Monday, December 31, 2012

A look back at 2012

What a crazy year this has been! I can think of a ton of ways I've improved as a developer these past twelve months, and even more ways I could get even better, but let's focus on what happened first.

I started out the year by experimenting with a bunch of ideas, both for games as well as how to make those games. I still find Flash to be the most useful platform to build games on based on how easy ActionScript is to learn and understand compared to other programming languages. Flash's flexibility to run on many platforms also gives me a lot more confidence in using it, too, and that proved to be a lifesaver recently.

Around March, I started using the Starling framework that gives a huge performance boost for Flash on mobile devices, and after a small learning curve, I've grown to love and and continue to use it for, well, everything. I'm hoping at some point to give Unity a genuine try, too--from what I have seen so far, it seems to have similar qualities to those that make me love using Flash and Starling so much.

This year, I released two iOS games, Bugs and Bacon and Fight on State. I'm pleased with the way that both turned out (I mean, I wouldn't have released them if I wasn't 100% confident in their quality), but Fight on State is the one that really stood out.

And really, I've never been so proud of a game as I am with FOS. It has been successful both critically and in popularity, with about a 99% rating overall on the app store and over 9,000 downloads between iOS and Android devices (there's another first for me too--releasing something on Android)!

I attribute the biggest factor to this success in that I, for once, was not working alone. Many Blue Band members gave great positive and constructive feedback, which encouraged me to continue developing it--that itself being no easy task, as I was student teaching and marching in the Blue Band at the same time.

However, there was one person who had the biggest impact on the success of the game--not to mention the game's very existence. Becky Guldin won't take credit for coming up with the original idea for the game, but it's completely true. She might have thought she was just throwing out some crazy ideas when she talked to me after I showed her Bugs and Bacon, but if I learned only one thing this year, it's this: if an idea doesn't sound crazy at first, it's probably not a very interesting one.

One of my biggest problems with developing games prior to FOS was letting people know that the games exist in the first place. Becky, on the other hand, is a natural at this, and I learned a crazy amount just by watching her. Over 3,000 downloads on release day? If that doesn't tell you that there's an incredibly intelligent person behind the PR, nothing does.

So, yes, I have learned so much this year: I learned how to create games using new frameworks, I learned that I am capable of doing about ten quadrillion things at once without missing a beat (left, right, left, right), and I learned just how beneficial it can be to surround yourself with smart, supportive people.

I don't know what's in store for 2013. Since I just graduated from Penn State, I'll be a substitute teacher for a little while, but hopefully I'll find a full-time teaching job soon. In the meantime, I'll be developing away--not just games, but hopefully I can create other things that resonate with people as well. I'm already tinkering with a few ideas for non-gaming apps that I'm pretty excited about.

But games, too. Of course games. Lots of games.

Here's to a fun--and crazy--2013!

Friday, December 14, 2012

FOS for Android now available + a new update for iOS

I really need to get used to keeping this blog up-to-date more often. Since my last post, we released version 1.1.0 for iOS, which included a bonus multiplier for collecting music notes while running as well as a new mini-game in which you eat waves of gameday cookies for points. But now...

Fight on State is available for Android through Google Play and (any time now) the Amazon App Store! We were surprised by the huge demand for an Android version, so naturally we took the challenge. Thankfully, since the game was built in Flash, it wasn't too difficult to port. This is my first time making a game for Android, so I get to feel all accomplished and stuff now.

Additionally, the new 1.2.0 update for the iOS version just went live, which features a new bonus round in which you follow the drum major doing arm stretches before rehearsal.

Additionally, I replaced a lot of graphics temporarily with Christmas-themed ones, including a new app icon.

Since student teaching and Blue Band season is over, I'll have a bit more free time to work on games and other projects (and hopefully update this blog), but that's all for now!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

FOS Update 1.0.1

I'm busier than ever with student teaching and Blue Band, so I haven't had a chance to write about how Fight on State has done since its launch over 2 weeks ago.

