Archive for the ‘Prepare for Warp’ Category

Jan 6

Happy New Year! I hope that all had an enjoyable holiday, and feel re-invigorated for 2018 as I do. Before I talk about progress on Dehoarder 2, there is one piece of business that I need to take care of.

iOS End of Support

Support for Prepare for Warp, Breaking Block, and Vintage Pachinko on iOS devices will end on March 3, 2018. This coincides with the date that my Apple Developer Program membership expires. I am choosing not to review my membership for a number of reasons; there are two main ones that matter.

First, without resources to continue active development (i.e. all my time needs to be focused toward Dehoarder 2), the cost of the Program, including the cost of maintaining Apple hardware exclusively for this purpose, relative to the trickle of revenue that it now generates cannot be justified. The second reason is more personal. The mobile market with its F2P microtransaction nature never really suited me. It made me feel sleazy and uncomfortable and did not reflect my ideals. While Vintage Pachinko is a virtuous app that only charges a small upfront cost, I feel that Prepare for Warp and Breaking Block were cheapened by the application of the F2P model to them.

So what does end-of-support look like? Apple has this to say on the subject of Developer Program expiration (emphasis mine):

If your Apple Developer Program membership expires, your apps will no longer be available for download and you will not be able to submit new apps or updates. You will lose access to pre-release software, Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles, and Technical Support Incidents. However, your apps will still function for users who have already installed or downloaded them, and you will still have access to iTunes Connect and free development resources.

My interpretation of this is that anyone who has already downloaded my apps can continue to enjoy them on the devices that they were downloaded to, but the apps would not be available to install on new devices. I find this unfortunate; I would much rather everyone have access to install apps that they have already licensed on any future devices, however, I do not have control over Apple’s policies.

It seems that there is a way to back up the app package from within iTunes, in order to keep the app to install on any new devices. I have not tried this so I cannot vouch for how well it would work.

Long story short, please download the iOS apps to all devices that you desire them on, and complete any package backups in iTunes before March 3, 2018.

The Android versions of Vintage Pachinko, Prepare for Warp, and Breaking Block will continue to be available for the foreseeable future. These apps currently have zero maintenance cost on the Android platform so there is no incentive to decommission those versions.

Now that that has been handled, back to talking about Dehoarder 2 and progress made in December.

Squashing Bugs and Paying Down Debt

Most existing bugs have been fixed. This includes one particularly ornery bug relating to items spawning from boxes, where items would spawn within a nearby wall and would often get stuck and become non-interactive due to how the game divides up the world into physics zones. It turns out that the spawning volume was unintentionally being offset, and it actually was in the wall!

A lot of technical debt has also been paid down. I was able to fully decommission several old systems that have long been replaced by better designs. Having all of that clutter removed will make the next phase of development much easier.

Engine Enhancements

The next big effort will be a final round of game engine enhancements, mostly centered around supporting more advanced event scripting to meet the demands of the story. These enhancements will also fix the remaining bugs and implement a couple of frequently-requested features that came out of the GDEX 2017 feedback.

After these enhancements are complete and I’ve started adding content around them, I should have a much better idea as to when the game will be ready for alpha.


Whither Prior Games?

posted by Duke
Nov 11

Today I wanted to talk a bit about my plan for my back catalog of games. It’s great to have a history of games, but sometimes measures must be taken to reduce costs and consolidate brand power. If you are a fan of Smiling Cat games, please read as the below may affect how you enjoy those games. My players are important. If you will be negatively impacted, please comment and let me know.

TLDR;

  • EARL’s Warehouse and possibly Chroma Invader to get free Windows releases.
  • Retiring from Kongregate and GameJolt coterminous with these Windows releases.
  • Thrust or Bust and Snowflake support to be discontinued at that time as well (and Chroma Invader invader if it does not get a Windows release).
  • Considering Dropping iOS support.

Web Player Games

Unity Web Player died long ago, a casualty in the war against insecure browser plugin technologies. Unfortunately, I have 4 games that I have released exclusively on the Unity Web Player platform (ordered by how awesome I think the game is):

  1. EARL’s Warehouse
  2. Chroma Invader
  3. Thrust or Bust
  4. Snowflake

EARL’s Warehouse is a project that I’m particularly proud of. This game has a lot going for it, both gameplay-wise with its interesting puzzle mechanics, and technically with its home-rolled voxel engine that actually performs well in Unity. EARL’s Warehouse also highlights what was so awesome about the Unity Web Player’s performance – in some areas (the penultimate level of The Depot specifically) it was pushing over 1 million triangles per frame, through a web browser, in 2013.

