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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Havent posted in a while

So I've been rather busy. Mostly with side projects not related to indie development but this happens when you aren't doing indie work full time. But! Some great things have been happening. We have gathered another artist and another programmer in our ranks. White Box is five strong now! We are a real indie group! So we are now in full swing on pumping out the rest of the work for our next title.

Sad to say to some degree that this title is an experiment for our group too. Another testing of the waters to make sure our group works. But I have already don't about 2/5 of the art for the game so kicking out the rest will be easy.

Also, we are going to be working with adding Facebook posting abilities from the game to give your high score on your face book. This should be an interesting attempt at some free advertising.

On an un-related note. I'm also in the middle of giving Marty Mongoose a rather large upgrade. I'm giving it a graphics overhaul in a lot of ways, adding 20 more levels, changing the challenge curve to actually ramp up from learning to puzzles, and in addition to that, I'm also making the first few tools collections later in the game, forcing you to use each tool as you go as well as learn the basic tools better. Also re-did all the music. So a pretty large change!

We are going to get everyone together at the bar this Friday to talk about the direction of White Box and locking down the project we want to finish as well as whats on the horizon. It has taken a bit to get to this point and were being very careful about who we let on the team but I think we will be stronger for it.

Another approach we are going to take son is kick starter. This is a site meant to let people pitch their ideas to millions online to get starting capitol for them. We are planing to do this with White Box to get funding for new equipment and software for the team. Were starting to become something interesting now. I will update as we roll on.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

App Madness

It's been a while since I wrote a blog here. I've been really busy with side projects. At this point I am certain that Marty has run its course and it has gone where I expected. One last thing I've done though is enter it into an app competition on a site called

I know it wont win. I simply entered it because I got an email from their team asking for volunteer app creators to try out the first tournament. So what the hell? I'm up against a great game called Zombie Juice in the first round they deserve to win and they will. It is a great example of what a group of people can do.

The reason I'm posting about this though is the benefit of you, the reader, if you have happened to find your way here. Currently Appmadness does a tournament every month for free. (they will probably start charging entry fees once people start seeing the site. But it's things like this that help get your app out there and yet another example of the different ways to do it.

So now, I am handling the art and other parts of creation on a new project with two other people. One who is an actual programmer! So win! Currently there is no information on the white box site but it is a super hero based flying game. Dodging things you want to dodge, picking up things you want to pick up. Rather strait forward but it will be more polished than Marty.

My issue is that every time you pick up new people you need to sort of start from square one. What I mean is that I spent a lot of effort making a practice game and now we seem to be making another practice game to get our feet wet as a team. Not to say this game wont be an improvement but it is still a testing of the waters to make sure we can actually make a game.

I really plan that after this one we will have a real game we can work on. With a cool art style and a neat idea. Lets hope we push this one out soon to get cracking on the fun stuff. But I suppose you have to put in your time first. Takes a lot of mistakes before you hit the right stride.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To be Free

So some time has passed since the release of Marty. My expectations were met in that it hasn't sold very much. Maybe about 30 copies. But the free version is some where around 600 sold. Still not amazing numbers but for an individual person, that's not too bad. This tells me a few things though...

First and obvious is that people like free things. They will grab just about anything to give it a try if its free. That being said though, you run a risk of killing your market if you release a free version AND a pay version. Most people, if they like the game or not, will only grab the free version. If the game is spectacularly addictive then a good portion will probably return to buy. But most will fiddle with the free version while they are bored and that's about the extend of it.

Now at this point, you ask yourself the question. How many of these people would have been willing to spend 99 cents if there wasn't a big ol "FREE" staring them in the face first? From my personal experience (and granted this can only be an assumption based on my game and reading) a free version is actually hurting your chances at sales. People will grab it up before paying money some wont like the game and will never return. Some will like the game but not go through the hassle to buy the full version. After all, they have a free version to mess around with until they are tired of the game's core idea. And a few will like the game and go the extra mile to buy it.

This obviously changes with game quality, how you introduce mechanics, etc. But I do believe there is a base knowledge to be had here in the concept of free and pay games.

