Tag Archives: chromodyne

Chromodyne: A Successful Failure

I’ve been thinking for a while about writing up a postmortem of my first crack at making a Real Game, Chromodyne, for a while now. The worry is, of course, that someone may look at this as some sort of horrific waste of time and tell me I’m mad for trying to break into the App Store when… oh my god it has how many apps? However in all honesty, despite the less than stellar sales leading to what one might declare a failure on the App Store, for a number of other reasons, I feel Chromodyne has been incredibly successful and I wouldn’t have it any other way (well, except maybe the whole not selling well part).

What the hell are you talking about?

What I mean when I say “successful” I mean that on the whole, even considering the time I spent working on it only to have it sell a few hundred copies so far, I still learned a lot of valuable lessons, met a lot of awesome other developers, and it helped prove to me that I had what it takes to develop an entire video game from start to finish and to kick myself in the ass and finally decide that I should follow my dream of becoming a game developer.

What went wrong?

There were a few key things that I feel went wrong that, hindsight being 20/20, I would have done differently. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Not enough exposure – I didn’t enter into this whole App Store dealio completely blind to the fact that in order to become successful people need to know about your app. I definitely made a decent stab at it, but my relative newness to the whole scene plus working a full-time job at the time hampered my ability to really get the word out.
  • Poor branding - I fretted a long while over trying to give the game a neat and catchy title, as you should try to do, however I really didn’t think this whole “Chromodyne” thing through. After trying to explain the game to others in person, it’s definitely a clumsy name when spoken and makes it difficult for that whole “word of mouth” thing to work when people don’t know how to spell it to look it up online. Also, in retrospect, the icon could probably have used a bit more work to make it pop more on device and on the app store.
  • Fiddly controls – One problem you can not ignore in game design is how your players interact with the game. If the player is constantly fighting with the controls they will never truly get to enjoy the game and you run the risk of them abandoning it for something else. In the case of Chromodyne, I was well aware of the issues with the controls and tried to minimize their impact as much as possible, but by the very nature of the game field layout it meant that the inner-most rings were difficult to touch accurately. As well, I felt that with practice people would become better at the game and that’s what many of the reviews revealed. However, as the cliche goes, the first impression is the best impression.
  • Choosing an over-represented genre – Approximately 105% (or so) of the games on the App Store are match-3 games. Even though one cynical critic (the only bad web review I received, I might add) accused me of trying to jump on the App Store Gold Rush Bandwagon(tm) the reason I decided to try my hand at a match-3 game for my first game was because I felt it would be much easier for me to complete a game with a smaller scope in a reasonable amount of time. Speaking from experience, I have a tendency to come up with grand designs which would take a large team a couple of years to complete, so I had to learn to work within my own ability to actually make something.

What went right?

  • Learned a lot about game development – If anything I took away from this whole experience, it was a lot of experience about the game development process, including learning things about the iOS platform, the App Store, and various new programming techniques that helped make it a lot easier when I started work on my second game, Red Nova.
  • Made something I’m proud of - Despite all I’ve said about Chromodyne so far, it’s my creation and I’m really happy that I made it. It may not be perfect, but it has gotten some good reviews and on balance it may not be the best game in the world but it’s still pretty darn good. As well, I think the thing I’m most proud of are the story and characters I created for the game and maybe some day in the future Gary and Zarlax will ride again :)
  • I’m following my dream – As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve struggled over the years trying to figure out what direction I was going to take in my life. Games and game development have definitely been a passion of mine, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do professionally, but ultimately I had to make Chromodyne first to prove to myself that I had the ability. So Chromodyne was the catalyst of this at times scary but entirely exciting new path I’ve taken in my life. Also, it helped to show the people at the Genesis Centre, the startup incubator I’ve been accepted into, that I have what it takes to, as they say, do this thang.
  • Met a lot of amazing people – Through all of this I’ve met and connected with some really great people in the game development community on the internet at large and it’s really helping me feel like I’m a part of the industry now, however small my part is at the moment.

What’s next?

