Archive for the ‘Vintage Pachinko’ 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.


  • 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 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.

Oct 9

Deus Penguin 2 Vintage Pachinko version 2.2 has been released for both Appstore and Google Play Store. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this new update includes two new pachinko cells to play from the developing Deus Penguin series, each with their own center animation. Both cells feature a seven pocket, two tulip layout that is popular in real vintage machines, but has been missing from Vintage Pachinko until now. Both cells are configured for All-13 payout, just like the first chapter of Deus Penguin.

“Inside the Shrine” features a look at the approach to the Deus featured in chapter 1. A huge debate is getting ready to erupt among the penguins, but who is concealed and watching these debates with great interest?

The center feature is activated by the pocket immediately above it. Hitting this pocket will be a bit more of a challenge for the player over the first Deus Penguin cell. The two tulips, of course, will help to get your ball total up while trying to hit the trickier center pocket.

Deus Penguin 3 “Frozen Fjord” captures the aftermath of the escalation of the great debate. Matters are still deadlocked, though maybe the respite of some sleep will inspire thought on some sort of compromise.

“Frozen Fjord” debuts with a brand new frame design, the “Snowcat”. Designed to complement the icy feel of this cell, “Snowcat” presents many sharp angles and a sparkle to give an Antarctic impression to the whole machine. The furnace center feature is the first center feature to be animated full-time, though hitting the pocket immediately above will trigger a second, special animation.

Though sharing a theme in common, these two machines will help bring more variety to Vintage Pachinko. The new pocket layout and new frame design will help to keep gameplay fresh, and I hope to keep adding enhancements like these in the future.

Meet Joe When not getting ready for the Ohio Game Developer Expo itself or working to deliver the next update to Vintage Pachinko, I’ve been working on getting the story eventing and scripting in a good place for Dehoarder 2. I now have enough functionality to take the player through the first 5 minutes of the game, with a scenario involving waking up, getting out of bed, finding your way blocked by the fallout of an earthquake, undertaking mission to search for a missing cellphone, then using said cellphone to call for help.

My goal for the expo is to provide enough gameplay for players to go through two missions (not necessarily linear – I might have the demo teleport to a later mission), so I am almost there. Once the second mission is in place, I will spend remaining time before the expo making the game look as good as possible.

Dehoarder 2 will be the first Smiling Cat game to feature actual humanoid 3D models. Artistically, I find myself unable work with the human form worth a crap, which is why such models have been missing for so long. The Dehoarder 2 story requires a friend for the main character, though, so there was no more getting around it. Luckily, I don’t need to do much yet in terms of animation, and the models I acquired are very pleasantly functional. I was very surprised when I dropped one in the game, ran the game, and found the model automatically cycling through some idle animations.

Deus Penguin 3 I mentioned a Vintage Pachinko update. Yes, after a small hiatus, Vintage Pachinko will soon receive an update with two brand new cells from Phil Peer of Dioram, both from the Deus Penguin series. The second new cell will also feature a brand new frame design, codenamed “Snowcat”, angular and icebergish in appearance. Final builds are being generated now, and I’m going to try again for a simultaneous Appstore and Google Play release.

Speaking of Google Play, Google is not my favorite company right now, after adopting a couple of rather indie-unfriendly policies. First is the 3-day response time for support requests. While I have never taken more than 24 hours to respond to the two support requests I’ve received in 17 months, I’ve also never had one come in while I was, say, on a cruise or elsewhere that a connection to the digital world is tenuous. What this is going to force me to do as a one-man shop is to put up an impersonal support auto-responder just to cover myself in case a request comes in while I am digitally indisposed for a duration. I know that Google is trying to combat developers that NEVER respond to support requests, but the vast majority indie developers impacted by this policy take great pride in their work and already make all possible efforts to respond to support requests in a timely fashion. To chain everyone to a 3-day SLA under threat of ban because of a few bad developers is ham-fisted and overreaching because it affects too many good, decent developers outside of Google’s area of concern.

The second objectionable policy is the public publishing of developer physical addresses on the Google Play store. It is supposedly to comply with consumer protection laws, but I don’t seem to be able to find any such laws that require that a physical address be provided to a non-customer (with Google Play developers already provide an address to paying customers). Given recent events in indie gaming, it is a significant risk for any developer based out of their home to expose this information to the general public, and Google seems completely tone-deaf to that concern. While I’ve already taken steps to protect myself and my family, many other indie developers may not have the resources to do so, and they should not have to undertake such unnecessary risks or expenses just to get their work out in front of the public.

Well, enough of getting that off of my chest. There’s a lot of work to do today, so I’m going to go focus on that instead.

Apr 12

Deus Penguin - Penguin Shrine Vintage Pachinko is now available for iOS in addition to Android. The iOS version contains everything the Android version does, and is available for both iPhone and iPad.

Work is still underway on the iOS version of Prepare for Warp. Most work remaining now centers around in-app purchases, so hopefully the 1.0.10 update of Prepare for Warp will be available in a couple of weeks.

Deus Penguin - Penguin ShrineVintage Pachinko 2.1 is now available in the Google Play Store. This must-have update marks the first collaborative project undertaken by Smiling Cat.

The new “Penguin Shrine” pachinko machine is the first in our new “Deus Penguin” series. Deus Penguin unveils a curious narrative of a deified penguin, and Phil and I look forward to developing this concept further in the coming months.

