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I invite you to join me in my telling of my first Poke'mon journey, my experience, and my suggestions. [INCREDIBLY Long]
I'm 23 years old, a trade school student, and a huge gamer.
So, I heard about Poke'mon GO last year but haven't really followed it since. The last time I ever played a Poke'mon game was during the SilveGold days. The franchise just sort of became a farce for me afterwards with the insane frequency of releases. Also, some of the creativity on some of the Poke'mon is, eh, lackluster to put it lightly. Even so, I have no problem admitting that a dream of any kid my age at the time was to catch Poke'mon in real life.
I was in class on Wednesday and a classmate of mine mentioned that the AU APK was available for download. This is the first time I'd heard of Poke'mon GO since last year and the reveal last year made it sound like it was years away so this news certainly piqued my interest. A classmate next to me tried it in class and we all gathered around to see how it worked. Seeing it in person was really cool.
I went home that night to try out the APK but didn't end up downloading it because I was lazy and didn't have a SUPER bunch of motivation to. That was until 3 hours later when the news that the game OFFICIALLY released started spreading around the internet like wildfire. That got me motivated. I downloaded the game, chose Squirtle as my starter because he was my starter the very first time I played Poke'mon (The NA release of Poke'mon Blue). I decided to name him Togo. No idea why. Just felt right.
I went outside for a bit to test it out it was really cool. I thought the concept was awesome and I could tell just with this barebones model of the game that Nintendo would definitely be expanding upon it. I caught two or three Poke'mon and visited the two Poke'stops that I was within a 3 minute walk from.
I came back inside and went to bed for the night. For the next two days, I tried getting the game to work but the TPC servers were down. I prefer more officially-tied methods of gaming so I waited for TPC to come back up because I wanted that account to be my main. In the meantime, I signed in through Google to test out the interface just to get more familiar with it when the TPC servers came back up.
By the second day of researching and browsing around /pokemongo, I was officially hyped. Reading people's stories and their experiences so far got me stoked. I grabbed two battery packs from my Mom's room and charged them up. i was determined to make the next day my official journey.
So this is where my journey begins.
This morning, almost like reflex, I checked to see if the TPC servers were up. They were. Awesome start to the day; some good news. I got out of bed and started pondering.
(Lifestyle Tangent) I really wasn't sure how I should prepare. I have about 3 friends, none of which live near me. I'm not an outside person at all. I weigh 270 pounds and have been struggling with weight for years. Despite me being overweight, I'm actually quite fit... in that I don't pass out and die from walking a few miles but I don't enjoy it primarily because of my feet (flat footed and plantar fasciitis). I'm a social outcast (despite being a social genius) and typically spend my days playing games or going to school. Games are the only thing that makes me happy right now because of my living situation. Even so, video games for the last few years have been getting awful and I'm having a hard time finding enjoyment in these games anymore. The main game I play right now is League of Legends and I've played it since the end of Season 1.
I currently live with my Mom because I'm between houses with my best mate. Ever since I moved out from Mom 6 months ago, I lost weight, started getting full nights sleep, and woke up more enthusiastic everyday. However, moving back in with Mom (even temporarily); things have just shot downhill. I knew they would, too. It's not like I wasn't expecting it but it happened much faster than I ever anticipated; literally by the third day. Just for the record, my Mom and I have never been good friends but that's not something I'll go into detail here. (/Lifestyle Tangent)
In a bit of a kerfuffle, I almost got discouraged to go out. I started making excuses for myself to not leave and they weren't very good ones at that, let me tell you. I did some more browsing of /pokemongo and struck a small spark of inspiration again. In that moment, I just put my thoughts to the side and grabbed the first few things that came to mind for being outside: A backpack, my wallet, keys, water bottle, the two battery banks I charged, a USB cable, and some headphones (never ended up using them or the battery packs).
While I was getting all of this stuff ready, I tried giving myself a goal, something to actually go towards. In my history with my ex-girlfriend trying to get me to go on walks, one thing I always hated was not having an end-goal. I'm not a fan of just open-ended travel. I like KNOWING things. With that in mind, I decided that today I'd figure out how long it'd take me to walk to school which I typically drive to. Not too far so I figured, why not? With that goal in my head, I set out.
Now, what's important about this trip isn't so much what Poke'mon I found but how I noticed how my attitude changed throughout it's entirety.
