First off a big thank you to everyone who has bought the game so far on BigFishGames.

The Tribloos 3 Development Diary

I can’t publicly share sales figures but I will say they’re a bit lower than Tribloos 2. There could be any number of reasons for this such as people moving to mobile devices for their casual fix or people generally gravitating away from BigFish to other portals like Steam/GoG/GameJolt/Other. Or it could be related to the technical issues when the game launched. Or maybe because it’s been 4 years since the last game in the series. It’s hard to say but I’m not about to stop trying to get the game out there due to a slight hiccup at the start.

So we had a bit of a shaky start but generally feedback on the game has been really good from fans and newcomers. That’s really encouraging and now I’m looking at what’s next.
Continue reading “Tribloos 3 – One (and a bit) week on”

This being the third game in the series I wanted to do something a bit different and special. It needed to be something real and tangible.

So before this…

For Space Farmers we’d created Papercraft models of the two main characters. We did small ones and 6 large ones which we took to events. We actually had a hard time hanging on to them.

There was one instance back in 2014 when I left two large Papercraft Space Farmers next to someone else’s Occulus Rift overnight. When we came back the next morning there were two things missing and neither were the rift. Another time we were at Insomnia 52 (I think, I lost track of the numbers back then) and I remember spending a good 30 minutes politely saying “no” to a lady who was trying to blag one off us. They were too personal to me! I took ages making the plans and crafting them by hand.

Really what I should have done is Sold Them! But at the time I didn’t think that would make any money and it would have required me to tidy up the plans to make them presentable. Maybe we’ll make them public one day…

Wasn’t this supposed to be about Tribloos 3?

So when I was thinking about what I wanted to do this time it was obvious that Papercraft just wasn’t going to cut it. I’d toyed with the idea of making Tribloos styled items or toys before but very rarely got past the “wouldn’t it be nice” phase.

But this time, with the game almost complete back in November 2017 I decided to actually try it out for fun. So I contacted Mari at PictureToPuppet, an Edinburgh based group who turn child’s pictures into real life puppets. Check them out.

They’ve turned out fantastically, because they’re hand made they’re all slightly unique!

Want one?

We’ll be giving them away as part of competitions and giveaways over the next few months! So stay tuned to the blog and, probably Twitter and Facebook.

Also let me know what you think!

Tribloos 3 is currently being checked out in intimate detail by Big Fish at the moment. I’m working on a new project as well as adding some final touches and prepping for marketing. So I thought I would take this time to share some of my personal thoughts on why I like writing Tribloos games.

I’ve spent about 3 years on Tribloos 3. That might seem like a lot, but in actual terms it’s probably only been about 4 months full time work for me. Someone asked me, about half way through development, why hadn’t I just re-skinned and expanded the Tribloos 2 engine. Why had I started almost from scratch again? It’s a good question, I think. I’m biased of course, but I thought perhaps others might want to know why too. So here it is, why I like writing Tribloos Games.

It’s 2014 and…

Space Farmers had been out for 4 months. We’d been working on it in the meantime, adding new levels and gadgets and other fun stuff. But despite various cool things happening (such as it being played by PewDiePie) it hadn’t performed financially as well as we would have liked. That’s quite depressing really, can you imagine what it’s like to have you game featured in a video that has had over 2 million views and your distributor reports back that it’s resulted in a grand total of…30 extra copies?

Yes that’s right, YouTube marketing officially doesn’t work, you heard it here. Okay that’s a big bold statement which begs to be explored. So more on that another time I think.

However we were a little dispondent about creating another game. I decided to take a step back and start work on a new Tribloos title. It’ll only take 6 months, I convinced myself.

But this time I want animations!

I’m torn about this statement. On one hand I’m pretty pleased with the animatics that are in Tribloos 3. I think they look awesome and add some depth to the world and the story. On the other hand they took absolutely forever to make.

Super early screengrab from one of the in-game animatics

It’s no surprise really but I’d made up my mind to focus on making my near-perfect Tribloos game.

