Tiger Style is a distributed collective, which means we live in different places, collaborate over the internet, and we all share in project revenue on equal terms! The line-up changes from year to year. Give or take this is the 2014 team making Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon!
Proceeding horizontally from top-left: Adrian Lopez-Mobilia (programmer), Scott Barber (musician), Bobby Arlauskas (audio), Jef Drawbaugh (musician), Randy Smith (creative director), Terri Brosius (writer), Jason Rosenstock (artist), David Kalina (tech lead / designer), Nathan Black (evil wizard / stuntman), Damien Di Fede (musician / programmer), Amanda Williams (artist), Randall O’Connor (artist / designer), Rick Tossavainen (programmer), Brennan Hornburg (artist), Ethan Greene (musician).
…and we hereby promise it is going to fulfill your every fantasy about what a Spider game possibly could be! It’s bigger, better, deeper, richer, and ready for more platforms! We’ve got tons of exciting feature announcements, development updates, glimpses into the story, and so forth coming in the future weeks, so stay tuned here to our blog and our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
A few weeks ago when we launched the teaser at BlackbirdEstate.com, we also issued a press release that straight up revealed crucial secrets about our in-development new game.
Fortunately everyone was trustworthy enough to keep it secret, keep it safe. If after you scrutinize these documents, you feel a burning desire to share what you’ve learned, don’t worry. You only have to sit on it a few more days. We honor your trustworthiness!
Forgive the sketchy look; this is what we affectionately refer to as “designer art” in the industry. Beautifully animated and illustrated versions are in development!
But here’s the first draft of the world map for our new game (website here!), which is set in Blackbird Estate. This is essentially a design document which helps us analyze how the player might explore the game and discover the story.
The World's Most Mysterious Book: The Voynich Manuscript
Tiger Style does tons of research for each project, but we’ve never been good about sharing it. Now that our new game is far enough along, we’re hoping to change that. Join Creative Director Randy Smith on his whirlwind tour of the Voynich Manuscript, a real life story that covers history, linguistics, cryptology and even magic.
The Voynich Manuscript In 90 Seconds, at top, will give you the basics: 600 years old, illustrations of plants not from earth, writing that has never been translated or decrypted, evidence that it is probably not just a hoax, etc..
Here’s the complete version. 40 minutes is an eternity in these short attention span times, but you can always play it in the background while you work.
Ironically, this has almost nothing to do with our new game, it’s just a passion project that Randy dusted off to share. But follow us here and on Twitter and Facebook for upcoming research projects, including one about secret societies!
Follow TigerStyleGames on Twitter, and check out #TigerStyleGames on Instagram for more photos. Who knows, you might even learn some secrets.
Tiger Style has started work on our next game, which means research and field trips.
On a rolling hill overlooking a quiet road in central Vermont stands an old stone mansion. It was built in the 1800s by a mysterious couple who imported its materials by ship from England but who only lived there briefly. It changed hands every other decade until the 1940’s. For years it sat dark and abandoned.
The mansion was bought in 1939 by Herbert Wilson, an Army Colonel who served in World War II. Col. Wilson traveled the world, collecting exotic treasures to decorate his opulent estate.
No, I’m not making this up. Yes it does remind me of the story of Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. As does the setting. I know right where I would build my webs.
Col Wilson’s had a fondness for organs and was an early adopter of radio technology. He converted the estate’s stable into a radio station, which it still is today.
I was told this window is what makes the mansion officially a “castle,” although my personal research didn’t corroborate this. If you’re noticing some Illuminati-esque symbolism then stay tuned for future posts in which we’ll talk about secret societies in more depth.
Today Wilson Castle is being renovated by a friendly staff who offer comprehensive tours. If you’re ever in the neighborhood of Proctor, Vermont, I recommend you pay a visit!
A few more photos can be found on Instagram - search for #tigerstylegames.
There are some cool things happening right now that I am not at liberty to say because that’d ruin surprises. But while the Tiger Style team works on cool secret stuff, I wanted to catch y’all up on what we’re enjoying these days.
First off, Austin, TX is the home of most of the team, and also the home of South By Southwest, an insane music festival held every year. We’re talking thousands of bands playing all over the city.
