Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stencyl and Newgrounds

Since Mochi Media is winding down the services in the end of March, I started to look for alternatives for publishing and spreading my own flash games.

Previously, I have posted couple of games to Kongregate just to test the flow, but there has been only handful of players for each of them (with zero marketing). However, I also posted Explopool to kong for a week ago, and this time there has been enough players to get the ratings visible (2.7 / 5.0 stars at the moment). Clear progress, I would say. :)

I have heard stories about Newgrounds and how demanding the audience is there. So it has been bit frightening choice for the fledgling game developer who is unsure about his own skills. Nevertheless, I decided to make a Newgrounds version of Explopool (with scoreboard and ads), and test how game publishing flow works there.

Basically, integrating Newgrounds API to game made with Stencyl was very easy: Just create game project at Newgrounds and copy the API ID and encryption key to Stencyl advanced settings. After that ads and scoreboards are available with ready-made Stencyl building blocks. It is just as easy as integrating Mochi features to the Stencyl game.

After I was convinced that I had not broken anything in my game, I did the required setups and uploaded swf to Newgrounds. Then I performed final playtests in preview mode, did some sanity checks, and after pressing "submit" button game was available for audience in judgement mode. This means that players can vote whether new game is added to the collection, or if it is trashed and deleted forever from the system. But believe me, it is somehow exciting to follow how many stars your game will get from the first visitors. :)

In Explopool's case judgement phase went quite well. After some hours there had been couple of hundred players and rating was around 3 stars out of 5. Game was also added to the Newgrounds list, so I was very happy to the result.

One important thing to remember when converting a game for Newgrounds: Flash games are displayed in canvas with 16x9 aspect ratio ("widescreen"), so it may require some scaling or letterboxing to fit your game properly there. I had designed Explopool mochi and kongregate versions for 800x600px canvas, and I initially decided to shrink Explopool to 640x480px for Newgrounds. But that was a mistake: The quality of graphics was totally messed with this decision. After couple of days I figured out that it is possible to use vertical resolutions >480px, so I resized the canvas to 1066x600px. Now original Explopool grahics can be seen as originally planned. Learning the hard way.  :)

Edit: 25.3.2014: I noticed that there is also StencylJam2014 contest ongoing at Newgrounds until 28th March. What a coincidence! So I just added the "stencyljam2014" tag to my game and participated to the contest. I can hardly wait to see which games are selected to be the best ones, because there seems to be couple of high-quality one posted to the contest.

-Jussi

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