After six months in development, I’m on the verge of submitting my new game Red Nova to the App Store, and from all I’ve learned and all I’ve worked towards I’m confident it will be more successful than Chromodyne. How successful, I have no idea, but hopefully enough that it will allow me to keep working on adding updates to Red Nova and to start making other even more complicated games in the future. That being said, I’m currently working on getting into a position where I’ll be able to hire a 3D artist early in the new year. In addition to taking Celsius Game Studios from “one guy hacking on games in his living room” status into “if you squint hard enough, it looks like a real company” territory, it’ll help me focus solely on game design and development and allow for the creation of a larger variety of and even better looking art assets than I can eke out with my meagre art ability.

Finally, in celebration of Chromodyne being on the App Store for a little over a year (since October!) I am going to, tongue firmly in cheek, declare Chromodyne and Chromodyne HD Celsius Game Studios Not-Quite-Greatest-Hits and drop the price permanently to $0.99. You can learn more about them at the game’s page.

Chromodyne Lite

Chromodyne Lite Icon

In an effort to try and increase the visibility of Chromodyne, I’ve done gone and created a Lite version! As it is FREE, I ask you kindly to check it out, as maybe you’ll like what you see :)

You can get Chromodyne Lite on the App Store here: itms://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chromodyne-lite/id369298294?mt=8

The Chromodyne Lite Press Release Follows:

Celsius Game Studios is proud to present Chromodyne Lite, the free version of its unique and exciting match-3 puzzle game, Chromodyne! Chromodyne Lite is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, on the Apple App Store.

Chromodyne Lite features a brand new 5 chapter story introducing the player to the Chromodyne as they work their way through the Chromodynamic Academy’s accredited Accelerated Chromodyne Operator’s Course. Through this program, you too can learn the skills necessary to save the world from impending doom from outer space!

“Course?” You say.

“That sounds like it might be expensive…” You say.

You would say that, wouldn’t you?

Well, you might expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars and rack up years of crushing student debt at some “university” to learn how to save the world. Not so at the Chromodynamic Academy. No, you too can learn all this today for the low, low price of FREE!

Not only do you get this valuable training, but you’ll also find that Chromodyne Lite offers fun and challenging 3D match-3 gameplay, colourful and striking visual effects, and an awesome soundtrack by Kevin MacLeod.

If you’re saying: “Well, I can’t possibly go wrong with that! Plus I can’t argue with free… Especially when you put it in all caps like that!” I’d suggest you follow this link and give it a try: itms://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chromodyne-lite/id369298294?mt=8

Also Sprach Zarathustra

For shits and giggles I decided to try and emulate the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey in Blender. I present to you Chromodyne: A Match-3 Odyssey. I think I did a pretty good job, don’t you?

With (many) apologies to Mr. Kubrick.

In other, more serious news not related to me cocking about making movies, I submitted Chromodyne Lite to Apple for approval in the wee hours of the morning. Here’s hoping it won’t be stuck there for long!

Did Not Finish

Cries of Hypocrisy Prevention Edit #2 (July 7, 2011): Due to IAP and free-to-play becoming a viable model for actually making a decent living on the App Store I have to say my previous rant just seems a bit too narrow-minded. While having a fixed price clearly still works, it is growing increasingly difficult as an independent developer to drive sales to a paid app. Free to play isn’t just a sales model, it’s an advertising model as well and it’s obviously working. Definitely food for thought, anyway.

Cries of Hypocrisy Prevention Edit (Nov 2nd, 2010): Just a note that due to the ever-evolving nature of the App Store and the whole Long Tail thing, I’m thinking there may be a place for $0.99 price points for older apps. Kinda like the PlayStation “Greatest Hits” and all that jazz.

They call it the “Race to the Bottom” on the App store, where everyone tends to price their app towards 99 cents because they feel that will compel people to buy their app because it’s so cheap. Well, I’m not so sure that is working anymore. Also with the new finish line apparently being set at $0, I think I’m going to pull out of this race.

Put a big “Did Not Finish” next to Celsius Game Studios in the Great Race to the Bottom as even if we reached the finish line, nobody is winning.