Chroma Invader Screenshot 6Chroma Invader was a quick project that was my take on the quarter-eating days of the early “wave progression” arcade games. This was my second game, and it was the first game of mine to earn any sort of recognition, picking up “Browser Pick of the Week” honors from the now-defunct diygamer.com site back in December of 2010.

Thrust or Bust will always hold a special place in my heart as my first game release, back when my doe-y eyed dumb ass thought that all I had to do was build it and they would come. Its flaws are apparent to me today, but it was a very ambitious first effort, much larger than it should have been for my first game.

Snowflake was kind of a psuedo-jam game, created over a long holiday weekend. If you haven’t played it, don’t bother; it’s not particularly good by any measure.

I have Windows builds of all of these games except Snowflake. My current thinking is to release the Windows build of EARL’s Warehouse as a free download in the run-up to the release of Dehoarder 2. I’m not entirely sure about Chroma Invader, but I might release the Windows build of that game, too. Unless there is someone who really MUST have Thrust Or Bust, though, I was going to retire that title. Forget about Snowflake, it is being retired; it would be too much effort to bring the project from what was probably Unity 2 all the way up to Unity 2017 just to create a new build of what I consistently rank as my worst game.

In addition to these Unity Web Player exclusive titles, I also have Unity Web Player versions of my first 4 Ludum Dare entries (Dehoarder, City Beneath the Surface, Dirty Fork, and Werepenguin’s Escape). These have always been available as downloads for Windows, so I have much less concern there.

Most/all browsers now refuse to load Unity Web Player unless you hold your mouth a certain way, if even that. Given that, I think that my game pages on Kongregate and GameJolt aren’t doing anyone much good any more. When the Windows releases of EARL’s Warehouse and Chroma Invader are made available, I will be retiring all Unity Web Player content from Kongregate and GameJolt.

If I have any Mac/Linux users who are still enjoying these games on Kongregate or GameJolt, I want to hear from you! Unless I know that there is some demand for Mac/Linux builds of my current Unity Web Player content, I won’t feel that it is worth my limited time to target these platforms.

Mobile Games

Currently I have 3 titles available on mobile:

Vintage Pachinko
Breaking Block
Prepare for Warp

My biggest problem overall on mobile is iOS. With the release of 64-bit, I do not have 64-bit builds of any of these games anywhere near ready. These titles were all created in the days of Unity 4, so they are several versions behind, and I know at the very least that Vintage Pachinko requires some effort to work with the newest version of Unity. In addition, as someone who lives primarily in the Windows world, developing for iOS is a huge pain. It requires me to maintain a separate Mac computer, which never gets turned on unless I’m creating a iOS build of an app, which means that it always needs hours and hours of updates and upgrades before I can even start being productive.

Prepare for Warp was delisted by Apple earlier this year seemingly because it simply hadn’t had an update in a long time. It didn’t have a history of crashes or any complaints that I received, but I got a nastygram all the same that said update or else without outlining anything that specifically needed to be updated. I’m not happy about that, but nor am I going to create updates for the hell of it when I have nothing of value to deliver, especially for my least popular mobile title. That’s insanity. Breaking Block is probably next.

Also weighing heavily is the fact that iOS sales are not even covering the developer program fee at this point. We’re far enough down the long tail of these titles that the revenue is approaching zero. They were never making me rich, but at least they used to pay to keep themselves going and then a bit more.

Because of issues like these and the distraction that they create for my current development, I’m seriously considering pulling out of the iOS market entirely, though I haven’t come to a final decision on that yet. If I don’t pull out of iOS, I will require a few weeks away from Dehoarder 2 in order to update my entire catalog in one big push. Hearing from those of you who want to continue to see these apps on iOS will certainly sway my decision. My final decision will probably be made in February when my annual tribute of $99 to Apple is due.

If I do let my Developer Program subscription lapse, the net effect is that my apps would no longer be available for download through the AppStore, but would continue to function on devices on which they were already installed.

I have no complaints about the Android environment, and as long as they continue to make my life easy I will maintain the Android/Play Store versions of these apps.

Full Steam Ahead with Dehoarder 2

Of course, my immediate future platform-wise lies with Steam. Dehoarder 2 at the very least will be on Steam, and probably several project after that. The future is difficult to predict, however, as the above clean-up plan shows.

