Unity 5

Posted by admin on October 28, 2014
Development, Games / No Comments

I’ve been using Unity 4 for a while now and I have released a few games with it on Windows Phone, iOS, Android and Windows 8. I love its approach to game design and its expandability. It is also a hugely supported platform and its asset store can really make a difference when you feel like you don’t want to reinvent the wheel but lack of a multi-disciplinary team to take care of things. Recently I was in Zurich for a presentation by Andy Touch of Unity who showed off a few really exciting things about the upcoming version of Unity, Unity 5. Boy I can’t wait for the final version!

Yesterday, Unity announced the availability of Unity 5 beta for pre-orders and subscribers. Since I already had Unity 4 Pro, preordering Unity 5 Pro came with a huge discount and the availability of the beta pushed me off the edge. I was going to get Unity 5 in the end, so better sooner than later:) So I got my hands on Unity 5 beta as a bonus and I’ve been playing around with it since yesterday.

At first, the environment seems to be more or less the same as before. That’s a good thing, since upgrading only to find that everything is different can really disrupt your daily work flow. I’ve made a copy of my latest project (this is STILL a beta, so no chances taken) and loaded it up on the new system. Unity 5 happily upgraded my project and scripts and loaded everything just fine. What I noticed immediately was how faster and more fluid the dev environment feels. Granted, I have 32GB of RAM on my system and the new editor is (finally) 64 bit so this plays a role I guess. My taskbar also has quite a few different Unity icons since I am doing some … things with different platforms and up until now each platform required a special build of Unity. Unity 5 seems to … unite the platforms since now I can see more or less everything in the Build menu. The licensing thing will get sorted out I get since my “normal” Pro license it not enabled with building to my other platforms (yet). But having a Unified Unity is a good step:)

I have not played with the One Shader yet (One Shader To Rule Them All – Unity 5 includes a nice physical based shader for all your shading needs that blew our mind at the demo) and I am dying to see the global illumination part, but one thing at a time. All the new 2D stuff is there of course (with some nice additions to the 2D physics engine) and I will definitely try out the new UI system. I’ve been using NGUI so far and I am fairly happy with it, but having something integrated in the system is a good thing, even as an option. The new sound system looks intimidating, since I am less than familiar with sound editing and engineering but again, it’s nice to know it’s there:)

Finally I would like to mention Unity cloud. I think they guys over there at Unity are definitely moving to the right direction, trying to provide a really complete package for game developers, especially indies, and that includes cloud services. This includes ads for all platforms, which might end up to be a big thing if they perform well, since it’s a pain to manage so many different ad sources on different platforms. I hope they go on implementing gaming services like leaderboards and achievements since in some platforms (I am looking at you Microsoft) an easily accessible framework does not exist.

Overall, Unity 5 will be a game changer:)

MonsterUp and MonsterUp Adventures on Android

Posted by admin on June 30, 2014
Android, Development, Games / No Comments

MonsterUp and MonsterUp Adventures were both built for Windows Phone first using pure XNA and C#. This made it a bit tough to port them to iOS and Android, but not impossible. I did port them to both eventually, using the excellent Xamarin technology and the open source framework MonoGame. On iOS, things are quite simple, since there are very specific devices I needed to test the final games on, and also very specific iOS versions, since the majority of people seem to be on the latest or second to latest version anyway. On Android, things are much more complicated than that.

In order to do the best I can for Android, I have thoroughly tested the game on a Nexus 4, a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a Samsung Galaxy S2. In my mind, most people use Samsung Android phones and these 2 seemed to cover a large percentage of the market, including the wildly popular 2.x version. Also, the Nexus made sure that at least the game runs on pure vanilla Android the way that it should. I released the games with this in mind, but I also released them for free, knowing that a percentage of people might still have issues with them. The reality proved much worse than I imagined. The games were downloaded more than 20’000 times on Android but people who had problems running the games are many many more than I expected. Even on the same devices I already had tested the game, people seem unable to open and play. And boy, they didn’t like it:) Even though it was a free game, many of them decided to leave 1 star reviews, with the result being the game to currently have a 3.7/5 and 3.24/5 average rating. Given that MonsterUp Adventures on Windows Phone has more than 4.5/5, I am not worried that this means something for the quality of the game, but rather the specific Android build just isn’t working as it should.