Partially inspired by this Gamasutra article “The 0.99 Problem” by Canabalt Co-creator Adam Saltsman, the huge amount of noise at the 99 cent level, and by the fact that if people want to play my games they’ll also more than likely pay a reasonable price for it, CGS games going forward will not be priced permanently at $0.99. To prevent future cries of hypocrisy I’ll state now that you may see a sale at $0.99, but at the very least that’s the new Free for a Day as far as I’m concerned.

On my part I promise I’ll continue to deliver games that are worth more than 99 cents to you, my wonderful audience.

To that end, the $0.99 “introductory sale” on Chromodyne for the iPhone and iPod Touch will be ending this weekend and as of Monday, April 12th, it will be priced at the still inexpensive $1.99.

Mark it in your calendar. Or not.

Mark it in your calendar. Or not.

Thank you for your continued support :)

Too Good to be True (So Far)

So yesterday I started using a beta version of MajicRank by the most excellent David Frampton of Majic Jungle Software. MajicRank is a tool that scours the App Store for your apps and checks to see if they’re in the Top 100 in any of the categories on the App Store. It’s pretty awesome.

Yesterday being the launch of the iPad in the US, and I having Chromodyne HD available along with the launch of said iPad.

However, whereas the iPad launch was hugely successful, Chromodyne HD? Not so much.

Now from my frantic Twittering, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell… as for most of yesterday evening Chromodyne broke into the Top 100 in Arcade and Puzzle for iPad games. That felt great let me tell you!

Great right up until I got the daily sales summary this morning, that is! Apparently that slight surfacing into the top 100 amounted to 1 sale. Kinda sucks, hey?

I suspect the reason I’m ranking so high in those categories is that there aren’t that many games in those categories (yet) and that Chromodyne is near the bottom of the pile, but the bottom of the pile is so close to the 100 point that a single sale will do something like this. This is quite possibly also why Apple is hiding category views for iPad apps in iTunes and only showing the Top 50 on the device itself.

What sucks for me, with my currently lousy non-existent advertising budget and lack of coverage due to bigger titles getting the spotlight yesterday, is that I can’t actually take advantage of that placement in those categories. Nobody can actually see that my cool little game is in the Top 100!

I'm at the top, of the bottom!This is what excitement looks like.

It’s still early days yet and my porting of Chromodyne to the iPad was a fun experience, which effectively didn’t cost me anything except a few days of time. So I’m not upset or anything, and I wasn’t expecting miracles. There are a few pending reviews of Chromodyne so I hope they come out eventually, and that should help :)

In the meantime, I do want to thank everyone who shared my (misplaced) excitement last night, at least I can say that Chromodyne made it into a Top 100 list!

Chromodyne… HD!

Well, the iPad is out and Chromodyne was successfully ported after a marathon session of epic proportions. Amusingly, Chromodyne HD was submitted after Chromodyne v1.1 and was approved before. Some may say I amuse easily, but I was amused.

The Port

Thanks to some experience writing game engines for other platforms before, about 90-95% of Chromodyne’s graphics code was already resolution independent. After updating my XCode to the 3.2 Gold Master, I clicked the handy little “Convert this project to iPad” menu option and was playing Chromodyne in the simulator in mere minutes! Though everything else was really horrible looking because none of the 2D assets were scaled properly and some of the menus looked like crap on the huge screen.

So really, most of my time was spent creating high-res 2D graphics (even though the cutscenes are pixel art, for the most part, those are seriously high-def pixels!) and fiddling with the perspective/view on the gamefield because it was way too freaking big keeping the same perspective as the iPhone version.

I don’t know about the final build yet, but the simulator in the GM release of the SDK didn’t have 3D acceleration! I can understand why some devs were reluctant to release their apps sight-unseen to the App Store.

The iPad Only Version

If anyone actually wonders why I went with a stand-alone iPad version of Chromodyne, the biggest motivator is that the app bundle for the HD version with its 1024×768 graphics assets is larger than the 20 MB OTA limit. Basically I still want people to be able to get the iPhone version over 3G.

