It’s been four months since my last post back in November. I know I said I’d keep blogging, but that just didn’t happen. Luckily, it’s been so long that it’s my turn to do iDevBlogADay again. Due to the new rules, this means you can expect me to post every other Sunday, although I’m actually planning(*hoping) to post every week.
I figure the best way to re-start blogging with is a summary of the past four months, in semi-chronological order, so that’s what this week’s post is gonna be.
I finally finished my job at the end of the year. I was employed at Indusblue for over five years, basically since graduating college, so it was bittersweet to leave. I worked with some really awesome people there, learned a ton of stuff, and just generally had a great time. As much as I loved it, I knew it just didn’t make sense to stay there if I wanted to have a career making games, and so the end of the year was a great time to start fresh.
I did a Christmas sale that started a couple days before the 25th of December. I dropped the price of Trainyard to $0.99 from $2.99 and made a couple videos to tell current Trainyard players about the sale. The video that went to the regular players basically just explained what was going on with Trainyard, what was in the new update, and was was coming up in the future. The video that went to the free players was more of an upsell video, trying to explain why they might want to buy the full version.
The sale wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped, but it worked pretty well. A week before Christmas, Trainyard was making around $800 per day, but on Christmas it made $1500. All in all, it made over $1000/day for the first 10 days of the sale. I definitely can’t complain about that.
People to watch
One really sweet thing that happened is that I was featured in a Toronto Star article called “People to Watch 2011″. Going to the photo shoot for this article was fun, as I got to meet a bunch of interesting people in all kinds of fields. After the article was printed, I received lots of encouraging messages from old friends, family, and school teachers. The whole experience was very cool, and I was honoured to be chosen for the list. You can view the full article if you click the image below.
Starting a company
In January, with my old job out of the way, I officially started my new company. It’s called Magicule. People seem to either love or hate the name. I go back and forth on it every day, sometimes I hate it, sometimes I kinda don’t mind it, hah. It’s meant to be a portmanteau of “magic” and “molecule”, because games are like mix of magic and science, or something like that. I still haven’t bothered to get a logo made for it, but when I do, I’m hoping it’ll help to convey the meaning.
For some reason, I decided to make an app for the Blackberry PlayBook in January. I used to be a Flash developer before I did iOS development, so making a PlayBook app was actually really easy to do, and it helped that Blackberry has a deal where if you make an app before the PlayBook comes out, they’ll give you one for free.
My app is called Scorekeeper. It’s a really simple tool for keeping track of scores while playing party games or board games with friends. I’d show a screenshot here, but it’s really hard to appreciate until you see it in motion. I don’t expect it to make very much money; I just made it for fun, to do something completely different for a while.
I got to present my app at the FlashInTO user group here in Toronto. RIM brought a PlayBook to the event, so I got to try Scorekeeper on a real PlayBook. The device was pretty impressive, and ran my app at a smooth 60fps. It’s a great product. People keep saying it’s not an “iPad killer”, but I don’t think that’s what RIM is trying to be at all. The way I see it, they’re targeting it solely at current Blackberry users, and I think they’re going to do really, really well with that audience.
At the start of March, I finally got to attend the Game Developer’s Conference. Of all the conferences I’ve wanted to attend, GDC was at the top of the list, and it didn’t disappoint. There were lots of phenomenal sessions, and it was awesome to get to meet with the rest of the “indie iOS” community. I highly, highly recommend it.
One of the best parts of GDC is just that fact that it’s in San Francisco. The food is great, the people are nice, and the scenery is fantastic. I spent my second day in San Fran up in Berkeley hanging out with Jonathan Mann. In my opinion, Jonathan is the most under-appreciated person on the internet. Seriously. He writes a new song and posts it online *every single day* and he’s been doing it for 808 days straight. How crazy is that? And some of them are really, really good. He wrote a bunch of songs you’re probably heard, like the iPhone Antenna Song, the Pocket God Update Song, and countless (well, 808) other songs. One of my favourites is String Theory, or if you want to see my cameo from the day I was there, check out his song on Settlers of Catan.
Where did the time go?
Right now when I look back over the past three months, I wonder what I was doing the whole time. I’ve definitely done some work, but it sure doesn’t seem like three months worth. I guess time flies when you’re working for yourself. Doing business-y stuff also gets in the way and just seems to suck up infinite amounts of time. I’m quickly learning that when you’re working solo, it’s more important than ever to carefully structure your time and hold yourself to strict deadlines.
I’m still working on the Trainyard “Engineer” update, which should be pretty sweet when it finally comes out. Along with that, I had a cool idea for a game on the way back from GDC, so I decided to prototype it. It’s an indie-style pixel platformer that I’m making in Flash (Flixel, specifically). I’m not really sure what I want to do with it, I might just release it as a webgame in its rough form, because I don’t see a good way to make it into a “real” game without a ton more work, and I’ve already got way too much to do.
I’m also working on another iOS puzzle game (or two?), and a game that’s very hard to explain. There’s definitely way too much on my plate, but I’m trying to tackle it one thing at a time, so I’m sure it’ll all get done eventually.
So that this post isn’t completely useless, I figured I’d throw a couple tips in:
Form a corporation before you sell a game on the App Store
Not incorporating has given me so many headaches. It’s really not that hard or expensive to create one, but it’ll save you from so many hassles later on.
Give yourself very strict deadlines
You need to treat each one of your own projects as if they’re for a client, or else you’ll never get any of them done. I’m really bad at this, but I’m working on it.
Don’t use Twitter or email or Reddit during the day
This is something I struggle with, but it improves my productivity a ton when I do it. Yes, even ignore email. Unless you’re a sysadmin (you’re not), then you’re probably not getting an urgent email. At the very least, don’t check Twitter and email first thing in the morning, it sets a horrible tone for the rest of the day. And if you’re not on Reddit already, don’t start, it’ll suck your time away like an evil meme-filled vacuum.
Make a goal for your company
This was the key message I got from Arash’s talk at GDC. All the decisions you make for your company become a lot simpler if you know what you want your company to become. You need some kind of mission statement, some kind of idea of what your purpose is. I think this applies to individuals as well. Spend a couple hours and really figure out exactly what your goals and ambitions are, then write them down and put them somewhere visible.
So with that, I think I’ll draw this post to a close. Many thanks if you’ve actually read this far. I promise the posts in the weeks to come will be a lot more interesting, so don’t forget to come back next Sunday!