I took a left out of my apartment complex and headed in the direction of school. The current street I was on is only a street I've ever set foot on twice within my 2 cumulative years of living here. I REALLY don't care for going on walks. For this first stretch of sidewalk, my mind was just racing with thoughts about what I might find, who I might meet, and the curiosity of how long it'd take me to get to school. I took note of the time that I'd left, 9:22am, and thought to myself that I'd head to school and head back. As I said before, it's not a super long walk to school but in my mind, a round trip there and back would definitely be suitable especially considering the type of person I am: heavyset and not a fan of walks.
I passed two Poke'stops: One a church and second a diner. At this point, I noted the feeling of having reached what, for all intents and purposes, felt like a checkpoint. It felt like I completed a mini-goal. All the while still catching Poke'mon here and there.
Let me make a small detour and explain the feeling of catching these Poke'mon. As I said, it's been a childhood dream of mine and many others my age to catch Poke'mon in real life. It was something we never thought would happen. However, even though I was at this point and physically using something (PoGO) that I had dreamed about as a child, I have to admit that I wasn't as excited as I originally thought I might be BUT after thinking about it for a bit, I chalked that up to the mundane happenings of life over the last 1.5 decades making me a dull person; numb to casual enjoyments. Having accepted this in the moment, I felt myself revert back to a childhood state of mind (Not saying that Poke'mon is for children) where that sudden wanderlust of hunting Poke'mon just suddenly revitalized out of nowhere. It didn't make me ECSTATIC over the 5th Rattata I had just caught BUT I realized just how surreal this experience was and just how much gravity it held.
Now, despite this excitement, I think it'd be fair to say that it'll probably take a while for this dull shell that life has coated me in might take a while to crack which is probably why I wasn't losing my marbles whenever I saw a bush-rustle on the map BUT it did fill me with joy to know that I was closer to another Poke'mon; something unknown.
So, all of this happened at the diner Poke'stop which was factually 10 minutes from my house.
I exited the parking lot after grabbing the diner Poke'stop and continued towards school. This second part, unfortunately, doesn't have any Poke'stops. I live in a very business busy town; I live on the corner of two major arteries. This isn't really a town of amusement or even mild relaxation. It just seems like a big pit stop. So with that in mind, after taking this walk and seeing the frequency of the Poke'stops I'd say that the amount I have here is... fair. The average WALKING person who plays PoGO would get decent use out of it. Anyway...
The diner was actually the last Poke'stop until school which, by the way, is awesome. I come to this school 4 days a week for 3 hours so knowing that I can essentially claim the Poke'stop 36 times per school day is pretty awesome.
On that note, holy shit, I arrived at school. I looked at my clock; it'd only taken 30 minutes which startled the hell out of me. And this is where I noticed another change. I was so wrapped up in the mindset of stumbling across my next Poke'mon that I hadn't really noticed the walk itself. So, I took a brief 1 minute break at school after claiming the Poke'stop. I started thinking and doling over the Poke'mon that I had captured. I pondered for a bit what I should do now. I had reached my small goal. My idea was to go out to hunt for Poke'mon with the goal of reaching school. I was done and just needed to head back. This is where I knew I was in trouble... because I decided to keep going. I walked for another 30 minutes past school claiming about 3 Poke'stops and catching another 10 Poke'mon.
On this additional 30 minute stretch, I ran into a single player probably a wee bit younger than myself. As I said before, despite being a social outcast, I'm a social genius and can work a conversation like a boss. I initially wasn't going to talk to him for the sole purpose of not bugging him. We were both waiting on a crosswalk; him with a longboard. I just said screw it and opened conversation with "What team are you on?". Bare in mind that I wasn't even entirely sure on a physical level that he was playing Poke'mon GO. He had his sound off and I didn't see his screen at all. On the surface, he just looked like another guy looking at his phone. But, and this is where my social expertise comes in, something about him just reeked of 'similarity'.
So, he begged my pardon, probably catching him off guard that a random person talked to him, and I repeated myself. He told me he was Team Instinct which blew my freaking balls off. These last two days of being on /pokemongo, all I'd seen was Blues and Reds so it was awesome that my FIRST person I encountered with this game was also a Yellow.