Tiger Style’s Randy Smith is interviewed extensively about the making of Spider and Waking Mars in this rad new book by Wagner James Au, a well-established game writer, scholar, and all-around smart dude.
The book covers the design and business of iOS, mobile, Facebook, and web games with lots of useful material like excerpted design docs, anecdotes, workflows, and copious interviews with numerous experienced developers. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone getting into the business or just curious about it, and it’s flattering that Tiger Style was invited to participate. Here’s the Amazon link!
In case you missed it, we had a majorly exciting re-release of Waking Mars this past Thursday and were stoked by all the attention it got over the weekend.
For the past few months, we’ve been working hard to bring Waking Mars to a handful of new platforms - Windows PCs, Macs, Android devices, and even Linux systems.
We released them all on the same day and were.. well.. humbled to be part of the latest Humble Bundle, the super awesome “pay what you want / decide how much goes to charity” megapack of awesome indie games.
Humble Bundles don’t last forever, so get this one while the gettings good:
You can also buy Waking Mars for Windows, Mac, and Linux directly from us on the Waking Mars website! We’ve said it before, but the game surprised even us with how natural it feels on PC. Kicking back on the couch holding a gamepad watching it on the HDTV was a proud moment!
In addition to the regular technical and controls type work that goes into a port, we massively upgraded the story presentation. Check out the improved character portraits, below. We also added professional voice acting which we’re really pleased with and we’re glad to see the critics and fans digging it too!
We don’t like to be stingy with our iOS roots, so we ported over all this voice acting and art goodness as a major update to the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch versions. It’s almost like a whole new game, and as always App Store updates are free, so download and enjoy today!
David and Randy did a live online interview thing on Reddit on launch day! Read the transcription here in which we talk about our favorite games, our design process, our future projects, how our company is run, and so forth!
And lastly, maybe due to all this attention, our Greenlight page was been picking up a lot of steam(*) and is rapidly rising through the charts. If you haven’t already, please go grace us with your Thumbs Up approval today!
Alongside Damien and GL33k, Amanda did some art direction and concepts for the weird and stellar Cosmic DJ, an interactive DJ game experience. She’s also living out in the countryside doing that painting thing (which I hear she’s pretty good at) and maybe some other cool things I can’t talk about…
When he’s not providing our sound (currently getting voice acting for the PC release of Waking Mars!), he does sound work on lots of major titles, like Orcs Must Die 2, Epic Mickey 2, Hero Academy, Spirit Catcher, and the just previewed God of Blades! (And alongside me, he’s wading through the tomes of the Wheel of Time!)
Part of Kokoromi, a game/art collective, Damien is polishing up Dancingularity, an interactive DJ set where dancers help create the visuals they’re dancing to, that will be rocking at Fantastic Arcade. It sounds awesome and crazy and I’m sorry I won’t be at Fantastic Fest!
This guy is pressing on the boundaries of sound and music, a recent work was even a selected piece for the International Computer Music Conference in Slovenia. (That’s in addition to composing for us, for others, teaching, AND soon writing his dissertation!) Listen to Ethan’s fascinating My Parents’ Phone Number.
Mr. Drawbaugh is also a cosmic jammer, writing music for surround sound and performing it as Dweomer. (Go listen to his tunes!)
Is doing art at Eerie Canal on the game Dreadline with Steve, which looks awesome, and also singing for the wicked metal band Abnormality. Might I recommend you check out their bandcamp to get your face shredded off!
I spent the last couple months finally bringing my one-button zombie killer Dead End to the iPad, and I would be stoked to have you check it out.
Smith is a music aficionado, and compiled some of his fave music earlier this summer in one of his patented Gemini Radio mixes. That’s about all he has time for when he’s not making Waking Mars PC polished and perfect (and of course those other [shhh] prototypes).
This guy is not only working on Dreadline, but he also has a line of clothing! Check out Operator USA if you want some high-end snow gear for this fast approaching winter. Oh, and he’s raising a daughter! (Awww!)
Hey everybody, Other Randy here again, to tell you about another cute little iPhone game I helped make!
I teamed up with a friend to create this fun little flicking, brain-bending game. It’s all about high scores, and eating bugs, and quick math and pattern matching skills to get the highest score possible before you get overwhelmed.