So at this point you have to ask yourself. "Do I make it free or pay?" In my personal experience it may have been more advantageous to just make Marty a 99 cent game and leave it at that. In a realistic approach of what the game is (and if any of you have been reading this blog from the start (probably not) you would know that this first game is more an experiment than an attempt at fame.) it isn't that amazingly ground breaking and could use a lot of polish. Mechanics are given to you all at once. There aren't really any bread crumbs to make you want more past the free version other than more levels and maybe the jet pack and gravity orb. The tools aren't handed to you one by one to help learning. There are a mess of things with Marty that could be improved and Marty will make a return in a later game that promises to be more polished and fun.

So my solution to the current problem of Marty is to eventually make the full game free and throw ads in it. The current free version will live its life in quiet solitude. This should spike sales again for the last time and maybe get some ad coverage.

So is iAd the way to go?

Well, ads do pay money. My free version apparently has an issue on the 3Gs (the most widely used one still) where the ads don't show up fully and this doesn't' count as an ad hitting so I'm not the best model for it. But if you look at companies like Zynga (words with friends, Hanging with friends, and just about any other time sink game you can think of on the mobile market) they have ads on just about anything they can fit ads on and their pay versions only offer no ads becase you know they are annoying as hell.

But what they do offer is a genius platform that makes you load the game up over and over again clicking through ad after ad. They have connectivity with friends and basically free viral advertising by letting you find your friends through face book and twitter. Every time you close, another friends wants to play a game. You get 3 games going at once and you are clicking through more ads than my game will display in its life on any one phone.

My point is simply that YOU need to decide what is best for your app. Is it better off marketing as an app you pay for? Or is it something that is modeled in a way that will support multiple ad shows? Will you be hurting you game if you have both free and pay?

What I have learned, personally, is that if you plan to have both free and pay versions; you need to offer something more than just more levels and one or two carrots in the pay version. I think some where in the back of my mind I knew this, but launching your first game on your own is exciting and you want to get it done.

I'm sure Marty could have thrived on more levels as an incentive to buy but the polish just wasn't there. I will probably visit it again and smooth out some rough parts here and there but another thing I have noticed is that apps run their course in the mobile market quick. Marty still makes some sales each day and that's great and I'm sure it will continue to do so. But the success of your game overall is decided rather quickly. Thousands of apps hit the app store all the time so you need to hit it as hard as you can and get your name out. Ultimately, how you use that time is up to you but be sure you know your product before choosing free, pay, or both.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Advertising and the foot work

The free version of Marty Mongoose went up for download a few days ago so I achieved my goal of getting two version of the game up. So hurray! It's only been a few days so its hard to speak to the success of the game but I would be lying if I said I thought it would be alarmingly successful.

Marty is a baby step in the right direction. It's not meant to be a ground breaking game or even the most polished and entertaining game. While I still fully believe its worth the 99 cents I'm charging for it; I really don't expect to make back my initial investment in the tools to make it. That's for later. This is more a trial run to prove that it can be done by any one looking to try and make their mark. But don't be surprised if your first game isn't an angry birds killer. Don't let that stop you though.

However, there is a whole other side to the beast of creating indie games if you don't want it to fall into the sea of apps flooding the market. Advertising. This was also a first run of figuring out how to spread the word of the game. Again, it's only been a few days so I can only speak to the experience of personally typing up a million emails. Who knows what will actually happen in the coming weeks. But aim low and you wont be disappointed right? But I can tell you its hard.

What I suggest to advertise your game (so far)

Find as many gamer blog sites as you can. There are so many people out there who run their own video game blog. From Kotaku to the individual 16 year old who only has 200 followers on their geo cities account (is that even still around??). But I can tell you, a mention (as long as its some what positive) is a good one. That's 200 followers potentially looking at your product.

