Thursday 13 December 2012

Slamjet Stadium Trailer!

Here it is! The trailer for my upcoming game, Slamjet Stadium for iPad.

Feel free to read more about the game here on the blog, or contact me via twitter or email (games [at] alistairaitcheson [dot] com) if you have any queries!

Slamjet Stadium is the upcoming iPad game from indie developer Alistair Aitcheson, creator of the Greedy Bankers games for iOS. Challenge your friends to crazy futuristic matches! Charge your hoverbike and slam the ball into the goal! Steal your friends' players and fling them into traps!

The rules of the game are simple, and the rules of social conduct are there to be broken. You can grab your opponent's players as well as your own, push them out of the way, or grab a teammate and play two-against-one. Wormholes, moving goals, ridiculous powerups and deadly traps give you more incentive to play dirty!

Also featured is a single-player mode, where you can take on a gauntlet of A.I. challengers to prove yourself as the galaxy's mightiest player!

Many thanks to the hugeley talented Tom Parfitt, who composed the music for the trailer and is creating music and audio for the game.

Slamjet Stadium will be available for iPad in the new year.

Monday 10 December 2012

Welcome to Slamjet Stadium!

Galaxyball 2113 has a new title - it's now Slamjet Stadium and I'm so excited about how it's going!

The video below gives a brief rundown of how the game's played, so hopefully you can get a feel for what it's like in action.

Guess who's been making A.I.! 

Since my last post I've been putting a lot of work into the AI and then user interface. I've had a lot of fun doing the AI in particular - there's something oddly delightful of coding a game and watching it play by itself. I coded AI for Greedy Bankers vs The World, and it's fascinating how different the two implementations are.

Saturday 3 November 2012

What's new in Galaxyball?

I've been working pretty full-on with Galaxyball 2113 so far, and it's really taking shape. GameCity Nottingham proved to be a fantastic opportunity to test out the game with the general public. What's great about demoing at this kind of event is that the audience really runs the gamut of player-types: from children to grandparents, gamers and non-gamers alike.

 I managed to work in two new teams before the festival: the burly aggressive Astro Marines, and the Cortex Crusaders, who aren't just brains in jars… they're brains in rocket jars!

Galaxyball - Marines and Crusaders

Functionally, the Astro Marines are heavier and bulkier than the other teams, while the Cortex Crusaders are smaller and floatier. One thing I did learn from GameCity is just how physical the game can be, I'll be making these kinds of differences bolder and broader so they have a clear effect on play. I was never a fan of subtlety anyway, so I'm going to experiment with other, more obvious abilities - the brains could psychically repel opponents, for example, or the marines could be protected against stage hazards.

Galaxyball - Wormholes Stage

I've also been putting a lot of effort into the look-and-feel of scenery, as I really want the player to feel like they're part of some brutal sports tournament. I've been working on scenery such as vents, pipes and fans to make arenas feel more industrial, and the flashing lights respond to the state of play and upcoming hazards, making it feel more alive.

There's also an extra two arenas added in now: one with wormholes, for an extra jolt of unpredictability, and another where the goals regularly change position.

Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell tries out Galaxyball at GameCity

The really exciting take-home from GameCity was just how physical people get over the game. As soon as they score their first goal, players tend to get very competitive - which is exactly what I want. Just like Greedy Bankers' iPad multiplayer, I want players to get in each others' way, steal each other's characters, and mess each other up within the game world and in the space around the screen. In fact, that whole feel works even better here than it did in Bankers.

Both players need to use the whole space to play, which means they both get to use the whole of that lovely big iPad screen. And because players don't always need to be in the exact same place at the same time, it's more of a scramble for a good position than a fight over the exact same spot. It's hard to explain, but it makes the whole game feel fluid - a clash of hands never creates a stalemate - and that's incredibly encouraging.

It's certainly an exciting time for the game and I can't wait to show off some more as it expands!

For the sake of perspective, here's how the very first prototype looked. Great oaks from little acorns eh? It was fantastic fun even at that rough-and-ready stage, which is exactly what you want a prototype to be, and why I was so excited to pursue this project in the first place.

Monday 15 October 2012

Galaxyball Coming to GameCity Nottingham 25-26 October

If you're heading to GameCity Nottingham this month (which you should be, as it's amazing) please do have a peek at the Old Market Square on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th, where I'll be exhibiting Galaxyball 2113 in its first public showing!