We recently shared our lifetime sales numbers here.
The same day, we dropped price on all of our products. Our strategy was to try and create news and attention by coordinating several newsworthy events simultaneously. Our Waking Mars update had new jetpacks to collect and play with, and enhanced support for the iPad Retina Display. We issued a press release and personally reached out to a number of folks in the press, asking for coverage. We wrote blog posts to attract attention. We dropped the price of the soundtrack on Bandcamp. We dropped the price of both Spider SKUs for the first time in a long time. And we dropped the price of Waking Mars from 4.99 to 2.99 for the first time ever.
It’s been two weeks, so how’d we do?
WAKING MARS SALE ($4.99 -> $2.99)
Here are the 15 days before the sale:
We earned $12946 in revenue during that period. There was a blip in the data on 4/24-25 where we spiked upwards — we believe this was due to a piece on a Yahoo! Games blog called “Plugged In” that featured us nicely (http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/10-must-play-ios-games-182249052.html — 484 comments on that piece indicate to me that people are reading this blog!). Normally single press events don’t seem to make a tangible difference — but some of the bigger ones do. Even accounting for that spike, we were earning approximately $863 a day for the last 15 days at $4.99.
Here are the 15 days post-sale:
We earned $25733 on sale, selling an additional 12,622 copies. That’s nearly double what we were earning over the previous 15 day window, but the trends are indicating a bottoming out. You can see that we had one amazing day at $6201 earned, and then yesterday, we earned about 1/10 of that ($647). That’s a bit better than the two Mondays pre-sale ($564 and $497) but we’re approaching a state of being revenue neutral, so we’re going to end the sale tonight.
You can see this trend on the charts as well. We got as high as the #18 iPad game, hung out at a nice chart position all week (thanks in large part to another Apple feature) … and then the rank started collapsing, and hasn’t bottomed out quite yet.
Interestingly the iPhone charts show a much gentler bump and then a flatter curve. We didn’t have a banner in the iPhone store, so that’s probably part of it, but I think our game is just not perceived as being “for” the iPhone. Potential consumers see our product and can probably pretty easily imagine playing it on a 3.5 inch screen, and they (correctly) perceive that it’s “for” the iPad. (Of course, it plays great in both places and you should still buy it! My point is more that I think consumers are looking for something a bit more approachable on the iPhone, in most cases)
SPIDER SALE ($2.99 -> $0.99)
As for Spider… we only put it on sale for a week, and the results were not amazing. The HD version — which received a retina update — did pull in approximately an extra $900. For a game that has been earning $30-40 a day, this is certainly welcome, but after the first 3 days, sales numbers were very close to where they started.
The iPhone version fared even worse, actually earning LESS money at $0.99 the weekend following the sale versus the weekends before and after the sale period. We still probably came out ahead $300-400 dollars from the initial spike in attention, but it actually seems to be the case that we are better off at 2.99 for now.
All things considered, this effort was successful — we reached a significant number of new users, (hopefully) increased the perceived value of the product, and pocketed a nice chunk of extra revenue. Long term, it’s harder to predict how much these efforts help. I used to fear that sales would serve to cannibalize your potential user base — how many of the people who just bought Waking Mars at $2.99 would have EVENTUALLY bought it at $4.99? It’s impossible to know. iOS has definitely taught people that, if they wait just a little bit, practically everything goes on sale.
This is one reason we’re more willing to play with our pricing this time around (Spider did not go on sale for over a year after its release). The market expects it, and there are gamers who may love our stuff who, for whatever reason, won’t buy it at $4.99. We’re reaching new players every day, and hopefully we’ll have plenty more reasons to make news in the coming year and keep the product on people’s minds. Staying relevant over a long period of time is, in my opinion, one of the core tricks to success on iOS.
Waking Mars’ environmental polish artist Amanda Williams was recently interviewed by the fabulous Creators Project. Be sure to see some original artwork and read her insights into the game and how such beautiful environments were developed.
Did we mention you can hire her? She’s available now, but hurry up and ask before she gets busy again.
Waking Mars has been on sale for 2 months, and we just released a big update, so it seems like a great opportunity to reflect on its progress in the App Store.