Email Email Email. Many review sites will have a "submit an app" option and some of them are direct email links where you send promo codes and a brief email to the writers. Some of them are simply web forms where they will reply back to you if they are interested in trying out your game. (Most of them wont be)
  • Sub note on this. Some sites offer an expedited review. This means that it guarantees you will get a review for a fee. For the sake of testing and hope of a pseudo positive review, I have tried this with a site called the iPhone App Review. There has been no review yet but they promise a review within 5 days so I will report back with the success of it and if it is worth the money to do. The idea is that such a site has hundreds of thousands of viewers and a positive mention is priceless. Is that worth any where from 20 to 60 dollars to you? We'll see.
What that leaves is plugging your game shamelessly to every one and any one who will listen. It becomes very tiring especially without replies from people. BUT! It doesn't mean they aren't reading. I received a review in a mobile round up on Destructoid. The review was what I expected. Not horribly negative but not horribly positive but it was a mention to at least go grab the free version and I'll take that. So it is possible and they are listening. So don't give up! But keep in mind that if you don't have some kind of hook. Most will simply gloss over your work and let it fall into nothingness.

You can find the mention in Destructoid here to see what I'm talking about:

Weekend Mobile Roundup

Promo codes mean business. Once you have successfully gotten your game approved for the app store you will be able to generate promo codes (max of 50) These are for friends and family but more importantly, for spreading the word. You will use promo codes when sending your game in to review sites and blogs so they can download it free of charge and give it a look.

Another strategy is to try and have giveaways on social networking sites etc. Generate 5 codes and throw them up on twitter or face book if you've made one for your game. (I created a twitter, face book, and web site for Marty) Visit forums for developers and put up some codes. People will try it out and if they like it they will start spreading the word.

Be smart with your codes though. This first time around I have been a little cavalier with my promo codes and only have 15 left and only 2 have been used (That's right 2 - be ready for that kind of thing and don't let it get to you.) You can tell how many promo codes have been used because it says so on the iTunes Connect site. If you are smart with how you hand out your promo codes, this can be a way to monitor if your game has at least been looked at by reviewers.

So what did I do for Marty?

I'll take a second to deconstruct what I've done for Marty to try and get some insight into at least one way of doing things.

First things first, I created a web site for white box and a page for Marty here. This is so I had a place to sort of set up base. From there I created a Face Book page and a twitter feed. I set these up long before launch so that I had pages to send people to the day of. I filled the pages with screen shots and info about the game as well as eventually links to the itunes store for each version.

Next, once the game launched, I started an ad campaign on face book. You can put as little or as much money into it as you want. I don't have a ton of money so I put $100 into it. This puts me at about 650 dollars that I have put into the entire experience. So I have drawn the line here since I feel I probably wont be making my money back with this particular game.

So through face book ads you can get people to like your page. This is all well and good but likes don't mean purchases for the most part. This is to get the word out and get those few people that might be into the idea enough to grab it. What I suggest if you do advertise on face book is to create two ad types. One with a link to your face book page and one with a direct link to the iTunes store. This will send some people to potentially buy and some to potentially like the page and help advertise. Still, with little money it is difficult, only 56 people like Marty's page.

Next, I hunted down just about every game blog site and mobile review site I could and started sending emails. Trust me when I say, create a basic email template and coppy paste from it. I tried about the first 10 from the heart and it is very difficult to find the steam. So make good sounding letter (remember to sub out web site or review site names with the correct ones if you name their site - don't look like a d-bag) then plug in the promo code(s) for review.

Then, I purchased an expedited review from the iPhone App Review. This guarantees that I get a review and a mention. This option is available on lots of review sites but be smart about it and know the viewer base. This also doesn't mean you get a good review. Just a review. I don't expect a stellar review from these guys but not horrible. We'll see, but don't throw around all of your money trying to get your name out there are plenty of sites that will do it for free, you just have to keep looking.

Then you wait. This is probably the hardest part. You don't know who is looking at your game and who just pushed it to the trash bin of outlook without even reading. For the most part, it is very hard to get a single mention because they are aware as well as you that it means business if its good and because of that they are selective with the games they even review. They will take the best out of what they look at, then review those, and some of those may get bad reviews. There are thousands of apps submitted all the time and it is very hard to find a part of the pool to swim in.

The best part from trying to advertise a first game though from my view is the potential connections. Be polite. Even if you get a terrible review. They took the time to do it and that means a lot. Follow up and thank them as well as ask what they would have like to have seen change. Even if they don't reply it shows you are nice to work with and you never know. Maybe they will see your next game, remember you, and throw you a bone.

