Andrey Vlasenko

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About Andrey Vlasenko

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  1. Hello. In my previous "Development of the Game: From an Idea on a Napkin to a Campaign on Kickstarter" publication I wanted to dedicate a separate article to the Kickstarter campaign. Now the game is already available on the App Store so I have finally got a chance to share some Kickstarter experience with you. The First Campaign When we had a 90%-ready game, it was not possible to fund this project using our own resources anymore. At that time the financial support of our game seemed obtainable only with the help of borrowed funds so we decided to choose a crowdfunding platform as a source of our additional capital. One of the main game posters To start our first campaign we needed a presentation of our game in English. The search for a copywriter capable to make a good campaign description that would be strong enough to attract potential investors began. The choice was made in favor of the freelance "professionals", but all the texts they proposed looked cold hearted and written without any desire to understand the essence of the game. Despite the dozens of pre-casted writers we still had a hope for good results. We decided to focus on the best candidate. After 2 weeks of work he gave us texts that were still requiring our participation, constant changes and additions through the whole process of writing. As a result, all the texts about the campaign on Kickstarter have been rewritten from the very start and fulfilled with our own deep understanding of the idea and product features. "If you want something done well, do it yourself." Getting exciting content from a person that's not involved in the product creation is quite difficult. The first part of the presentation was text, the second was the schedule. Next we started selecting the most valuable screenshots and game arts. Demolition Lander screenshot for Kickstarter campaign There are several specific design restrictions on the Kickstarter platform. Besides the standard format, text size and graphics resolution rules, it's not allowed to have more than one break line between the paragraphs of your campaign's text. If you want to create a paragraph or split the sections of your text with some additional space - try to insert a transparent rectangular image to replace paragraph indent. We have solved this problem and used stylized images to cover spaces: The end of previous paragraph separated from the beginning of the next one Presentation was ready. Remember that developer's team photos and personal information about each employee make potential investors more confident. Real people are always better than faceless brands. During the making of our presentation we began to search for a studio to create the promotional video. We were immediately connected with a local video producer. His creative team and lots of interesting ideas won our trust and we continued to communicate. After long negotiations we have not discussed the final cost of the full package of their services. Cooperation with our video producer turned into a stunning amount of money that our budget was not able to carry out. Do not waste your time and try to set up the third-party services costs in advance! But it was not over yet. We have managed to find a less tempted and more hardware-simple team. Their ideas deserved our attention and the work began. Part of the scenery was ours, other part was provided by video producer. Acting staff was carefully selected, the plot and the script were approved and the filming started. After 2 days of video shooting we were able to combine art (opening scenes in the office) and technical (gameplay and voice) parts into this video trailer: [media][/media] Demolition Lander Kickstarter presentation I knew it would be better to add the voice of a native English speaker for the main game features and gameplay part voicing, but after collective discussion we decided not to use it at that time. Anyway, native speech makes a developer stand out from a crowd of developers that are foreign to a targeted customer. Texts, images, video, campaign design and presentation were ready. Our next challenge was to find a PR agent for promotion of our crowdfunding project. We focused on agencies that promised a flow of visitors on our campaign landing page for ultra-low budget (under $100). We found one, indeed, and started our collaboration. CrowdfundBuzz guaranteed traffic delivery to our campaign for one hundred dollars over the phone. They got their money and the project started. During the campaign there were some backers. Every one of them donated a certain amount of money and became a real fan of our games. CrowdfundBuzz really gave us some visitors, but none of the 1,000 hits per page turned into any financial investments. Apart from the official fundraising campaign, PR agency was running Twitter, Facebook and YouTube profiles. Since the use of aggressive following and spam mechanisms Twitter account was closed and YouTube threatened us with complete removal of our material from their website. After some manipulations with traffic on Facebook, about 600 subscribers with almost zero activity appeared. Our efforts brought us some money, but the goal was not achieved and our product was not known by anyone. We decided to cancel the crowdfunding campaign, think over