Our meeting was very brief as he was heading to work. We had a small conversation during our crosswalk cross. We both tackled a Ratticate together, wished each other the best of luck, and went out separate ways.
Now, this certainly doesn't seem like a big thing on paper especially considering the stories people have posted on here but I want to make something clear: As I said, I'm not a very social person. This sort of became a thing after highschool 6 years ago. During the exiting of highschool, a lot of people started taking off masks and just revealing stupid and terrible people underneath. If there's one thing I hate in this world, it's stupid shit and this also includes stupid people. I went through a process of extraditing a bunch of people from my own internal friend group: fakes, phonies, bigots, etc. You know the kind of people I'm talking about. The people I was left with was my girlfriend (at the time) and my best mate. When I say best mate, I mean best mate. An issue with being so socially adept is that it becomes difficult to find people who meet your standards because you end up setting such a high bar for yourself. But he matches me and challenges me all the time. I'm grateful for him and he'd move the world for as I would for him.
Despite that sounding really nice, it can become a problem because you start echo-chambering yourself (we're not all perfect). We got so sucked up in each other's mannerisms that we started looking at other people with the 'guilty until proven innocent' mentality which is an admittedly terrible mentality. I can't say that we're entirely to blame though because since highschool and before we had this mindset, we've tried hard to make friends but were met with terrible person after terrible person until we both eventually just shut ourselves off from 3rd party intervention. Now, we've both gotten to the point where we constantly poke jokes at ourselves saying "Hurr durr, we don't have friends. We're so lonely. Hahaha" but there's always a devastating air of truth.
About two months ago, I got together with my new girlfriend. This is a person I'd met online 8 years ago and she's one of my best friends. We'd tried meeting each other for years but never managed to. We finally managed to get to meet each other. She came over as a friend, but she left with a boyfriend. In this time of meeting her in person and seeing how vastly different she is as a person revealed to me just how badly I needed a change in my life and since then, I've been trying. I've tried to drop the air of "I hate everyone" to meet new people but it's hard. I've been out of the game for 6 years.
Going back to meeting this Team Yellow member on the corner, this was monumental for me because I connected with someone who had a similar interest. I was so happy afterwards. Had he not had to go to work, we probably would've become great friends. "But why not ask for his Facebook or his number or something?". Well, bare in mind how strange it is to physically ask someone for their number or their FB within 3 minutes of meeting them. If a friend system was in Poke'mon GO, then absolutely I would've added him because that was our avenue of similarity so it'd be best to grow something like that. Anyway, no harm done. It was great just meeting him at all.
By the end of this additional 30 minute extension,my feet were killing me. I was wearing flipflops which I knew would end up bad but being in between houses with 85% of my stuff being in storage AND not being an outdoorsy person, I didn't bring my jogging shoes. Go figure. (lolololol)
I headed back home and visited the previous Poke'stops. An hour later, I was outside of my door. My feet were destroyed, I wasn't very tired which was awesome nor was I terribly hot (despite it being 95 degrees out and being a big guy, you have a lot of insulation). I was happy with my experience but a little bummed that I didn't find much variety in terms of Poke'mon.
As I was walking about, I noticed a huge silhouette appear in my Poke'mon Tracking tab: A fucking Snorlax, my spirit Poke'mon.
My plantar fasciitis was killing me. I was dying to get off my feet BUT there was no way in balls I was losing out on a Snorlax. I punched through the pain and found him near the creek entrance in my apartment complex. Satisfied with my catch and eager to rest, I made the final grueling 200 foot trek back home.
I sat in my chair, got a hot washcloth to rest my right foot on because it developed a blister, closed my phone, took my hat off and thought about the mornings's events. It'd been two hours since I left home and yet I feel like I'd been on a day's journey. I reflected over how long it took me to get to school, all the Poke'mon I met, the brief meeting with the Team Yellow member, etc, etc.
In that moment of sitting in my chair, I was absolutely and utterly happy. A little tired and irritated from foot pain... but happy.
What I came away with after today's trek is this:
- I can and WILL definitely start walking to school for the sake of catching Poke'monm losing weight, and saving gas... if I can get my jogging shoes.
- I've now been granted an easier access to make some friends.
- I've realized just how easily I can lose weight from walking to get these Poke'mon. I walked just under 5 miles today.
