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Merging CCGs and RPGs: impossible?

Posted by arnaud on February 8, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Merging CCGs and RPGs: impossible?

Both CCGs and RPGs are both great and highly popular game concepts. Combining them would be even greater, wouldn’t it? Like cards that you can upgrade and equip at will?

Despite this sounds great at first sight, it bears contratictions within.

(I know there are games out there combining both genres “to some extend” but they are usually dealing with shortcomings too). Before I go on with the problems of combining these two genres, let us clarify what define these genres.

What are the essences of these genres?

CCGs are based on building a group of cards (or something else) that fit well together and that you can play with. The great gameplay interest is usually based on the wide diversity of tactics you can make using a group of cards …and collecting them to some extend.

RPGs are usually based on a hero (or a few) and is about upgrading and customizing it. Those definitions are pretty broad, so I hope you agree with them.

So, what’s wrong with combining them?

Now, imagine the combination of both: cards that you could upgrade and equip at will, endlessly. Despite it sounds great, it is opening a pandora box of problems.

First, a card image is not enough anymore to identify it. Remember, a card can have lots of different stats and abilities, right? Was it upgraded 3 times or 30 times? Just by looking at it, you have no idea at the strength of the card. Every card will be unique in some sense. You’ll need to read the associated attributes/abilities …for every card …and do a lot of number crunching. Wouldn’t this destroy the fun of the game? Won’t you miss the time, where just by glancing at a card you would now if it’s a weak or strong one? Or know it’s stats by heart?

Some CCGs allows you to upgrade cards, because, hey, it’s always fun to upgrade. And usually, the way to solve this is to put a low cap on how much the card can be upgraded. From 1 to 5 times usually, and a pre-defined evolution. That way, by looking at the card, you still know what it is and does. Actually, you could even say they are different cards, since there is no customization in the upgrade, they are all identical. Not very RPG-ish.

Now, to the second problem. If you can endlessy upgrade your cards, your starting cards would probably be the strongest. Why bother building another deck with lower level cards, it’ll be weaker! And it would take a lot of time to level up another deck to the level of the main one, it sucks! Instead, I should continue levelling the main one-and-only deck! In other words, all the fun of building different decks and trying out different strategies is gone. That would be a huge loss if you ask me.

So, apparently, “upgrading cards” sucks badly: you have to inspect each card to know the exact stats and building another deck is similar to reseting to level zero.

Are there ways around this? (1) Very limited card evolutions? (2) Evolving the “deck hero”?

As previously mentionned, (1) is the path followed by most games. There are a few pre-defined “evolutions” of a card, provided either by rarity or XP.

(2) As far as I know, this is less widespread. Some games like this probably do exist, but are less widespread.

What could evolving a “deck hero” look like?

I think, this could come in three flavors:

  1. making the “life counter” more HP, or with resistance, or attacking
  2. allowing to place stronger cards in the deck
  3. influencing the strength of the cards in the deck

What does it all have to do with creatures of Gaia?

A creature is like a card, and the team of six creatures is similar to a small deck. Indeed, there are more than hundred creatures, with many different abilities, and you have to pick your team wisely. In some sense,  it’s a mini CCG. ;)

 

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Microtransactions? Are they worth it?

Posted by arnaud on January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized |

We all hear about mtx (microtransactions) since a few years. Many claim they are incredibly better monetization options and refer to giants like Zynga, candy crush and other mammoths in the gaming industry. …but what about the small indie devs?

Let’s take a closer look at microtransactions.

The gaming implications…

You need a login

If you pay inside a game, it usually also means a user account, and therefore the login/register screen. And as some of you know, this may be enough to send away many gamers. Especially for small casual games, players don’t want to enter all their creditentials. They’ll simply close it and check out the next little game.

What should always be done to avoid that are guest accounts, so that you can register later in-game …but this is also a source of complexity since you have to save the player data on the server, but keep temporary copies for the guest. It also implies complexity.

