Archive for the ‘ Ring Fling ’ Category

Ring Fling Version 1.1 and Weekend Sale

Today, I’ve released version 1.1 of Ring Fling and put it on sale for $.99 for the weekend.

So what’s in version 1.1? There are 2 new features, a crash fix, and some gameplay tweaks.

The first feature, and the one I’m most excited about, is the ability to set the number of rings each player starts with. I’ve documented my previous attempts at encouraging strategy in Ring Fling, but I think this feature will have the biggest impact to date. The idea is simple, if you want a more strategic game, drop the number of rings. This makes it so players need to think before firing and focus on timing and accuracy rather than spamming to win the game. I’ve also added a visual pulse to when you’re out of ammo so people start figuring out the mechanic a bit faster. On the other side of the coin, if you love the frantic pace of Ring Fling and want it to be even crazier, you can increase the number of rings and never need to think about conserving again.

The second feature was widely requested from both players and reviewers. In Ring Fling 1.1, you can set how many points you play to. So if you’d like to play a super quick duel against a friend, you can set it to be a 5 point game. If you want to have a grand slam, you can push up the winning score.

There was also a really bad crash fix that would happen if you played for a really long session, not THAT long on iPad3 actually. I can’t imagine anything more annoying than being in the middle of a game and having it crash on you. I’m sorry that I didn’t catch it earlier. I’d heard about this crash and had been trying to reproduce it for months and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I figured it out and was able to fix it.

If you’re extra curious, there are some other smaller changes. I reduced the number of points you needed to unlock later modifiers. The feedback was that it was just too slow. I added the ability to flip the screen over if you were so inclined. I made some changes to how releasing rings feels. Every now and then, if you didn’t follow through your swipe, the ring would go a lot slower. I didn’t want that to happen anymore. I tweaked the weights of the targets so rounds with 1 star didn’t take so much longer than rounds with 3 stars. I changed all the text to talk about stars and goals instead of jaggies and zones. After hearing so many people struggle with my bad terminology, I thought I’d stick with what everyone ended up calling them anyway.

If you’ve got any feedback or suggestions for new features, drop me a line on twitter @mugathur. Thanks for playing!

Also, as every update clears my reviews, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take the time to review Ring Fling and let me know what you think. =)

Ring Fling – Developer Diary 8 – Launch Day

I’ve been postponing and postponing this post because I wanted to be out of the bubble when I wrote it, but it just seems impossible. I’ll cut to the chase. Launch day was absolutely amazing. Short of getting engaged to my girlfriend earlier this year, it was probably the most exciting day of my life.

I woke up in the morning mentally counting the hours until 1PM, when New Zealand would launch. Since I have a day job, I had pre-written all the forum posts and emails and such that I had to send and had them all locked and loaded in my gmail drafts folder. The clock struck one and 24 hours of insanity began.

I genuinely couldn’t believe how supportive the iOS community was. In particular, I launched alongside Duckers by Retro Dreamer and Little Things Forever by KlickTock. Both of them were ridiculously helpful both in promoting Ring Fling, but also setting a great example of how to handle a game on launch day. But it wasn’t just them or just my friends. It was all kinds of people. It was press. It was players. It was all over the place.

When the day started, I had very low expectations. The only coverage that I thought I had any chance of getting was to be listed in Touch Arcade’s Coming Tonight feature. I knew that posting in the forums got you into the running and it seemed like they posted most, if not all, of the new games from the forums. However, that first day, I think I got something like 8 or 9 mentions including some pretty huge outlets.

And this is where the actual blog post starts because in that 24 hours, I learned what it was to be indie. At least to me. I think back to the times that I had in console games. I’m extremely proud of LittleBigPlanet and Ratchet & Clank. But there’s something missing. I’m proud of them as titles. I’m proud of the hard work I put into them. But the thing that’s missing is that I’m not proud that my contribution made them the great games that they were. It’s strange. I can think along the lines of “I wrote the switches code in LBP and without switches, the creator community couldn’t have done all the amazing things it did.” However, that’s true of joins and CSG shapes and loads of artwork and the pop-it and a huge list of other stuff. And I didn’t design or make the art for switches. Would people have even understood them if I designed them? If I wasn’t there, would LBP still have had switches? Would they be different in any way at all? We don’t have a time machine to AB test all this stuff. I’ll never know. After I left Media Molecule, they hired another gameplay programmer to replace me and he seemed to do at least as good a job as I did on everything. I’ll always be proud that I was lucky enough to be part of that team, but I’ll never know if I made a difference. I think that’s one of the reasons going gold and launch are exciting in console games, but there’s something awkward about them even beyond the sleep deprivation induced zombism.