That meant I couldn’t simply recycle all the old code from the second game. I had to attack the weak areas of that and build on the good bits. The good bits were, for me and many fans of the series, the characters and the “gotta get gold time!” gameplay. I decided I wanted to add some more intelligence to the workers. This in turn would lead to more possibilities in the engine and what you could do in the game.

I quickly sat down and started writing out a plot for the game based on an idea I’d had at the end of developing number 2. The gist being that one of the Tribloos gets “Tribb-napped” (oh how I lolled) and you have to rescue them. This led to a whole host of new area ideas as the remaining Tribloos could split up and go after them.

They could split up!?

That meant there were going to be sections of the game where you could legitimately play various areas at the same time. So after completing the first area you’d be let loose on areas 2, 3 and 4. After completing all of those you could attempt 5, 6, 7 and 8! 9 And 10 would be in order but I was still pretty pleased with this idea. And it’s stuck until the end.

The challenge here has been to implement a “what happens now” function at the end of each area. If you’re playing the game from start to end then it should be smart enough to pick the next area for you.

That’s something I’ve only had to worry about recently now I’m in the end stages of development. I always enjoy doing the story based stuff when writing tribloos games! Not that I didn’t enjoy adding the 30+ functional buildings to the game.

How much did you say?

Ah ok, here are some statistics for you:

Tribloos 2 had:
20 Building Types
9 Obstacle Types
80 Campaign Levels
5 Environments

Tribloos 3 has:
35 Building Types
24 Obstacle Types
100 Campaign Levels
10 Environments

Now because there are more environments there are fewer levels per environment than before. This has been an advantage because I’ve been able to keep them more interesting progression wise than the previous game. But as you can see this new game is absolutely packed to the brim of new buildings and obstacles.

So, why do you keep writing Tribloos Games?

It’s 3 years well spent. I’ve been full time contracting, moved house, met many new friends, lost old friends and brought a new baby girl into the world. It’s been a roller coaster ride and the Tribbs have been right there with me.

When I first started submitting games to BigFishGames back in the late 2000’s I had some really great feedback from the guys there. I submitted a couple of games. One was a tetris like block building game. The other was a sokoban clone – although I maintain to this day I’d never seen Sokoban before writing it!

The Tribloos are a special bunch for me. It was my first game series to sell several thousand copies, sure, but the big thing was this: People really seemed to like it. I got even better feedback on the second game. The bigger question is why did I stop?

Uhm, so why did you stop?

I attempted to push The Tribloos 2 onto mobile users a few years ago (2013) and it flopped. F2P had just started to strangle the mobile market and I, like many other game devs of that time, fell foul of it. We had no interest in fleecing people for in game items that could be used only once or for cheats to make levels easier. And so our games fell by the wayside…

However I always knew I wanted to make another Tribloos game. I think this one will do pretty well, it’s definitely by far the best game in the series so far. I don’t plan to stop here either. As long as people enjoy them I’ll continue to write Tribloos Games til the end of my development days!

Paid loot boxes in paid games are bad for game design, bad for the industry and bad for players.

When the topic comes up the argument frequently made is that the items are cosmetic, the thinking being that as long as the item doesn’t effect the game then there is no problem. Unfortunately that’s bullshit and here’s why.

Firstly – cosmetic items ARE important. People seem to think its ludicrous that someone will spend £1 on an in game hat but do you have the same response when someones buys a real hat? I have an R2-D2 hat which keeps my head warm but ALSO says things about me.

However – with loot boxes I argue that we’re not buying cosmetic items at all.

Getting to know us

To understand my reasoning you first have to understand why we play games. It’s not always the same and we play different games for different reasons. But the games I am looking at, and the ones that work with paid loot boxes, cover the ‘work -> reward’ pattern. We play them because we feel an achievement which we’re rewarded for. That reward might be a new area, a twist in the story or a random item.

