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Beta testers wanted!

Beta testers wanted!

As the early access draws near, i need some people for testing the game and giving me their opinions and bug reports.

All testers will get access to latest version in the dev branch and a steam key when it gets to early access.

You can apply by posting here: https://steamcommunity.com/app/1023790/discussions/0/2865909716042511185/

Designing enemies on a budget

Designing enemies on a budget

I posted a small video of an enemy from Rick Henderson on Twitter yesterday and it gained a lot of traction so i think it would be interesting to post some stuff on enemy design and how i do it.

Ready, aim, fire! Boshin dropping its load

When i started making Rick Henderson i wanted it to be something unique with easily recognizable enemies defined by their faction, design and modes of attack. With something so ambitious as a one man project that works on more than 50 different enemies, making each ship original can be strained in both design and financial aspects of game development.

Boshin was originally designed as an abomination of multiple Paragon Cult faction enemies, easily identified by their purple color and glowing orbs. I wanted some more ships for that faction and funds for pixel artist were already spent so i had to think of a way to utilize what i already had since my artistry level is quite low. I was lucky to work with an artist who knew what he was doing, had a concise palette and distinct shapes for each faction. So i made a pixel art collage that was made out of other ships’ parts in a way that makes it recognizable yet different from other ships. 

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = Boshin!

Harder part was designing the pattern of attack for it. I try to avoid the usual move from right to left while firing pattern, and if i really have to use it i try to be creative with it. This was the case with Boshin. 


One of the most important aspects of enemy design in shoot ’em up games is “telegraphing”. It is a concept of showing the player that the enemy is about to fire bullets at him. Though not really important for so called “popcorn” enemies (easily destroyable, firing slow bullets rarely) it is a must for enemies like Boshin that fire five fast bullets in a burst. You need time to react, otherwise it wouldn’t be fair and you would feel frustrated by getting hit.

So, what could i do with limited time and no further financial resources? 

Cute guy, but what will he do?

Here is the image of the ship when it comes into screen, with the lower portion of wings with guns drawn into hull. We see it for the first time and we still don’t know what will it do. Upon entering the screen, after a random time in a defined range, the ship plays its opening animation. Best i could manage without artist was to simply obscure the lower portion (wing with gun and an engine) and animate it as going out of the ship. Now that we see the gun, we have a clear idea that it will shoot from it. By adding a bright red light we rise the tension by letting the player know that something is definitely going to happen. It goes out of the gun, widens, and the gun is fired with bullets coming out spreading no further then the red light angle implied. To keep things interesting, i put a new bullet type for Boshin and made the bullets rotate and move at random speeds.

Opening animation is another example of keeping it cheap while trying to look good. It’s not so big, only 22 frames that were just a few layers of parts moving pixel by pixel. Animation of the red “laser targeting device” is made out of two animations since it’s quite large and can’t fit in one texture (maximum is 8192×8192). I wanted to keep authentic pixel art feeling so i did it manually, it consists out of 93(!) 128×64 frames, which gives us a sprite sheet that is 11904×5952 pixels in size, hence the reason for cutting it into two parts. 

Yikes!

After finishing the basic visuals and a small problem with the sprite sheet size, there were some more technical challenges that needed to be taken care of.

It is not yet implemented for Boshin, but most of the ships have some kind of blinking lights on them. To have animated blinking light and the attack mode activation animation like Boshin playing at the same time, you require animation layers and a bit of tinkering with that too. 

Blink, bling

Also, you probably don’t notice stuff like this, but in the video, lower engine does not have engine jet animation playing. I might be a bit of a perfectionist, but i like things nice and tidy. I can either put a new animation, for example a thruster activating then going into regular loop (which requires yet another animation layer), or put an already looping thruster animation as a child prefab and animating its position to follow the animation, with setting the sorting layer to be behind the ship.

The final issue is the collider. As the ship changes its form, it needs to be able to detect hits on the new, extended part too. That can be either done by the most gruesome way known to man, by editing it in the animation window itself, frame by frame, or by using great free asset from the Unity Asset Store called Advanced Polygon Collider, a tool that automatically fits your polygon collider to sprite based on alpha tolerance and scale. It also does a great job in optimizing the collider by reducing vertices, so you don’t have to worry about the performance, at least on desktops.

So there you have it, from a visual idea, to implementation and overcoming slight technical difficulties, a fun and engaging new enemy ship is born.

Designing a Swarm Missile weapon in Playmaker

Designing a Swarm Missile weapon in Playmaker

Making the weapon itself

First thing we need to do will be making the weapon that will actually be launching those missiles, right? It’s a plain and simple contraption made of two FSM’s i called FiringSystem and FiringTimer. Firing system will handle the missile creation, and FiringTimer will take care of giving the weapon a rate of fire. It’s basically a countdown timer of cooldown between two missile salvos. It’s a really simple setup.

