Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Not dead yet, and happy holidays!

Hello there ladies, gentlemen and gamers and welcome to this short blog update from Sonic Punch Studio!

First of all - Nope, I'm not dead yet. Been busy with various stuff - both work and home related.

Secondly, I've just updated my Tumblr gallery with new works! What are you waiting for? GO CEHCK IT OUT NAO! (Just click here already!)

Thirdly, happy holidays everyone! Stay merry, and most importantly - STAY SAFE!

See you guys later! Signing out!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Doing Art Among Other Things (Blog Update 21/10/2013)

Hello there ladies, gentlemen and...

Ugh. Getting a bit tired of saying that all the ti- *Ducks under a flying tin can* Alright! Alright! I get it!

*Sigh*

Hello there ladies, gentlemen and gamers and welcome to another blog update from yours truly, reporting from the deepest corners of Sonic Punch Studio's creative dungeons!

General Update

Since my last blog update, I have been working on putting together a demo of sorts for my game Bubble Virtuoso (which is available on Google Play and Samsung Apps). While I've nothing worthwhile to mention about it's development, this time around I'm going to try my hand in a few new things that I've never done before so the demo is going to be a test bed of sorts. I'll write up about those things once I start attempting to implement them, but for now what I can say is that development of the demo is going slowly but surely (if a bit haphazardly - geez I need to plan things better).

What Art Stuff?

As the topic of this update implies, I will be talking about what I did on the art side of things. For those who didn't know, I used to work as an artist and pixel/vertex pusher in a company before I moved on game design. Unfortunately, ever since I moved on said company has taken down all traces of my work from the web so I can't really show them to you guys here. Bloody bastards...

As a warm up before I got back into the swing of things game dev related, I've been flexing my artistic muscles in creating some character designs. As an artist, I specialize in character designs, such as the one below:

In my character designs, I tend to do a lot of iterations.
The above character design piece was something I've done as a side project in "preparation" for project "Plan A". It was done as my very first foray into pixel-based sprite design and something I would be keen to pick up again once I have the chance. As such, it took me a while to get used to working with individual pixels - this design took me a week to get it up to this state and it's still not final!

While I specialize in character design, I do conjure up art pieces occasionally - however with me being so busy these years I rarely find the time to draw anything unless if it is work-related. Nevertheless, work-related or not, I've set up a Tumblr gallery showcasing my art work from the past and present! I'll update my gallery on the occasion that I'm able to draw something (or scrounge up past noteworthy pieces in my jumbled archives), so look out for it!

Visit my Tumblr gallery HERE!

In Closing

So that's it for this blog update. The development of the demo should be finished quite soon (in a week or two if I can manage to keep up my current momentum) - after that I will be starting to create my press kit and deal with all the promotion stuff that never seems to end!

Before I sign off,  a question to all of the developers out there - how are you able to attract attention from journalists and other audiences to your own studio? What's your secret in letting people know that your studio exists?

Signing off now - Be sure to check back for more updates from Sonic Punch Studio!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

*Taps Microphone* Is this thing still on? (Blog Update 7/10/2013)

Hello there ladies, gentlemen and gamers and welcome to the long-awaited blog update from Sonic Punch Studios!

Here, I'm going to predict that you guys are probably going to say: Where the hell have you been?

"Where the hell have you been?"
"...!"

(If you didn't get the reference, go read Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency)

Anyways, to answer that question - I have been extremely busy in the past few months as I will explain below.

Updating Bubble Virtuoso

From my last blog update I have been working on implementing an update to Bubble Virtuoso (if you haven't got it yet, get it here. Now!). At the same time, I was also developing another version of Bubble Virtuoso where people can try the game for free. As luck would've had it, I had to cancel the free version at the last minute due to some conflict of interest.

So what was this new update? The newest build of Bubble Virtuoso now has an exciting new play mode called "Time Attack" - where players are only given 100 seconds to score as many points as they can. While the basic gameplay of Time Attack is the same as the original game (now called "Classic" mode), there are a couple of minor tweaks in the game rules. One of the tweaks include the removal of the time limit to clear each wave of bubbles - while that may seem to be making the game more easier, less points will be rewarded if players take too long clear the bubbles. Overall flow has also been slightly modified so that game plays more faster and less ponderous than Classic mode.