I have received a wake up call though. I knew this before and during making Marty, but its easy to lost sight of when you're caught up in the creating and selling of a game no matter what it is. One game isn't the end all be all and probably barely the start. It may feel like it because you're personal work has gone from nothing to published and its a great feeling but its just the beginning of trying to break into this over saturated industry.

Mobile games are the wild west of the game industry. Angry Birds is a clone of a flash game we have all played a million times. It's nothing revolutionary, but because of the platform and the time of striking it did amazingly well (and still does) so it shows that a game that has fun mechanics or new ways of using the platform at hand will really stand out. A good game combined with hard work trying to advertise does have a good chance. But it still takes a lot of work to get noticed. So good luck to you and I will write more as the experience advertising Marty pushes forward. But it's also time to look on to the next project so we don't lose speed.

Here is a short list of some of the places I submitted to for review

iPhone App Review
iPhone Slutz
Indie Games

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Your app Marty Mongoose 1.0 has changed to ready for sale

Finally! Just moments ago apple informed me that Marty Mongoose has gone up for sale! The issue was with Xcode and IOS 4.3 after exporting from Unity.

The solution was downgrading to Xcode 3 and IOS 4.2 this got rid of the issue. I have also been informed that there is a work around for Xcode 4. The page explaining the work around can be found here...

I have tried this method on the free version of Marty Mongoose but am still waiting review for it. So we will see if it is a valid work around. More on that later.

In the mean time. Go download Marty Mongoose!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

3rd rejection Xcode may be to blame

so I submitted for I think my 4th or 5th time now. I was rejected three times but two of them I rejected myself since I either did something wrong or was re-exporting due to what is probably the real problem.

Apple kept rejecting my app with feed back stating that my game crashes on launch. I have 3 iphones / ipods here to test on and never once did my game crash. It actually got to the point where I was trying to make it crash at start up simply to get the thing into a state where I could re-produce the issue then try to fix it.

After searching the web more for issues like this I found a forum post that was about the same issue. Apparently lots of Unity game devs have had the same problem. The issue appears to be the apple 4.3 SDK it causes a corruption of the build that causes a crash at start up at apple when testing. I wasn't sure so I also contacted the apple code center to speak to one of the engineers there.

They actually confirmed the issue. using Xcode 4 with 4.3 SDK while using Unity to make a game causes a corrupted export from Xcode. The solution is not for apple to fix this problem that causes months of setbacks but rather have each dev download Xcode 3 with the 4.2 SDK. This may not sound like much of a hassle except for the fact that apple made it next to impossible for developers to download another SDK than 4.3 once it released. I received a link from the engineer answering my ticket linking to it. Here it is...

You will need to log in to download it. But this is the old Xcode 3 with the 4.2 SDK. I am still awaiting approval from the app store after submitting a build from this Xcode but many other people are saying this is the fix.

If you are building with Unity - You need Xcode 3 and 4.2 SDK in order to fix the crash upon launching rejection you will receive from apple. Apple is still working to fix the issue with Xcode 4 but it does not sound like they are very interested in fixing it any time soon. Good luck to you and I hope I can report that this answered my problems and my app would finally be up. This would mean a valid solution for other Unity devs out there. Wish us all luck!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Well I got my rejection notice in my email today after a week. I'm honestly not sure why. My only guess is that the actual .app export had issues. I'm still very new to this so I wasn't sure how to test everything but for you other newbies like myself out there. If you drag and drop the .app file that is created from Xcode into itunes it will add it to the app section.

There you can sync your test ipod/ iphone/ ipad and test it out. I don't know if this was the issue but to check things I took the two .app files I had submitted apple and did just this. Put them into itunes and installed through itunes. Neither of them worked. This was strange since it worked though test builds in xcode.

So I'm not sure if it was pathing issues for file locations or what but I rebuilt in Xcode and messed around with the build settings. Also, this could be an issue. I was using the same distribution provision for both apps. So it could have caused a conflict. So basically I went through and made new provisions on the itunes connect site and setup everything I needed. Re-exported the builds and ran the apps through itunes. Both apps work now for me. But I have no idea at this point what will happen on the apple side of things.