Speaking of Dehoarder 2, I just received the latest batch of models from Arvex, and will be working today to integrate them into the game. With this latest delivery, we have just one more batch to go, and then I think the object set for the game’s release can be finalized.



Prepare for Warp - Screenshot 3

Download_on_the_App_Store_Badge_US-UK_135x40

The long wait is over. Prepare for Warp is now available for free for iOS on the Appstore. Dodge asteroids all day long on your iPhone, iPod, or iPad!

With this, I am finally finished with my project to bring my back mobile catalog to iOS, and in the future, the two platforms should see release and feature parity, give or take a week or so for bureaucracy.



Prepare for Warp - Screenshot 6Get It On Google PlayI have just uploaded Prepare for Warp 1.1 to the Google Play Store, so updates should be streaming through in a couple of hours. The big new with this release is the in-app purchases. Ever wanted to continue a failed mission because you were 98% complete? Now you can with Continuum Reintegrators. Need your lasers or shields to be a little bit above spec? We’ve got you covered there. Want to get rid of the ads? Our Subspace Filter is just the item for you. I’ve also added some fun novelty items to the mix – your asteroids can be 20-sided dice instead. The other added feature is that I have collected together 50 tips for the game, and have added them to a random tip display on the title screen of the game.

Since the free edition of Prepare for Warp now gives the ability to disable ads without a separate app purchase and download, the need for the paid version of Prepare for Warp has vanished, and that version has been discontinued. I have been trying to think of a way to translate a purchase of Prepare for Warp into the Subspace Filter item that removes ads from the free version, but just cannot come up with a good solution that doesn’t require the user to keep both versions installed. If you are an active player of the paid app version and this really bothers you, please get in touch with me and I’ll see what we can do. I think Google is going to offer gifting of in-app items soon, so that may be an option.

The iOS version of Prepare for Warp is almost ready for submission, so hopefully that release will be happening in the next couple of weeks.


Upping My Game

posted by Duke
Mar 8

Wow. I’ve ended up with a lot of irons in the fire right now. I’ve just been methodically working with each one. Here is a breakdown of my progress, in order of priority:

Vintage Pachinko Deus Penguin / iOS Release (Version 2.1)

Penguin Temple ResultPhil and I are wrapping up work on the first pachinko machine in the Deus Penguin series. It is really looking sharp, and we have just a little work left on the pockets and center feature. I am now in the Apple Developer Program, and have a working iOS test build of Vintage Pachinko. I’ve been overhauling the UI to better accommodate iOS devices (Why you no have back button?!?!?!), and applying some of the more mobile-optimized shaders I’ve been developing. I’m hoping to release this update on both Android and iOS within the month.

Prepare for Warp Argent Agora / iOS Release (Version 1.1)

In-Game StoreAfter some minor difficulties, I’ve managed to integrate Soomla into Prepare for Warp, and I am developing and testing out some in-app purchases. This release will include the ability to remove ads within the app, making the paid version of the app obsolete. I do plan to offer some type of migration plan to those who own the current paid version of the app, so that they can continue to enjoy an ad-free experience. Other in-app purchases planned so far are a token to double the rate at which Argen is earned, an Argen windfall that carries across game resets, and novelty tokens to change the appearance of in-game elements. I also have a working test build of Prepare for Warp on iOS, and have applied my optimized shaders to this project. The UI has been updated to support iOS (…mumble mumble back button mumble…), and the options menu is now available from the main menu in addition to in-game. Look for this update to be released a couple of months down the road for both platforms.

Breaking Block

This one is slow-cooking right now. There are still a bunch of changes I want to make to the in-game economy and the gameplay, and the two aforementioned projects have been occupying most of my Smiling Cat time the past couple of weeks. It does not have an iOS build yet, but might have one by the end of day today. I did write a bunch of optimized shaders that use only what I need, and nothing that I don’t, and those optimizations have benefited the prior two projects as mentioned.

Well, back to work for me. I’ve got lots of builds and stuff to do before today’s meetup.



Prepare for Warp - Screenshot 7As part of my plan to release more free games on mobile platforms, I have released “Prepare for Warp Free Edition” as an ad-supported free download on the Google Play store. If you’ve already paid for “Prepare for Warp”, do not fret, as your loyalty has earned you a continued ad-free experience, and the paid version of “Prepare for Warp” will continue to be available for players of the free edition who want to convert to an ad-free game.