- Old loves die hard and they can definitely get convoluted by the day-to-day grind of life. But if you can find a way, they're still there. My love for Poke'mon (At least the first two eras) has been rejuvenated and I'm more eager now than ever to get involved once again.
Like I said at the very beginning, this game as a concept is wonderful and there's not better IP to do it with. This game has a lot of potential and I'm sure it'll experience some growing pains but I know this can become something bigger than it already is with some tweaks.
- Bring back the iconic "dong" sound of a successful catch. I noticed this was missing which is a real bummer because all I was able to think about during every catch was anytime Ash caught a Poke'mon and the music would rise and rise as the Poke'ball shook before fading out and leaving nothing but the "dong" sound to echo through your ears followed by brief silence and then Ash losing his shit.
- I strongly believe that this game needs some sort of "Homebound" system. Allow a player to set a specific location on the Poke'mon map as their home. Coming home and being exhausted really put a staple in the "Your Poke'mon experience is over until you start again" feeling which was a bit of a bummer. I'd like if my home location had some additional or home-specific features. I didn't do any fighting today but maybe allow homes to heal Poke'mon slowly? Perhaps gain a Poke'ball every few hours? I don't know. I just fee like coming home shouldn't end your Poke'mon experience. Claiming a Home could be changeable once every two weeks.
- Along with the theme of the previous, I like the thought of claiming a specific Poke'stop as a special stop especially if it's a place you visit frequently. For me, it'd be school. On top of the supplies you can already claim, perhaps you could claim a special set of items once a week from that Poke'stop alone? I also think this would be nice for people who live far away from Poke'stops and it'd give them a nice bonus for their trouble. Claiming a Poke'stop could be changeable once every week.
- There needs to be an additional volume slider for interface interactions totaling for 3. The interface noises are very sharp and annoying. I'd rather just have the music playing and actions noise (Poke'mon appearing, fighting, and Poke'ball sounds).
- I think the egg KM limits should be set to 8, 4, and 2 down from 10, 5, and 2. 10 is asking quite a bit from some people and 4 would be good for the type of walk that I did today. Despite being large, my body is a bit stubborn to some facets of walking/running such as heat resilience, the need for water, and lack of breath (I have a great mind/body connection, they're fuckin' bros). But I know tons of people even smaller than me that struggle with that kinda stuff just walking to the mailbox. I PERSONALLY feel like I did a very good job on my walk today considering my sedentary lifestyle.
To close it up, Poke'mon GO has given me a positive outlook one more than one subject and I definitely see it doing good for me in the future. It's a great experience and I think a wonderful tool that will help people out in even worse situations than my own.
I'm glad I went with Team Yellow because despite all that fighting that my mind did today, my drive and instinct is what got me out of this hovel and into the world of Poke'mon once more.
Thank you Nintendo and thank you Niantic. I will be a Poke'mon Master once again thanks to you.
Much love to my Yellows and respect to the Reds and Blues.
My first game Spellvetica for iOS and Android is now available! Promo codes and post-mortem inside
This is my first commercial game release and I’m very excited to complete what is such a big milestone for any indie game developer. There has been some interest as to how this game was made, so here’s a post mortem on the development process:
By trade, I am a Flash developer. The organization I work for specializes in creating online distance learning and professional development courses primarily for state agencies. I build the interfaces and shells all these courses run in, and any interactive games and elements the client requires. We have a great team at my center, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
I am a long-time reader of Ars Technica; it’s how I start my day. Great, insightful articles that I constantly bookmark and reread. One such article that really struck me was “Defining Tetris: How courts judge gaming clones”. In it, the explanation of design rules versus the expression of those rules really made me think about the gameplay of Tetris. My bike ride home from work gives me time to zen out and let my thoughts manifest as they will, and this idea that was planted, “what makes Tetris Tetris?” kept ruminating in my head. At the time also, I had been playing many word games on my iPad, my favorite being SpellTower, so I was already having phantom letter tiles appear every time I closed my eyes. Four miles into my ride, the two thought seeds sprouted into what would become Spellvetica.
First Step: Tetris
So when I got home, after making dinner for me and my super supportive partner, then spending time with our baby boy, I got to work. First step was to make Tetris. There are plenty of tutorials and discussions on how to best engineer a Tetris game in Flash, so finding how to do it was easy. After about an hour, I had my full-fledged Tetris clone. I then tweaked it to accept various forms of input: keyboard, mouse, and touch.