I don’t know if this is true with everyone, but to me, doubt is a horrifyingly powerful force, especially with credit. In the years since I’ve met my fiance, Carly, I’ve become a lot more human. In fact, she always comments on the way I use the word human as though it’s a concept completely removed from me. But before that, I was explicitly working very hard to live a life without emotion and of the purest theoretical ethics. If you were to ask me to describe my fundamental philosophy in life in one word, that word would have been desert. By desert, I don’t mean the place with lots of sand. It’s also not a misspelling of the category of fatty foods, although they were also a big part of my life. By desert, I refer to the state of being deserving of something. It’s such a critical concept to me. It’s the difference between confidence and arrogance. It’s the difference between a reward and greed. It’s the difference between achievement and theft. It is the concept that goes deepest into the core of my being. When I interview people, my most important attribute I’m looking for isn’t their ability to code. It’s the relationship between how good they are and how good they think they are. People who think they’re better than they are aren’t ready to listen or learn or grow. In a few years, they will be left behind. People who think dramatically less of themselves than they should are not prepared to spread their knowledge and teach and nurture others. People who have a pretty good sense of where they stand, though, are incredible. They know there are people better than them in certain things and will always try to develop in those areas. They know what they possess and they’ll be happy to share it onward with others.

So to me, taking credit for something I didn’t do is a horrific crime. Even through this whole Ring Fling experience, I have some direct contributors to Ring Fling, but they’ve requested that I not be too loud about their contributions. Not sufficiently crediting them makes me feel like a fraud at times. So on a big project like LBP, for me to claim I was instrumental or irreplaceable in any way is riddled with doubt, and rightly so. With that many people in the mix, you’ll never know what it would have been like without a particular individual. And even on LBP, if I look back and try to make the objective list of people that the game fundamentally couldn’t have been as great without, I don’t put myself on that list. I got stuff done. I had a great time doing it. I’m happy that I did. I’m proud I helped out, but I’m pretty sure if I didn’t take the job, LBP would have been just as good.

So that’s why Ring Fling was so different. I basically did everything except for sound effects, app icon, and in game text. The game design was mine. The “art” was mine. And I definitely did all of the programming (except of course for Box2D, FreeType, and iOS). While that’s not 100%, it was enough to alleviate the doubt. When people said all the lovely things that were said about Ring Fling, I could take it to heart. It’s kind of funny that they handed out shirts at the end of LBP the said “I MADE THAT!” on the back. On launch day, that was the feeling that I was overwhelmed with. I made that. But this time, I actually did make that. And obviously, with the good, I have to take the bad as well. So when criticisms come in, they’re on me as well.

It’s funny to think about because the idea of combining Crossfire with Hungry Hungry Hippos is such a trivial one. The prototype that I had after my first two days was pretty much what anyone else would have done. At that point, I felt like I needed to release it as fast as possible because if I could make it in two days, anyone could make it in two days. As development continued, though, it was clear that Ring Fling was something that only I would make the way it was. There’s so much of how I think about things built into how the game is written. In the process of planning our wedding, I’ve realized what my approach to creating is. I’m not focused on trying to cram in as many super awesome things as I can into a piece of work. I’m focused on two things: removing anything that’s bad and keeping it coherent. I realized that an attitude like that would never make a Ratchet and Clank where it’s all about requiring a certain number of levels and just knowing some aren’t nearly as good as the others, but the overall experience is good. For me, it’s all an exercise in developing my taste and getting more accurate about what does and doesn’t work.

To me, launch day was many things, but more than anything else, launch day was the first time in my entire career that I felt like I deserved to take credit for something.

Ring Fling – Developer Diary 7 – Road To Launch

The day I announced Ring Fling was incredible. The weekend before, I had just gotten engaged and I received a ton of awesome messages, emails, and mentions on twitter. I’d never experienced such an onslaught of positivity before. When I announced Ring Fling, there was really only one motivation. I wanted to put something on the internet to link to from emails to press. I didn’t expect anything to come of it. I just wanted to put something out there. The reception, though, was unbelievable. It was like the previous weekend all over again. Retweet after retweet. Congrats after congrats.

I’ve always been a bit self-conscious about Ring Fling and about solo development in general. I feel like I’ve worked on some incredible projects with incredible people. Whenever I’ve taken on a solo project, it’s become unbelievably clear what a small role I played on those massive projects and how limited my personal skill set was. It always made me feel a bit like a fraud. So on one hand, I was extremely happy with Ring Fling and how it had turned out, but on the other, it was a definite step down from LittleBigPlanet or even MonstrosCity. So the outpouring of support when it was announced was absolutely amazing.

