – 38,405 – 26,545 – 160 Matches – 2:09
3/27/2009 – 37,300 – 15,285 – 204 Matches – 3:48
3/27/2009 – 37,290 – 25,105 – 205 Matches – 6:00
3/26/2009 – 35,850 – 14,135 – 202 Matches – 3:54
3/27/2009 – 35,690 – 8,768 – 206 Matches – 2:38
3/26/2009 – 35,680 – 11,305 – 200 Matches – 2:40

Drop High Scores (by Combo)
3/26/2009 – 87,320 – 64,830 – 200 Matches – 2:16
3/26/2009 – 80,455 – 38,190 – 228 Matches – 2:30
3/25/2009 – 57,260 – 30,855 – 206 Matches – 2:48
3/25/2009 – 38,405 – 26,545 – 160 Matches – 2:09
3/27/2009 – 37,290 – 25,105 – 205 Matches – 6:00
3/26/2009 – 38,840 – 16,430 – 215 Matches – 5:56
3/27/2009 – 37,300 – 15,285 – 204 Matches – 3:48
3/25/2009 – 29,630 – 14,435 – 196 Matches – 9:18
3/26/2009 – 35,850 – 14,135 – 202 Matches – 3:54
3/26/2009 – 35,680 – 11,305 – 200 Matches – 2:40

Drop High Scores (by Matches)
3/26/2009 – 80,455 – 38,190 – 228 Matches – 2:30
3/26/2009 – 38,840 – 16,430 – 215 Matches – 5:56
3/26/2009 – 32,075 – 7,415 – 209 Matches – 3:21
3/25/2009 – 19,715 – 3,420 – 209 Matches – 5:02
3/27/2009 – 35,250 – 8,320 – 206 Matches – 3:05
3/27/2009 – 35,690 – 8,765 – 206 Matches – 2:38
3/25/2009 – 57,260 – 30,855 – 206 Matches – 2:48
3/27/2009 – 37,290 – 25,105 – 205 Matches – 6:00
3/27/2009 – 37,300 – 15,285 – 204 Matches – 3:48
3/26/2009 – 14,550 – 1,710 – 203 Matches – 5:10