While we’re at it, we’ll also show you the sales numbers for Spider and Spider HD — something we’ve wanted to do for a while now.
I hope you find it interesting!
WHY SHARE NUMBERS?
We believe strongly in the spirit and value of sharing information. When we were starting Tiger Style, there were many ‘gold rush’ style news articles and blog posts highlighting small garage developers making significant money in the App Store.
These articles (viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism and pragmatism) were useful to us, and helped steer our business toward the App Store, rather than some other distribution or hardware platform. Looking honestly at the available information about the marketplace, and considering our faith in our own ability as game developers, we entered into the iPhone market believing that there was a legitimate chance we could make a living, given the right approach.
By giving back, perhaps we can serve as a data point that other developers can use to make informed decisions in their own business.
The App Store has been a boon to a small independent developer like Tiger Style — we can choose to create any kind of game that we want and the barriers to selling our product globally are minimal. We don’t need to pass through the strong filters of a more closed ecosystem, nor do we need to appeal to some publisher’s idea of a nebulous target demographic.
As a result, we take on a lot of risk. We care a lot about innovating and inventing new forms of gameplay and moving the medium forward in some small way. Broadly speaking, these goals have been of greater importance to us than the goal of “being a mega-profitable business.” That said, we always keep an eye on the market and our own ability to make an impact there. For Tiger Style to continue its existence and stay independent, we literally HAVE TO sell copies of our games. Lots of them, in fact.
Our very existence should hopefully demonstrate that it is POSSIBLE to survive with a company focused on innovation and gameplay, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy thing to do. By sharing our sales numbers with the public, perhaps we can encourage others to take similar risks — with a cautious eye on the potential pitfalls.
HEY, OVER HERE!
This week, we coordinated a bunch of efforts in order to make news. An update with iPad retina assets and new jetpacks. We commissioned an updated app icon from our excellent graphic designer friend Cory Schmitz. We updated Spider for the iPad. Maybe we can generate some news and goodwill and interest simply by virtue of openly sharing information with the public.
Your support is truly valuable to us. We’re a tiny company and we’re really committed to staying 100% independent and continuing to do meaningful work. Every week there are literally dozens (hundreds?) of new game experiences clamoring for your attention. It’s hard work to stay relevant and visible in such a crowded gaming landscape.
If you haven’t tried Waking Mars, please consider checking it out. If you think this post is worth sharing, please share it. Any way we can reach new people is valuable to us.
TWO MONTHS IN THE APP STORE
Waking Mars was released on March 1, 2012, and we sold it at $4.99 for the entirety of its first two months. We sold over 44,000 copies, which puts our net revenue at approximately $150,000 USD.
$150K in two months would be amazing if the curve was flat and we were guaranteed that income forever! Alas, the curve — as you can see — is not flat. We earned more than half our total revenue to date in the first 7 days. During this week, we were featured by Apple as both the iPhone and iPad Game of the Week in the US. On the iPad, we peaked as the #9 top selling game in the US store, whereas on the iPhone, we peaked at #35 — both on our second day of sales.
Let’s look at Spider’s sales over the first two months of its existence, starting back in the stone ages (umm, August 10, 2009):
Spider for iPhone earned roughly $244k in its first 2 months of existence and has gone on to earn $577k to present day.
For sake of completion, here are the first two months of Spider HD (the iPad only version of Spider, released in July of 2010):
COMPARING THE PRODUCTS
Looking at the Spider-iPhone chart next to the Waking Mars chart highlights some interesting differences. Waking Mars actually peaked at a higher single-day revenue, but the revenue fell off much more sharply than Spider’s.
Some theories on why this is the case:
Waking Mars sold for $4.99 instead of $2.99. Casual gamers who might be willing to make an impulse purchase on a game from an unknown, indie developer at $2.99 are less willing at $4.99.
The marketplace is significantly more crowded, with a higher quality bar, and there is greater value available at lower price points (including free). In particular this makes it harder for long-form single-player games to succeed over time. Waking Mars is not a game that was created to engage people repeatedly over a long period of time; it is designed to be played and (hopefully) appreciated over 6-12 hours. When you’re done exploring the content, there are few reasons to continue playing indefinitely.