People refer to random items as ‘Skinner Boxes‘ referring to the experiments by B. F. Skinner who showed that a rat could be induced to perform the same action over and over again by rewarding that action randomly rather than consistently. I don’t necessarily see this as bad. As a game designer I want my game enjoyed over and over again. If it is a short burst or repetitive game randomising rewards can give your game some longevity and a reason to replay.

But if you combine this with association you get a potent psychological cocktail.

What the deal with association then?

Association is the marketing technique of linking two unrelated items together. Just as Pavlov’s dogs associated being fed with a bell – so could be made to salivate on command, advertisers associate brands with sunny days, luxury lifestyles and happy beautiful faces. You feel that buying the brand is, on some level, buying the feeling.

This means that if you change your game-play loop from ‘work -> reward’ to ‘work -> box -> reward’ the player associates the box with the reward. And this is where the problem is. You can now effectively sell the reward – the reason for playing the game.

This will have three outcomes.

1. You buy the paid loot boxes to get the feeling of winning. The game stops being important as you can get the reward without it.

2. You find the game has lost it’s appeal. The joy of getting a reward has been diluted because you could have just brought the same thing.

3. You aren’t affected at all and you laugh at the poor suckers in 1 and 2 (you are also deluded and advertisers love you.)

Whatever the outcome the reward, and therefore playing the game, is now meaningless. The reason for playing the game is being held for ransom by the publisher.

And that’s why ‘It’s only cosmetic’ is a poor excuse for paid loot boxes.

Hey, how have you found games this year? If you hadn’t guessed I’m gonna get just a little philosophical about them. That’s, uh, why I’ve called it “Philosophy of Game Design in 2017”. Also I’m going to get a bit grumpy, I don’t mind showing that side of myself. I’m rarely grumpy IRL (honest, just ask Rich!) But the subject of some game’s design properly gets me down sometimes. First let’s rewind a bit.

I hate Candy Crush.

Oh we’re starting grumpy are we?

Yeah so I hate Candy Crush, but not because it’s a match 3 game. I like Match 3 games (Zoo keeper ftw) and I can appreciate CC’s slick casual design. But the technical genius, and it is an evil genius, behind it’s “1 less go than you need” algorithms irks me. It really pushes people into buying additional turns or special items. Incidentally the revenue that game still generates is just frightening.

Ok so that’s hardly talking about Philosophy of Game Design in 2017, it’s getting on a bit these days.

Alternatively I have a vague hatred of games like Criminal Case. Again not of the genre but of the monetization design these titles often employ. Paying to speed things up appeals against the other negative human trait; impatience. I have an allergic reaction to games telling me I have to artificially wait while a progress bar fills up over the course of a day. Or that I don’t have enough “energy” to continue.

That’s a trait used in other casual games – I tried one seriously this year based on the ever popular Final Fantasy series. The best part of this one in particular was the “community” events, but aside from that I would have rather had paid once and then all rewards would have been effort based rather than time or money based.

Effort vs Time/Money for rewards

And that’s where my problem lies and the reason I’m cross about the state of the games industry and what it’s doing to my beloved genres. Nothing is safe! RPGs, building games, platformers – they’re all fair game.

My son has loved the Plants Vs Zombies games since he was old enough to steal my iPad away from me. While he loves PvZ2, he very much dislikes the adverts. He would much rather continue to play tricky levels for rewards rather than sit through another Gardenscapes advert to get to them. He often asks me about buying “premium” plants in the game. I was shocked to see that many of these cost more than what I paid for the first game! Hows that for philosophy of game design in 2017?

Often I’ll be talking about this and many other games which are considered to have “gotten it right” in terms of microtransactions. The consensus is nearly always “but you can play the main game so that’s ok” – and I can’t help but think that’s the wrong way around. I’d rather that the old shareware model was re-introduced. “Hey, play the first few levels then pay for the rest.” Of course this isn’t what they want players to do, they’d rather you paid 12x $4.99 for plants rather than $9.99 for the whole game.

