The creation of the idea
I have been doing interface design for mobile platforms and Web already for several years. That is why I decided to try something new. Without thinking for long I have decided to create a mobile game for children in the shortest terms. While working full-time it was not possible to spend a substantial amount of time on this side project. The only thing left was to choose the genre of the future game. After a short research of the mobile market I definitively stopped on the Hidden Object Game genre for the following reasons:
simplicity of its implementation
Understandable game mechanics
low costs of time and money
The fact that the number of installed games for this genre (just on Google Play) had passed the figure of 100,000 was an additional impetus.
Deeper into the subject
I continued my research and began to study the subject deeper. At first it seemed that this genre is not particularly intricate and does not have any pitfalls. But everything was not so simple. Both Google Play and the App Store were full of representatives of this genre, although these games were not essentially different. I then began to read comments in order to find out what was wrong with the competing games and to form an idea of the product which could really be enjoyed by the user. Taking positive feedback for analysis was pointless, therefore I decided to examine negative comments in a more detailed manner.
This information gave some key principles for the game structure:
the distribution of the small objects on the playing area must be uniform and based on the volume;
the number of the hidden objects should not exceed 10 units;
the hidden objects must be in the context of the environment of the game;
the time for the level completion should be optimal;
the contrast of the background and the objects must be acceptable, it is important to avoid the merging of both;
the game should be played equally well on all screen sizes from smartphone to tablet;
the advertisement should not interfere with the game play and distract the user.
After defining these base principles it was high time to get to work.
Because of the relative simplicity of the project I didn't need a large team. I just needed a designer and a programmer. I took the duties of the designer myself because I knew how to implement the graphic part of the game, design of the levels and animation. The remaining task was to find a programmer who would elegantly formalize an idea into program code. The search for a programmer lasted a week. I invited a student from the local university of our small town. This student cleverly passed the improvised interview. Together we had a very short period of time, so the work was organized in the following way:
all communication was conducted through software like Skype and Trello
the control of the versions was conducted through Bitbucket and a client Sourcetree
the major part of graphics (mostly vector) was taken from photo stocks in order to save time
the music was taken from the audiostock Audiojungle
the engine was from Unity3D (a free version of the product was sufficient)
Although we live in the same city my cooperation with the programmer didn't leave the frame of social networks. On average we spent a few hours per day because both of us had major employment. The working process became a pleasure rather than a burden because we both have been learning during this process. As a result, our project was ready for publication on Google Play in two months. Of course, it was impossible to realize all the features that we wanted in full scale. Therefore we decided to follow the principles of a Lean Startup and to present the minimal version of the product in order to improve it with the help of the user's comments.
The monetizing and promotion
We released the game on Google Play for free. The webpage ads from Admob became the optimal way for monetizing. A plug-in for Unity named Neatplug which gave the opportunity to reflect ads for Android, iOS and Windows Mobile was bought for its implementation. It is needless to say that because of the indie status of the project it was pointless to attract publishers for the game. We took the promotion totally on our shoulders. As we do not have a lot of money we do not have an opportunity to spend it on advertisement. If somehow financial resources arrive, we can prepare a review of the game on thematic websites. On average such a review will cost us from 5$ to 300$, depending on the rate of the website. It is hard to evaluate the reasonability of such PR without even trying, but we are looking forward to it.
At this stage we have the following costs:
Android Account -- 25$
iOS account -- 100$
Windows Mobile account -- 14$
Admob plugin Neatplug -- 92$
sounds -- 40$
The results of our activity are presented below:
the published game Cities & Animals in Google Play
the published game to App Store
we are preparing the release of the game on Windows Store (in a week)
the website www.cities-and-animals.dreamforestgames.com is ready
promo video with game play
+1 for the experience in game development:)
We still have a lot to get through in the goal of implementation and outputs. In some time we plan to promote our product in a more aggressive way and to improve it.