IndieCity Developer Challenge

Friday, December 9, 2011

XBLIGs and the Xbox dashboard update 2011

So here's my take on the recent Xbox dashboard update, and how it affects XBLIGs.

To give the tl;dr first: I think it's horrible how XBLIGs are treated by this update.

And in a few more words:

I think that there are two different problem areas for XBLIGs with the 2011 dashboard.

The first, which somehow overshadows much of the discussion I've read so far, is discoverability - how easy/difficult it is to find the XBLIG section on the new dashboard. I guess there are different opinions here: Some (probably most) are saying it's worse than before, other saying it's not so bad, and others again saying that it simply is Microsoft's right to decide how many "precious" dashboard tiles they want to allocate to XLBIGs. So they decided to put us into a difficult to find corner? I guess we have to deal with that...

This alone is of course already a big problem, but then, what totally baffles me, layered on top of this is the second problem:

Even there, inside our already hidden XBLIG corner, Microsoft continues to make our XBLIG dev lives difficult by removing all options for filtering the huge game list! So we now have a single huge list with currently >2000 entries (and growing) that can be sorted in four different ways (by release date, by rating, by downloads, by title), but no way to filter it! That means that any game that happens to not be among the say first 100 under any of these four sort methods, is virtually invisible. There is no way for a user to find it unless he already knows the name and bings it. Because face it, nobody will scroll to the right more than about 100 games (if even so many) and scan through the covers to find a game.

I understand (even if I don't like it) that MS doesn't want to include XBLIGs in the "main" new-release lists, or in the main "by-genre" or "by-first-letter" lists, where AAA and XBLA games live. But why on earth did they not at least give XBLIGs their own "by-genre" and "by-first-letter" filtering? Or at least a "skip to next letter" option in the "by title" list?

My only conclusion is: They either totally don't care about XBLIGs so they didn't realize this omission. Or they consciously left it out to marginalize XBLIGs even more. Both versions shed a very very dire light on the future of XBLIG. No matter which death we die, the passive one because no one cares, or the active one because we are cut down - dead is dead!

So you better have a game that is among the first 100 or so by one of these four sort methods, or your game will virtually be invisible on the service to anyone who isn't actively bing-ing it by name.

My prediction: We'll see an influx of games with a name that starts with a number, to guarantee at least a front slot under the "by title" filtering.

Too bad for me that my last game's name starts with a "Y"! I just timed it: It took me 1:16min(!) to scroll to Your Doodles Are Bugged! under the "by title" sort order. And then it didn't even show me the box art of the game (or the ones surrounding it). Most likely it first had to load the ~2000 box arts of all the other games that I passed on my way to the letter "Y". So I thought I'd just wait a bit until the box art appears - but I gave up after half an hour, when the box art still wasn't showing...

Very, very disappointing...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

IndieGala - Pay-What-You-Want Indie Game Bundle

By now this probably isn't news for you anymore, but anyway, for the record:

Your Doodles Are Bugged! is part of the first IndieGala pay-what-you-want-and-support-charity indie game bundle.

And of course it is not the only game in the bundle. In the main bundle, there is
  • Hacker Evolution: Duality
  • inMomentum
  • Saira
  • Your Doodles Are Bugged!
  • Zombie Shooter 2
plus, there's some bonus stuff: two more games (Hacker Evolution: Untold and Zombie Shooter 1), the soundtrack theme for the Zombie Shooter games, and the "Easter Special 2011" bonus doodles for YDAB!. If you buy during the first 48 hours you get it for free, after that, you have to pay above the average to get the bonuses.

All games come in form of separate Steam codes. So the bundle is a great deal even if you already own some games, because you can give away those duplicate codes to family and friends.

So what are you waiting for? Go there and help us "up the average"!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rodeo - A New Game in XBLIG Playtest

It has been a long time, more than one and a half years, since the release of my last XBLIG, during which I was busy with the PC release of YDAB!.

But now, finally, I have another XBLIG in playtest. Working title: Rodeo.

If you are an AppHub peer, check it out here (and here is the matching playtest thread in the AppHub forum, where I also made a post explaining how to play the game).

The version that is in playtest right now is purely a gameplay prototype. So far, it has placeholder graphics only, and no sound effects, music, or any other kind of polish. Based on the feedback I get about the gameplay, I'll decide if I make this into a full game or not. So, if you like it, don't forget to tell me! :-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Raising Game Prices - I Must Be Mad, Right?

After thinking about it for a long time (even since before Luke did his Bizarro Sale), I have today raised the prices for my games Your Doodles Are Bugged! and Kuchibi on the XBLIG marketplace (not the PC version!).