Perhaps Spider simply has a broader appeal, being a game that is grounded in the present day and a familiar environment, whereas Mars is sci-fi, built around the strange and unfamiliar. We believe that we were smarter about designing specifically for the iPhone demographic when we built Spider, whereas, by comparison, Waking Mars is a deeper, more traditional console-style game that might have been a more natural fit on another platform.
$4.99 — A QUESTIONABLE DECISION?
It’s worth remembering that the install base of iOS devices is multiple times larger today than it was in August of 2009. Considering that factor alone, we’re a little disappointed in the sales of Waking Mars. I often think we would have brought in more money AND had more users to show for it if we had launched at $2.99 instead of $4.99.
The flip side of launching at $4.99 is that we have a bit more room to maneuver with the product. The critical response demonstrates that most of our players seem to think there is at least $5 of value in this product, and moving an average of 250 units a day at this price point over the past month is nothing to sneeze at. We can now experiment and see if dropping price is a long-term net positive. And, like everything else we’re doing this week, dropping price is a great way to get previously reticent gamers to jump on board.
Waking Mars is also a product that will adapt more naturally to other platforms, and we are taking early steps to bring it to PC/Mac/Linux later this year. Launching at $4.99 also reinforces the idea that the game is serious and significant, and that it’s not “just a mobile game.” We hope that this game’s long tail will extend out beyond the App Store.
Success is a matter of perspective. Considering the man-hours spent (at last count, over 12500) and the revenue earned to date, some may look at our numbers and think we are failing. Tiger Style is comprised of two owners (myself and Randy Smith) and we continue to pay royalties to over a dozen part time contributors. For a business that is 3.5 years old, our income gets stretched a bit thin at times. But we continue to hang on!
From a creative standpoint, we feel very successful — we are accomplishing our goals and doing meaningful, rewarding work. We’ve released two critically acclaimed games (launching two original IPs in the process) and have reached hundreds of thousands of gamers.
From a business perspective, we consider it a major victory just to survive and create another day. We run our shop in a very non-traditional manner. We have no office space and we pay no salaries — instead, we are fully distributed and pay royalties to our many amazing and talented contributors. We have never taken a dime of investment capital — being able to pay our bills and run our business on our own terms is tremendously rewarding, even if it can be a wildly inconsistent roller-coaster at times.
As you may have heard, we just dropped our price. $4.99 is still considered a steep price in the App Store, especially on the iPhone. Spider was the #4 overall app in the US App Store as $2.99, and we’re optimistic that even in a marketplace that is skewing ever more towards $0.99 and free-to-play, we have a chance to sell many more copies and reach thousands of new gamers at a lower price.
Or perhaps it’s true that Waking Mars is simply too niche for sales to scale up dramatically at lower price points. When choosing $4.99 for launch, we convinced ourselves that it would help filter out gamers who were looking only for disposable entertainment, and that it would help communicate that the product is more substantial and serious than much of what’s on the App Store. Differentiating can be valuable.
Our first day on sale was pretty excellent. Now we’ll see if we can sustain any of this newfound momentum.
Check back next week to see how we’re doing at $2.99!
Waking Mars is available for just $2.99, starting NOW. It’s a perfect moment to push it on any skeptical friends you couldn’t convince before.
Today also marks the release of the big May Day Update we’ve been slaving away at for weeks. What’s in this update? New jetpacks!!
For extra fun and increased maneuverability, the May Day Update features brand new jetpacks you can use to hover in place, speed rapidly across Lethe Cavern, and write your name in vapor trails (assuming you’re a good enough pilot, of course). The jetpacks are unlocked when you reach certain story encounters, so if you load a saved game where they’ve already happened.. well, you’ll see for yourself.
This update also has incredibly detailed art for the iPad Retina screen! Click on the screen shot below for a close-up!
The iPad Retina may well be the highest pixel resolution commercial device of all time. When we started designing iPhone games we thought it was going to be a breeze to make graphics for a 480x320 screen. Now we’re up to 2048x1536! Fortunately, we don’t mind generating 3.1 million pixels sixty times per second, for two important reasons:
1 – Our graphics look amazing on Retina screens. All that detail! That screen shot above is cropped.. on a new iPad it would all be crammed into just a couple inches.
