Mozzie Squash (Dev Blog 2)

Endless – Wrap Up

So Endless my first game developed in Unity ended up with about 100 downloads, heavily weighted towards iOS (80/20 split). That was off the back of about £35 worth of advertising on Facebook.

I learnt a huge amount from it and decided to use that experience to focus on my 2nd game Mozzie Squash.

Mozzie Squash – Beginning

The game concept is simple enough, mozzies appear on the screen and you have to squash them.

Initial testing focused on challenge modes, squash 100 mozzies as quickly as possible. Testing with friends soon established that mobile phones and the internet have indeed ruined concentration and 100 was far too many. So 50 became the default mode.

I settled on 3 game modes, unwilling to let 100 or the 2 min challenge go I kept them in. After more testing with friends I gathered feedback that actually levelling up and progressing was something that would keep them coming back for more so the “challenge” modes became secondary to a level based game whereby you squash 30 mozzies before 5 escape the screen. As you progress the mozzies get quicker, more agile and more likely to escape the screen. After the final round of testing I opted to add in a “boss” mozzie every 5 levels that took more than 1 squish to squash in order to break the game up and keep it interesting.

All this goes to show the value of getting as much feedback as possible from wherever you can to help shape the design of the game and avoid building a game that is fun only for you.

The Techie Bits

Game design was relatively simple, some tricky bits like keeping the mozzies on screen until they’re ready to escape but keeping them squashable. Good use of the Unity physics engine and layers actually made that relatively simple in the end.

Trying to make sure the mozzies actually appeared on the screen (they start off outside the screen boundaries) and not whizz off never to be seen was another fun challenge.

This time around I made sure I added in the facebook unity sdk so I could easily track how well advertising was going, turned out to be really easy and added a huge amount of value to tracking the statistics of the game.

I did my first in app purchase to remove adverts, again with unity’s cross platform engine it actually turned out to be relatively simple to configure and set up.

Lastly to make the game more social I used leaderboards on both google and apple. This was a bit more tricky, it’s not quite cross platform so I’ve ended up creating duplicate projects to manage the code better. It has to be said that apple/unity win the day here and make things easier to set up, the only tricky part was submitting a time based score. Google requires an additional SDK but once set up it’s relatively easy to work with.

The Business Bits

For endless I did an epic 30 second advert that I think was fairly witty and showed a little of the game, I was hoping to entice people with humour to download and play the game.

It didn’t really work, 80 downloads off the back of £35 worth of advertising or 44 pence per install (worth remembering that figure). Out of the 25000 people that had the advert served up for viewing just 71 watched the entire thing or 0.2%.

For Mozzie Squash I did some more research on what worked for facebook advertising;

  • Shorter videos work better, 6-15 seconds, ideally 6 seconds. I settled on 8 seconds to get as much exposure as possible across Facebook and Instagram.
  • Ratio matters, you want to optimise for Facebook and Instagram, last time I uploaded a traditional HD (1920×1080) format. People viewing on their phones use portrait, the aforementioned HD format sucks. This time I went with 864×1080 which gives you a 4:5 ratio that can be used across most Facebook and Instagram locations.
  • Gameplay took up most of the advert (unlike last time) and finished with a picture of the squashed mozzie and told people to download the game.
  • I paid £30 for Adobe Premiere (monthly cost that can be cancelled). To do the advert. It was worth it!

The Results

The new advert, compared to the old one was a success in every way, I opted for a daily budget of £10 to run for 10 days. I actually paused at 2 1/2 days down to retention rates (more on that later)

  • Getting the aspect ratio right meant that for £25 my advert was displayed 48,109 times as opposed to the endless advert at 24,605 times. A huge improvement.
  • A full play of the advert stood at 6.3% as opposed to 0.2% for Endless.
  • Cost per click was down from 23 pence for Endless to 5 pence for Mozzie Squash.
  • Post reactions 100% improvement, post comments 200% improvement.
  • Cost per install 9 pence, down from 44 pence!

Like I said it was a much bigger success in every single way.

So why did I stop the advertising at £25? Well it turns out that there are some other statistics that are really important for a game to be a success from a business point of view and that is essentially game time (or retention rate).

If it’s costing me 9 pence per install I need the people that are playing it to keep playing and either see a lot of adverts (a lot!) or pay to remove them. For every person that downloads the game I need a good % of them to be playing the next day. Mozzie Squash is currently somewhere north of 10%. Really it needs to be somewhere closer to 40%. So that’s it advertising cut for the moment!

Lessons Learned (or learnt, apparently both correct) and Future Plans

Overall I am absolutely delighted at how much improvement there has been from Endless to Mozzie Squash. The game itself, the technical improvement and the marketing improvement are all big wins! 4x-5x the number of people playing the game (at less cost) is amazing. Although low for a commercial success the retention rates are far better as well.

Mozzie Squash has turned out to be a good enough game that I’m going to spend some time improving it and see if I can get those pesky retention rates close to where I need. So it’s back into the testing cycle with friends and family.

So what are my takeaways from my 2nd game.

  • Commercial success is still a way off.
  • Advertising, get the format right and shorter is better!
  • If you’re going to use Facebook advertising get the SDK in the game early it’s invaluable.
  • Listen and watch people play for feedback. I should have ditched the 100 challenge and 2 min challenge modes, no one is playing them! I will be removing them from the next update.
  • I spent too much time thinking I need to build up a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter presence. My bro gave me the advice of relax on it and build the games first. On day 1 of my android release I got 82 downloads. Only 1 came from a social media post! I’ll keep my accounts active but post less regularly.
  • Lastly plan the game better, I don’t spend a lot of time planning I just jump straight in and see what works. I’m never going to be the best planner in the world but I can improve. I’ve been reading Scott Rogers book Level Up which is well worth a read if you want to get into game design.

First Game Release – Rambling Thoughts

The end is in sight for the release of Endless on both iPhone and Android. My first game, there has been a steep learning curve about what’s going to be needed to try and build a successful game company.

If you have an Android phone you can download and play the game from here http://bit.ly/2SATr7f

Making The Game

I actually thought this was going to be one of the tougher aspects, in hindsight for me with a background in C# development it wasn’t too bad. I used a couple of tutorials to learn and understand Unity.

It took around 4-5 weeks to run through the tutorials and create Endless for Android, with a couple of extra days to convert and submit to Apple.

My advice if you’re wanting to make your own game is to do some of the basic Unity tutorials so you get an understanding of Unity itself and then have a look around at tutorials for the type of game you want to make. Then be bold, jump into making your first game, I found I learnt much quicker when I did this.

App Submissions

By far one of the most daunting aspects of the process so far is submitting to the Google and Apple stores (I’m still waiting on Apple).

There is a lot of help on the internet from people who were in the same position, just take your time to navigate through their respective dashboards and understand what you need to do for beta testing with friends and family. I’ll do some follow up posts in the future to try and help people with some of the issues I faced.

App Testing

An interesting one, something I’ve done with products other than games before so not something completely new to me. Google is pretty simple, submit an APK as an internal test and share the generated link with your friends to test. Apple a little bit more difficult but submit to TestFlight, add in your friends e-mail addresses and when it’s been reviewed and approved they’ll get an e-mail with instructions on how to test.

If your friends haven’t done app testing before then you may need to tell or show them what to look out for, from your own testing you’ll probably have an idea what may break. UI scaling was the first thing that was found on friends phones.

You’re really looking for two things from testing;

  • Is the game fun? I’m hoping mine is, some of the testers have mentioned them or their partners being addicted.
  • Are there any bugs, text going off the screen, buttons in the wrong place are a couple of the things that we’re found.

For your own testing you really need a device for every platform you’re testing on. I’m an iPhone user so that was covered. I ended up purchasing a Samsung J5 so I could test myself on Android.

App Release

This was a big unknown for me, how would the release do on Android when released to the wild. I tried to keep my expectations low, but obviously anyone developing games is hoping for a viral success!!! Sadly at the time of writing on Android I have 11 active installs, which is all friends or friends of friends. Having looked for my app in the Google Play store it’s apparent there is pretty much no hope of people finding the game by accident.

I’ll update with how the release on Apple goes when I know.

This has made me aware of how important it’s going to be to build a social media presence, create a following and market my games.

Social Media

Us developers aren’t widely known for being experts on human interaction and the slow pace of downloads has made me realise how much I’m going to need to build these skills.

You’re going to need a website, facebook, twitter, youtube and I’m sure more to come to build up your game. Not only that you’re probably going to have to face the fact that you may need to buy some advertising (my next step).

I’ve e-mailed android review websites to be hit back with e-mails offering me expensive packages to get my game reviewed. I was surprised by that, I thought they were there to review games for users, naivety on my part.

Costs

Everyone wants to know how much it costs to develop and release a game. I guess we’re all looking to do it as cheaply as possible. The simple fact is if you want to start a business then you’re going to have to invest some money, the amounts will depend on what you already have and what you need;

  • Android phone – £150.
  • Google Play developer account – £20 (one off).
  • Apple developer account – £79 (yearly cost).
  • Website £20 a quarter.
  • Game assets you can mainly get free stuff but I paid for some – £10
  • A Mac so I could release on iPhones £750 – I highly recommend https://www.hoxtonmacs.co.uk I’m really please with the Grade B MackBook pro I purchased.
  • Advertising planned budget of £25-£50 per month.

I’ve made the grand total $2 so far from advertising in the game. I’m not really expecting to turn a profit for 1-2 years unless I get extremely lucky and score a viral hit. Now I have the equipment then the on-going costs really aren’t too bad.

Next Steps

Once I have the release on Apple I’ll be advertising my game on Facebook and seeing what works for building up an audience. I’m hopeful my game is fun and entertaining enough to build up some users who will be looking forward to my next release.

I did wonder if I should continue work on my first game or move onto my second. Having thought about it for several days I’ve decided that I’ll start work on game number 2. Taking the lessons I’ve learnt from Endless and trying to improve on the release in every way.

Endless

Endless, Bob is stuck on planet earth! He needs cash to get home, will you be the one to help him?

Endless is a new endless runner from DigistuffUK Games that will be coming to Android in early 2019! Follow our Twitter for Facebook for the latest updates.