I’m proud to announce my latest creation — the app is called Santa Hates You (but he loves me) and the basic premise is this: You hand your phone to your buddy and he hits a button that says “give me a present” and every time, Santa pulls something nasty out of his bag, like a bag of socks or a can of Mystery Meat or even poop. Then you take it and every time you try, Santa pulls out good stuff like a bag of money or a plate of cookies or something fantastic. Your buddy always gets the same bad results, and you always get good ones. The trick is that you know where to touch/swipe/hold it so that he gives good presents and your buddy does not, so he gets garbage.
The big thing that sets us apart is the unique 2D hand-drawn artwork and animation, I think. The artwork was done by a student named Nick Fechter, who I met a few months ago, but the other 3 people involved (I did the programming) are all professionals working in the game/app sector. The app was built in Unity 3D using the ex2D toolkit over the course of a month (from idea to release).
Here are a couple of screenshots:
The app will be free for the first 48 hours (through Friday) and $0.99 starting Saturday. It runs on any iPhone that’s a 3GS or higher. It runs good on the iPad 3 and 4, but doesn’t currently work right on the 1/2/mini, but I’m hoping to send in a patch to apple to address that, make the items a little more random and add a couple of presents on each side before they shut down for the holidays at the end of next week.
Here’s the App Store link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/santa-hates-you-but-loves-me/id584644504?ls=1&mt=8
UPDATE: Santa Hates You (but loves me) is now also available in the Chrome App Store, if you don’t have an iPhone or want to try it out first!
May BadgerSpot rest in peace. I’m sad about it, but very thankful that I had the opportunity to work on it. I had a great time building it in Unity 3D and great time seeing people get excited about it, but I think in the end, the complexity of it was just too much. It was difficult to convey over the phone or in person and even after people saw it, they often weren’t quite sure what they saw. That’s a problem with a startup. We did a lot — and suffered because of it. I don’t regret working on it at all, only that we were too “ahead of our time” or too broad to nail down succinctly and therefore, very difficult to market it effectively. But, eh, it happens.
That said, I’m working on some new projects that will come out over the course of the next year. I’m always building apps, but most of what I work on will never see the light of day (because it’s used at companies internally) or if it does hit the app store, my name won’t be on it anywhere due to contracts and NDA’s — but this is true of most people doing contract programming work. So I try to find my own ideas and find talented people to work on them with me.
This past weekend, I went to Shreveport, Louisiana (near where I grew up) to take part in the DigiFest South 2012 Game Jam sponsored by Moonbot Studios. I met a young artist and student there named Nick Fechter, and we worked on a Unity 3D powered game all weekend and we won 2nd place. There weren’t a lot of teams, but meeting someone, getting your topic and getting anything finished to a reasonable, playable state in a mere 44 hours is a pretty big deal, so I’m pretty proud of it. This is the coffee mug that I took and handed out to some cool people I met, along with the 3D printed dice (that were printed on location there) from Moonbot that was my “trophy” for winning second place. We made a game called Zombie Search & Rescue about a grave digger who digs up his zombie buddies. Maybe I’ll post a web build or something at some point in the future…
Sparky the Road Clown, about a good clown gone bad, is available immediately in the App Store as a Universal App for $0.99 — here’s the gameplay trailer:
It’s running over clowns and available now in the app store — what more do you need to know?
For press inquiries, contact us +1-919-886-7336 or press [at] unseenthings.net
What is a BadgerSpot?
I haven’t posted much here lately because I’ve been very, very busy with a very, very neat project called BadgerSpot. It’s an augmented reality location-based social networking app. I know that’s a mouthful, but here’s the short version: Anywhere you go, you can use it to create a virtual message board tied to that location. That’s the core functionality. We’ve also got some fun characters that jump out of boxes (that will tie into a character collection function not too far down the road), a large gun you can put on your arm (well, that’s what it looks like, anyway!) and a number of other fun things in the works.