2 – All the lifeforms and environments of Waking Mars were hand painted at HUGE sizes and then shrunk down to fit the game. That’s what gives our art its unique look, and so making high resolution art isn’t as hard as it could be.
How huge is huge? Well, click on this Phyte.. this is still scaled down considerably from the source material.
If you’ve already downloaded Waking Mars, then please enjoy this May Day Update! If you haven’t checked out Waking Mars yet, then we hope we’ve managed to tempt you.
We noticed this great blog post on the topic of Waking Mars yesterday (written by the designer of Triple Town), and it’s sparked some pretty interesting discussion. Glad to have discovered his blog as a result, lots of valuable stuff on there!
Curiosity, a descendent of Spirit and Opportunity, launches from Earth, headed for Mars, in just a few short days. Read more at NASA’s MSL page here!
Based on everything I’ve learned about Mars while researching for our game, I would be thrilled but not shocked if this rover were to discover evidence of past life on the red planet. Good luck, Curiosity!
Building a Level for Waking Mars (A Detailed Explanation)
I’d like to show you a bit about what goes into building a level for Waking Mars. (I just call it Mars with all the name changes. We used to call it Descent.)
[NOTE: I’m only showing portions of this level, not the full thing.]
Each level begins with a place in the story/world. Randy Smith has spent a long time building up a planetary story (he knows more than you can imagine about Martian geological history), and each level is a chunk of his overall plan for the cave system you explore. Smith has an array of levels laid out in documents, on whiteboards, and in his head.
In addition, each level contains a gameplay hook. These vary from puzzles of dealing with the various aliens fighting for survival in the environment, learning a new tool, or the environment itself being exciting and dangerous. Smith plans out how these various game concepts can fit together with the environment and the story.
From there, Smith (or sometimes myself, as in this case) starts drawing out the world using an intuitive editor that David built. It has two parts: geometry and everything else.
Each level is constructed directly in the game-engine. Smith draws the level line by line. What he draws is the space that Liang and the other physical objects interact with. You won’t see it in the game, but whenever you run into a wall, you’re running into these invisible lines Smith has “drawn”.
After he lays out geometry, he switches to the regular editor, where he can place halid and zoa (plants and animals), hazards, fertile terrain, etc. He then playtests, messing with geometry, creature placement, biomass requirements for each space. As things feel better and better, he adds more game elements, such as invisible objects which change how the camera works as you move around levels.
When he is satisfied with how the level feels and plays, that’s where I come in.
(At this point, we actually set aside the level design you see above, and saved it for a later place in the game, as it was too difficult for players this early in the game. Then we went and built a whole new version of the level!)
I load spritesheets into the level that contain various formations and textures that will compose the level. These textures, painted by Amanda [Williams], I drop into the level, duplicating and arranging and rotating until I have the basic visual outline of the level. From there my work has only begun.
Once the foreground (the interactive layer) is complete, I go in and add more sprites, sprites that make up the background, midground, and super-foreground. Wait, super-foreground? That sounds cool, what’s that? Well, Randy O, that is the layer that makes it feel like you’re staring into an actual cave.
See, each sprite has a parallax value. This means sprites move at different speeds around the screen relative to each other. As I move around the level, I can tell a stalagmite or wall or boulder to have a parallax value such as -700. This means that particular rock or stalagmite thinks it is 700 units closer to the camera compared to the main interactive layer. Most games have parallaxing backgrounds (the background moves slowly compared to the gameplay area), but we also rely heavily on foreground parallax to capture a sense of realistic depth. This makes the levels essentially 3d, and my super favorite thing about Kalina’s engine.
(Look at all that depth!)
Each level is ultimately comprised of hundreds of images, unlike Spider, which contained only, at most, a few giant paintings of each room.
Now the level is almost complete, but not quite. Smith or myself finish up by adding lights, cinematics, events like collapsing boulders, triggers that cause the level to change or affect game progress, and then I add little things like particle effects and detail sprites.
Each level starts by feeling complicated, but each time it unfolds organically, and by the end we are left with what the level was meant to be. What the martian caverns demanded from us. Many novelists talk about just letting their characters speak for themselves, I feel like our martian caverns also have voices. I hope we’ve channeled them well.
