We held the May Auckland Game Works Meetup on Wednesday night at the new Media Design School premises and we had a great turnout and an interesting panel of speakers. If you weren't there you missed some interesting insights into marketing and strategy with compelling anecdotes and occasional stats and figures from NZ's biggest game development company and a few smaller mobile app teams.
The meetup kicked off with three speakers on the first panel, "How to Market your iPhone game". Leonardo Garcia Curtis spoke about the release of Mad Minute's co-developed game, Space Hawk, and the benefit of having a good trailer. Darren Cottingham from Parkside Media told us about the process of releasing Drift Legends in co-operation with Rush Digital and their advantage in having an already installed userbase via their Facebook community.
Mario Wynands from Sidhe spoke as a member of the panel and also gave a presentation of his own where we got an overview of the fourteen year legacy of Sidhe Interactive and their developing strategy in the market.
A lot of interesting things were said and I felt like I gained some useful strategic knowledge around releasing a game and the various things to avoid. For example, advertising seemed to get short shrift; Mario said the returns from traditional advertising were almost negligible and generally speaking they won't be pursuing that as a means of promoting their product in future. Cross promotion - linking a new game from your existing titles - seemed to be the strongest suggestion to gain leverage.
Check out the latest behind the scenes footage from Wellington-based Sidhe's Rugby Challenge. Regan and Dave go "behind the rugby scenes" and witness the organised chaos of an OB van firsthand.
Rugby Challenge is set to release "sometime before the rugby world cup" and is in keeping with a long tradition of Sidhe sports titles.
Check out the official Rugby Challenge page here.
Check out Sidhe's homepage here.
Come along to the new meeting location at the new Media Design School premises!
Our monthly meetup starts from 6:15pm (but come along at 6 to get in and mingle) at 92 Albert Street in Auckland Central.
The line-up for this month is:
Panel: How to Market your iPhone game
Several local iPhone games have been released lately - but how can you make your fortune on the AppStore? A panel of local iPhone developers will share their experiences and top tips for marketing your iPhone, iPad, iOS game.
Sidhe Interactive: Transitioning from Retail to Downloads
Mario Wynands is Managing Director of Wellington-based Sidhe Interactive, New Zealand's largest games studio. He'll talk about making the transition from the old retail model to a new download model, covering off the rationale, opportunities and challenges along the way.
Job vacancies galore
Did you know that over 100 job vacancies for games developers in Auckland are expected over the next year? If you know someone wanting a fulltime Flash, iOS or Android game dev job, send them to this month's Meetup.
Dunedin-based Runaway have recently released Puzzle Planets to the App Store for iPad and iPhone. According to their blog, the game was a co-production with National Geographic, inspired by some of the core concepts in their show Clash of the Continents.
Some comments I've seen liken it to a "casual-fied" version of Spore but that's an overly simplistic view. In Puzzle Planets you can visit various planets and bring them out of their primeval age by placing tectonic plates (a kind of puzzly section where you rotate the planet until you find the right shaped hole to put down the current piece) and then manipulating the plates in various ways - pulling them apart in places (by pinching) to create continents, double-tapping to set off volcanoes and pushing them together to raise mountain ranges. You then move on to spreading water over the resultant land masses to help grow the plant life.
Finishing a world within a certain time limit will get you one to three stars (three for the quicker times). Your reward for this is access to the different stages of evolution for that planet's dominant lifeform. It looks like the team at Runaway got to really exercise their creative muscles in coming up with the various creatures!
Overall Puzzle Planets is a well-presented, well-made little game. It's very easy to play which makes it nicely accessible and likely well suited to the audience that National Geographic are going for.
Continuing on with our Christchurch focus we look at browser-based game developer Def-Logic.
Def-Logic is the creative vehicle for Brent Silby aka house DJ Maestro B. A prolific solo creator, Brent has 20 games (some of which are remakes of his own material) available to play on his site.
Popaloon, pictured here, is one of his most popular games and he has both the older java version and the more recent Flash remake available to play from def-logic.com. In the games section of his site each of the games he's made has an interesting little piece of background write-up beside it.