With the game still in development this will be a fantastic opportunity to test it out with the general public, so if you're there I'll be very excited to get your feedback. I'm particularly excited to see how different people find the multiplayer experience, so I can get a feel for which aspects of the game really buzz with players.

Greedy Bankers being played at GameCity 6 last year
I demoed Greedy Bankers vs The World at the event last year, and the multiplayer was fantastically popular. Lots of people visit GameCity with friends and family, so it's a perfect opportunity to test out player-vs-player party games like Galaxyball.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Introducing Galaxyball 2113!

Good morning everyone! I'm very excited to announce my latest game in the works. I've been building it for the past month or so, and hope to have it ready to launch in the new year.

Broadcast across the galaxy in the year 2113, Galaxyball is the number one deathsport of the 22nd Century. Teams from all four sectors compete for the grand title - including mutants, rocketeers, aliens, space marines and more - and for the first season ever, you will be able to take part too. Your iPad is a window to the future, and your finger powers the players! 

Galaxyball is a multiplayer iPad game, building on the stealing and cheating that were so popular in Greedy Bankers vs The World. This time we're jetting off to a physics-based future to play football on hoverbikes, and grabbing your opponents to fling them into traps is fair game!

Thursday 13 September 2012

Game Design Fundamentals - Meaningful Decisions

As someone who's been making games for over ten years, initially as a hobby and now as a full-time career, I've picked up a lot of wisdom and experience that I probably take for granted. While much of it has been collected from my own experiences developing games, most if it has come from other developers who I've met at jams and events, or read about online.

I want to share some of these in my blog so others can learn from what I've learned. Hopefully there'll be plenty of ideas here that will be useful and will be helpful for you in your own game development!

I'll start out by looking at meaningful decisions. When I design and work on my games I try to make every decision as meaningful as possible. Let's have a look at what that means.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Advice for developing iOS games - Edge Online

I was interviewed, alongside Ben Murch of Hunters 2 developer Rodeo Games, by Edge Online. They asked for tips for people wanting to develop iOS games, and so we gave them some! If you're interested in developing for the platform I hope it's useful.

Have a look at the article here, and feel free to ask me if you have any questions about iOS development, on this blog or on twitter!

Making iOS Games: App Store advice from Rodeo Games’ Ben Murch and Greedy Bankers dev Alistair Aitcheson

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Steam Greenlight and the Discoverability Challenge

Update: Since writing this post, Steam has introduced a $100 entry fee for Greenlight. I've added my thoughts at the end of this piece.

Last week saw the launch of Steam's new Greenlight programme. For the uninitiated, Greenlight is an initiative by the aforementioned desktop games portal to get its user community deciding what indie games should be published on the service. New game proposals, with demos and screenshots, can be shown in the portal, much like an App Store, and users can upvote games they like, share comments, and help promote the games they are most interested in for selection by Steam.

When I heard about the scheme after its announcement in July, I was apprehensive. While taking game selection out of the hands of a black box of executives was promising, I was concerned that any community-rated games ecosystem would suffer the same issues as the App Store and Google Play do - that is, the games receiving most attention (sales in App Stores, upvotes here) would receive the best promotion, creating a virtuous cycle for those at the top, but a wall for exposure for newcomers. Fortunately, as Mike Rose intelligently explained in his recent Gamasutra article, Greenlight has found a way around this issue…

… by not including a ranking system at all.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

10 Gamedev Articles You Must Read (or Watch)

I spend a lot of time catching up with my favourite games blogs and websites, and over the past couple of years have come across a mountain of useful and inspiring articles and videos that have helped me in my work. I've had a trawl through my bookmarks, Readability archive and my old tweets to find some favourites that I hope you will benefit from too!

Thursday 9 August 2012

Pocket Gamer Guest Post - Indie Marketing Begins With Your Game Design

I wrote an article for which went up today. In it, I argue that the most important part of marketing your indie game is the design of your game itself. It's about designing your game to be marketable, and that for a game to be marketable it needs to be remarkable. Your game should encourage discussion, and it's up to you to create a dialogue around your game as early as possible.

Have a look, and I hope you find it useful!