all of the nuances and start again. First campaign infographics: collected funds First campaign infographics: video views The Second Campaign After the 1st try we were pondering for a long time over some improvements and new promotion methods that should be included in the second campaign. The main innovation was to increase our PR budget with a view to hire a reliable and experienced person for the upcoming campaign promotion. Welcome back, freelance. More than 10 candidates were revised, including Indian managers, who promised up to 10,000 visitors a day and few "veteran" PR persons, demanding a fee that is three times higher than our most ambitious goal on Kickstarter. We stopped at the PR manager from the United States, who seemed a surprisingly adequate person during our conversations and started our collective work instantly: rephrased existing texts, substituted them with a native speech, slightly polished our graphics and video. It is very important to understand that the key factor in achieving success is an interesting, exciting presentation movie. People always make their first impression looking at your video and then they read texts. The PR roadmap for a moderate budget looked like this: o Press release about the launch of our Kickstarter campaign distributed to bloggers, journalists and gaming press. o Active Facebook and Twitter accounts of the game o Subscription to YouTube channels of leading game reviewers and video bloggers. PR agency delivered some results: an article on Cliqist, GamerHeadlines and a few blog posts. In addition, the agent offered a variety of prizes after detailed research about certain topics: "the most popular payment amounts", "how much money does the average backer invest in game projects" and "what are the top prize lists offered by competitors." In our first campaign we offered 9 different rewards for those who supported us. Prizes depended on the contributed amount of money ($1 minimum). For one dollar we proposed to perpetuate Backer's name in game credits. For $5,000 or more we were ready to make backers co-authors, implement their ideas and keep them up to date with our latest news. Second campaign had 19 awards, including the "early bird" option for most popular investment options: 1, 4, 4EB, 10, 10EB, 15, 20EB, 25, 35EB, 45EB , 50, 100, 200EB, 350EB, 500, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000. Screenshot The second campaign started. This time we decided to ask our friends to invest some money in our project. We thought that their funding will make the project look alive in the eyes of potential investors. Kickstarter works pretty simple: funds displayed on the counter of the project are withdrawn from cardholder's account in case of successful campaign funding only. The Kickstarter community just makes a promise to transfer you some money, that's why contributions are called "pledges". As a result, our friends have funded a larger half from our campaign total. On the 11th day of our campaign we have received a negligible amount of traffic on Kickstarter and attracted about 20 investors. Then we decided to reanimate our project performing cross-promo with other games that were still running their campaigns too. The idea was to promote a partner's publications on our page in response to similar from a partner. I wanted to let everybody know about Demolition Lander! At least it did not require any additional costs. My plans could have been done, but I had to catch up only to 1 day. After hundreds of cross-promotional messages within one night, we were almost shut down for spamming. There was a tiny effect from such a process but it was far away from a total funding goal. Second campaign infographics: collected funds Second campaign infographics: video views Results Crowdfunding is a very complicated way for iOS game fundraising. Kickstarter is not the best platform for mobile game promotion as such. People think that console and PC games are more creative than mobile for some reason. That's why PC and console projects are getting their goal more likely than any other crowdfunding campaigns dedicated to video gaming. The bottom line is: try to start spreading news about your game and its plans to raise funds with the help of crowdfunding before you start any actual fundraising activity; create social media accounts, develop contacts with press and bloggers, let the world know about you while everything is on the stage of idea and invest more in PR. In spite of our multiple attempts to raise necessary amount of funds within crowdfunding platform, our team brought the project live on their own. Now there are 2 games available on the App Store: o Demolition Lander: Planet Earth. Free version with only one planet and one ship available. o Demolition Lander: Universe. Full version.
  2. Our team did only one action that could be considered as "spam" - we were suggesting cross promotion with other Kickstarter projects in our second campaign. It was only one personalized message to a number of project creators. As for the YouTube account - our first PR manager did some false manipulations with traffic to the game trailer video and we only found out about this when received warning from YouTube. Same goes to the Twitter account - when it was closed - we decided to end our business with CrowdfundBuzz. We never asked for such ways of promotion and they didn't say in the first place they would be using them.
