Merry Christmas!

Congratulations to everyone for surviving 2012, hope it’s been a good year for you all.

I’ll be returning in the new year with lots of updates for Doodlemate and Aeolus, a few comics and maybe even some blog posts to look forward to. Until then, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year :)

Tim

Aeolus Released

My first game – Aeolus – was released last week :)

Aeolus – Greek God of Winds. You play the god of winds, amusing yourself with the mortals who venture into your domain. Yes, for some reason I believe every game has to have a story behind it (no matter how tenuous) :)

It’s an iPhone game that involves guiding hot air balloons to landing pads using swipes and taps. The simple gameplay makes it easy to get started and get through the levels. Getting the high scores is not so easy, with obstacles and different balloon types getting in the way.

It’s been over a year in development (for various reasons that include procrastination, too much XBox and a day job). I’ve got to admit I’ve had a lot of fun and learned a lot by doing it. A lot of the game has changed since the beginning too. Many of my original ideas about the gameplay, the look and the feel of the game have been cast aside along the way. Some were a bit painful to see go, others simply got left behind as the game developed and they no longer fit.

The result of this trimming and re-design is actually a really good game. If that sentence sounds like I’m a little surprised it’s simply because this is the first game I’ve ever done. My efforts have been to make something that I found fun, and make it to the sort of coding standards that I’m used to at work. I was also lucky enough to team up with a graphic designer friend of mine. Thanks to him my original developer art has largely been replaced by good looking graphics that are a world better than I could do and really give it a professional finish.

The big question is, of course: How did it do?
The answer is, equally of course: Good (as I’ve actually released my first game) but not great – sales were in double digits on the first day and have fallen since.

While my dreams of writing the next big thing in the iPhone world may be slightly tarnished, I can’t say I’m that surprised. I’ve already researched how these things work and know it is competitive, and it can be very difficult to get your app seen long enough to build lasting sales. Fortunately, this wasn’t a fire-and-forget plan. To-date I’ve only received positive feedback from people who have tried it, which means I’m pretty sure the game is actually pretty fun and addictive. I also have many ideas for new levels, updates, additions and improvements that will continue to improve the quality and quantity of the game. Rather than feeling disheartened, I’m actually feeling more motivated.

However, this is also uncharted territory. As a developer and project manager I’ve never had to do any sales, marketing or advertising so this is all new to me. So… if you have any advice, links or help on the marketing and advertising side of things (or personal anecdotes, ancient wisdom, prophecies, spells, voodoo or snake oil) I’d be grateful :)

If you like your non-violent arcady, puzzly, simulationy, strategy type games (still not sure quite how to class it) then please check it out and let me know what you think.

Game Update – Aeolus

It’s been a very (very) long time since I decided to write a quick and simple game to get to grips with iPhone game development. I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson right there, but lets gloss over that for now ;)

After a rather intense last few weeks and some incredibly late nights from both Syd Emmery, working on the graphics, and myself, working on the programming, it was submitted to Apples app store on Sunday night. Now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that it gets reviewed and released in time for Christmas. Why Christmas? Well, apart from being potentially a really good sales period (shiny new Apple toys and kids with loads of time on their hands) I had promised myself I’d get the game done this year. This explains the last minute development rush: the app store is on hold from 21st December to 28th December (no new games or updates in that time) and reviewing can take anywhere up to 14 days. At the moment, the average review time seems to be 6-7 days so unless it gets rejected for any reason we should have scraped in with days to spare.

What Is It?

DefaultSplash

Loading graphics for Aeolus

For those of you not putting up with me waffling about it for the last year or so, the game is called Aeolus (after Aeolus, Greek God of Winds). You use your powers to push hot air balloons around the screen and try to land them all safely on the handy landing pads provided. Why? Maybe Aeolus doesn’t like the human invaders to his realm. More likely though is he’s bored and just passing time harassing the poor mortals on a Sunday afternoon.

Whatever the reasons for pushing the balloons around, it turns out the game concept is pretty fun and slightly addictive. I got the basic gameplay up and running fairly quickly at the beginning of the year and got various people to try it out. This is always risky as you have to expect a polite “I’ll try it because you’re my friend and tell you it’s good” response. In most cases I found they’d been playing it for 10+ minutes and I had to ask for my phone back. While I knew I liked it, I wasn’t expecting other people to enjoy it as much as they seemed to be. It was especially fun hearing them cursing a difficult level without looking up from the screen or handing the phone back! Thank you to all those people, by the way, that really did help motivate me through the long development process :)

Sneak Preview

I thought I’d drop a few screenshots of the different levels and screens so people can see what I’m talking about. I also really love all the graphics that Syd has produced over the last 6 months or so and want to show them off!

Home Screen

The Home Screen

This is the home screen and probably one of the simplest (for a reason). You’re basically playing that little guy in the corner. There’s a few things animating here but, unless your in the list of testers and helpers, it’s probably not that interesting for you.

Chapter Select

Chapter Selection

On release there will be four chapters, two based in the meadows and two based in the desert. Lets just say these graphics blow my original developer art / design way out of the water. Every so often you get reminded me why you use experts: because they can do in a few hours what might take me days (if I ever get there) to produce. When I got these I suddenly realised my game was actually going to be looking quite professional :)

Level Select

Level Selection

Each chapter has 9 levels. There was an original reason for this number, which has been lost in the mists of development changes. As you can see, you need to unlock chapters and levels in sequence and there’s a bronze, silver and gold balloon awarded for each level. In most cases you can unlock the next level fairly easily (bronze balloon), though you need a perfect score for a gold balloon.

Next up are a the screenshots I’m currently using on the app store showing a example levels from the chapters.

chapter 1-small

Chapter 1

chapter 2-small

Chapter 2

chapter 3-small

Chapter 3

chapter 4-small

Chapter 4

As you can see, there’s a variety of obstacles and objects across the different chapters to keep things interesting. At least that’s the plan.

Paused Screen

Paused Screen

Finished Screen

Finished Screen

The last two screen to show off are the paused and finished screens. They are, also, a lot better looking than the versions I came up with. The paused screen doesn’t need to do much apart from provide the options, but the finished screen has a few animations going on as you get better scores that I’m quite happy with.

Summary

There you go, a quick look round Aeolus, the game I’ve been writing for over a year. I’ve already got several little improvements and features I want to add which didn’t quite make the first cut, as well as at least another 4 chapters planned. For now, though, it’s back to keeping my fingers crossed and, hopefully, relaxing over Christmas for a couple of weeks.

Actually, I’ve got another game idea that should be really quick and simple to do like this one was. Think I might start that over the holiday… ;)

How to Replace an Image in Xcode

I’ve been playing with a lot of graphics in Xcode over the last few weeks and had a lot of trouble replacing images when not changing the file name. It can be pretty frustrating, for example, when resizing images to have Xcode refuse to show the new size. For some reason it keeps the old version of the image no matter how many times I delete and re-add it, or clean and rebuild the project.

I hit on the following sequence that works every time to replace images:

  1. Delete the original image version from within Xcode. Trash it. (Make sure you have the new version of your image available outside the project area first, of course…)
  2. Clean the project.
  3. Quit Xcode completely and restart.
  4. Copy the new file with the same name back into the project area.
  5. Re-add the file.

It might not be quick, but it’s worked every time for me so far. Given that other strategies for clearing things involve digging through files to find the project installation on the simulator to delete (and I can never remember where that is), this at least seems fairly simple and straight forward.

Hope it helps.