Pocket Gamer: Greedy Bankers' Alistair Aitcheson on why indie marketing starts with game design

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Introducing the Best of British Summer Sports Jam!

This week at Develop Conference a team of indie mobile developers took to the floor to announce the Best of British initiative. Best of British is a collective of mobile developers - including Spilt Milk Studios (Hard Lines), Big Pixel (Off the Leash), Mobile Pie (My Star), Future Games of London (Hungry Shark), and myself - who teamed up earlier this year to pool our efforts and share our skills, audiences and connections in order to make a splash in the mobile market.

This weekend we will be developing our first collective game, Best of British Summer Sports, as a 48 hour jam. Mind Candy (Moshi Monsters) have been kind enough to lend us their offices for the event, while Unity are kindly providing sponsorship, and will be on hand to offer technical support.

Best of British Summer Sports will be a collection of rapid-fire minigames, played against the clock. Each member studio will produce a selection of their own micro-challenges, which will be compiled together for continuous play. So you'll be able to sample all the development skills our rag-tag team of misfits has to offer!

We would all like to thank Unity and Mind Candy for helping to make this happen, and also to Osborne Clarke, who have been incredibly supportive throughout the Best of British initiative!

Follow the Best of British team on Facebook

Monday 16 July 2012

Adventures at Develop Brighton!

I'm back this week from an incredible time at Develop Conference 2012 in Brighton, where I was speaking last Thursday. While the weather didn't exactly hold up there was plenty of warmth from the games industry community and I made a lot of new friends from all sides of the industry.

Particular stand-out talks included Brian Baglow's closing talk from the Indie Marketing Day, highlighting what indie developers should be doing to promote their games but aren't. This earlier talk from him, along similar lines, is a must watch if you weren't there! I was also thoroughly impressed by Fat Pebble's unique plasticene design shown in their talk about their upcoming game Clay Jam, and the creativity and ambition shown by FuturLab in their press and media operations.

Marketing and PR was a key issue on the Indie track this year, and with good reason. It's the hardest part of an indie's operations, in my opinion, and certainly something I've put a lot of time and effort into. So to see such inspiring and thought-provoking discussion was extremely valuable. Other highlights included Benni Hill's talk about running White Paper Games, and Rob Davis (Playniac)'s talk on how they followed up the launch of International Racing Squirrels for Channel 4 - all very insighful.

My own talk went down very well indeed. Several delegates commented that they found it inspiring and useful - something that I am, to be perfectly honest, chuffed to bits about! I plan to produce a video based on my talk on Indie Exposure, but do take a look at my blog series if it's a subject you would like to know more about.

Finally, I made some fantastic new connections and was glad to meet up with games journalists, other indie studios, and many more fascinating faces from the industry. I'd definitely recommend going to the next one, event for the networking alone. Develop Liverpool will be in November this year, and the conference will return to Brighton next summer. I hope to see you there!

The slides from my talk can be downloaded from here

Sunday 1 July 2012

Indie Exposure: A Rundown

With my Develop Conference talk coming very soon (Thursday 12th July everyone!), what better time to put up a summary of my Indie Exposure series of articles? The articles have been kindly reposted on GamesBrief, an in-depth resource for games business articles that you should definitely take a look at.

Part 1: Why is Exposure So Difficult?

The biggest obstacle to success as an indie, in my view, has been exposure of my game to its audience. How do I get people to know about my game? This article looks at where these challenges come from, especially in open marketplaces such as the iOS App Store.

Part 2: Making the Most of your USP

Part and parcel of your game's marketablity is its unique selling point. Being able to explain why your product is awesome in one sentence or image is incredibly powerful. Emphasising what makes your product remarkable, rather than its general quality or polish, is what gets people talking. But you need to find a marketplace that is looking for something to talk about.

Part 2b: Virality

A response to Kevin Allocca's informative TED talk about viral videos. The video explains the mechanics which determine what content goes viral and the importance of tastemakers - all of which is equally applicable to making a marketable game!

Part 3: The Personal Touch

As an indie developer you're able to operate on a personal level in a way that larger studios cannot. Use this to leverage your audience and the press by offering them memorable experiences and a genuine connection to the creator. Your personal efforts are hugely effective in gaining the interests of tastemakers.