Traditional Tetris stacks tetrominoes as rigid bodies, leaving gaps in the grid. For this to work as a word game, I needed to break each tile into discrete units. So I decided that when a tetromino lands, the individual tiles will drop to the lowest position possible beneath them. This creates a more filled grid for the spelling to happen. It also adds a new dynamic to the pieces that I didn’t see until playing: for example, “S” and “Z” pieces turn into “O” when rotated 90 degrees and landing on a flat surface. This becomes a much more engaging creation process than other word games, forcing the player into thinking about how to manage these pieces into strategic locations to create the best possible word. There is a lot more play possibilities with the added gravity effect.
Because of this gravity effect, clearing tiles based on a complete line became a moot point. But without adding kitschy power ups to the game, I needed a mechanism for bigger tile-clearing than just completing a longer word. What I’ve seen done successfully in many word games is the use of collateral damage: any surrounding tiles get cleared along with the word and added to the points earned for that selection. I decided to implement this at the five-letter word mark, which makes the effect easily achieved by attaching an “S” to plenty of four-letter words. This mechanic worked great in gameplay testing and resolved any issues brought about by the gravity effect and lack of line clearing or power ups.
Word Lists, Letter Frequency, and Fonts
Next step was to integrate letters. Pasting letters on the tiles was easy enough, but they needed to be tied to a value system, so this is when I started doing some research. One article that was really helpful was “Word Games and the myth of ETAOIN SHRDLU“ by Steven Stadnicki, a great in-depth article about the statistics behind letter frequencies and how to apply the correct one to your game. I ended up using the OpenSubtitles based frequencies because it was better suited for quick play.
Each letter needed a point value, which I associated with its frequency, with any letter as or more frequent than “A” getting 1 point and any letter less frequent given a higher point value. I took this approach in how to generate the tetrominoes also. Each level has its own criteria for generating tetrominoes. For instance, one level might create tetrominoes with a total minimum of 5 points and a maximum of 9, in essence only creating pieces from a dozen or so different letters. Other factors that attribute to the piece generation are individual letter min/max, duplicates, and vowels. These different factors are broken into 10 levels, which then cycle back to the start when the user passes the 10th.
(As a side note, I increase the drop speed of the tetrominoes every 5th level as well. The player increases in level every four completed words. These refinements happened through many rounds of testing, where I learned just about every three letter word in the dictionary.)
All words are checked against the Enable word list, which is public domain. It’s nice also that Words with Friends uses this so people are familiar with it. I load and parse the word list into a dictionary which makes validation quick and easy. I’m sure there are more optimized ways to go about this, but it took about half an hour to do and worked pretty well so I’m cool with it.
With a name like Spellvetica, I have to use the Helvetica font. The AIR SDK allows me to publish my codebase cross-platform, so figuring this part out took a day or two to make consistent. Embedding the Helvetica font wasn’t the issue, it was the star character, which I use as a wildcard for spelling. Using the unicode for the black star didn’t show up on iOS, but did on some Android devices. So I decided to use the symbol font Wingdings, which I could embed into the binary. This made creating text fields a pain, but after some canoodling with the TextFormat class, I got it to work.
Design and User Interface
I wanted Helvetica to dictate the design and themes of this game. For me, the font conjures up images of government buildings constructed in the 50’s, thick horn-rimmed glasses, and the flat geometry of modernism. I wanted to take a minimal approach. Something SpellTower does really well is get out of the way of spelling. There are tons of word games out there, but most don’t work that well for Tetris spelling gameplay because there’s just too much going on to the point of distraction. Spellvetica is an arcade-style puzzler so I wanted my gameplay to be as clutter-free and touch-friendly as possible. I also had to accommodate to various screen sizes. When you develop for anything Android, disparate resolutions are constantly on your mind. I needed an interface that looks great scaled up and remained touch-friendly scaled down, something simple that let the player focus on spelling and piece management and nothing else.
Each root level is assigned a color palette. I am by no means an expert in color theory, so I used Adobe Kuler to create the palettes. Kuler uses various rules and allows customization for a five color palette. Five colors was what I needed: background, tetromino, selection, correct, and collateral all getting their own distinct and associative color.