Odds are pretty small that you’ve noticed our first in-game Tweets, but if you have, you might have noticed the hashtag #wakingmars.
Or perhaps you’re one of the 53 independent game fans who navigated to Page 18 of the IGF’s submission round-up (SERIOUSLY) and saw a game entitled Waking Mars that you hadn’t exactly heard of but looked strangely familiar.
I’m burying the lede again.
We changed the name of our game from Lost Mars to Waking Mars.
We actually made the change internally a month or so ago. Let’s just say we were paying attention to the silliness surrounding “Scrolls” and “Elder Scrolls” and we talked to our lawyer and decided that it was best to go with a name we absolutely can own, 100%. No-questions-asked. No possible weird edge case conflicts.
But actually, we’re pretty jazzed about it. Waking Mars and Lost Mars were our last two names standing, ones that had been on top of the pile for much of the long process of name selection. We’ve been holding onto both names in the App Store for a short while now, knowing that it was going to be one or the other.
My personal favorite was always Waking Mars. I think it is more descriptive in a way that is relevant to the fiction and the gameplay experience. It is evocative and mysterious and it has uplifting, positive connotations. ”Waking” is the experience of rising up from sleep, and that gives it a dreamy, human vibe.
So there you have it. Back to work on the research system and world map — got to finish the game!
I am having trouble getting excited about free-to-play games.
Oh, I see Tiny Tower, looming out there in the distance. It’s got that delightful, spirited art style, the appeal of an experience that promises ownership and authorship and creativity and novelty. I get close to it and can’t operate the fucking elevator, but so what, at least it’s shiny! And, my God, it rakes in the cash. It’s like a cash printing Tiny Tower. There are fields of Farmvilles and Petstorevilles and Restaurantvilles and hell-if-I-know-what-else out in the distance, and I’ll be honest, that golden shimmery halo IS attractive from a distance.
I’m thinking about packing up and moving. Not permanently, of course! I’m just thinking about getting a sublet to start. A place for the summer, see if I like it. But I’m a bit apprehensive. See, I grew up in a different part of the world. It’s pretty attractive there, too, if a little dated. We’ve got the fields of Hyrule and the keeps of Britannia and the caves of Metroid, all kinds of exciting attractions. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia, these experiences really shaped me, made me into the game developer I am today. They represent my frame of reference for understanding the world, and particularly one really fundamental idea: when I want to play something awesome, I pay for it, and then I own it.
But I get it, the world is changing! Kids these days, they grow up in Smurfs Village, taming a My Horse, cultivating their Tap Zoo, and one day they grow up and become intense League of Legend playing teenagers or something, and they just don’t give a damn that the games they play ask them for money in the middle. I’m trying to pretend that I don’t give a damn. ”It’s research!” I say, as I throw down 99 cents for an in-app-purchase before quitting the game out of boredom. I go to the Top Grossing Charts on iTunes and have never heard of half this shit. What’s a DragonVale? Oh, they’re probably just raking in $50K a day, no big deal! ZombieFarm? Did y’all use the “random free-to-play game name generator” to come up with that one?
I know that if I’m going to move, I have to leave some of my old bigotry behind. Just because most of these games are derivative, soul-less dreck … oh wait, there are my preconceived notions again. I have to try better to be open-minded.
My quest is to find those soulful free-to-play experiences that make me think, “Goddamn! This is really the way to live! I’ve never had an experience like this before, and it’s only possible because this model shapes games in an interesting direction!” I hear a lot of game biz people suggest that you’d have to be a goddamn idiot to make pay-to-play games these days, but mostly the argument is predicated on how the markets are functioning. It’s never about DESIGN.
So… where are those experiences? There must be something good out there! Or, at the very least, there must be moments of goodness, and genuinely inspired ideas, and clever solutions to the monetization problem that are not just pure exploitation, right?
One of my Tiger Style collaborators recently reminded me of the old Hollywood axiom: ”one for them, one for me.” If we can fund a career of smart, innovative, soulful games that are deeply personally satisfying (“for me”) by mixing in smart, innovative, soulful games that are designed for outrageous market success (“for them”), I’d be a very happy developer.