Sunday, August 31, 2014

Youtube "Fan Finder"

Today I decided to create an introduction video for Westsloth Games Youtube channel (or rather, I practiced to do some kind of a marketing video).

The work was done using the proven quick&dirty method, meaning that I dug out some old gameplay videos and screenshots of our previously published games, and edited the video using the Kdenlive software.  Resulting video can be found below:

There is a feature called "Fan Finder" ("Fanimagneetti", in Finnish) available at Youtube. It enables you to display your video as a trueview ad for no extra cost. I added the video above to this service, so let's see how this works...I don't have any big expectations at this point. 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Android back button usage in Stencyl

By default the back button of Android device sends the active application to back. However, in many mobile games back button is used e.g. to return to the menu (or any equivalent action). This is possible in Stencyl also, but you have to configure the behavior first to match your needs. Here are simple steps to do it:
  1. Go Settings -> Mobile -> User Input
  2. Activate "Override Back Button". This makes back button to act like escape key
  3. Go Settings -> Controls. Check escape key bindings (name: Escape, Key:Escape)
  4. Open your game scene and go to "events" tab (or edit behavior)
  5. Create keyboard event for escape key, as shown in Figure1 below (Add Event -> Input -> Keyboard). Set control as "escape".
  6. Add transition block and fill in your menu scene name + other required information
Figure1: Keyboard event for escape key

That's it! Now you can exit from your play scene to menu screen. 

But wait, did you forgot something? Yes, Since the default action of back button is now disabled, you can't exit the game normal way. So we probably have to do something for this. Here is one way to implement exit behavior with nme.lib.exit(); function from NME framework:
  1. Open your main menu (or any scene you might want to exit the game)
  2. Add "Import" block to the scene: Add event -> Advanced -> Custom Import
  3. Write "import nme.Lib;" to the Code field as shown in Figure2 (imports NME framework)
  4. Create keyboard event for escape key (Add Event -> Input -> Keyboard). Set control as "escape".
  5. Add code block to the event (Select from palette: Flow -> Advanced -> Code )
  6. Write following to code block (see Figure3):
    #if android
This code makes game to exit when back button is pressed on Android device (not active on other platforms)
Figure2: The "Import" block for main menu (or equivalent)

Figure3: Code that is executed when escape is pressed

Now we should have nicely working back button in our Android game, assuming I did not forget anything....


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Android video capture issues

Edit 13.7.2017: This article is bit outdated, because nowadays Android Studio provides tools for recording video from Android device. And also Google Play Game Services app has a way to record your game directly. 

I tried to find video capture program for the Android tablet to get better quality gameplay videos from our own game projects. Unfortunately, it seems that there are not so many solutions available, or at least I was not able to find any suitable for my needs. 

Most of the Android video capture tools seems to require rooting, and I was not willing to do that right now. As far as I understand rooting will void the warranty (according to this article), and my Tab3 is approx 3 weeks old. So it was very easy to decide that rooting is not a solution here.

There were also some video capture tools that were told to be "no-rooting-required" (according to their developers). But I did not manage to get any of them working in my tab. I also found couple of tools to be used with computer + USB cable (in developer mode), but I had problems to get them running without problems (maybe it's my Linux laptop?).

I decided not to install any video capture tool to Android tab. Instead, I installed a tool called "simplescreenrecorder" to my Linux laptop. After that it was very quick and easy to create flash version of game and record a short clip of "dualball" gameplay. I will get back to Android screen recorder sometimes later, because I really would like to get some videoclips also from tablet. 

Anyways, the resulting gameplay clip is attached below. 


Dualball game concept (preview video)

We have been working on two new game concepts for a while, and introduced the preview video of the more mature one for couple of days ago.

At this point game has a working title "Dualball" and that describes quite well what the game is going to be. In short, the target of the game is to control two balls with single button (or touch, depends on the device). There are lots of obstacles and traps inserted to the route and balls should be steered past them. Naturally, rewards are not forgotten and there are certain number of coins on each level to be collected.

Basically "dualball" is very simple and easy to play game. The challenge comes from the fact that player has to keep two separate objects in control using single click (or touch) as an user interface. It is far more difficult than you would think in the beginning!

Currently, we are generating more levels to the game. Target is to have 24 levels in the first official release later this year. As you might guess, there is also lots of polishing and optimization to be done. One pain point will be the quality of graphics (what a surprise!), but we are trying to use ready-made assets where we can.

We are still using Stencyl for game development, so the target platforms are limited to flash and android for the first release. Other platforms will be evaluated later, if it seems that there is enough interest to this game. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Turbomole statistics update

Here's the latest chart showing the daily "Turbomole Trial Run" views over last 38 days.

Total number of views is at the moment 36105, so there has been in average 950 views per day (source of data: Newgrounds Statistics). Still going strong, although the momentum is gradually slowing down.