The Price

I’m also selling Chromodyne HD for $1.99 instead of 99 cents. I figure the larger, higher resolution game experience warrants a slightly higher price point. We’ll see how that plays out in the days to come anyway… at least I can have a sale at some point without going directly to free. Definitely something I regret when I priced Chromodyne originally.

The Numbers

I’m half-tempted to post sales numbers for Chromodyne HD as time wears on. If anything to see how things are going. I’ve seen that the game lists for the iPad don’t have any top lists for subcategories yet, which is pretty bad news for small devs such as myself. Sales for Chromodyne have not been anything to write home about, but they’ve been steady at least.

Anyway it’s been a fairly exciting few days, and at least I can say I was here from the start. Whatever that actually means, only time will tell.


The Game Is Afoot!

Just wanted to drop you all a note saying that I am forging ahead with my plans to turn Celsius Game Studios into something more than a hobby in my spare time. I really do love creating video games and I’ve been thinking about making my own company to do this for over 12 years now, it’s unfortunate it took me this long to stop being afraid about “what if it doesn’t work” and just realize it’s more important to get out there and kick some ass and do awesome things. I’ll be spending the next few months easing out of my current job before I can fully spin up the turbines at Celsius. However I have started pre-planning my next title, which you will find out about soon enough ;)

I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me, business plans, and funding and all that crazy scary stuff, but rest assured this is the real deal. I just wanted to let everyone know that awesome things are in the pipes, but that I have a lot on my plate right now so I hope you’re understanding while I work on them all at the same time.

To that effect I wanted to say that I’m still working on the 1.1.0 update for Chromodyne, and it will be out Real Soon Now.

Things that will definitely be in the update:

  • Improved game timing, reducing the time between a match being made and the play field being active again
  • 3D lighting has been improved
  • Cutscenes are now skippable
  • Improved load times slightly and added spinner when loading

Things that I’m currently working on for the update, which will hopefully make it in:

  • Alternate control style, currently testing a few final candidates
  • Online leaderboards, working on securely transmitting scores

Until next time!

Decemberos Updateos

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to ye old blag. I just wanted to let anyone concerned that yes, I am still alive!

Since I last wrote to you, Chromodyne has gotten two more positive reviews from TruthBombers and AppGirl Reviews, which is always very encouraging.

My Real Job(tm) has been rather hectic as of late, so I’m a bit behind on the first update for Chromodyne, but most of the madness has passed so I’m getting back into the swing of things there.

Speaking of madness, and my Real Job(tm), after quite a lot of deliberation I’ve finally decided that I’m going to follow my dream and try and make Celsius Game Studios into my Real Job(tm)! I have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming months, but I think I have some great ideas to work on that could only be realized by a creative effort with more than just myself working at it. Luckily I’ve got the support of my family, friends and current employer so I think this might lead to some amazing things. Stay tuned for more exciting news as time permits :)

A Trio of Reviews!

More shameless horn tooting lies ahead! *toot toot*

DIY Gamer implores the world to “Buy Chromodyne, Now!” I couldn’t agree more! :D

Touch iPhone Games gets so addicted to Chromodyne that they kill their iPod battery after playing it for longer than expected!

And finally, Keri Honea from Examiner.com says “Fans of this sort of puzzle game should all give Chromodyne a try.” Difficult to argue with, I say.

I’m so excited that people seem to have mostly good things to say about Chromodyne, and that the few negative points will eventually be dealt with as I continue to hone Chromodyne into the best puzzle game I can deliver.

148Apps.com Review

Woohoo! “Our Rating: ★★★½☆ :: WORTH A LOOK”

Another review from another iPhone site, this time it’s 148Apps.com. Some very positive comments about the game, graphics and sounds. A respectable 3.5/5 stars, and they basically say that the game can only get better. Which is true, and I’m making it better right now! :O

The 1.1 update should be ready in the next week or two, I hope. The primary focus is to bring Leaderboards and some social networking integration into the mix, plus some other fun things that will hopefully make it in for 1.1, if not 1.2.