The technical implications…

Implementing microtransactions is complicated

Ads are easier to integrate. There are lots of widespread APIs which let you do this. Just do it once and it’s done. On the other hand, microtransactions is like opening a can of worms.

Some portals/stores allow them, others do not and most of them will require to implement their own payment API. The latter applies to almost any big portal (app stores, facebook, kongregate…). So in the end, you end up making N versions of your game, one for each portal/store.

You also have to design your game so that you can “buy” stuff. You’ hae to define “items” on the backend / service API, sometimes a virtual currency …and have I mentionned that you have to do it N times? …and what about apple’s “refund” button you should incorporate?

The monetary implications…

Is it better to rely on mtx? or on ads? or combine both?

One mtx is probably worth as much as thousand ad views. However, it’s without a doubt that most players don’t spend a dime and only a tiny tiny fraction of them does. Most players want to play everything for free, always better games, and are annoyed by adds. That’s the reality and the web delivers. Getting a player to open its precious wallet is a tough challenge. If I would summarize it, I’d say the following:

  • mtx: needs a really good game. The player needs to be hooked, addicted enough to be willing to pay something for “more”. Usually, this is not suited for “small” games that you “consume” in a few hours. No, it needs to be a game that the player plays for a longer time.
  • ads: you need to have lots of views. Actually, the game doesn’t even need to be very good, it just needs to be popular in some way. It doesn’t matter if the game provides 10 hours of gameplay or 10 minutes, the ad time will be the same.

Now, I would also say that ads and mtx work against each other. For a game that you play over a long time span, ads can be a turn down, and make you loose interest quicker. Perhaps you just lost a mtx client because of the ads? Is it better to turn them off? Or let the user pay to turn them off?

Is it all worth it?

Microtransactions have a lot of overhead and implications (logins, custom verison per portal, etc). For a small game it’s likely you will spend more time implementing them rather the game. However, for great games that keep the player hooked for a longer time, it may definitely be worth it. Considering all the efforts and implications involved, take care which path you choose!

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Do you need a server… ?

Posted by arnaud on June 3, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Hi guys!

If you are an indie developer and want to make multiplayer games, you’ll likely need to rent a server at some point, in order tu run your server code, obviously.

Just to make things clear, I’m not talking about web hosting here, but about game servers. A bare bone machine where you can install and run whatever you want.

There is a huge competition, and a huge amount of potential VPS or dedicated servers offers out there. They all have all kind of prices, services and quality.

There are so many, that choosing is actually a pain, so I’ll go straight to the point and present you my favourite:

www.digitalocean.com

Why is it great?

  • Prices are extremely competitive. You can have a VPS starting from 5$/month!
  • It is “on demand” server instances. That means, if you need more servers at some time, you just click on “add instance” and clone an existing machine.
  • It’s billed by the hour. That means, if you are in the development phase, you can start a server for a couple of hours to test out stuff, and shut it down later when you don’t need it anymore.
  • You can choose where your server is located (west coast, east coast or europe). For game which need low latency, geographical location is very important!
  • Support is great.
  • UI is very pleasant.
  • You have all kind of documentation on how to set up all sort of software/tools/frameworks.

Overall, I’m very happy with them and they are by far my favorite! Try it out!

I do this “advertising” mainly because I find them great. However, you are welcome to use my referral code:

https://www.digitalocean.com/?refcode=525711a9fe19

Cheers,
Arnaud

 

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Why “playing” and “making” games are two opposites

Posted by arnaud on June 3, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Many hardcore players dream of making their own games. The amazing games they played inspired them, triggering their imagination with some “great idea(s)”. Some of them then want to turn these ideas into reality …until 99% gives up because the “fun” is gone.
Indeed, while “playing” a game is fun and exciting, “making” a game turns out to be hard and long work. Here are some key points which I think makes them so different.

Gratification

In games, you have instant gratification. You kill monsters, bosses, receive money, items, points, upgrades, raise levels, obtain “achievements”, etc. And the whole happens pretty quickly, within the first minutes, you already feel like you accomplished something, sometimes even accompanied by applause. In other word, it’s very rewarding, and you have a feeling you achieved something.