I decided to publish this game also on Kongregate, because it required very minor modifications. Basically, all I had to do was to remove Newgrounds API stuff and replace them with Kongregate equivalents. Since game was created with Stencyl, it was just matter of removing some blocks and selecting the new ones from the list. Another thing to do was to setup the Kongregate Statistics for the leaderboard implementation. And, of course, you had to remember add the block called "Setup Kongregate API" in the startup scene, to make sure that everything works as expected.

BTW, there has not been too many views yet on Kongregate, but at least one comment was already received:
"Actually a really fun game. Needs work on the art though! Should be called turbo potato as well! (Greatolded)". 

As I have mentioned before, we really need to consider if it would be possible to get an artist to work with us in future game projects. Currently, I see that as the only way to improve the visual side of our games. But the main problem is that we do games as a hobby, so we are operating with zero budget. Free assets from different "open-source" collections in internet might also be a choice, but let's see...


Monday, August 18, 2014

Fledgling game artist...or not?

Most of the negative feedback on our games has been related to the poor quality of graphics and/or animation. I have to admit that these comments are appropriate: Our gamedev "team" currently has no artist at all, and actually all graphics are so far been drawn by me. And I'm really bad at drawing.

Anyways, there has been a need for graphics and animation in our games. So I have tried learn to draw at least something using Gimp, Inkscape or Aseprite. Tools itself are not an issue here: there are plenty of tutorials and online manuals available. But even if you could use all tool features perfectly, it does not help a lot if you have no eye for art.

I thought at some point that pixel-art would be a solution for me, and I dug out this tutorial: Pixel Joint forum: Creating Pixel Art. Basically this tutorial was fine and everything was understandable, but I did not have enough perseverance to follow the guidelines. The theory of anti-aliasing and dithering was quite clear, but using them in real drawing was something I was not able to understand fully. :)

I am sure that it is possible to improve graphics skills by practicing and practicing. But at the moment I don’t have the time nor the energy to to learn one more completely new thing for me. My game design and implementation efforts takes enough time currently, and I also work full time elsewhere.

But what we can do to improve the visual quality of our games? Well, I have couple of options in my mind:
  1. We start using ready-made assets from internet or gamedev tools’ asset stores. There seem to be several sites offering large variety of assets, but the problem is that it might be difficult to find exactly the specific asset you are looking for. So you probably have to compromise.
  2. We will try to find a suitable, visually talented person to join our team. The challenge at the moment is that we are doing gamedev as a hobby, so everything is done on zero budget and no-one gets paid (of course, the possible ad revenue will be shared fairly).
I guess we will try to find a suitable combination of these two options during next couple of months. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Flash game statistics

The updated version of "Turbomole Trial Run" flash game was released to Newgrounds about 4 weeks ago, without much expectations. However, today game exceeded the limit of 30000 views, which is in our opinion pretty good achievement for game like this.

I have to admit that I have no idea what is the typical number of gameplays for the average flash game. However, the predecessor games "Turbomole Xmas Run" (Dec 2013) and original "Turbomole Trial Run" (Feb 2014) were released using already deceased MochiMedia's distribution network. In principle it was possible to get game distributed to thousands of flash sites. But in the end the number sites was something between couple of tens and one hundred for both of these games. The life span for Xmas version was about 2 weeks, and for normal version bit more than a week. Also, the number of players was around couple of hundreds for each of them. So, nothing special to mention with these ones.

For updated Turbomole version we did just some minor polishing, and most of the graphics was identical compared to the previous versions. Also, the number of levels was excactly the same than in the Feb 2014 version. Biggest changes were the update of background music and sound effects and the look of dialog windows.

Anyways, game was released to Newgrounds 15th July and here is the chart about the daily views over last 4 weeks.

First couple of days were quite typical for our flash games. But on the fourth day Turbomole found it's way to game site making the number of daily views exploding. For some still unknown reason thousands of players started to play the game, and we were amazed.

The situation normalized after an week and daily numbers of views was less than 100. We were pretty sure that game had done it's job and the number of daily gameplays sinks close to zero. But then added turbomole to it's list, and two days later game was found also on These sites caused second rise in the chart, and the total number of views exceeded 20k.

Third peak started yesterday and this time it was caused by Today's figures are still counting, and it seems that the number of views is clearly smaller (~1000 views). There are still two questions left: how long this peak will last, and will there be new peaks in the close future? We look forward with excitement. :)

One interesting fact is that there has been barely 1500 views in Newgrounds, and >95% of all traffic has come outside from third party sites. Respectively, advertising revenue has been very modest (around $2.50 at the moment). I guess that's because most of the gameplays have come from low eCPM countries, and in general NG flash Ads seem to have low eCPM too. Pre-roll Ads would bring a lot more advertisement income, but those are shown quite rarely (as far as I know). Actually, I am not too sure if those are shown outside NG at all.

Anyways, big thanks for you all who have had time and interest to try Turbomole game! We are currently considering new release, but at the moment other game projects are taking all available time. Maybe later this year, let's see...