What I have learned through this process is that it is a new one. It is a very sloppy and confusing way of doing this that the average person will struggle with. I know I have and I should not be hoping that my game will make it this time. I should be certain. But! To the credit of apple and their app review team. The most likely underpaid and under staffed review team. This time upon submitting my app instead of 7 days it took about 6 to 7 minutes for both versions to go into review. So now I'm waiting simply on review again instead of waiting to go into review. So kudos to apple on that. Their review team is without a doubt pushing as hard as they can. We'll see what it forms into.

  • Test your build over and over again on multiple devices
  • Make sure your Provisions are set up correctly and correspond with your apps bundle info
  • make sure the provisions you are setting up on the itunes connect site are for the app store NOT AdHoc. AdHoc is for private distribution for testing pruposes.
  • Install your app using itunes by draggin and dropping the .app file into itunes itself and syncing your ipod.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Waiting, waiting, and waiting.... (Brian)

It's been about 5 days since I submitted my app for review on the app store. While I hope in the back of my mind that it gets reviewed instantaneously, I know the process takes longer but apparently much longer...

Due to my inability to be patient, I've been reading a lot about peoples personal experiences with the app store review process. Most are negative and I'm starting to see why. From what I gathered, it can take any where from a few days to a few months to get your app pushed to the app store or get rejected.

So if you are a first time app maker and aren't backed by millions of dollars to convince apple you should go tot he front of the line, be prepared to wait. What this does though is hurt your projected launch times. I had originally posted in multiple places that my game would be available late May. While this was a stretch goal I did manage to get my game built and pushed to apple before the end of May. However, because of the ominous review process, I have no idea when my app is really going to ship.

In some one's case like mine; it's really not a big deal other than my personal issues with when I finally get to see months of my hard work opened to the public. However, if you are someone trying to promise dates and keep them, make sure you factor in a month or so time for the review process. Your journey isn't over yet after submitting. The waiting is probably the hardest part.

What actually happens after I finish my game and build

Like many, I figured that I finish building my game and through Xcode, send it to apple and then POOF! my game is available on the app store. Be prepared for some changes to your app to get everything set up.

 I found this very helpful step by step process explaining how to prepare your app. It is for an older version of Xcode but it still explains it well.

You will need to make sure specific things are set up in your build and that you are code signed with a distribution key among other things.

You actually submit your app zipped through a program called the app loader. It is part of the dev tools you get with your dev kit that includes Xcode. Some of apple's instructions are out of date on itunes connect that may say you download it off the a certain link under manage applications but it is actually located within the folder structure that Xtools is in.

It will automatically check for a few issues and deny you upload if something is off but it does tell you want you need to do to fix it most times and that's helpful.

So basically, getting your app ready to go after completion takes a few extra steps that you can follow in the link I provided and the app loader is actually already located among the other tools that come with your dev kit from apple. Also, be ready to wait and factor that into any release date information you may want to give people. Good luck! More when my app actually enters review.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Home stretch... maybe (Brian)

Seems like I'm in the home stretch. But its been a really hard process. Bug fixing trying to make the game work better has slown me down a bit and the iphone approval process takes about a week. So I'm pushing out the release of my game a tad. I'd really like to get this thing out since I have another game I want to focus on more with the other devs.

Another issue is file size. Most people have their ipods and iphones attached to wifi at some point or another but I'd really like Marty to be a game you can download when you're bored in the movie line. The limit for that though is 20 mb to download over a 3G connection and I don't think I can shave the game down to that since I have so many textures for the tutorial level panels. I don't have 20mb of textures but I'm not sure what's happening. I'm going to try some texture compression but it seems to come out looking a little ugly. I haven't tried it all yet though.

I have some bugs that just wont go away and its a hard thing to feel so close and be starting to get sick of looking at this thing. I've played the same 24 levels over and over. Hope it all works out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How it started - Frustration, Dedication, and 500 dollars (Brian)

Hey again. I thought I would take the time to explain my steps so far in how we got here. The average person does not have a lot of money to throw at game development and I'm not any different. I had to save for a bit but I am trying the most cost effective way that I can to get to creating and selling games.

So first things first is why did we even want to do this? Basically one day my friend Will (another developer I work with and now a part of White Box - Yay we're two strong!) and I were out to lunch talking about our frustrations in the development process. As each day passed we seemed to become more and more frustrated and ultimately, unhappy.