I’m picking on EA here, I know I am. The demise of Popcap still hurts me! However they’re obviously just one of many of the instigators of this new way of thinking.

PC Gaming certainly isn’t safe either

At least not yet.

Obviously as a game developer myself (be it part time currently) I understand more than most that games cost money to make. Tribloos 2 cost £3600 to make and Tribloos 3 has cost over £6000. Small numbers when you look at most budgets – but I’m just one guy paying for everything myself.

So I’m not opposed, in any way whatsoever, for people to be compensated for their work in the way that they choose.

That doesn’t mean we
a) Have to or
b) Have to like it and
c) Can’t do anything about it.

But we’ll get to C in a bit.

In fact it needs to change course!

PC Gaming is heading the wrong way currently. Loot crates are the thing currently. Lovely, lovely boxes of skins and sprays and stuff which they give to you totally at random from playing the game. Or, y’know if you wanted to pay even more money. Overwatch, I’m looking sternly at you…

This in-game gambling is a pretty strange thing. I’ve been playing PUBG in the late evenings after my Tribloos 3 work. To date I have made back 1/3 of the cost of the game by selling items I’ve gotten for free. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this. I don’t feel super great about it, then again I’ve almost paid off the cost of the game. Some people I know have gone further and made a profit just by selling the crates.

Side note – what if PUBG was free though?

Part of me wonders if this would have been possible if the game was free in the first place. I don’t think it would be. My belief is that a sense of exclusivity is felt by those that earn these items and, let’s not forget, randomly receive the higher priced items. I sold an in game shirt and tie for £3 the other day. Last year I bought a real shirt for less than that. I do find it interesting that paid for games seem to be doing as well as free games with their marketplaces, if not, in many cases, better.

Gambling? Is it though?

I’m not going to do anything pretentious like bring through the Wikipedia/oxford dictionary definition of gambling. But I think we can safely assume that if you’ve paid money for entry and you are given a random prize then that is a form of gambling. If you get in for free and are given a random prize then that is gambling. That’s because it’s likely someone will be standing near by with their hand out asking “want another go? It’ll cost ya”.

I’m not going to go into the moral quagmire of whether or not gambling is cool or not. That’s a personal thing for each of us and I walk the line a little. I’ve done some with friends and online, but you won’t find me in a Coral shop and I don’t have Betfair (or any other) on my phone. To be honest I far prefer to gamble with serious things, like my career for example!

But yes, any system where you get a random prize, especially when the potential rare prizes are dangled in front of you? This is gambling and most of today’s top titles participate in it. Make up your own mind on that one.

Ok let’s move onto what we can do.

Philosophy of Game Design in 2017

So we’re all creators right? I always think it’s great when I discuss problems with creators from other disciplines.

It usually goes like this; I’ll raise a particular issue… My YouTuber friends say “Make a video!”, my blogger friends say “write a really interesting blog post!”. My dad says “write a song about it!” (both my folks are musicians by trade). As a game designer I think “Let’s do something about it in our own game design!”.

So I plan on doing all 3 of these things. You’ve been reading my blog post about it, and now I’m going to describe what our current ongoing philosophy will be when selling our games.

A new Philosophy based on the old one!

First off – If we introduce randomised loot crates, which we’re not planning, they won’t be game affecting. It’ll be cosmetic stuff and you’ll also be able to pay for specific items directly.

Secondly – No trading. We don’t want you to be bothered by other random players pestering you to see your inventory for some potential swapsies.

Finally – Free to play means just that. You’ll get the whole game for free, including any updates. Pay to play will be one time entry only, those games won’t likely be suitable for pay-for-items for various reasons.

Our service promise to you…

Oh man, I don’t like how that sounds. Makes us sound all corporate. Look there’s only two of us in the Bumpkin Brothers. We hire other very talented people like Catherine Bennett and Jon Dunn to do lovely artworks for us but otherwise that’s all there is.

