Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PetBook Woes

The last app I worked on before focusing on the Android Developer Challenge II was PetBook, a little app that let's you store information such as groomer and vet info about any number of pets, and create photo albums for each pet. There's an analogous app for the iPhone, and I since DogWhistle had done so well, I thought this would be a popular app. I was wrong. The app has had 25 downloads, with 17 active installs. That's a flop.

Things got a bit worse. I'd tried to drop the price from $2.99 to $1.99 several times, but for some reason the price was not updating properly. So I thought I would toggle from free back to paid. Big mistake...that isn't allowed. If you change a paid app to free in the market, you absolutely cannot change it back to paid. I'm not sure why the market is built this way, but oh well. So I had to unpublish that version, change the package name, recompile the app, and resubmit it to get it back on the market in a paid version. Lame.

Recently this site posted a positive review of the app, but it certainly hasn't led to any sales. I'm tempted to just make it free so that people can use it. I worked pretty hard on that app and learned quite a few new things, such as using XML for persistence in Android and how to handle images and image galleries. I think it's one of my best apps and I hate to see it lay there unused.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mark Murphy on ADC2

Mark Murphy has some advice regarding the Android Developer Challenge 2. Unfortunately it's coming about two weeks before submissions start, but it's still useful.

Basically he suggests publishing a draft of the submission app on August 1st on the Android Market, before submitting it in the contest, in order to get some early feedback to allow for revisions. That would be nice, but I'm just not going to have my app ready by then. Some version of it will be ready by the end of August, but I'm just not going to have enough time to solicit feedback.

He also says to make sure the app isn't buggy. Kind of obvious. And that might be a problem for me. Again, I don't have much time, and this is the most complicated app I've done so far, so there might be bugs. I'm especially worried about out of memory errors, since I'm using a lot of resources.

The four criteria for judging are supposed to be:

  • originality
  • effective use of the platform
  • aesthetics
  • indispensability

I think I'm doing well under each of those criteria. Murphy recommends focusing more on aesthetics, under the premise that judges will have a subjective bias for prettier, slicker apps and unconsciously weight that criteria more.

He also says to try to pick an underrepresented category. Again, probably too late with the advice there. My app most certainly will not fall under anything but a game category.

Another piece of advice is to localize the app, which seems a little strange. The rules state the app must be in English. Murphy thinks multi-language support would score brownie points...but how would you decide which ones to implement?

Finally the best advice is to keep things in perspective. ADC1 had about 1,700 apps and ADC2 will only have 30 winners. I think my concept and design is great, but the implementation will most definitely fall short of my original scope. The hope is that users and judges will enjoy what is implemented and will want to invest in seeing the game fleshed out. I would consider making the final cut (20 apps from each category, or 200 apps) a victory, but even if I don't make it that far, I will still have a workable prototype, will have learned a great deal while making the game, and will still have a viable app to release on the market.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Revenue for June

Despite not releasing any new apps last month, my revenue from sales and advertising was right at $400. Sales were actually up over the previous month by about $30, but advertising continued to slide by about $80. When it comes to advertising in apps, at least the way I'm doing it, the age of the app definitely makes a big difference.

Android devs received an email stating that free apps were now available in Romania and Bulgaria, even though Android devices aren't sold there yet. And the free market opens to Japan on the 10th of this month. I would simply be happy if my sales remained steady as new devices and new markets come online.

I have no doubt that I would have made more money in June if I'd continued along the same trajectory, releasing small utility apps while working on medium-sized games. I had requests for a Domino game app, and would likely have released that last month if I had not been working on my game for the Android Developer Challenge II.

So I'd be happy with another $400 this month, although it's probably looking more like $250-$300. I hope the investment in Relativia pays off.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Relativia Gameplay

I'm working on a game for the Android Developer Challenge II. I've hired an artist to work on character, background, and item art. I've got the basics of the combat system worked out, and I thought I'd share a short video demonstrating how gameplay will work.

The player is on the left side, the enemy on the right. Each turn, a player can use one action (an attack or spell, if they have enough of the right kind of energy) and they may drop one token into the playing grid. The game is very much like Connect 4. If a player matches 3 or more in a row of a given token type: gems (square), mana (round), or skulls, those tokens are removed from the grid. If gems are matched, the player gets gem dust, which is used to purchase items in markets. If mana is matched, the player gets energy corresponding with that mana type (blue, orange, green, or purple). If skulls are matched, damage is done directly to one's opponent. Actions can either cause damage to one's opponent, heal the player, or have some other effect (like gaining an extra turn). A given battle ends when one player reaches zero health points.

I'd like to add in more polish, e.g. feedback events for matching, smoother animations, etc., but the deadline is about six weeks away and I'm rushing just to get the basics implemented. I'm optimistic about the progress, but a bit worried about getting it in good shape for the contest. We'll see how it goes.