It was late in the evening, 27th of Feb 2016. I was waiting. Waiting for Apple to glimpse over my game and just tick on the yes button… or be rejected to repeat the process that is the hell of submitting a game to the app store.
I was checking on iTunes constantly having no idea when it would a happen. Just waiting for that yellow icon (Yellow being the color Apple uses to represent pending release status) to turn to the acceptable green (Meaning Ready for Sale) .
But then it happened! It was green. My App was there on the App store! Starting at me blankly…it could only mean one thing!
Aha! If only reality could be further from the truth. No ratings and no reviews! It was my first time to see my creation out there in the wild, fending off for itself. It was only the beginning. It was time to start cracking the keyboard.
So now whenever someone asked about how my App was going I could happily say it’s on the App Store. All the social media I set up prior was quickly updated. The twitter alarm bells were triggered, the Facebook page was spammed, forums had to be updated!
Ultimately there was no day to night transition of the app becoming famous (And me becoming a millionaire). After the first few days I realized getting this game out there was going to be a lot more work. Sales were sluggish to say the least. It was quite disheartening, but not something I was not mentally aware of. Steelbound Sky was built to be a game that has unique mechanics, pay homage to the old school level of difficulty, and ultimately be completed. You can only control what is in front of you. What can you do with sluggish sales? Well, with a minimal fan base, it means:
- There isn’t really a global view of whether the game is good or not.
- I could address almost all the issues of the people had with the game and converse with users on a more personal level.
I think getting the core concept out there was important. The first few weeks I had several mixed reviews. Not many people found the game bland which in my eyes is great. (Minus 1 or 2 who found the art dated, but I don’t take it personally considering I am not an artist). Rather people found the concept intriguing and these few people who gave feedback did have some great insight on what could make the experience better.
To my delight there were issues which could be addressed rather quickly, but there were some which take some more oil and grease.
One of these issues was online leader boards. For a game like Steelbound Sky which mimics the old school Shmups, it sure would make a lot of sense. Luckilly, UDK and Apple provide code examples and proper API. Getting the concepts to work in Game Center was rather straight forward after tinkering with some code templates. I am going to say Game Center is impressive. It’s very organized and handles edge cases such as when users are offline very well. While I was at it I added achievements to the mix which is fantastic for a game that is made to be difficult and people would like record their success.
Next we had issues with the controls. Some people were able to pick it up right away, others found the controls a little hard to get used to and strenuous at times. Watching people play on YouTube had me quite concerned, but to me controls are important and I wanted people to easily grasp the concept as I had. I addressed issues with the Wind by allow player’s to more easily draw curves. One enemy with a shield in particular seemed to be frustrating quite a few. I also extended the wind stream length and made the wind last a bit longer. Another complaint was that player’s could not draw more than 1 wind at at time. However, I could not adjust the game too much as the enemy waves were built around preset parameter. Having multiple winds drawn would vastly effect the game difficulty and is something that would take a very long time to balance. Then there is the next issue that if a PC version was every released it would then be almost impossible to allow player’s multiple touches with a standard mouse and keyboard. In the end I decided to keep the original concept of 1 touch 1 wind stream at a time only. Ultimately there is as fine line between control improvement and a cakewalk game.
The other major issue was game difficulty. I learned immediately people found the concept of blowing Shmup enemies away attractive, but almost unanimously people were concerned over the learning curve (yes the game is very hard). Listen, when you are primarily working independently it’s very easy to get good at your game. When I mean good, I mean master every second and know the fastest way to beat each section. That makes it very hard to judge the learning curve. I’ll take this as a lesson next time and take beta testers much more seriously. But remember we live in the land of game updates! This has allowed me to work on a completely new auxiliary level to better pan out that learning curve. I’ve always desired about 8 levels for Steelbound Sky anyway, so while it took a bit of work it was worth it.
The next step here would be to revamp a mini marketing campaign with a cornerstone focusing on the update, highlighting positive feedback, making a new Version 2 Trailer and getting some professional marketing help. But so far I think I’m on my way to getting the game some more traction. This whole update fiasco is just adding to the experience and I will savor the flavor as a game developer. The update will be available very soon so stay tuned!
*EDIT* Version 2.0.0 is out! Hurray for persistence.