Firing System FSM

Here’s the graph of the system that controls missiles. Let’s get through the states one by one.

Firing System Controller

Idle and Stop firing states, triggered by Start and StopFiring global events (global event is an event that can be sent to this FSM from any other FSM) are empty. They are used to have the system in the state of waiting for the command from another FSM via global event, in this case, the FiringController (which there’s no need to cover here, it’s just an input system to detect the firing button has activated the FSM).

When the Fire global event has been received (dark gray rectangle, like Start and StopFiring), we will be getting the Countdown Timer Value from the FiringTimer every frame and compare that value via Float Compare action with 0 so we know when the weapon has cooled down. When the counter hits zero, we move to Get Fire Button state where the FSM will anxiously wait for you to mash that button to spawn missiles.

Get Timer Value

Ok, we’ve hit that button and moved to Missile Counter state. It is set to 0, and it will count the number of missiles we want to spawn. Once it gets to the predefined number, it will stop creating them and move on. Every time we enter the Missile Counter state, +1 is added to the counter variable and the missile is spawned in the connected SpawnMissile state. Immediately afterwards, we go back to Missile Counter state where we check the counter. In my case, when it hits 11 (so 10 missiles are created) we no longer move to SpawnMissile state but to Send Reset Firing Timer Event state. In that state, a global event is sent to the FiringTimer FSM to start counting down. Until the counter tells us it counted down to zero, we won’t be able to fire the weapon again.

Missile Counter
Resetting The Firing Timer

Of course, before we get back to the state of waiting for the countdown timer to do its job, we need to reset the Missile Counter to 0 so we can use it again. It is simply done by setting the value of the INT variable Counter to 0 in the mid state called Reset Counter.

Resetting The Missile Counter

Fun part – Missiles!

Now that we created our firing system that happily churns out 10 missiles in a matter of frames, we need to know what to do with them, right? I won’t be covering the topic of playing the sound of the missile or dealing the damage/destroying itself when leaving the screen or making the particle system for the trail as those are really not the point of this blog post and are part of some other intertwined systems. Instead, we will focus on the movement.

Our missiles are made of two components, the bullet itself that contains VerticalTranslate and HorizontalTranslate FSM’s and only the transform component, and the child element that holds the SpriteRenderer.

FSM’s dedicated to controlling horizontal and vertical movement of the missile

The reason why the missile is split into two GameObjects is because we will be using translate movement instead of physics for missile movement so we are unable to use the movement vectors for sprite rotation and instead have to rely on a different technique.

Horizontal Translate FSM is straightforward and designed with only one purpose in mind – to control the horizontal movement of the missile.

Horizontal movement of the missile

There’s really not much to it. We will apply a random amount of acceleration per missile so we get the effect of some missile being slower/faster than the others. Bear in mind that you also need to define the starting Speed of the missile if you don’t want it to start at 0 speed. I opted for 1.75.

VerticalTranslate FSM is where things get fun. Start state is a random event in which it is decided by pure randomness whether the missile will start moving up or down.

Oh, this one decided to go up! We’ll just make it move up a bit (you can also randomize that value, which i’ll probably do, but not too much) by adding the float value to the Y axis in the translation.

Moving Up

We will wait for a random amount of time before staring to move down.

Moving Down

The principle is the same, we are applying a negative float value to the Y axis and translating the missile so it slowly straightens itself and then starts nosediving.

If the missile chose to go down instead of up in the Start state, the rest of the states are exactly the same, we just apply negative value to Y axis in the Move Down state to make it go down and then the positive value in the Reverse Move Up state to make it go up.

Now that we have our missile moving all around we need to take care of the visual representation. As noted before, we are not using physics for movement but a simple translate movement (which is equal to clicking on the game object, holding down the button and moving it around the screen) so we need to relate on a simple technique to point the missile towards the movement direction.

Getting the missile position

First we need to get the current missile position, i’ll be saving it in the LastFramePosition vector2 variable since it will be the last frame position in the next state.

Looking at the direction of the last frame position

All we need to do now is to rotate the GameObject towards the last frame position and adjust the rotation. Bear in mind that i’m using 0 degrees of the Rotation Offset since my missile sprite is rotated towards left, but if your missile sprite is pointing right as things usually are, you should set the Rotation Offset to 180 so it’s actually looking in the opposite direction of the last frame position.

The reason we are doing the things this way, with the parent in charge of movement and the child in charge of holding the sprite and rotating it is because the rotation of the parent object would cause the missile to not move properly since rotation affects the translation of the objects.