Time Attack mode was an idea that I came up with a while back when Bubble Virtuoso was still in early development. At that time I was working on revamping the base concept gameplay (read "Revamping the Game (Blog Update 4/2/2014)") to make it feel more competitive and it was back then that the basic idea behind Time Attack was considered as part of the revamp. Of course, in the end I opted to save it as a future Bubble Virtuoso update.

What I like about Time Attack is that it really brings out the true essence of what Bubble Virtuoso is - a game where it tests your speed, reflexes and really keeps your brain on its toes!

Working with 100% Indie and selling BV on Samsung Apps

To my greatest surprise, right when I was beginning development of Bubble Virtuoso's update I received an email by the guys behind the 100% Indie expressing their interest in featuring my game under their initiative. Of course, considering the lacklustre sales that Bubble Virtuoso has been experiencing I jumped at the opportunity to get some help in spreading the word out about my game.

Liam Eagle, the business development consultant from 100% Indie who contacted me, was extremely helpful and patient with bringing me through the entire process including the process of uploading my game onto the Samsung app store.

However, the process of registering my game with Samsung Apps was a bit rocky - to say the least. Not to delve too deeply into it, applying for a commercial distributor status with Samsung Apps set off a chain of events that involved a lot of things in Sonic Punch Studio's administration and also my personal life. It finally settled one and a half months later since then but at the cost of falling behind my plans, among other personal things which is why I haven't updated my blog in a while. Oh, that and having my game erroneously rejected by Samsung which also involved a process of me presenting my case explaining how their testing team made a mistake while screening Bubble Virtuoso. That soon resolved after I've resubmitted the game (it finally passed, yay!), so it's all good!

Analog Jam


Me (right) and Krister (left) locked in a battle of rock-paper-scissors.
Taking a breather from all the hectic things I've gone through, I've taken the liberty to participate in the "Analog Jam", a 48-hour long casual event where, for a change, participants gather together to create board games! As with all jams, we were given a theme to follow - for the Analog Jam theme, we were given 4 words: family, invasion, betrayal, and one other word which I forgot since back then I failed to note down the words. Hehe.

Designing board games for the first time was fun, AND refreshing, but it sure took me a while to get accustomed to the fact that I can't really introduce complex concepts, much less refining them within the 48-hour deadline.

What I came up with at the end (after many hours of RSI and PTSD inducing arm pumping) was what I would describe as "turn-based strategy meets rock-paper-scissors". The game's scenario is this: One country's army invades another army's country and decided to make a prison camp to contain the Prisoners of War (POWs). The POWs want out and it's up to the Wardens to send them back to prison before they cross the country border to freedom. And what would happen if both sides meet in conflict? They play rounds of rock-paper-scissors to determine the victor!

A revamp of the original idea is in the works (as a side project) so look out for it in the near future!

iFest


Various people enjoying bubble-popping fun!
In the month of September I had the opportunity to showcase my game to the attendees of iFest 2013. The reaction was extremely positive - people screamed and panicked while trying to spot the next bubble to pop and also commented on how Bubble Virtuoso forced them to think on their feet!

Fast hands = Bigger scores!
It was a day full of talks and play testing games from other fellow indie developers. Although I didn't get to win any awards for Bubble Virtuoso, seeing the reaction from people playing it verified that my game was indeed fun to play.

In Closing

So yeah, as you can see I was extremely busy in the past months - not lazy! But either way, I shall try my best in keep you guys posted as to the happenings within Sonic Punch Studio. Tell you guys a spoiler for my next blog update: Apart from my side project I'm also assembling my art portfolio so maybe my next update will feature something artsy?

Stay tuned for more updates by Sonic Punch Studio!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Importance of Documentation (Blog Update 25/07/2013)

Hello ladies, gentlemen and gamers and welcome to another blog update, brought to you by Sonic Punch Studios and Bubble Virtuoso!