We had talked about trying to create our own iPhone game many times but so do lots of developers and honestly, it normally never works out. But Will and I shared a passion that seemed to keep creeping back up more and more. We seemed to always end up talking about wanting to do our own thing. Now, most developers are tied up at work or on and off in other projects outside of work but I had decided to free up some time and actually try to learn to program.

With that, I downloaded the free version of an engine called Unity. I suggest this to any one looking to try their hand at game development. It is very easy to use and user friendly all around. It has a great community and above all is one of the cheapest engines I have seen for producing indie games and ultimately publishing to things like iPhone or android. To simply try untiy and make games for web or pc is free.

So I had a simple idea in mind to learn to start programing. Trying to figure out little mechanics that could be used in a game here and there and banging my head against a wall every step of the way. But, with a lot of hard work and sticking to what I was trying to accomplish I started to see something form in what I was making. I had deleted projects, re-scripted, revised, and un-deleted a whole lot of work over time. But with the community and Unity Answers (remember that name) I was able to struggle through.

At that point I started making a small game that seemed to rapidly form into something real. It was a box moving across a screen and little balls that spawned when you clicked, but honestly, there was nothing more gratifying at the time.

I worked for months. Every single night and weekend was now dedicated to figuring out how to make this damn thing work. It was at this rough point I showed Will what I had been doing with my time. At that point it was a little far along for others to jump on but it showed that we could really try to make something.

After a few more weeks of programing and making art I had something that was very close to ready to go on an iPhone. (for testing and continued work not shipping) so then I made the purchase of Unity iPhone. this costs 400 dollars and is the largest purchase so far for all of this.

Now this is where I am very fortunate. My girl friend has supported me so much through all of this. Understanding the crazy time that needed to be put into it and she also happened to own a mac book that she no longer uses. (You need a mac book to push to iphone using unity iphone and Xtools) So that was at least a thousand dollars I did not need to spend maybe more. If it wasn't for that I would be publishing to web so the addition of a mac allowed more options.

About 3/4 of the way through creation of this project Will started seriously learning Unity too and we started dreaming up additional projects. We were really enjoying the creative freedom and the potential to create our own work. We kept at it and I kept burning away on my project.

More work and move forward in time to now. I have purchased Xtools and an apple developer package (99 dollars for a year and you get developer tools like Xtools to push to the app market etc.) I am working on the finishing touches of my first game Marty Mongoose and during the development of this game; Will, another for now nameless developer we work with, and myself have started a second project in Unity in an attempt to stagger game creation to get more titles out the door sooner and sharpen our skills. So we are no success yet and probably wont be for a long time. Though I could not be more happy to be on the edge of launching my own game and in the thick of creating a new group project from only three peoples dedication. So this is how we have gotten to this point and the desire to start an indie company. Frustration, dedication, and 500 dollars.


Unity - Free
Unity iPhone - $400.00
iPhone developer kit - $99.00 / yr

Good places to check out for programing help

Unity Answer
Any support site linked form the Unity3D site

Keep an eye out for Marty Mongoose in a few months! Thanks for stopping by to read!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

White Box - Baby Steps (Brian)

First off I want to thank anyone taking the time to read these blogs. I hope you find them informative and entertaining.

My name is Brian and I am an artist in the video games industry. It seems to be a common desire between game developers to pursue their dream of running a game company. But how do you start? Only the accomplished can truly tell you but so few do and the ones that give some insight seem to say the same thing. "I got start up money and took a huge risk" but that doesn't really fit for the average game developer or those aspiring to be such. Granted with great risk comes great reward but for most people in the mid range of employment, that is a luxury we can't find.

Let me clarify that I do love my current job. The game industry is an amazing relaxed place to work in comparison to regular jobs (or what we see as regular) and without it, I can't do what I am trying to do. But every one wants something more. That is why I'm creating White Box. An indie game development company that currently is almost laughable I call it that. But you have to start some place.

The point of White Box isn't just to make games, but to document the process, and share with anyone who wishes to see how we try to accomplish becoming a game developer. To learn from our mistakes or hopefully our achievements.

So please, keep checking back and follow how we try to accomplish something greater. We will share it with anyone who is looking. Hopefully we can all look back over these documents and where we have risen from. Welcome to White Box.