Part 4: The Free and the Exposed

There is perfectly logical reasoning why putting your game out for free can engage more users and make viral propogation of your game more likely. However, it is by now means a magic bullet. This article reflects on my own experience with Greedy Bankers: Bailout! and asks why a free price band may not necessarily help your game spread.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Indie Exposure: The Realities of Free

It's been a while since the last Indie Exposure post, hasn't it? When I was planning to post this instalment, I was preparing Greedy Bankers: Bailout! for launch - that is, the free version of the game with expanded game modes for in-app purchases. I fully expected this to make a massive difference to the game's fortunes - specifically, enabling much better exposure.

Of course, as with the best laid plans, this strategy didn't go the way I expected. While I am receiving consistently higher downloads of the free version as I had been getting on the paid version, I was expecting the userbase to grow by significantly more than it actually did. I needed to do some thinking before I could wax lyrical about the exposure opportunities for free games. 

I'll begin with my starting logic: offering your game for free should make it more open to recommendation, and hence benefit your exposure. Let's think about why.

The Logic

Put yourself in your customers' shoes, or look at your own purchasing decisions. I presume I am not an atypical iOS user, and from my own experience even paying 69p for an app requires a big decision. After all, how many times do I want to spend 69p before I find something that I really enjoy? Unless I am cautious about my spending those 69p's could really add up!

When I buy a cup of coffee, I know exactly what I'm going to get and have a fairly accurate estimate of how much I'll enjoy it. So paying £1.80 for my medium Americano is not a big decision. With a game I have only the vaguest idea how much I'll enjoy it, even if I take time to read all the copy, see the reviews and look at the screenshots. In short, I'll be taking a risk

Saturday 2 June 2012

Speaking at Develop Brighton, 12 July 2012

Hi everyone! Just to let you know I'll be speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton this July. I'll be giving a talk titled Indie Exposure: Tackling the Challenges, based on my recent blog series.
Breaking into the market as an indie developer takes more than just a great game, with publicity and exposure being major barriers to success. Drawing lessons from his Greedy Bankers series on iOS, one-man studio Alistair Aitcheson examines why visibility remains such a challenge, and explores ways to achieve it.

He’ll explore how freely-accessible marketplaces like the App Store are approached by consumers, the importance of a bold and remarkable USP, and how pricing and platform affect your ability to draw attention. He also examines the opportunities unique to indie developers, to take memorable design risks and to become identifiable personalities.
I'll be speaking as part of the Indie Dev Day on 12th July. Early bird tickets for the day are £75 before 13 July. I went to this day last year and found it both insightful and useful, and an affordable alternative to the full conference for smaller studios, so it's highly recommended! I'll be in Brighton for all three days of the conference this year, so if anyone else is going it'll be great to see you there.

The feedback I got from my Develop Liverpool talk was so encouraging, and thoroughly enjoyed giving my presentation. So I'm excited to be able to speak at the main event in Brighton this year!

The conference is also running an Indie Marketing Day on 11th of July, which has a very exciting lineup of talks, and is definitely work taking a look at.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Greedy Bankers: Bailout! Launches

The free-to-play edition of Greedy Bankers, titled Greedy Bankers: Bailout! is now available in the App Store.

Please do tell your friends, and pass on the link - the more players the merrier!

The new version is FREE, and introduces two new game modes - Mystery and Bailout - alongside brand new music and sound design from musician Tom Parfitt.

Greedy Bankers: Bailout! is free to play, with additional game modes priced at $0.99/£0.69/€0.79 each.

Thanks very much, and happy banking to all!

Friday 9 March 2012

Indie Exposure: This Time it's Personal

So we've had a look at where the challenges of indie exposure lie, and the power of the USP in your promotion, and how to make the most of it. It seems natural to follow on with a discussion of one particular USP available to all of us indie developers. It's something few AAA studios have quite the same access to...

It is ourselves.

Our ability as indie developers to be individuals, with distinctive personalities and motivations is incredibly valuable. Here's why:

Your Marketing Story

Your marketing story is one of the most important promotional tools at your disposal. Tadhg Kelly wrote a smart article on what makes for a good marketing story, which is a must-read.