We want people to play our games and enjoy them. Not to sit in goal asking to trade, as seems to be the ongoing Rocket League trends these days.

Unfortunately it means we won’t be touching mobile, for a while at least. there’s no way to make headway on that space without Candy Crush style tactics and we’re just not into that.

So when it comes to releasing Tribloos 3 and, eventually, Space Farmers 2 on PC and Mac, we’ll be doing our very best to keep you building houses, shooting chompy robots and solving puzzles rather than examining your loot collection for things you’ve got more than once. It’s a philosophy we’ve always held close and will continue to do so because we just floopin’ love games.

On Friday the 13th Nintendo ballsed up their Switch launch event. They did so by focusing on things we already had and are bored of (motion control), introducing new things we don’t want (IR sensors) and forgetting that the device already has an awesome selling point – you can carry it around with you.

Add that to a very lackluster games line up and many are declaring it will follow the trend of Nintendo’s ever decreasing sales of home console.

I’d like to argue that this may not, and hopefully will not, be the case.
Continue reading “Nintendo Switch – What I think.”

Because it’s Christmas party season we’re not both available on Friday or Saturday this weekend.

Therefore Rich will be doing some crazy PS4 stuff on Friday night. I’ll (most likely) be playing a couple of hours of Deathwing and/or Paladins on Saturday night. Both will start around 10pm ish.

Follow our Twitch channel now ready for the weekend or for when it’s *not* Christmas party season and we’re both around!

You can also check out previous streams as we’re recording them all on the site.

See you at the weekend.

Today Andy reviews Amol Wagh’s book “Market your indie game like a pro” and compares it to his real life marketing experiences. You can get the book on Amazon via this link.

Can you market your indie game like a pro?

Marketing is a constant struggle for Indie Devs.

I’ve got my own views on marketing which are slightly opposed to conventional “wisdom” banded about the community. So when I was messaged directly on twitter about this book I thought I would compare it to my own experiences and see what matched (or didn’t).

Before I get started I will say I’m in no way stating I am some kind of marketing god. Clearly that isn’t the case. But Rich and I have been doing this for a few years. We know what’s worked for us and we know….we really, really know what doesn’t.

Also I won’t cover every chapter in “Market your indie game like a pro”, just the ones that stood out for good, or bad reasons. So, let’s get stuck in.
Continue reading “Review: “Market Your Indie Game Like A Pro””

Blitzmax has been my development tool of choice for over 10 years now. But I’m about to move permanently…
andysopinion
Back in 2005 a very exciting thing was happening in my world.

I’d been using Blitz3D to mess with 3D game development for the last 2/3 years. It had even helped me get my first programming job. I’d finished a couple of basic games in it and was pretty well versed in it’s eccentricities.

However the creator of this famous development tool had announced something very special: A new version of the Blitz tools: BlitzMax!
Continue reading “Moving away from BlitzMax”

Hey, do you know us? Or, alternatively, should we know you? As we’ve restarted our blogging efforts we thought we should restart our link building efforts.

We’ve now got a links section in the side bar showing 5 random links from our collection of, well 5 links at the moment so they’ll all be the same! But we’re hoping to add many more in the near future.

Link building, as in, with you!

We’d like to do some kind of building links exchange with as many of you as possible. Currently we only have a few categories so far and we’re sure that’s not enough so as long as what you do is vaguely related to what we do give us a shout.

What we need from you is:

  • Your name or organisation name (obviously)
  • The URL you want us to link to
  • A 100x100px logo we can use (or we can just put a blank square there if you’ve got nothing)

A few additional points:

  • Please no betting sites. No, not even if you’re offering money.
  • It helps if we know you or know of you at least
  • It’s an exchange so if possible we’d love a link back to us!

So get in touch either by adding a comment below or by tweeting Rich or Myself or maybe Facebook if that’s you’re preferred network.

The links we currently have will appear below here – thanks for joining in!

Awesome Indie Developers (2)

Great YouTube Channels (2)