However, don't let that understate the success this game as already seen: we've gotten over 6000 downloads since launch (over 3000 the first day), and there's plenty more every day. FOS rose to be the 148th most popular free game on the app store on its launch day, as well as placing high in its genre categories (rising to the 30's and 40's in each).

I can't thank all of you enough for supporting what started out as just a crazy idea, especially for the 76-and-counting 5-star reviews on the app store.

I was working on an update to the game since before it even launched, and it has just gone live. I rewrote a ton of code to improve its performance on all devices, especially the iPhone 4, on which it runs much more smoothly now. I also added silks and majorettes to the ranks of marchers. You were not forgotten!

There's also a little secret that you can find if you are really good or really lucky, though only members of the Blue Band will likely be able to truly appreciate it. See if you can find it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fight on State

It's only been a few weeks since I released Bugs and Bacon, but there's another game I've been working on for the past couple months... and it's going to be released this Wednesday, October 24!

Fight on State is a game based on the Penn State Blue Band, which I have been a member of for almost 5 years now. I was showing Bugs and Bacon off to fellow trumpet Becky Guldin, who suggested that it would really cool if there was a game about the Blue Band and tossed out the idea of the drum major running through the band at the beginning of pregame.

We laughed about such a crazy idea... then I went home and built a prototype in just a couple days.

As soon as I showed her what I put together (using a stripped-down version of the code behind Bugs and Bacon), I knew we were onto something special. This was confirmed when we showed the prototype to Dr. Bundy. I've never seen him giggle like that, especially when he saw the drum major's flip (and yes, "giggle" is the best word to describe it).

I built the prototype as a see-what-I-can-do kind of thing, but then things started to get serious. I redrew all of the graphics (maybe I'll post a before/after comparison later) as well as a ton more and began to flesh the game out. I've never worked so hard on a game before, and this was happening as I was student teaching and marching in the Blue Band!

We added more features, like a whiteout round and a feature twirler minigame. The ability to get a speed boost from music notes to plow through the football players was also a very late addition, but probably my favorite part.

We decided to release the game for free, and Becky had the brilliant idea of putting THON donation links in it, so I hope the game has a positive impact on the world. This is really the most important game I've ever had the chance to work on, in more ways than one.

I'm still floored by the number of people who are excitedly anticipating the game's release, made obvious by how quickly its Facebook page has grown--all thanks to Becky's incredible PR work. She's not taking nearly enough credit for what she has done for this game, so if you see her, give her a big high-five.

Well, that's about it for now. I've never been so excited to launch a game, but the time is almost here!

Friday, October 5, 2012

B&B Now Available!

You can zap bugs and grab bacon on you iDevices now!

Now I have to go teach some algebra and march in a parade. What a crazy day!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

B&B Approved, Launching 10/5

Apple just approved Bugs and Bacon, and it will be released tomorrow, October 5th! (Only a day late, but who's counting?)

I'll add a link as soon as it launches!

Monday, September 24, 2012

B&B Release Date: October 4!

I'm happy to announce that Bugs and Bacon should be released on October 4! This of course is pending Apple approval, but assuming all goes well, you'll be able to play it in barely over a week from the time I'm writing this.

Since I'm student teaching full-time and marching in the Penn State Blue Band, I've been swamped with things to do, which has really slowed down my ability to work on the game. But with every ounce of free time and brain juice I had left, I've finally managed to get Bugs and Bacon to a point where I'm proud to show it to the world.

I'll keep you updated on the status of the game, but until then, I've got math stuff to teach to a bunch of high-schoolers.

For a lot of information on Bugs and Bacon all in one place, click here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hey look, a video

Here's a video showing off a lot of the features of Bugs and Bacon. That's it.