What can you do with a BadgerSpot? More >
As programmers, we get so wrapped up in seeing an app evolve from a vague idea into into a real game that we often miss a critical element of the process — user feedback. It’s essential for you to get your app into the hands of people as early as possible (even earlier than you think!) to get feedback from them. It’s been said that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” — and while our end user/test subject certainly isn’t the enemy, it’s pretty likely that they’re not going to use the app the same way that we would. The longer you’ve worked on something, the more it becomes second nature — just like years of Photoshop use builds a strong and fast proficiency with Photoshop, all the time you’ve spent working on your app will often blind you to basics or things you missed (like the word “test” in the text field for the user to enter some data — oops).
Seth Godin points out in his Purple Cow book that no one will pull over, take pictures and call their friends to see a cow that looks just like all the other cows you’ve ever seen. However, if you were driving along and saw a cow that was purple… you’d have to stop and check it out, call your friends, take pictures, etc.
Check out the Disgruntled Fowl App!
With all of the apps in the app store today, it’s not enough to make one more Angry Birds clone. Or one more block dropping clone. Or one more doodle jump clone. Or one more… well, you get the idea. Seth defines a purple cow as something that’s remarkable — and his definition of that is simply that someone will make a comment (or a remark) about it to someone else.
People think that taking a successful idea and copying it will give them success. In some limited ways, they might see a little bit of return on their investment, but for the most part, you never hear about “that fantastic new game that’s identical to but not nearly as nice!” because most clones are not nearly as nice. The games that really stand out and do well (both in a hurry and long term) are games like Tiny Wings.
Forest for the trees
When I tell people I’m making a game about running over clowns, I invariably get the “wow, how on earth did you come up with that idea??” look and/or question. This article will trace the evolution of that idea, the gameplay and the graphics from a silly name to a finished game.
Just a name
The name Sparky the Road Clown is actually a name I’d had in my head for years. When somebody would cut me off in traffic or something like that, I’d say something like, “Hey, Sparky- nice driving!” or “Watch it, Sparky!” and I imagine a lot of other people say similar things. Over time, I associated Sparky and road craziness and I came up with the name Sparky the Road Clown and even came up with a little backstory: he used to be Sparky the Rodeo Clown but had since gone off the deep end and became Sparky the Road Clown. This name (and the concept of rodeo clown to road clown) stuck in my head for several years before iPhones were even around.
Welcome to my first #iDevBlogADay post — I hope it’ll entertain and encourage you as to how projects that haven’t seen the light of day can still be profitable. This is where we start:
1. Make Game
2. Don’t release it
Wait, that’s not how that scenario typically goes, right? Well, stranger things have happened…
The Name and the Game
It all started about a year and a half ago when I started working with Unity 3D and had a name in my head — Sparky the Road Clown. I wondered what I might be able to do with a name like Sparky the Road Clown such as, would it be a game like frogger but with a clown? Would he stand in traffic and mock cars as they went past? That was my initial idea, but it didn’t sound like much of a game. Eventually, I decided that it would be a showdown between clown and car in a dark alleyway. My 6 year old son was a big part of the inspiration, and the initial conversation went like this
me: do you like clowns? him: nooooo
would you like a game about clowns? nooooooo.
what if you were running them over? <pause> yeeeaaah!
From there, I got in touch with a couple of talented friends who were happy to bring my vision of clown vs car to life by doing the artwork and doing the voicework with me doing the programming. The gameplay itself continued to evolve over time to where it’s at now, which is still based on the “joust” type premise — you get one shot at the clown per round. You hit him, or you don’t, and the round is over. Score is based on how far you knock him each round (either by hitting him with the car, or with the large spinning mallet on top of the car) multiplied by how many unique items in the level that you’ve knocked him into over the course of the game so far (that doesn’t reset each round). But all that’s not important right now.
What is important for the focus of this post is that A) it’s nearly finished and B) while it’s not released yet, it’s still helped to earn some income. As for A, we should be going to the app store within the next few weeks. Sparky the Road Clown will be on iPhones and iPads and everyone will be able to get their coulrophobia treatment for their favorite iOS device. As for B, technically, it’s been out on Facebook since June, but that’s been in closed beta and pretty under the radar. And the game hasn’t sold any copies, so how has it made me any money?