Lexaloffle is the development vehicle for the talented Mr. Joseph White. He's been on the scene for a long time but the recent announcement for his new title in development - Voxatron - has garnered a lot of interest due to its captivating visual approach (click here for the latest video of wonderfully 3D pixel-y goodness!).
Recently, Wellington collaborators Pik Pok Games also released an iPad version of an earlier game of his - Zen Puzzle Garden. As shown in this trailer (complete with half-clothed woman - sex sells iOS games too! ;), the team at Pik Pok have created some very beautiful visuals and talented local musician Jeramiah Ross aka Module of Shatter fame has created a great ambient soundtrack to go with them. You can even download an EP with four of the tracks for free - definitely worth checking out!
Lexaloffle makes games that indie celeb Derek Yu says are "so endearing, from the cute graphics and music to the easy-to-understand (but hard to master) gameplay. The games are just so earnest and polished." If you want to check them out there are demos available for download on the Lexaloffle site.
MOTAT is in game mode these school holidays so bring the kids along to enjoy an interactive and fun filled programme where they will have hands on experience with ancient games, modern games, fads and crazes, and retro and modern gaming technology.
MOTAT’s ‘Game Changer’ April school holiday experience will have the kids amazed as they learn how games have developed throughout the years.
Tony O’Sullivan, Museum Experience Coordinator for MOTAT, says this experience will give kids a newfound appreciation for the technology available to them in the twenty-first century and have them asking questions about what role games play in their own lives.
“Kids won’t believe the kind of games that people used to play throughout history with such little resources. With something as simple as a handful of rocks and a stick, hours of fun could be had.
Ironshod are an iOS developer based in Hamilton, just south of Auckland. They have a history in homebrew PSP with a game called Defense Station Portable (now released on iOS as Defense Station Touchable) that was recognised as one of the greatest PSP homebrew games released at the time.
Their first iOS title, Reverse Maze, is a polished puzzler with a simple, yet captivating core mechanic. The controls are reversed and you have to make your way through the infuriatingly "simple" mazes to the exit. Over time various complexities are introduced and the ante is upped with moving parts, control modifiers and more.
As with all good casual games, the concept of Reverse Maze is easy to pickup but the successful execution of the 48 levels takes time and skill to achieve. I found the ambient soundtrack engaging and the visual presentation is clean and clear.
The game is a blast and is currently FREE over Easter so if you have an iPhone grab a copy now!
Shadow Rising is an anime-inspired flash game from Christchurch dev CerebralFix.
According to their development video blog the world of Shadow Rising is a BIG one and by the sounds of it they have potential plans for more games in its anime-fantasy setting.
The art style was the first thing to catch my eye; colourful, cartoony and vibrant. The game itself is easy to dive into, living up nicely to its hack-and-slash design intent. It's also really great to see a local company creating a few behind the scenes videos (something we hope to help encourage more of in future!) - you can check them out on the CerebralFix Youtube channel.
The embedded video is a development blog about Shadow Rising where the programmers and artists give some interesting insights into the process of development.
Little Geek is an iOS developer based in Auckland. Their first title, an addictive little arcade puzzler called TrapIt, hit the App Store at the end of March this year.
In the developer's own words TrapIt is a casual-arcade title: casual, meaning "super simple to learn to play"; the arcade element comes from the fast and furious action that will "have your blood pressure rising and fingers swiping like crazy".
I've had many a fun blast on the game so far and can vouch for the addictiveness and arcadey action. Here's a description of the game from the Little Geek blog:
Each level starts with a number of “prisms” moving around the screen. Your objective is to get each of the prisms into an area isolated from each other. This you do by swiping to build walls to separate them. Once you have all prisms isolated, the level finishes and the next level starts. More and more prisms are added as you progress, making it harder and harder to finish within the allotted time. This is made even more difficult because TrapIt never lets up. There is no real break between levels other than a short display of your level bonuses. After that you are whisked into the next level automatically and your time starts counting down immediately.