(The first palette I decided to use for the title screen, iconography, and any other media. Here’s the hex values if you’re interested: #998E6E, #91DCFF, #6BFFF8, #FFAB52, #FFD86B)
For buttons and labels, I decided to use long horizontal rectangles with full bleed to the screen. This look works well regardless of a device’s portrait aspect ratio and allows for a big hit area for touch/clicks. All labels are white with black text and all buttons are black with white text. The only time I break this rule is the “Pause” screen, where the label and buttons are colored depending on the color palette of the level. I also used this approach when displaying statistic and gameplay data. This keeps an association between what the player is doing and the information being displayed.
The gameplay interface was built using a grid. I break the screen size into rows and columns which are uniform across platforms. Using the grid allows all the elements to be placed and sized consistently. Up top, I threw a UI bar which displays the current word selection state, current total points and level. Placing it anywhere else would just get obstructed whenever the player spelled a word with their finger. In the bottom left corner I placed a pause button for quick access and made sure that it wasn’t connected to the grid to avoid accidental hits.
Music and Sound Effects
Going back to my impressions of Helvetica, if there was an instrument that best captured this font’s sound, it would have to be the Wurlitzer electric piano. From a sound perspective, it emotes the futuristic outlook of the 50’s with a feel for modernism. Not having access to such a great instrument, I found the next best (practical) thing: GarageBand! More specifically, GarageBand for iPad. I was able to find a smart instrument that closely resembled the sound I wanted, and even an autoplay riff that worked really well. Adding a bass strike to the beginning of the loop created a nice sample that adhered to my guiding design philosophy of minimal distractions. It’s the kind of loop you forget is even playing, subtly shaping the game experience. I’ve even been told the bass strike creates an almost meditative feel, like trying to discern when a sound is no longer a sound, a koan loop if you will.
The only other sounds I wanted were that of selecting tiles. First, I just mapped a quick run up an octave with the fake-wurly, but that competed too much and became noticeable. I needed something subtle. I play with my infant son a lot; goofy faces and strange sounds come out of me on a regular basis. One he really likes is a bubble pop, he goes crazy when I do it. So I tried that in the game. I sampled a pop, mapped it to an octave run, and loaded it up. It fit in quite nicely, didn’t compete with the music, and added a nice dimension to the soundscape.
Given the saturated marketplace for apps, I wanted to convey everything about Spellvetica in one image: this is a Tetris-style word game called Spellvetica. At the time, my partner and I were driving from Florida to Michigan to introduce the young’n to the new great grandparents, so I had plenty of time to spitball different ideas. I started off by drawing an “S” using tetrominoes, but that didn’t translate well scaled down to a 16x16 png. I wanted to keep the “S” for “Spellvetica” in the design, so I decided to use the “S” tetromino shape. From there, adding the letters “VTCA” inside was a natural transition. I changed the “A” to a star to connote the wildcard gameplay possible. I then painted the tiles with the correct and collateral colors to add more dynamic to the piece.
To create the assets for the icon, I used PixelResort’s iOS App Icon Template, a great resource worth looking into if you don’t already know. The template is super easy to use and even includes actions to export to all needed sizes. They even include popular textures to use for your icon. This template took my flat artwork and really helped make it pop, adding a much needed polish.
Social Media and Rating
I needed a way to integrate Facebook and Twitter into Spellvetica. I didn’t want it to be an obnoxious experience, something user-initiated for sure, so I decided to allow players to share their game and record stats with their social circle. The AIR SDK allows for native extensions to be incorporated into your projects now. This means native functionality (like Tweet Sheets, Facebook posts, and rate box alerts) can become seamless features of a cross-platform experience. The best resource on the market for native extensions for those unfamiliar with creating their own is Milkman Games. The two I incorporated into Spellvetica are the GoViral extension which provides the social interactions, and the RateBox extension which prompts the user to rate their experience after playing. Both extensions were easy to integrate and customize, and the support from Milkman Games is awesome. They are super quick to respond to any questions. If you are looking to develop across devices with AIR and need native features, this is your go-to lifesaver.
