This weekend the entire Angry Goat Games studio (i.e. the two of us) decided to take a trip to get out of the city and away from the hustle and bustle of our busy work lives. We drove up to the snowy mountain tops of Northern California, found a nice cabin in the middle of the woods with great Wifi, and spent the whole weekend working on our games! That may sound strange - we left town to get away from work, only to work some more? Well for us it was a welcome reprieve.
Guess what we did?! The pine trees have sent us their creative juices and we finished the Snavi world map!
Burnout is real. The last two months I had been working 14-18 hour days at my other non-game dev job, from sun-up to well past sun-down. I was feeling extremely burned out, and honestly just ready to do anything else for a change. On top of that I wasn't getting any work done on our game studio and desperately wanted to work on our game Snavi since it's so close to release! I knew that I needed to take some time off to get away from that job and focus on what makes me happy, which is game development. So that's exactly what I did. I requested a few extra days off this weekend and we ended up working on our Snavi game development with one of the most beautiful backdrops.
Make sure to take care of yourself. If you are burned out (and it isn't always obvious that you are), your creative energy and motivation is completely zapped, and you are not doing yourself or your studio any good by trying to "force it". Take a break, and you will come back super refreshed and able to solve problems a lot quicker than you might expect :-)
We decided to go up to some snowy mountains in Northern California. This was the perfect place to get away. Working amongst the snowy pines, my trusted laptop and Unity in front of me and the snowy trees surrounding me, really helped bring my mental spirits back up. Here are some not-at-all-game-dev-related photos from the trip!
Finishing up Snavi
We worked 100% on getting our upcoming first game Snavi finished up and ready to be released! I spent some time tweeting some gameplay footage from the game as well as posting a Reddit post. I also posted a #screenshotsaturday post!
I haven't done much with social media before, but social media and marketing is extremely important for start up studios. While coming up with a list of actions we need to take pre and post launch of Snavi, I came across a really nice list of contacts to send new indie games for review (review websites, Youtubers that play indie games, etc). It can be found here. While I don't know if we are going to blitz the media with reviews for Snavi, we may try to contact TouchArcade.com and a few other well-known review sites.
We also decided to do a give-away on our Twitter account once Snavi is out. We will have more details in the coming weeks, but we believe this might give us a chance to get some viral traction of the game on Twitter. While looking around for guidelines on giveaways on social media, I came across this handy reference (How to Run a Social Media Giveaway to Increase Your Brand Reach). It looks incredibly useful!
We also finished up the development work on Snavi. Mary is currently going through all of the 105 levels and making sure there are no last-minute bugs. I finished up the world map GUI and got our iOS app page ready to be launched.
Here is some gameplay footage!
Last weekend we went ahead and worked on our final update of our first game Snavi. Snavi has been out for beta testing on iOS and Android for about 7 months now, and since then dozens of people have played the game (ranging from hardcore gamers to super casual peeps that never play a single game). We've gotten some awesome feedback!
The final update of Snavi addresses the following:
There was no music in the original release, and the feedback was clear. People have stated it would be nice to have music in this game! I didn't expect this, due to the nature of the game. Most of the times when I play casual puzzle games on my phone, I usually do so without sound on. Perhaps this was a personal preference, but apparently there are more people in the world than just myself and I need to account for them :-) We will be adding some chill music to this release. I've gone around looking for royalty and royalty-free music on the web. I could compose my own, but at this point we are prioritizing getting a production-ready game out the door as soon as possible, and my composition skills are a bit rusty.
The original Snavi beta release (actually called "Snavity") had a linear progression of levels. For each major world/region in the game, we introduce 1-2 new puzzle elements. Initially we tried to have the difficulty ramp like this:
The game is composed of 7 "worlds" of 15 levels each. Each world adds a new puzzle element/mechanism. In each world, the first 5 levels introduce new mechanic. The next 5 levels introduce another new mechanic. The last next 5 levels of a world are combination of those mechanics and all mechanics that came before, and get progressively harder in difficulty. This repeats for each world.
This had a few downsides. The first was that players must proceed through all 15 levels linearly to get to the next world. Since the levels get harder in each world, the player may not even get to see the next world's game mechanic which adds spice/variety to the game and should motivate them to keep going. Instead they just decide to quite right there. The other downside is there isn't really a way to make levels "optional".
So the requirements we wanted were:
1) Each world gets progressively harder.
2) The hardest levels in each world are optional.
3) A visual way to show the player the levels are optional.
4) Some mechanism to "force" the player to play at least some of the optional/hard levels before they are able to finish the game.
There wasn't really a visual way to show this feature to the player, so we originally punted and just left the linear mechanic in there.
Well.... apparently the game is harder than we thought, and players weren't even getting to some of the cooler mechanics because they were stuck on really early worlds and gave up the game.
So we decided to solve it with a ... *drum roll* ... world map!
The first version world map looked like this:
Not very exciting, just a linear selection of cards/levels (although I put in a lot of work to get that card swipe to feel "good", and I was proud of it considering the version of Unity I was using had a known bug where scroll rects on mobile were super slow and I had to some crazy hacks for optimization on mobile). To show optional levels, we would have to force the player to exit the levels when they completed the "basic" levels, then scroll to next world. Or if the game placed them on the next world automatically, they wouldn't think to swipe to see the "optional" levels that came before it.
With a world map, the player can visually see that they have choices - once they get to branch spot, they can continue to new region with new mechanics, or continue to harder levels of the same variety in the same region.
The new version looks like this:
Which allows us to mark all our check boxes for requirements for what we wanted to show the player, and I think will look much better over all!
To encourage players to play at least some of the harder levels in the game, we added a gate to the final levels. Performing a full completion of a single world will give you a key. To beat the game and get to the last world of the game, you will need at least a few keys. This way players can't simply coast to the end without playing some of the harder levels of the game, if they want to beat it.
A few players reported that the spikes were confusing since they visually protruded from the walls a bit further than cell borders. While you only die if you fall on a spike or walk over it, some players found that initially they were nervous to "graze" when they walked by as they weren't sure what would happen.
To address this, we will be moving the spikes a bit inward and the points will be flush with the cell boundaries.
This is one of those details I wouldn't have realized without player feedback. In general, it seems more casual games or non-gamers gave this feedback more than hardcore gamers. Other games have the same kind of "protruding" spike, and the more of these games I play I just got "used" to it. So it probably has become second nature to expect this type of thing.
This is how spikes looked before:
After pulling them in a bit, and adding some border around them, this is what they look like now:
This more accurately shows that the spikes are in the ground, and will only hurt if you step on them.
That's it for the major changes. We look forward to presenting more details soon when we release the final Snavity Game :-D
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