Phil Peer of Dioram is the artistic force behind Deus Penguin and the new Penguin Shrine machine, and I think that his work is a great contribution to Vintage Pachinko. While my prior machines had been built mostly from creatively-arranged clipart, Phil has used his talents to create fully-integrated pachinko artwork for this newest release. He also did quite a bit of work on the UI textures so that they weren’t so plain and boring.

Automatic updates should be rolling through by now, and if you don’t own a copy yet and remember these machines from way back when, you should really grab the game now from the Google Play Store. It is hands-down the best Pachinko app for Android, and it is only getting better with each release!

The iOS release of Vintage Pachinko will be coming very soon, just as soon as I successfully navigate the app approval process.

Please look forward to the next installment of the Deus Penguin series, coming in version 2.2.

Deus Logo

Mar 22

A regular check up has revealed that piracy of Vintage Pachinko has become much more aggressive since the release of 2.0. Some of the piracy I am now seeing is quite frankly very brazen. No longer limited to back-alley file sharing channels, it seems that some operations now have no problem with putting a full, searchable, attractive web site together offering direct downloads of many paid titles.

I was hoping to release Vintage Pachinko 2.1 this weekend. I will unfortunately need to delay that plan while I implement some countermeasures. Rather than freeze potential players completely out, though, I hope to use this as an opportunity to convert some of the purveyors of these pirate sites. Starting with this new version, unlicensed installations will operate in a reduced-functionality mode. In this mode, winnings will not be saved, players will be unable to unlock new pachinko machines, and a nag message will appear fairly frequently. Properly licensed users will notice no change aside from the additional permissions required licensing and integrity checks.

The beauty of the scheme I am using is that none of this is announced in-game until a couple of minutes into play, so a quick spot check by a malfeasant distributor reveals nothing amiss. They release the app to their sites, and unwittingly become part of the underbelly of my marketing network when my app convinces unlicensed users to convert.

I really hate having to focus attention on things like this when I could be spending time providing a better gameplay experience. However, this is the world we live in, where theft from small merchants like me is seen by some as a way to get ahead, so some basic measures need to be taken. I know anything I implement could probably be broken, but hopefully it will not be found to be worth the effort, with so many other apparently easy targets out there.

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.

Feb 22

Apple StuffA couple of days ago, I invested in all the hardware that I should need to start creating iOS builds of my existing and new games. I got it all set up, and began the process of joining Apple’s Developer Program under the Smiling Cat banner…

…And that’s where we still sit. One thing to know when joining Apple’s Developer Program as a company is that you will need to be verified by Dunn & Bradstreet (a company that maintains an authoritative business registry and issues credit reports on businesses) before you can successfully sign up, and it is not a particularly quick process. Getting listed in their database is not the issue – if your company has accounts at any financial institution, it probably already has a D-U-N-S number. However, if you have not worked with Dunn & Bradstreet before, it is likely that your company is in unverified status in their database, and you will need to provide them with proof of your business registration, as well as work with them to correct any inaccurate information.

Note that you do not need to do this if joining Apple’s Developer Program as an individual, only if joining as a company. I guess this is all an effort to keep the riffraff out of the App Store’s walled garden, but, WOW. After the ease with which I signed up for the Android Developer Program, this was unexpected. As of now, it looks like I will be clear to start iOS development the first week of March. In the meantime, I temporarily have some fantastic new paperweights that are shaped like useful development tools =P. Despite the delay, I’m still looking forward to releasing my full mobile games catalog on iOS in the coming months.

Penguin Temple Result Work still progresses on Vintage Pachinko. Phil from Dioram has created an awesome background that continues the “Deus Penguin” series, and we are just working on adding some of the finer details to the machine.

Breaking Block, as it is now tentatively titled, is coming along nicely as well. Last weekend it saw a transformative overhaul that took the gameplay out of the 80’s, and brought it up to today’s mobile gaming standards. One particular problem that has always plagued block breaker games is the tedium of trying to get those last couple of bricks at the end of a level. Introducing a bit of computer-controlled competition for those last couple of bricks solves that issue quite nicely, and even makes the end of the level exciting. (“Gah! No! You stay away from my bricks!”) Bonus scoring opportunities now occur throughout the level. This is not going to be your typical block breaker game. It’s going to be more than a bit madcap.

Finally, I’m creating a Prepare for Warp surprise, not ready to announce what that is yet, but it will be very soon.

Today I just got a preview of a new background for Vintage Pachinko, and it is really looking super-sweet. Phil from Dioram has graciously offered to contribute some artwork for Vintage Pachinko, and so far the results are stunning. I’m really looking forward to releasing another update!

Levels 1In order to help promote my paid mobile lineup and web games, I plan to release a couple of smaller free mobile titles. The first of these titles will be my take on the tried-and-true block breaker game. I already have many of the staples of the sub-genre implemented, such as power-ups, multi-hit blocks, and multi-ball play. It already has some nice features that make it unique, such as vertically-oriented blocks. This allows for some really creative board designs like the ones you see here. I plan on having a lot of levels, eventually hundreds. Right now I am using a really simple text format to define the levels, so that I can crank out new ones as quickly as possible. The game will also have some nice meta-gameplay elements, such as silver and gold coins to be found/earned in each level, persistent upgrades, and cosmetic unlockables. I MIGHT have this game support in-app purchase of the coins used to unlock items; on that I am undecided.

Why a block breaker game? Because Atari 2600 Breakout was Mom’s favorite. She wasn’t a frequent gamer, but for that game, she called in sick from work and spent six hours pursuing the achievement of clearing a board with only one ball. She did get to see a very early prototype of my game, even if she couldn’t play it. This game will be dedicated to her.