  3. Introduction Hello, my name is Andrey Vlasenko. I live in Kharkiv, Ukraine. I am a software developer and work as a CIO in ApexTech company. I want to tell you about the creation of our game "Demolition Lander". To start with watch a small trailer that will give you an idea of how the result looks (shots of the game begin with the 50th second). [media][/media] Birth of the idea There is nothing worse than an idea stuck in your head. At first it's just looming at the back of your mind, then after an incubation period it makes you act. And so having worked in Enterprise software for about 7 years I have firmly decided that I want to try game development and create a game. A lot of time has passed since this decision was made and one day all of a sudden the idea has gained a concrete shape. Over lunch, my friend Sasha (CEO of ApexTech) and I discussed what kinds of games there used to be and what each of us liked to play. Both remembered the classic game from Atari - Lunar Lander. During the discussion, I began to draw a ship with two engines on a napkin, and it just happened that these engines were not symmetrical and aligned in different directions. We both smiled. That's it! Mechanics of Lunar Lander where ships are equipped with two engines, which in turn are controlled by separate joysticks. "It will be a hit!" In the future, the concept was extended by destructible levels and elements of action, but later about this. the first ship The first prototype. Multiplatform support. Selection of game engine. First mistakes I should start with the fact that the company decided to give a green light to this project, but only I was assigned to do it. We had planned the game for mobile devices, so naturally I thought about the multiplatform realization from the start. There were two variants of the game engine: cocos2d variations and Unity. After long discussions Unity was discarded due to the fact that this engine is good for 3D, and not so good for working with 2D. In addition to this I had some experience with cocos2d, and the choice was made in its favour. The first prototype was built on the cocos2d Javascript. The advantages of this technology are: code in Javascript the same code runs on virtually all platforms, including web browsers with support of HTML5 Cons were no less weighty: no matter how the developers of the engine may assure you - it runs slow compared to native implementations the implementation of a platform-dependent functional is pretty messy and curved In other words, for a full game it is necessary to implement natively all heavy and platform-dependent (like Game Center, or In-App Purchases) parts of the code. Then one should pull them through Javascript bindings and use in the main Javascript code. It is not fast and not a very pleasant process. the first prototype Hitting this rake, the position has been reconsidered. It was decided to do only a version for iOS on cocos2d-iphone so far. Despite the name, the engine works well both as on the iPhone and other Apple devices running iOS. We started to implement physics using Chipmunk 2D. Some might ask - why not Box2D? The answer is simple, at the time of the first prototype, Javascript bindings in cocos2d have been implemented only for Chipmunk. In the transition to native cocos2d-iphone, we decided to leave it as it is, and never regretted the decision. Gameplay. Is there one? A few weeks of development passed. Prototype was ready. Game mechanics were ready. Everything is flying, engines are spinning, levels are large. It seemed that just a bit more and it can be put in the App Store. But playing this game was boring. And that means one thing - gameplay is missing. Here are the elements of the game mechanics that have been implemented at the time: big level with a bunch of flat ground stations on which it is necessary to land for refuelling ship equipped with two engines, which can be operated synchronously by one joystick, and separately by two joysticks the purpose of the game - finish the level without breaking the ship After collective brainstorming the following elements were planned: tuning the ship in all specifications spheres with energy, which helps you to buy upgrades and fly to new distant planets boxes for ship repair underground caves fuel cans for caves destructible surface of the level weapons for ships - bombs danger zones - a zone which damages a ship over some time period active and passive traps - mines and anti-aircraft guns unique to each level artifacts hidden away deep in the caves the aim of the game remains the same While approving the new features it was decided to expand the team to 4 people. Dimensions of a level I always felt excited playing games which offered a large space to move about without any restrictions or additional loading lags and I was keen to implement a similar experience in Demolition Lander. Levels in the game are huge. If you draw the entire level, you get an image of 65,536 by 16,384 in size. And this is not the limit - you can enlarge them to 65,536 by 65,536 without any loss of performance, yet I have imagined the playing process as horizontal flight above ground with periodic exploration of underground caves. Levels of the game consists of the following elements: level mask - greyscale relief texture 2048 by 512 (which scales by 32 when overlayed) texture of soil, crust, crust pattern and the texture for