Well, in programming, it’s quite the opposite. You first need to learn huge piles of stuff before even starting to do something. Then, you work hard for a couple of weeks and then …then what? Then you have an incomplete piece of code nobody cares about. But sometimes you reach one of your self-defined milestones, you are happy because all your hard work finally fits together. But that’s it. For weeks/months of hard work, you don’t receive a tap in the back because you achieved something, it’s simply an “invisible” self-defined goal you reached. Not very rewarding isn’t it?

Progress

Within the first ten minutes, you usually achieve the first level of the game. Great! You clearly see the progression, that your hero/spaceship/whatever gets better and that you succeed level after level. You can literally watch how you come closer to the goal of finishing the game.

In programming, it’s very different. Sometimes you progress, sometimes you turn in circle (refactoring), sometimes you regress (unexpected changes), sometimes you wonder if you should press the reset button and restart again from scratch (for various reasons). And this covers not only the initial dabbling but months of work. Moreover, most of the time, finishing one little thing has the bad tendency to pile up even more items on your TODO list, putting your goal even further away rather than closer.

Learning Curve

For most games, you need at most a couple of minutes to learn how it works and then start playing. Of course, there exist games which are more complex require a couple of hours to understand the mechanics, but this is more the exception than the rule.

For programming, it’s quite the opposite: even in a couple of hours, you are nowhere! By then, you can’t even start doing anything meaningful. It takes at least weeks to get started and it take years to master. Here is an interesting article about it.

Goal

In the game, you are a powerful and mighty hero! You slain monsters and save the world! (or the universe!) Oh man, that is exciting!

When making a game, you are a nobody, just a poor fellow developer with less social life than casual people. Your goal: making a small game that

  1. Hopefully will get finished
  2. At least a handful of players will play

Some also try to make the mega supra ultra MMO, but they will quickly learn it is a recipe for failure.

Relational

When playing a game, in order to be successful, you have to focus on the game itself and play it. It’s just you and the game.

When making a game, things are quite different. You don’t only have to “program” the game but also many things around. It’s code, graphics, story, sound, content, marketing, etc. Except if the game is tiny enough or can handle all by yourself, you will have to find team mates, work with them on a daily basis, promote the game, build up a community, etc. All these are usually very social by nature and sometimes difficult for a developer.

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It’s on newgrounds!

Posted by arnaud on April 12, 2013 in Uncategorized |

The first open beta is released to the public. To the newgrounds folks more exactly!

I’m curious to see how it’ll be received. I hope for the best… :)

 

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With or without sponsoring?

Posted by arnaud on April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized |

How to earn money with flash games?

For most casual flash games, the usual way of earn a few bucks is pretty simple:

  1. Find a sponsor (hopefully)
  2. Earn a bit through adds

These are the two main sources of income for most developers.

The sponsorship is a game portal which pays you a certain amount to put its logo when the game starts. They can pay up to several thousands for that. Advertising, well, you know, stuff like mochiads where you see ads when the game is loading and you get a few cents per thousands visitors.

How much do indie developers earn?

Like always, the best of the best get the biggest part of the cake, with sponsorships over 10 000$, but this is very rare. But if you’re a newcomer, just forget it, you won’t get that! It’s more likely you will land an average game and get a few hundreds. Or that you won’t find a sponsor at all, and earn just a couple of bucks. That’s the reality of the game development scene: it’s overcrowded and extremely competitive.

Here are some links about the people’s earnings, as you will see it’s very low on average. Making a living out of it is really a challenge!

http://www.pixelprospector.com/the-big-list-of-game-revenue-sales/

How to succeed?

Its very tough. New games are coming out on a daily basis and somehow have to stand out of the crow. Nobody cares about a small crappy game. Look at game portals, the top rated games are played over and over. On the opposite, once you go below the top 100, nobody play these games anymore, they will not even look at it. It’s a survival of the fittest. The few top ones earn the glory, the others are dead and forgotten.