The complexities involved in porting such a game from XNA to Android are a lot, including a (rather expensive) middleware, such as Xamarin, which is pretty stable, an open source framework like MonoGame which can be pretty stable but can also have its ups and downs and unlimited different device configuration, custom roms, weird customizations etc. that just cannot be anticipated.

In conclusion, I have decided to pull the two games from the Play Store for the time being, until I find a way to make more stable builds, which is a bit unlikely in my current state, but I might try to do in the future. I am guessing people who already have and enjoy the game can continue to do so, but I am not sure if they will be able to get the games again if the delete them from their device. I hope I can come up with a solution for that in the future.

The iOS and Windows Phone versions work much better and will remain as is for now. These platforms are much more stable and predictable and as a developer, I like them much more for that :) It’s a pity that Android has dominated emerging market with their crappy cheap phones, and I would MUCH rather see people buying cheap Lumias like the 520, which offer a MUCH better user experience and a MUCH more stable platform for almost the same money.

Play the original Mario here!

Posted by admin on April 08, 2014
Games, Web / No Comments

Everybody knows the original NES Mario game right? Did any of you spend hours and hours on this game back in the day? Well, get ready to spend some more, I came across an awesome HTML 5 FULL version of the game which you can play all you want here:

http://www.karios.gr/mario

This version includes a level editor, a random level generator and all the awesomeness you remember from your childhood! Enjoy!

 

What is going on with the App Store rankings lately? – updated

Posted by admin on February 08, 2014
Apps, Development, Games / No Comments

The first shock was the crappy Flappy Bird game. Unimaginative, repetitive, with “borrowed” graphic concepts and not fun at all. Some people were driven to insanity just by playing. And nobody really liked it.

But it reached #1 in the US App Store almost overnight. “What? How?” I hear you ask, crying a little inside for all the countless nights you spent perfecting you awesome mobile game, and never reaching 100 downloads in the process. And to add insult to injury, the guy announced that he is making $50K. A day. From ad revenue. I mean, wtf.

And then there was another, this time even worse. As reported in Pocket Gamer, a game called Red Bouncing Ball Spikes practically leaped to #1 overnight. And what’s worse is that the “developer” didn’t even make the game, the game is just a template for  GaleSalad, which you get for $10. Sounds like a good deal right?

But the fun doesn’t seem to stop. Following the story, I see other crappy little games (Ironpants, Super Ball Juglling [yes, "juglling" or so it says on the screenshot and it's from the same developer that launched flappy bird], , jumping to #1, all of them overnight. What gives?

Doing a little research quickly resulted in the method they used. Quite simple really. It seems that there are a couple of shady companies that do the following: As a developer, you cough up an amount (let’s say $5000) which they partly(they do keep a share of course) use to buy your game in mass using fake bot accounts.  70% of that goes back to you, so you end up paying something like $2K-$3K to get to #1 in the App Store. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such cheap promotion before.

Haven’t found the name of the companies, but I really hope Apple finds a way to stop this and deny payment to these developers, because this is as big a scam as they come. Many many people are trying to make a living through this, juggling with design, development, marketing, networking day in-day out (myself included) only to see their rankings and downloads rise oh-so-slowly and this really makes me angry.

Update:

There are more! Apart from Flappy Bird and Super Ball Juggling, developer nguyen has Shuriken Block. Now, take a look at these ranking changes and tell me if you think they are legit. All of then. AT THE SAME TIME. Remember, the games have been in the App Store for 6 months, and the developer has admitted that he has done zero promotion work for them. Now do the math.

flappy shuriken superball

 

A small holiday wish from Karios Games and me!

Posted by admin on December 23, 2013
General / No Comments