If you haven’t checked out “Prepare for Warp” yet, you really should. It is hands down my best offering yet. The controls are superb, the levels range in difficulty from rather easy to quite insane, and everyone that tries it seems to love it.

Enjoy, and be sure to rate the game in the Google Play Store!


Nov 9

Concept photo 2No blog post last weekend due to my latest home project (not gamedev related) causing the weekend to get away from me: It’s no secret, but I’ve always been a big fan of pachinko machines. I have three, and will soon have a fourth as a Christmas gift, and I want to display them properly and remove the need to constantly refill them. So, I am planning to build a cabinet system that will allow me to do both. To the left is a concept photo (created with Unity, LOL) of what this will eventually look like.

So, back to being more on topic, I am in the midst of a marketing campaign for Prepare for Warp. Everyone is loving the game, it just needs more exposure. Hopefully I can get some reviews of the game posted, I think that will help a lot. I’m also trying out some advertising networks.

Today I am preparing more for the Ohio Game Dev Expo which is now less than one month away. All printing is being finalized today, and I have made a final shopping list for supplies. All that really remains after that is to update the business plan, which is good, considering that the holidays and winter will begin to encroach on my time and motivation.

I can already feel it coming upon me, the need to take a short break and recharge my batteries. I think my rest is well-earned, with 5 releases this year, and effectively doing 55-60 hour work weeks every week between my day job and Smiling Cat. So, until the end of the year, I’ll probably cut back Smiling Cat to 5-10 hours a week rather than 15-20, and will be on vacation from Smiling Cat entirely for the last 3 weeks of the year. Then, I will be back strong next year, hopefully with another series of mobile releases.

As less will be happening with Smiling Cat until the expo, expect blog postings to be less frequent. I will try to make another update in two weeks.


Oct 26

Prepare for Warp - Screenshot 6I am proud to announce that Prepare for Warp is now live in the Google Play Store! At the bargain price of only 99 cents, its worth checking out, as most everyone who has tried it can attest.

Tilt to steer and avoid asteroids and other obstacles as you build up enough warp energy to make the jump to warp. The faster you go, the faster your warp energy builds, but colliding with obstacles will slow you down and damage your ship.

Succeed or fail, you will earn currency from each run that you can use to upgrade and customize your ship. Ten difficulty levels await you to provide proving grounds for your new upgrades. Over 50 achievements await to be unlocked and earned.

Here are a few quick strategy tips for the game:

Your shield is a renewable resource, hull integrity is not. Remember that when trying to improve your longevity through upgrades.

Remember to use your evasive loops to give your shields a chance to recharge.

Try to save your resources for the later parts of the mission, where the way is made more challenging by higher frequency of moving asteroids and enemy ships.

Once you acquire them, your lasers are auto-targeting, and will only target objects that they can destroy. Destroying an asteroid requires your laser to be focused on it for a period of time proportional to its size, therefore higher speeds diminish the effectiveness of your lasers.

At higher mission and laser levels, the super-laser powerup can be invaluable for clearing a path and giving your shields a chance to recharge.

I hope that everyone enjoys this adrenaline-building game! I look forward to releasing more mobile games in the future.


Oct 20

Prepare for Warp - Screenshot 5Based on testing feedback, I’m glad to announce that Prepare for Warp will release on the Google Play Store on Saturday, October 26, 2013, for only $0.99!

Many who have tried the game at its various stages of development have told me this is my best game yet. Many others have told me that they are looking forward to the game’s release and will be lined up to buy the game when it releases. With everyone that is excited about this game, I’m really looking forward to it going live!



Prepare for Warp - ShipI have some great news for those who haven’t quite gotten around to upgrading that 2010 smartphone yet – I made some tweaks to Prepare for Warp, and it now runs acceptably well even on my retired Droid X. The only noticed side effects so far are prolonged load time between screens (slightly more than 5 seconds), and an occasional and slight frame rate drop that for me, does not really affect playability. So, Droid X or equivalent will now be the minimum supported spec, with Galaxy S3 or equivalent still being the recommended spec.

Once I hear back from my testers later this weekend, I should be ready to set a firm release date for the game. The release should still happen this month, barring any catastrophic, time-eating failures during testing. Meanwhile, I think I will add some more achievements while I tidy up and remove my debugging aids from the production build (sorry, I’m not leaving in the million credit cheat).