You have to stick out of crowd. Moreover, even if your game is great, there is no guarantee. Last time, I was in the FGL chat and I hear about a guy having spent 750k to develop a new high profile game …it resulted in a total flop. The guy was broken. This is a bit of extreme of course. What I want to say with that is that we always have the best intentions, that we have dreams, that we think we will make an amazing game …but then, it turns out that when the game is made, it’s not as fun/good/entertaining as we thought it would be. Or simply that it’s not people’s taste.

Read more…

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A few videos are coming…

Posted by arnaud on April 7, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Despite there were no bids in the first 24h, I got two offers to make videos about it, which is great! They are coming in various flavors: preview, trailer, walkthrough! I’m looking forward to see them, stay tuned!

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X days after – Contest is over – Failure

Posted by arnaud on March 26, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Hello!

That’s it, the contest is over. Finished. And I’m not in the top ten.

It’s disappointing, for sure, and I spent yesterday with a clouded mood. When facing this, you inevitably wonder “I’ve spent hundreds of hours and thousand dollars for it …for what? nothing? was it all wasted effort and money?”

It’s tough. But hey, life goes on and failure is a part of life. We have to accept it, deal with it and stand up. Well, you have to do that and stay strong, else you will indeed remain in a failed state. If Edison did not tried 10.000 times, again and again, to make its light bulb, we would still live in the dark.

So, what’s now? Now I’ll still try to polish it a bit, finish the content and release it ASAP! Even if it’ll be a game landing low, I hope it’ll still make a few souls happy.

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20+ days after – a nice game but…

Posted by arnaud on March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized |

After all, it became a nice game. I think the new battle mechanics made it both more simpler and more interesting. Since there is a random element added, the suspense can often last until the last round!

…however, it still doesn’t feel as it should. It’s an “ok” game, but it also feels like it misses some of its potential. But it’s hard to make a “little game” that is entertaining for a longer time and that people are ready to pay for. Most of us expect more and more and are only ready to chuck a buck for really amazing stuff. …but this is not an option for an indie game developer. We have to stick to small things and cannot afford to invest so much time and money for something that may flop anyway. It would be devastating and probably already made many quit.

So we have to think hard. Can we add/change a small thing to make it more “fun”? …and currently, for the game it is: I don’t know!

Of course, we could add creature evolutions, a wide variety of skills, animated creatures, breeding, a marketplace, auctions, a story with multiple outcomes, spells for the character, special locations and artifacts, items/armor for the creatures, etc.  …did you notice? This isn’t a “small” game anymore. This is stuff for a big studio having a million to spend on it, or at least a handful of developers working several months on it. So nope, sorry, I can’t do that.

Instead, my plan is to release it as it is. After all, it was already quite some work. And with the outcome, if there is any, I could finance the production of the next game, hopefully. …or nearly, I still try to “fix” the game to make it more interesting/entertaining without spending hundreds of hours.

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6 days later – more tactics, less complexity

Posted by arnaud on February 24, 2013 in Uncategorized |

I’m working on the next set of creatures, and it’s really not that easy!

On one hand, I would like to make it more tactical. That the choice of creatures is important and how you play them crucial as well!

To achieve this, there are many tools at my disposition:

  • multiple attacks/skills
  • “mana” that slowly increases and can be used for more powerful attacks
  • cooldown for attacks
  • damage types (physical, fire, cold, psychic…) and respective resistances/vulnerabilities
  • things like poison, healing, buffing, weaken, etc.
  • auras affecting other creatures in the group
  • more attack types (charging, all front row, allies, …)
  • unique “specials” like a phoenix resurrecting when it dies.

…all these are ways to add diversity and make it hopefully more tactical …but also way more complex! And this is the whole problem. If the games becomes more complex than tactical, it would loose all its appeal. Actually, several players enjoyed and praised the fact that it is simple and intuitive. I strongly believe as well it should stay so.

However, it should also evolve and become more tactical. The question is: what features to take in and which ones to skip? The next challenge is of course to design creatures that can be interestingly combined and fought against.

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