How are you guys? Fantastic. Me? Well, let's just say I got off a slow start with my "Take 2" plan - one of the reasons of which I will be explaining next as per the title of this blog update.

Documentation, documentation, documentation...

One of my very bad habits of game development that I finally noticed (dear me...!) is that I very rarely do documentation on my code. Being that I'm using PlayMaker (a plugin for Unity, just in case if people didn't know) as means of developing Bubble Virtuoso, in virtue of how its coding works, I thought I would easily catch on what each action does when I look at the code again after a period of time.

... Again, I was proven wrong.

I was about to modify one of the features in the code for the free version of Bubble Virtuoso when I faced this:

Makes you want to fall asleep right? What we're looking at here is an example of what happens if you don't do documentation. If one would take a glance at this, they wouldn't be able to immediately make heads or tails of what each action does without clicking through all of  the object names to highlight dependent in-scene game objects - which was exactly what I've been doing; and that certainly took a while.

The problem wasn't as bad as made out to be, but it does become problematic if I were to be giving dependent game objects weird, incomprehensible, ambiguous, or overly long names (especially with the limited display spaces where the object names go).

However, there is one neat little thing that I've finally utilized (I've actually discovered it a long time ago but never thought about using it) that can counteract the above problem, as shown next:

One of the things that I encourage all upcoming Playmaker users to do is to make use of the ability to change the selected action's name into a custom one. One might ask, "Why would I want to do that?" (I sure did think like that before) Well the answer lies back to the problem about poorly named game objects or in the following case study, missing game objects.

See how I've changed the action names to have a short descriptor of what the action does? It might sound like a lot of micro managing but I can assure you that it will save a lot of time down the track when it comes to being reminded of what that particular action actually do.

As you might have noticed in the image to the right, I used two variations of descriptors: generic descriptors and descriptors that addresses actual game object names (the text in square brackets). The descriptors with the actual game object names are only used when I need to be reminded of the game object to be linked back to the action when re-inserting it back into the scene after removing it in the first place.

Of course, you don't have to rename actions like I do, so rename them in a way that you would understand.



There is also one other thing that I've found that might prove useful - using empty actions to denote the function of a group of actions as shown below (highlighted in blue):

As you can see here, I am using empty actions to mark the beginning and end of a group of actions that performs a particular function (in this case - the function of hiding the exit confirmation screen). As a precaution, I've also unchecked those empty actions (thus disabling them) so that they won't be read during runtime. It might seem trivial in this example, but it becomes a godsend when documenting a long sequence of actions and/or calculations used for a particular purpose (for example, calculating the amount of hit points a character has based on external variables) - using empty actions to point out those purposes can potentially save a lot of headaches when revisiting the actions at a later time.

Of course, another way to easily deal with this is to stick those series of actions into another state and then adding a descriptor to that state, but even then - depending on the purpose of the state and the amount of sub-functions in that state - I might end up having to use empty-action documentation anyway. Because I usually like to keep my FSMs uncluttered as possible (thus each state I create has the tendency to contain a lot of actions), it created the need for me to use this kind of documentation.

----------

Hopefully you have found the above tips useful. I certainly did, and I might need to dive further into my code/FSMs to continue creating documentation (only on those I plan to change at the very least considering the amount of time I have left). To all the other PlayMaker users out there, what is your preferred method of documentation?

That's all from me for now! Phew, it's becoming hard for me to come up with topics for the blog updates, so you might find that my updates have been sporadic as of late (hence why I missed out on last week's blog update due to having nothing notable to talk about). But! Do not assume that Sonic Punch Studio is dead as I am hard at work to finish up all development and promotional stuff in time to meet my own deadline!

Adios Amigos! I'll see you guys next time!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

After a long slumber... (Blog Update 11/07/2013)

... I FINALLY AWAKEN!

Hello ladies, gentlemen and gamers and welcome to the long-belated blog update here at the Sonic Punch Line - where the shenanigans within Sonic Punch Studios are brought to light!