Stories are emotive. Stories are memorable. Stories have a human face. We as indies have unique and fascinating stories to tell. Because of our scale, we can be individual personalities, and readers of our stories can put themselves in our shoes. You may not think you have an interesting story, but you do. Micro studios taking on entire game projects must inevitably take a unique and usual path to get there. The tale of an indie who struggled to get break through but persisted through thick and thin is inspiring.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Indie Exposure Addendum: Virality

Thanks to game developer Bateleur (FastRam Design) for recommending this video - it's well worth a watch. The video is a talk about how viral videos get popular, and I think there's strong parallels with the indie and iPhone games markets.

When I posted links to these articles on the TIGSource forums, a few points were raised. I'd casually mentioned a "mass gatekeeper" created by the consumer audience in my first article. This is to reference the point that the consumer network has replaced the gatekeeper that used to be publishers and platform holders. Developer Paul Eres suggested that the mass gatekeeper was less potent than the tastemakers: games press and gaming voices that inform large swathes of followers.

I think that both of these are true. Fortunately, I think that both of these gatekeepers are very similar to what they see as remarkable.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Preparing to Launch... Greedy Bankers: Bailout!

The previously announced Greedy Bankers:Bailout! has just gone out for its final round of testing! Should the beta tests prove successful, I'll probably launch the game towards the end of the week. Greedy Bankers: Bailout! adds in two brand new game modes, Bailout and Mystery, and offers the Arcade mode from the original Greedy Bankers entirely free of charge. The extra game modes will be unlockable by in-app purchase.

The new version also includes a brand new soundtrack and sound design by musician Tom Parfitt, making it considerably brighter and buzzier than its predecessor. The music's been stuck in my head for weeks, which is always a good sign!

I'll be sure to keep you posted as and when Greedy Bankers: Bailout! is submitted... watch this space!

Monday 27 February 2012

Indie Exposure: Making the most of your USP

The articles in this series are featured as guest posts on GamesBrief: The Business of Games

In my previous article I discussed how and why exposure is the major issue facing independent developers. In the next few articles I want to talk about some of the key ways I feel this can be overcome, drawing on my own experience with the Greedy Bankers games on iPhone and iPad.

It can be very easy to see marketing and game development as separate disciplines - that creating an awesome game and drawing in new players are separate tasks requiring separate sets of skills. The reality is that designing your game to be marketable is a key part of development. It's up to you as a designer to identify, develop and promote your unique selling point.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Introducing Greedy Bankers: Bailout!

Today marks the birthday of Greedy Bankers on the iPhone: it went live in the App Store exactly one year ago. It's been an exciting year, with big updates, the iPad sequel, Greedy Bankers vs The World, and the game being exhibited live at Eurogamer Expo, GameCity Nottingham, the Guardian Gamesblog social at BAFTA, and the GEEK Expo in Kent just last week.

Of course, Greedy Bankers is an ongoing project, and I'm certainly not finished with it. There's a brand new entry in the series heading to the iPhone very soon... Greedy Bankers: Bailout!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Indie Exposure: Why's it so hard?

This article was featured as a guest post on Games Brief - the Business of Games

Last Friday I was at the incredible Bit of Alright, David Hayward's smorgasbord of indie delights, giving a talk about Indie Exposure. Self-publishing the Greedy Bankers games has taught me a lot of lessons, not least just how much time, energy and creative thinking I've needed to devote to PR and marketing. The problem I've had, particularly with the original iPhone release, is that while it's had a very positive response from those who have played it, getting into the hands of players has been a massive challenge.

In the next few blog posts I plan to discuss the issues involved: why it's so tough to get exposure for indie and mobile games, and my strategies for getting that coveted exposure. So without further ado, let's look at where these difficulties are coming from.

Growing Competition

There are increasingly many developers launching games into the indie space. The rise of free-to-access marketplaces with limited gatekeeping - the iOS and Android app stores, the web and portals such as Kongregate and Facebook - mean that it's never been easier to release a game. In fact, without this I probably wouldn't have been able to operate as a one-man studio at all.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Greedy Bankers to face prison!?

This turned up on the front page of the Mail on Sunday, and I couldn't resist posting a photo - does this make me a wanted man? I'd always thought addictive puzzle-strategy games would be celebrated by the British public, but it looks like chancellor George Osbourne begs to differ