Oh, I'll be submitting to Apple for approval soon, I promise. I'm beginning student teaching this semester, so who knows how much time I'll have to focus on development, so I want to wait until I have a better grasp of all of the crazy things that are about to happen.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

B&B Progress Update

It's been a crazy couple weeks since my last post, and I haven't been able to work on Bugs and Bacon as much as I would have liked in that time. That being said, I managed to cut the amount of memory the game uses while playing by 2/3, which feels like enough of an accomplishment for that amount of time. It's running at a smooth 60 frames per second at all times on my iPhone 4S, and my friends testing it on their devices are also pleased.

Just about the last thing left to do now is implement Game Center support, which I'm trying to figure out for the first time. I hope to finish soon, as the fall semester has almost caught up to me. I'll be student teaching at a nearby high school along with playing in the Blue Band, so my schedule is about to get pretty hectic for the next few months. However, I won't be ignoring game development the whole time, as I hope it will help me keep my sanity as the pressures of life arise. (These experiences are supposed to build character, right?)

Friday, August 3, 2012

B&B's Icon

I'm trying to make sure I keep this blog regularly updated now that I've revealed Bugs and Bacon, so now would be a good time to show off the app icon that will be representing it. It's the Zen Mantis (one of the bugs you will be capturing) behind a backdrop of bacon.

I think it does a good job of summing up the game, or at least the game's title. Let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions for how to improve it. I know some games can become successful despite terrible icons (or maybe some are so bad that they add to the games' successes), but I want to do everything in my power to to make my game as attractive as possible. I've read many articles about the iOS gaming space, and quite a few state that a good app icon can mean the difference between someone checking out a game versus passing it over.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Introducing: Bugs and Bacon

Many of my favorite iOS games are the "simple" score-centric types (like Jetpack Joyride and Ziggurat) that I can quickly play during short waits. Those kinds of games (and my limited amount of time between college semesters) inspired me to develop a game with a similar mentality, albeit one with a unique premise. I present to you:

Bugs and Bacon is a game about taking risks. Your goal is to capture as many bugs as possible inside of bubbles and direct those bubbles (using swipe controls) into a bug zapper to score points. You have a limited number of bubbles, so you'll need to grab as many bugs as you can with each. However, one touch of a bee's stinger (or a number of other obstacles) will pop your bubble, and you'll watch as all your captured bugs fly away!

As you play, you will begin to account for your own limitations. How many bees can I avoid at one time? Should I risk everything to grab one more bug?

Okay, so you're probably wondering, "What about the bacon?"

The "bacon" part of the title is the other way you can score points. While you are maneuvering your bubbles around the screen, strips of bacon will fall from the sky. You can touch them to score some extra points (or capture them in your bubble to be zapped).

This circles back to the whole "risk-taking" aspect of the game. You could simply think of the bacon as a distraction and ignore it—or you could go out of your way to grab every single strip to give your score that extra little boost it needs.

Plus, you're rewarded with a very satisfying sizzle when you touch them. Just saying.

So now you might be thinking, "Why does bacon fall from the sky? That's crazy!" To that I reply, "Why, yes. Yes it is."

One of my main design decisions for this game was to include any ideas that I thought would make it more enjoyable, no matter how crazy or stupid they sounded. In fact, the more crazy or stupid, the better.

This led me to create some interesting bugs for the player to capture, like a praying mantis on a flying carpet that can teleport away if a bubble gets too close. Additionally, there is a handful of power-ups you can use to improve your score.

I'm particularly proud of the "Disco Fever" power-up that replaces the bug zapper with a disco ball. It also prevents bees from appearing for a while, since bees are terrified of disco music. Obviously.

There is so much more that I could say about this game, such as explaining all of the unlockable bugs and power-ups or how many stats the game will keep track of, but I'lll save that for later. Look for Bugs and Bacon on the app store within the next few weeks for $0.99 (and no IAP's).

I'd love to discuss any questions, comments, or suggestions you might have! You can leave a reply here, hit me up on Twitter @mgbesong, or email me at