First of all - Apologies

As some of you guys may have noticed - I have been somewhat inactive for the past month, both on updating my blog and on Twitter ("@S_Punch_Studio", follow meh!). The reason for this was that I kind of needed a break from all of my dev related stuff (which includes blog updates and keeping up with my Tweets). I know it's sort of unannounced, but trust me - when you're tackling everything between game development, social media and P.R. for an extended period of time, you need a break, lest your mind breaks first.

So without saying much, I'm now back in action and ready to do some real work!

What have I been up to

Even though I was taking it easy, it doesn't necessarily mean I wasn't doing something. For the past month I have been learning on-and-off the art of making YouTube videos. You see, due to the very lacklustre sales of Bubble Virtuoso (help a guy out here please!) I decided that I need to create more promotional material; at the very least create a trailer of some sort for Bubble Virtuoso.

Admittedly, considering the length of the final video, the making of the trailer dragged out longer than it should. Apart from taking my sweet time, recording myself playing Bubble Virtuoso wasn't easy especially when trying to illustrate the main points of the game (lots, and lots of cuts), so I ended up having to rig the game up to make my recording sessions somewhat easier. At the same time I also had to note down any bugs and/or caveats that I discovered during my rigging so that I can fix them for the game's next update.

With the video finally finished I can move on to other stuff - for the time being I'm keeping the video under wraps as it is part of my "Take 2" promotion push.

What is "Take 2"

"Take 2" is just an arbitrary name that I've just come up with for planned content for my second promotion push.

I won't be disclosing details of the "Take 2" plan, but I will be releasing stuff related to it as a whole package. for the second promotion push At the moment the planned time frame is one-and-a-half months, although rest assured I can't wait until I get to reveal it.

Busy, busy!

Brace yourselves - Hectic times are coming, and the better for it! It is about time that I start getting back into business after a long break so expect more stuff coming up in the coming weeks, here at the Sonic Punch Line!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Anti-Piracy PSA (Blog Update 13/06/2013)

Heya guys, it's kind of rare for me to make 2 blog updates in a day but something that came to my attention forced me to do so.

It turns out that the purchase and subsequent refund from the guy in Hong Kong was typical to an activity of pirating my game.

To those who downloaded Bubble Virtuoso and are playing it for free, not only you are partaking in an illegal activity, you are also ensuring that I will not be able to create games for others to play in the future. YOU ARE RUINING IT FOR ME, FOR THE OTHER STRUGGLING GAME DEVELOPERS, AND FOR THE GENUINE GAMERS OUT THERE.

If you want me to continue creating games as good as Bubble Virtuoso, then support Sonic Punch Studio by purchasing the game here!

Peace out!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Post-Mortem of a Post-Mortem (Blog Update 13/06/2013)

Hello ladies, gentlemen and gamers and welcome to another blog update here at the Sonic Punch Line!

In light of releasing Bubble Virtuoso last week I will be doing a post-release post-mortem (... lol) of what happened immediately before and after the release!

*Note: I'm currently suffering from a cold so please don't mind if the stuff I'm typing is a bit incomprehensible - pretty hard to concentrate if I'm blowing my nose and coughing out phlegm and lungs every 10 seconds...

Pre-Release Grumbles

Two days before the release of Bubble Virtuoso, I literally spent a day sorting out the store listing for the game on Google Play. The reason - sorting out which compatible devices will be able to search for the game on Google Play.

I had previously done a test on Apkudo to see which devices are able to install and run Bubble Virtuoso -  as Google Play initially filtered compatible devices based on the minimum API level I had set when building the APK file for Bubble Virtuoso, it was necessary for me to use the Apkudo test results to cull out any additional devices from Google Play's list that it deemed unable to run the game. Despite Google Play's flaky categorization of Android device names, it was somewhat bearable adding 100+ additional devices to the list of incompatible devices.

The next bit was a bit of a tough cookie...