I won’t bore you with the process of apply and uploading to various publishers (if I haven’t bored you yet, thanks for the interest!) but what I will say is that development using AIR made this very very easy. My apk and ipa were both approved in one go, on the same day even. Amazon and Apple both took 11 days from binary submission to approval (Google Play is immediate, which is nice). The one catch that I did run across was getting it Kindle Fire approved. I don’t have a Kindle, but I figured if it worked on one Android tablet, it would work on all. The issue they wanted addressed was more about presentation than technical bugs. I’ve submitted a new version, and look forward to hearing back from them, probably within a week. I plan on submitting it to the B&N Nook marketplace once I gain the courage to endure their lengthy application process. This being a word game, Kindle and Nook are two platforms definitely worth pursuing.
This is the area I know the least. I’ve created plenty of applications and websites, but never really been responsible for the marketing campaign. One thing I do have experience in is booking and promoting shows. I’ve been playing music since high school, setting up local shows, booking national tours, and three-day festivals all with the do-it-yourself ethos. So I did what came naturally, I made an event for the launch party. I talked to a great local bar Fermentation Lounge about hosting, and they were down. I made flyers and posters, Facebook events and press releases, and sent them out and posted them up around town. I knew regardless of the internet outreach, I would do what I can to connect people in my area to my game.
Having a launch party was awesome. I had promo codes for the first 30 attendees and stickers to whoever wanted any. I had signage posted on a big flat screen for everyone to see, and a lanyard that identified me as the developer so anyone with questions would feel comfortable to approach. I also decided last minute to set up a little contest for attendees, where every half hour, whoever had the highest score got a free beer. This got people engaged with the game right away and help spread word around the bar. In the future, I plan on continuing this style of event to keep up interest.
First, let me tell you that after two days, across devices, I have sold over 100 copies. My goal has been to reach 500 to cover the costs, so hopefully Spellvetica will hit that benchmark. I wanted to release a game over the summer, so even if I didn’t sell one copy, I still consider this project a success.
Ok, this is the part that bums me out a little, so bear with me. On August 6th, the creator of SpellTower Zach Gage tweeted “somehow these guys ripped off SpellTower, PuzzleJuice and my twitter handle all in one go” (his Twitter handle being @helvetica). This created a huge furor to his 4k+ followers who decided to call me and my game all things despicable. I knew during the designing of this game that there were similarities given the modern minimalist approach I was taking, but I didn’t expect him to react how he did. I didn’t even know his Twitter handle was based on the font, I discovered his tweets through Google Alerts. After two days of vitriol from him and his followers, I decided to post the browser version of the game. Once I did, the hate speak stopped. Either he and the rest of his followers moved on or people actually played the game and saw just how different it is.
Spellvetica is an Tetris-style arcade word game. Any similarities between it and SpellTower stop the moment play begins. This is gameplay I have yet to encounter in other word games. This is why there is only one mode of play. I wanted this to look like if the West had created Tetris, that’s why I went modern minimalist, that’s why I chose Helvetica. Like I’ve said before, SpellTower did many things right, that is part of the reason why it is so popular. The indie game community is about trying different things out. This is a playground to see what mechanics work, where designs fail, and experiment to create something genuinely new. I never claimed to be the gorram Kwisatz Haderach of word games, I just wanted to make a game the world hasn’t seen before.
I implore you to play this game before making any judgements. You don’t even have to buy it, you can play it for free in your browser, there are no ads, I will receive no financial contributions for your time. Here’s the link, I hope you like it: http://spellvetica.com/browseSpellvetica_browser.html
All in all, I consider my task successfully completed. Putting the first notch in my indie game belt feels great and I encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already, it is a reward unto itself. This is a game I wanted to play, it didn’t exist, so I made it. I plan on continuing to develop this gameplay, adding real-time cross-platform multiplayer in the next month which I’m really excited to be tinkering with.
If you are a capable Flash programmer, know that the skills you’ve developed can and should be used to make great mobile games. There are tons of tools available, most of which I wouldn’t have discovered if it wasn’t for the indie game community, especially gamedev. The total development time for this game clocked in at under two weeks, but that was the easy part. Sharing your creation is what takes real skill. Take the same zeal and enthusiasm you used in creating your game and apply it to outreach. Be forthcoming and don’t be afraid of criticism. I sure as hell ain’t.
Thank you for your time, Cody Diefenthaler Indie Game Developer
TL;DR Promo codes are in the comments. Spellvetica is my first game and it is a Tetris-style word game. If you think this game is a clone of SpellTower, read the post-mortem or play for free here before you make your judgement.