Since the whole point of putting the announcement out there was to start contacting press, I started doing so. I had been given a short list of email addresses to contact from a friend and started sending emails. Something didn’t feel right, though. I was such a small fry. Who was going to care that I was announcing my game? I started a theme that stands at the core of the entire development and promotion of Ring Fling. I asked twitter. The resounding response was that I shouldn’t contact press until the app has been approved and promo codes are available.

I stopped writing emails and started compiling a list. Once again, I went to twitter for help. A super nice guy, Carson Whitsett, pointed me in the right direction. He sent me to a list of review sites, sent me the email he had sent to press, and included a bunch of other advice about the process he was currently going through. I’d never met him before or interacted with him on twitter. He just volunteered all of this help to me. To be honest, I was kind of blown away by it, but I’ve come to learn that it’s just the way the indie iOS scene works.

The next order of business was submitting a build to Apple. I thought I was basically there. I just wanted to spend a few more days testing before I submitted. I ended up submitting 4 days later on May 11th. It was the same day that I was submitting an app for work, which was kind of crazy. I went from having never submitted an app before to submitting 2 within 24 hours.

After that, it was a really awkward quiet period. I wasn’t going to contact press because I didn’t have promo codes and I wanted to get user feedback before I did any major iterations on the game so I had no code to write. The quiet didn’t last long, though, as Apple only took a week to approve the app. I had read that you should give sites at least 2 weeks to do reviews so that you can get a launch day review for your app and set the release date for May 31st. Now the real work was about to start.

Someone gave some advice that I thought made a lot of sense. I can’t remember who it was, but they said to send emails with promo codes to the top 10 sites and then send emails to the rest saying that promo codes were available if they were interested. Some of them were just email addresses and some of them were forms. I also included promo codes for all the forms that requested them. I ended up sending a total of 60 emails and 30 promo codes.

This was a very difficult process for me for many reasons. Firstly, I’m just a very awkward person. I’ve always been a very awkward person and it’s taken me loads of time and effort to become a socially functional person. The technique I’ve developed for interacting with people, though, is very adaptive. I spend a lot of time reading the other person and making tons of minor adjustments along the way. Me being social is a very manual process. Nothing comes naturally to me. Because of this, I’m terrible at conversations in groups because I can’t track everyone’s reactions at once and even if I could, I wouldn’t know how to respond appropriately to all those different reactions. So writing an email to somebody I know nothing about is a bit of a nightmare for me. Firstly, I have absolutely no information and don’t know how even to get started. Secondly, I’m not getting any feedback at any point so who knows what I’m going to drift into.

The second thing is authenticity. For each of the sites, I tried to read any recommendations they had for developers or tried to read enough of the site to get what their angle was or tried to gain some insight into who I was talking to. It just felt cold and wrong of me to just have a single email that I simply sent to everyone. However, after 8 or 9 emails, each customized version was less coherent than the original one that I had written. It really pained me that in the end, the majority of the emails were simple cut and paste jobs. I wish I knew who was receiving the emails and that I knew them better. I wish I had a decent gauge on if they’d care at all.

It was quickly approaching launch day and I hadn’t hadn’t got much of a response. I got emails from all the pay-to-review sites to see if I wanted to buy a review. I think I got a total of one promo code request from the 30 emails where I didn’t include one. Of all the sites I did include promo codes for, none of them sent back any sort of response. It’s a bit of an awkward situation. I know it’s impossible for these sites to respond to every single inbound email. Also, opening the communication channels can be dangerous sometimes, especially if you have something negative to say. If a site responded to me and said they weren’t going to review my app, I’d understand. However, I can imagine that some developers wouldn’t and would try to start an argument on why they deserve to be reviewed. The difficult thing for developer, though, is that I have no idea if they saw my email and thought it wasn’t good enough or if they just missed it in the flood of emails.

According to iTunes Connect, as of the morning of launch day, 3 of the 30 promo codes had been redeemed. At the time, I was kind of sad about it. I don’t think I was expecting a much bigger response, but part of me was hoping for one. I started thinking about what I did wrong and how I could do better next time. I regretted pushing the game back two weeks for launch day reviews since it was clear there wouldn’t be any. It was a good reality check, though. I was still very excited about having a game out on the app store, but I had accepted it was just going to be a game that I was proud of that nobody had ever heard of. Then launch day happened.