Due to the fact that Bubble Virtuoso doesn't support resolutions lower than 800*480 pixels, in addition culling out devices that failed Apkudo's tests, I also had to filter out devices that has native resolutions of less than 800*480 pixels. That task involved doing a lot of last minute research into devices that are below that specification. Along the way, I also spent quite a bit of time comparing the list of "compatible" devices against below-specification devices to make sure that there were no unsupported devices left. Thankfully, most of the devices whose resolution was below the supported resolution had API levels lower than the one specified in Bubble Virtuoso's APK build, so my work was cut in half.

After sorting out the compatible devices, I proceeded to start writing up the blog update that would coincide with Bubble Virtuoso's release. While half way through writing up the content I suddenly had the idea of turning the blog update into a press release post, but decided keep it simple for that time being since there were stuff that was best kept until later once I gotten all press material sorted out.

Bubble Virtuoso's Release Day

The big day has arrived! First order of day: release my blog post! Second order of the day: promote my blog post! Third order for the rest of the day: promote Bubble Virtuoso through Twitter, Reddit, and various other forums including the Playmaker and Unity ones!

And the result of my hard work? Very, very cold sales. On the first day of release I only had 2 sales, that came from myself (I had to test whether there were still something wrong with the game after uploading to Google Play) and a friend of mine. The day after the release saw better days as there were 4 sales, but that was after I promoted the game like crazy on IGDA Sydney's Facebook page.

The Week After Release

The week proceeding Bubble Virtuoso's release was not much of a story to tell; the only highlights to speak of was that I managed to have sales coming from Europe (1 from Germany and 1 from Great Britain). Much as I hoped that those sales would lead to the spread of Bubble Virtuoso via word of mouth, I was left disappointed.

What was more disappointing was that I suffered the first refund from a customer in Hong Kong.

Then a surprise came: Kim Heimbuch from Musing With Crayolakym purchased my game for her 4/5 star review of Bubble Virtuoso! Wow - just as I was planning to contact her later for a review!

And Kim, if you're reading this: Thanks for the 4 stars! I was surprised that my first game would be rated this high!

Statistics 1 Week after Release
  • Total No. of Unique Sales: 12 (Including my own test purchase)
  • Number of Refunds: 1
  • Total Revenue: $13.17 (NOT including my test purchase)
  • Average Rating: 4.8 Stars (based on 5 ratings including Kim's rating)
Lessons Learnt

Despite Kim's review, it didn't translate into any additional sales for Bubble Virtuoso. To be honest, I am kind of disappointed at the lacklustre sales performance despite all the Tweets, Reddits, Facebook posts and forum posts I've done.

Even though I'm not an expert in marketing, I can guess the reasons behind the lack of sales:

  • The store page of Bubble Virtuoso may be getting a lot of traffic but due to the lack of videos showcasing Bubble Virtuoso's gameplay, a lot of potential customers are probably scared off not knowing how the game plays except for a few screenshots on the store page, thus not willing to part with their $1 to try my game out.
  • Since Bubble Virtuoso is a paid Android app, there are currently no options to try the game for free. This was an oversight on my part as I believed that sales would be generated via enough marketing, not knowing that a lot of people out there are cheapskates, haha.
So what are my options now?
  • Create a video showcasing Bubble Virtuoso's gameplay.
  • As suggested by Kim and other people, I will need to create a free version of the game and then promote that instead. Will also have to make sure to link the free version to the paid version in some way.
Let's just hope that things will get better after doing all of that!

Anyways, this is where I will end this blog update. Be sure to tune in next week for more updates here at the Sonic Punch Line! Peace out!

EDIT: It turns out that the purchase and subsequent refund from the guy in Hong Kong was typical to an activity of pirating my game.

To those who downloaded Bubble Virtuoso and are playing it for free, not only you are partaking in an illegal activity, you are also ensuring that I will not be able to create games for others to play in the future. YOU ARE RUINING IT FOR ME, FOR THE OTHER STRUGGLING GAME DEVELOPERS, AND FOR THE GENUINE GAMERS OUT THERE.

If you want me to continue creating games as good as Bubble Virtuoso, then support Sonic Punch Studio by purchasing the game here!
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