mixing all textures together imposed on a stretched mask tile map with textures of the sky and stars level mask textures of terrain, crust, crust pattern and texture mix tile map of the sky rendered level as a result Rendering algorithm of the level consists of two parts - loading the layers of the sky and creating a parallax; loading land textures and initializing a shader that mixes these textures. Creating the destructible land surface One of the most spectacular features of the game demanded a very responsible approach to implementation. Destruction of the surface must be fast, synchronized with the boundaries of the physical body of the level and graphical display. To create and update the physical boundaries of the land we used a feature of Chipmunk 2D Pro, which scans the terrain texture mask of the level and creates a set of tiles with the boundary lines. In the future, when traveling on the ship through the level the surrounding tiles with lines are reprocessed, and the old ones are unloaded from memory. Deformation itself is done as a change in texture of the mask in the corresponding places and reprocessing of tiles with physical boundaries. Graphically it is displayed instantly when drawing the next frame - it is a result of physics engine and terrain shader using the same mask. physics debug layer is rendered Is the game ready? - No When you have a fully working game with exciting game mechanics, it seems that App Store is close as ever. But the levels with names like Test1, Test2 and one rectangular ship without any sane design suggests otherwise. It's time for design and content. We engaged in creating the content ourselves. Types of ships, their names, characteristics, names of the planets, the number of in-game money at every level - this all was decided at the following brainstorming sessions. For the art design we decided to hire a freelancer. And not just a freelancer, a citizen of India with an outstanding portfolio, excellent English and what seemed to be common sense. People are surprisingly deceptive. Starting with the fact that he just did not get in touch periodically, ending with disgusting quality drawings and misunderstanding of the basic things that we wanted him to do. At the same time model of behavior of the person was surprisingly consistent - "OK, sir. No problem. It will be done". [spoiler] example of his work [/spoiler] After a week of wasted time the freelancer was fired and we were looking for a designer to join the team on a permanent basis. Search of an art designer is easier for those who understand something in artwork. We do not. We were deciding by the portfolios. If we liked it, we invited the person for a meeting. That way we stumbled upon a unique "creator". His portfolio was amazing, a great number of beautiful high-quality graphics in a variety of styles, hand sketches, 3D models. Invited him over, chatted for a bit. He seemed to be an adequate person. In the evening a colleague sends everyone a link to one of the pictures of the candidate. It wasn't his drawing, as with 80% of the rest of the portfolio. Moral - people lie, and Google Images is good for finding pictures. In the end we managed to find an artist who coped quite successfully with the assigned objectives and became an indispensable part of our team. anti-aircraft gun and a black hole explosion of a bomb Optimization and memory leaks Another couple of months have passed. Design and content were ready. On actual levels the game was performing too slow and crashing periodically after a certain time. We began to search for memory leaks and ways to optimize performance. Of memory leaks the blocks and their common use with the ARC were the weakest spot. In second place - wrong construction of the object graph, namely strong references to objects that contain each other (even through multiple nested objects). The optimization of performance came down to one principle - to draw and process only objects in sight of the ship and within the reach of bombs. Summary. Readiness - 90% Half a year of development. Almost finished game. End of capability for its funding. Remaining: art on some planets / levels refinement of sound and music optimization for older Apple devices testing and once again testing Scheduled: multiplayer more types of weapons planets and more levels port to mobile platforms, Ouya, PC and MAC What could have been done better Firstly - do not fantasize about the timing of development. Initial expectations were to spend a couple of months. Secondly, find an art designer for the team and begin his part together with the development. It would have saved a lot of time. And no freelancers. And thirdly - we should have shown the game to everyone whom it might interest, from the first prototype to the current state. That could have collected a certain base of people who already "know" and "talk" about Demolition Lander by the time the project was launched on Kickstarter. Campaign on Kickstarter Campaign on Kickstarter deserves a separate article, which, if I get a chance I will definitely write. In short, the fundamental success factors for financing are: a fan base, brand creator and / or product awareness. We have now launched a second campaign to raise funds for Demolition Lander. First had to be canceled due to a failure of PR strategy. What will happen to the second - is not clear, but the worrying is building up.