Both games are now at 240 MSP. Yep, that's a whopping "you'll-never-be-able-to-pay-this-without-going-bankrupt" 3$ (or 3€). For Kuchibi that is actually the same as its original launch price (I lowered it to 80MSP a while ago), while for Your Doodles Are Bugged! this is indeed an increase.

So I must be utterly mad, right?

Well, probably... But I did it anyway. :-)

I think 3$ is a fair price for these games, if you enjoy them. If you don't enjoy them, then even the old price of 1$ would have been too much. I always felt that, but the XBLIG price race to the bottom (hunting the oh-so-important spots on the top-lists) compelled me to go with a price that was below what I felt fair. Well, I decided to get out of this rat race.

Will some players think this is unfair? Probably. In this age of entitlement, where even other developers(!) write lengthy threads about how something like the Humble Indie Bundle is morally suspect because it is just "guilt-tripping" the customers, I think that no matter what you do, you will always have someone who complains. Probably even if you give the game away for free. So if anyone thinks that the new price is unfair, then by all means, do not buy the games!

And last but not least, it's an interesting experiment to see if (and how) sales are affected by this.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

XNA GameComponent for IndieCity Integration

By now you have probably already heard of IndieCity, the upcoming new portal for indie games.

IndieCity is currently still in closed beta, for invited developers only, but I'm fortunate enough to be among the invited, so I'm already in the process of implementing integration with the IndieCity achievement and leaderboards system into Your Doodles Are Bugged!.

For this I have created a nice little XNA GameComponent that wraps all the nitty gritty details of the ICLIB (IndieCity's underlying development library) to make it easily accessible in a XNA game.

And I thought I might share this component with all the other XNA developers out there, so here it is:

I hope that this may help some of you with your own IndieCity integration. There's actually only a single class file, and the source code contains a detailed description of how to integrate and use the component. For the curious of you, I've also quoted that description below. This is a work in progress and will evolve as the ICLIB matures. Any insights, ideas, suggestions and questions are welcome. Just post a comment below or contact me. Or even better: Post in the discussion thread about my component on the IndieCity forum:

Happy programming!

EDIT: Since I made this blog post, I have made updates to my component. I changed the download link above to point to the latest version of the component, but the description below is still the now outdated description of the very first version. Please see the IndieCity forum thread that is linked above for the updated description and the changes I made.

IndieCityComponent - a XNA GameComponent for the integration with the IndieCity ICLIB, with support for achievements and leaderboards.

Developed with ICLIB version

Compatible with XNA 3.1, XNA 4.0 and .NET 2.0 (or later).

The goal was to create a GameComponent that is easy to integrate into a XNA game and that does all the session updates, state management and event handling for you, so that you don't have to deal with them yourself.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On Using Custom Content to Promote YDAB!

While preparing for the PC release of Your Doodles Are Bugged!, the folks at Blitz 1UP had a very cool idea for how we could try to grab the attention of game reviewers:

The idea was to use the game's own Doodle Studio to produce a number of special custom levels (i.e. doodles). To be precise, we created an individual custom doodle for each of the main game review sites, incorporating the logo of the site into the doodle. And when giving out the review copies of the game, we would also give the reviewer the matching custom doodle for the site that he (or she) writes for, together with the suggestion to use that level for their review, and to also make it available for download to their readers, so that they too could play it.

Our hope was, that this would have several effects:

  • We were hoping that the individual custom level, with the site's own logo, would increase the interest of the reviewer in the game, so that he would feel motivated to play (and hopefully review) the game in the first place.
  • Also we thought that the reviewer might like the chance to offer his readers a free goodie, in form of the downloadable doodle. This too would hopefully convince a few reviewers to write a review who otherwise might have passed.
  • And of course we imagined that getting a free custom level from the review site would motivate a few readers to also download the trial version of the game, so that they would be able to actually try out the free doodle. (And hopefully they would then like the game enough to actually buy it.)

All in all, it sounded like a great idea and several people at Blitz 1UP put a lot of effort into creating these custom doodles. And I would like to use this opportunity to thank them again for this great help!

Well, it still sounds like a good idea, in my opinion. Only for my game Your Doodles Are Bugged!, it turned out that it didn't actually work like we hoped.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Save 50% on Your Doodles Are Bugged!

As part of the Steam Summer Camp Sale, you can now save 50% on Your Doodles Are Bugged! (Steam version). Obviously for a limited time only, until the sale is over.

Get the game here: