Game Pill Interactive

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6 Tips for Developing a Mobile Game

Tip 1: Embrace Art

Art is a very important factor to all games and the bar for art is being raised daily, art encompasses:

  • game concept-make sure the concept is rich and appealing.  Where possible avoid duplicating other games, we do not need another angry birds clone.
  • game design-try something new an interesting, including original game mechanics.
  • visual presentation-the polish and visual quality of your game is important and should not be overlooked.
  • audio presentation-most developers do not pay close attention to music.  Next time you are watching a movie turn off the volume and you will see that music and sounds matter.  If possible hire a composer.

Number 2: Science Matters

There is a system behind every good game that is based on scientific information, this encompasses:

  • Monetization architecture- the thought behind incorporating monetization in the game planning process, rather than as an afterthought will lead to a richer experience.
  • Continuous event operations-events excite and grasp players.
  • Dynamic user management-keep users engaged and entertained at all times while playing your game.
  • Analytics driven- keep tabs on your games balance issues and tweak to optimize it

Number 3: Use Special Events

Special game events make a big difference to a game’s performance and stickiness with players.

An event can be defined by the following criteria:

  • A game inside a game- for example a mini game
  • Different style of game play- when used properly this can add variety within the game
  • Special set up- allowing for a special set up adds more variety to the standard game mechanics
  • Rare items- we all like rare items with good reason so utilize this where possible
  • Limited time offering-Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day are all events where limited time offers can be presented and elements within a game can be changed to create surprise

Number 4: Allow players to feel special..because they are

Developers should allow for all of the following:

  • Leaderboards- so players can measure their progress
  • Separation into groups- sub divide players into categories, which players can then top a sub-category (and feel special)
  • Incentivize efforts – for example give more points for successive wins, double points when objectives are met, give leverage, motivate
  • Reinforce and reward player’s effort

Number 5: Easy to Play and Hard to master

  • Make player goal clear and attractive
  • Don’t let the player get lost
  • Don’t let them get bored
  • Don’t let them get overwhelmed
  • Don’t let them get exhausted
  • Don’t just reward the top guy

Number 6: Constantly improve

Be sure to actively manage the game as something you continually improve, enhance. The old way is thinking of a game as a product that you box up, ship out and never touch again is gone.

 

 

 

Posted in games

How Do I Get An App For That?…meet us at iKids to find out!

 

Game Pill President Mike Sorrenti is proud to be part of iKids and will be a speaker at the Networking Breakfast as part of the session How Do I Get An App For That?

If you are at iKids or The Kidscreen Summit please be sure to check out the session and if you cannot make it we are happy to set up a one-on-one meeting during the summit to answer all of your game and app related questions!

Here are some common questions we hear all the time to get your list started:

  • How much does an app cost?
  • What are the benefits of creating a game or app
  • What technology is best for creating an app or game (Unity3d, HTML5, Flash, etc.)?
  • What is the typical process for creating an app or game?
  • What is the best way to earn revenue from an app or game?

To register and learn more about the session visit the iKids website at:

http://ikidsevent.kidscreen.com/2013/sessions/65625/networkingbreakfasthowdo/#.UPbeJ_IzSeN

 

The Benefits of Prototyping

[An excerpt from the article Stop Guessing and Start Prototyping published in Casual Connect Magazine]

In order to understand why you should be prototyping, you must first understand the associated benefits.  The overriding benefit, of course, is that prototyping increases the chance of producing a successful and polished product. In addition, here is just a partial list of the ancillary benefits I have encountered over the years:

  • Prototyping clarifies requirements. Requirements often change during the development cycle of a product. Prototyping ensures that requirements are defined more fully.
  • Prototyping helps set expectations. We all have our own expectations, and in many organizations, these expectations come from a variety of stakeholders who sometimes have conflicting interests (accountants, sales people, marketing, developers, etc.). Setting expectations early on with a prototype can help avoid problems later in the development cycle.
  • Prototyping helps to identify issues or gaps early on. Seeing a concept in action allows stakeholders and developers to fill in gaps or identify potential issues early on. These issues can relate specifically to almost any branch of a company: legal, marketing, development, etc.   For example, a media company may have a great idea for an app featuring a character that flies.  However, the branding department may determine that this is “off brand” as the character is supposed to be afraid of heights.  These are the types of issues that a company wants to flush out early on.
  • Prototyping introduces a user perspective early in the process. With a working prototype, developers and stakeholders can get perspective via focus groups and internal testing early on. This allows the team to shift direction as needed, based on user feedback.
  • Prototyping minimizes risks. When prototyping, there is less risk of allocating time and budget to a flawed concept. The teams can then focus on winning ideas and weed out lesser ideas more quickly.
  • Prototyping minimizes costs. Seeing a game in action early on allows developers to innovate and make revisions early in the development process, thus limiting expenditures on flawed functionality or concepts.

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What is Transmedia?

Transmedia is storytelling across multiple forms of media, with each element making distinctive contributions to a user’s understanding of the overall story universe.

In some cases user actions affect the experience of content across multiple platforms (example: reaching the end of an online game unlocks a special web video with more story insights or scanning a QR code in a novel sows a video or image related to the story itself).

When does Transmedia start?

Transmedia can start at the inception of the idea or can be put into place as the story evolves, today more and more creators are mindful of the various platforms available for their creations.

It is common for most people to think that Transmedia must start from a specific medium but that is not the case, in transmedia the starting point of the storyline can and has come from a number of sources such as:

  • a game such (example: Angry Birds)
  • a comic book (example: Batman, Superman)
  • a novel (example: Lord of The Rings, Hunger Games)
  • a television show (example: CSI)
  • a movie (example: The Matrix, Avatar)
  • a toy (example: Transformers, Lego)

Transmedia Platforms:

Technology has created tools that allow users to interact with content as never before. The ability to create storytelling vehicles and spreading these stories through different channels is changing the rules and creating a potential value proposition that is too big to ignore.

PLATFORM ELEMENTS UNIQUE FEATURES
Film moving image, audio, non-interactive, fixed interaction time, passive viewing reaches a wide audience, commercial
Episodic Shows moving image, audio, non-interactive, fixed interaction time, passive viewing, shorter, episodic episodes extend the duration of the work over time, changes the nature of how audience engages, overall extended narrative
Gaming interactive, animated/moving graphics, music, sound effects, no fixed interaction time players become an extension of the story world: they can act as a character, manipulate the world, and possibly form their own narrative
Toys & Merchandise (action figures, costumes, clothing, trading cards) playable, physical, wearable, tactile hands-on media, collectible, allows fans to become part of the world physically, helps form ideas of collective identity and competition and passion
Music (Song) only audio, fixed interaction time, single media environment (just sound). sing-alongable, shared
Artwork (Photography, Painting, etc.) only image, no fixed interaction time, single media environment (just image). highlights key moments, encourages hardcore fans to appreciate and engage further
Literature (Novels) written word, more detailed, fixed time encourages reader’s imagination
Graphic Novels, Comics written word, images, expressive, fixed time encourages reader’s imagination
Social Media videos, audio, text, image, networked, quick and fast connectivity, interactive direct interaction with the personal audience member – personalization, encourages audience participation, bridge between the story world and the real world, the ability to connect with and influence the story outcomes.
Experiential (theme-parks, installations, etc.) Reaches all senses Immerses fans in the universe physically and can include environment, food, drink, and experience.

 

Transmedia Examples & Case Studies:

There are many great Transmedia examples, here is one Transmedia Case Study that I particularly enjoyed watching:

Case Study – Bravo / Top Chef Transmedia / Lisa Hsia, EVP, Bravo:

For more examples or to chat about your Transmedia Strategy please feel free to contact us.

 

What are Branded Games?

Branded games also known as Advergaming is the practice of using games to advertise or promote a product, organization, property or viewpoint.

Branded games combine a compelling brand experience with opportunities to gather valuable customer data from a large sector of the population.

Here is an overview of the typical gamer of today:

  • The average gamer today is about 31 years old. While you may have assumed the majority of gamers were young adults and children, the reality is that 68% of gamers are 18 or older
  • 36% of heads of households play games on a wireless device, such as a cell phone or tablet
  • 80% own a cellphone, tablet or other mobile device
  • 95% own a computer
  • 45% of Adults spend a few days per week playing
  • 49% of Teens gamers spend a few days per week playing
  • 58% of Children spend a few days per week playing

The benefits of Branded Games:

  • Branded games allow people to interact with your brand!
  • Games give people a fun, interactive experience with your brand, and when executed properly an emotional connection is made.
  • Games capture visitors’ attention longer than other marketing methods and can be re-played multiple times
  • Games can be both social and viral spreading a brand message further and across a greater audience
  • Games capture visitors’ attention longer than other marketing methods and can be re-played multiple times
  • Games give customers positive exposure to your brand.
  • Games are a great lead-generation tool by enticing people to self-identify, providing contact information for future marketing efforts and offers.

To learn more about branded games or to get further details on Branded Games and why you should consider them contact us.

 

 

Posted in games, Social

What is Gamification?

Gamification is a new and powerful strategy intended to strongly connect consumers with your brand.

Typically, Gamification implements game dynamics into existing systems. Usually incorporating the most popular aspects of games and other social motivators including but not limited to: achievements, leader boards, progression bar, virtual currency, awards, challenges between users, and embedding small casual games.

Gamification involves integrating game dynamics into your companies core services. The options are endless and can apply to many aspects of your business from customer retention and marketing to safety training and sales incentives.

How can your brand utilize Gamification?

Gamification can be utilized internally (training staff, incentivizing staff, etc.) or externally (building a connection with your brand on your website, physical rewards cards, etc.). I have included a few examples of where Gamification can be typically applied in most organizations:

  • Corporate Website or Platform
  • In-store at point of purchase
  • In-store for loyalty and for discovering new product offerings
  • Training & motivating existing staff or customers

A few Examples of Gamification:

There are MANY examples of Gamification all around you.  Many that are often overlooked.  If we look at the popular website, LinkedIn, we can easily spot great examples of Gamification. Below you can see a picture of LinkedIn’s profile progress bar.

This progress bar implementation helps encourage people to fully use LinkedIn’s services. Visitors can visually see their progress and how easy it’ll be to fully populate their profile. Seeing an incomplete progress bar provides incentive and motivates users to complete their profiles. An item like this  progress bar makes the LinkedIn experience of completing your profile challenging for the user and makes all listings more complete for the entire userbase of LinkedIn.

Sobeys:

So it maybe easier now to see Gamification’s digital presence around you, but what about outside of the digital world? Do you remember all of those sandwich cards that promised the 10th sandwich free? That is also an example of Gamification. Most of these popular rewards  cards implement not only a progress bar into their promotions, but many also reward their customers with coupons, special offers and merchandise. A great example of this is Sobeys’ Club Sobeys.  It is a promotional system that gives customers a virtual currency, named Club Sobeys Points. In addition to this system, Sobeys has certain items in store that earn customers bonus points. Below is a breakdown of how customers can acquire points and save money on purchases.

What does this example of Gamification do for Sobeys? It gains customer loyalty. Sobeys club members feel encouraged to shop only with Sobeys and not its competitors in order to maximize their savings. This creates a very loyal and engaged customer.

Gamification is a powerful tool when used properly.  It allows companies to connect with their customers and employees in a more meaningful and accountable way.  And when done properly both the brand and the customer benefit greatly.

Gamification is an opportune strategy that shouldn’t be ignored. Especially for those struggling to differentiate themselves.

How do you think Gamification can help your business?

Posted in games, Mobile, Social

Almost Naked Animals Cabana Craze is featured by the Google Chrome Web Store!

Almost Naked Animals Cabana Craze gets some attention from the  Chrome Web Store and the beachfront is about to get more crowded…

The addictive Almost Naked Animals game, Cabana Craze, in which players run the Banana Cabana as Howie, Duck, Octo, Narwhal, Bunny and Piggy!

Cabana Craze allows players to accrue points and stars while running their own hotels and unlocking secret games and features.

Select consumer retail items will include codes to unlock extra play areas and exclusive videos; once all the codes are collected, an additional mini game will be unlocked.

Check it out at www.cabanacraze.com or at the Chrome Web Store

 

Posted in games, Social, Web

Our Best Game Yeti

Sasquatch Survivor – The Adventures of Mimo Postmortem

By Michael Sorrenti

Sasquatch Survivor – The Adventures of Mimo is a platform puzzler in which you control Mimo, a young yeti who was accidentally left behind after a massive snowstorm forced his tribe to travel to warmer climates. The game follows Mimo as he spans harsh terrain and fends off predators, building the ramps, bridges and defenses needed to survive the journey south. Each level consists of either a puzzle that must be solved in order to span a gap in terrain or a defense that must be built to thwart oncoming attacks from beaver, rams, bears and other unfriendly critters. The game uses mouse and/or keyboard controls for the online version and uses touch controls for the mobile version.

The idea for Sasquatch Survivor seemingly came out of nowhere. It began with an idea for a new kind of game mechanic (or at least new to my brain). That mechanic may have been inspired by my daughter’s Mega Bloks, or perhaps by the construction taking place outside my office window. Now usually when I have ideas I put them in a folder—a folder now brimming with long-forgotten ideas. But this idea was different. I knew I would make this game.

Testing the New Mechanic
As far as we know, there is no game out there like ours—and we are happy about that. But a new mechanic requires that you teach players the game mechanics through game-play, which in turn requires many more hours of play-testing. After months of working on the game from concept to initial build, it became almost impossible to see the game the way a new audience would, which made outside testers absolutely vital. We enlisted testers from all walks of life: male and female, young and old.

Testing changed the game-play in several ways. For instance, in early implementations, blocks that had been placed could be easily knocked over or accidentally moved when placing additional blocks—which was very frustrating for play-testers. We solved the issue by adding more weight to placed items. Based on tester feedback, we also adjusted the way players select and place inventory items in the play area. We discovered that a drag-and-drop approach is much more intuitive than clicking to select and clicking again to place. Controls were also a big eye opener. What felt too fast for some testers was too slow for others. So we repeatedly tweaked the speed of Mimo’s movement until his controls felt universally tactile and responsive. We also discovered that bite-sized chunks of game-play were most effective in maintaining a player’s attention. Whether the player is building a defense or solving a terrain challenge, we found that the levels needed to be short and punchy and that the game needed to move quickly between building and results.

Working to Create an Emotional Bond
As we were working on Sasquatch Survivor, we wanted to make a game that the whole family could enjoy. We also wanted a game that featured a character that players would care about, thus creating an emotional bond between the player and the game. Since our team was comprised entirely of males, we wanted a variety of perspectives to ensure that the character would appeal to both genders. We went through dozens of character concepts and tested them out on our wives, children, and close friends to come up with the final design of Mimo. We also put a lot of thought into how the character would be animated, striving to make sure that Mimo’s actions were tentative and vulnerable, rather than macho or heroic. We felt that this would be consistent with the character’s circumstances while also helping create a deeper bond with all types of players.

To deepen that sense of connection, our story was designed specifically to help create pathos. Mimo is trying to rendezvous with his lost tribe, after all, and we believe that the emotions surrounding separation from and reunion with family are universally relatable.

Money Matters
Game Pill is a studio that partners with clients, does work for hire, and creates its own IP—a triple threat. We are always on time and on budget with all of our client projects. What made Sasquatch Survivor different was that we kept coming up with improvements, and we were continually iterating on the build. Now we hope all this pays off financially, but it did put us over budget. In the future, we will involve our accountant to create a formal budget upfront that we will constantly monitor to identify cost overruns, opportunity costs (the cost of not working on something else), scope creep, etc. Next time we will also allow 10 percent of the budget as a cushion for potential over-runs.

We considered a number of revenue options as we prepared to release Sasquatch Survivor, including flat fee, micro-transactions, and donations. Ultimately we decided to release the game as free-to-play in order to gain as many fans as possible. As a source of revenue, we are surrounding the game with ads. For those fans that really love the game and want to try it in tablet form we are offering a link to download the Android version that will feature an additional five levels and extra in-game items that can be purchased for Mimo. We also found porting to Android from AIR to be relatively simple and worth the associated costs, including time, testing and device costs.

So far, the response has been very promising. As of March 30th 2012, we had generated 450,000+ plays, with many more to come as we release the Android and iOS versions.

Working as a Team
The core team that worked on Sasquatch Survivor included a project manager, an artist, and a programmer. Another three team members came on and off of the project to contribute to writing, music, and testing. Although we had a game design document, we were not closely tied to it, as many revisions and edits were made along the way in an effort to constantly improve the programming and artwork. But allowing that sort of design fluidity created a number of ancillary challenges:

Communication – When you’re not working from a rigid design document, communication within the team is more critical than ever. We were working remotely at times and it is amazing how much of a difference it makes when you can talk in person as opposed to via e-mail or Skype. It is easy to make assumptions or misinterpret things that would probably be quickly resolved by a simple conversation. Overall, the occasions on which we were able to sit down and hash things out were productive and important to the development of the game.

Prioritization – It is always tempting to want to add one more cool little thing to a game, but you have to make sure you’re focusing on the things that really need to be accomplished before you start throwing new ideas into the mix. We also created a lot of art that was unnecessary (enemies that never made it into the game, for instance) because they were “in the plan”; but if it had been created on an as-needed basis, we probably could have saved some time in the long run.

Perspective – It is really easy to get tunnel vision when you’re working on a single task, so it’s important to pull back and get a sense of how things look as part of the whole. What looks awesome as a standalone piece of art or code may not necessarily fit in, so you need to ensure that what you are working on is consistent with what has come before. This is especially true with the art and animation: You need to make sure that when you drop new art into a screen with all of the other assets present, it is aesthetically seamless.

Overall, it took about a year to build the game from concept to release. Without a team that cared about the project and the story—and that worked well together—we could never have done it.

Publishing Dilemma
To date, we have been lucky to find publishing partnerships that have consistently resulted in a win-win for both sides. In our studio, the greatest obstacle to creating our own IP is finding the funds, or rather the guts and funds, to try something new. As a studio that does both work-for-hire and work inspired internally, it is a constant struggle to pick partners who are right for us and for our audiences.

My first inclination was to approach a partner with the Sasquatch Survivor idea to minimize our risk, but the concept was so original I did not think it would fly. Taking a chance is something I rarely do, but in this case, I was compelled to. But I have no regrets. Taking calculated risks is what life and business is all about. Even if the game doesn’t make a dime, I am happy I took the chance—and I’d do it again in an instant.

Mimo’s Future
My hope is that this game will have great success and can develop into more than just a game. I would like to see our character spin off into toys, a TV show, and clothing. And of course we want to build the sequel. Will this happen? We do not know. But we do know this: The game is really fun to play. Available at: http://www.sasquatchsurvivor.com, and on the Chrome Web Store.

Posted in games, Uncategorized, Web

Where do good ideas come from?

A video that explains how sharing and combining ideas leads to creativity and innovation.  The insight gained from this is that our connected world is allowing more of us to collaborate and share ideas than ever before and this could possibly lead to more  innovation overall.

 

 

Posted in games, Software