Here is the final result with particle system added for trail as well as damage detection and all the things that make the missile a missile.

If the images are too small, you can find the FSM templates in my GitHub repository

What did i learn from a failed indieGoGo campaign

What did i learn from a failed indieGoGo campaign


Nobody likes to read about failing (or maybe they do since it’s a great opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes), but it’s a harsh reality in this line of work. The most important thing is to learn something new, and that can be only managed through trying. And when you try, you’ll fail. A lot.

A month ago i finally pushed the big, red START CAMPAIGN button on IndieGoGo and hoped for the best. After all, months of preparation were a guarantee that i will succeed, no matter what. I explored many successful crowdfunding campaigns, the pitch was good, teaser was cool, campaign was well designed with all the feature listed, expenditures broken down. I was completely transparent with what the funds will be used on and i hoped the material i provided (along with the demo available) will be enough for a few hundred people to pitch in a few bucks. With all those games gathering tens of thousand of dollars, why wouldn’t i have a crack at gathering only $3000?

I must admit that the only thing i was worried about was extremely small number of people that suscribed to the campaign (40+). Though IndieGoGo clearly states that it’s really important to make a huge mailing list so everyone can be notified of the campaign start (and it does show number of interestees in your product), i was sure that my twitter follower list (1000+) and profiles on various shmup and game development would do the trick.

After all, it’s 2019., who still subscribes to e-mails?

First few days were great, i managed to get $500 (20%) dollars quite quick and i could already see myself gathering enough funds to make the game a shiny pixel art gem i always wanted to make. Alas, upon further inspection, i realised that most of the backers were either my friends and few twitter followers. Only 23% of funding came from direct IndieGoGo traffic. Regardless of that, i was under (false) impression that the funds will keep on coming.


Then donations began to plummet, and 10 days into the campaign i started receiving $0 per day. It was too late to start contacting streamers (woovit page with hundreds of them is still open in my browser) since most of them have really busy schedules and i don’t think they’d find the time to include my game until the campaign ends. I could extend the campaign duration to 60 days, but it would be unfair to all the backers to withold their money for another month when i’m certain i wouldn’t manage to collect another 80% of the funds projected to finish the game. Flexible funding was not an option since i would tie a noose around my neck to follow strict deadlines i imposed and some stuff that really takes time (like Galaxy Database) and not gather enough funds to keep those promises.

Some further analysis showed that i had 238 visits from USA/UK/Germany combined and only $25 pledges combined from those countries, which probably means they had the interest in seeing what’s it all about, but they were either not attracted enough or they though that the game’s never going to reach $3000 so they never pledged. It’s easy to theoreticize now, but if the goal was $1000 and each of those visitors gave $5, the campaign would have been a success.

Mistakes i’ve made

My biggest mistake was setting the bar too high. As you know, backers are turned off when they see the goal is too high to reach. I should have opted for something like $1000 which was attainable and then keep gathering funds via InDemand program.

Not giving enough importance to mailing list.

Not making a good enough teaser (it is ok, but it can be a lot better).

Not contacting streamers before the campaign start.

Starting campaign too early, the demo i released obviously had too many bugs and i don’t have a big enough community.

Overestimating social media. Twitter likes don’t translate to pledges (and won’t translate to sales too i reckon). After all, most of the followers i have over there are gamedevs themselves and need money for development too.

Not including Facebook into the campaign (personal bias, shouldn’t let that affect business).

I didn’t make proper and regular updates to the campaign and i haven’t made a roadmap of campaign updates.

I didn’t make a break before finishing the campaign and pushing the start campaign button, i was EXHAUSTED and i didn’t have the strength to keep pushing through a month of active work on campaign to get more backers.

Things i learned

Making mistakes is good, and even an unsuccessful campaign is a good marketing,  i received quite a few publishing offers based on exposure campaign has made.

You can’t rush things. Game entered fourth year of development and i was getting impatient. Big mistake, the game is ready when it’s ready, not after being too long in development.

Managing my expectations. It’s quite easy to give yourself a false impression of things biased by what you think that will and should be.

Of course, the game will keep on developing, but i will have to find another source of funding, probably via publisher. Also, i would like to use this opportunity to send a big THANK YOU to everyone supporting me, see you in Early Access!

Designing audio for video games, part 1

Designing audio for video games, part 1

I find the value of audio in video games immensely important, on par with graphic representation. It enables you to pull the player into the world you designed and help him immerse in the way you imagined it to exist.

I believe implementing sound is usually left as the last thing to do (when you work alone) unless you are making a music-based game, but when my inexperience with implementing audio into a video game is taken into account, there’s no moment too early for this. Fortunately, i know a thing or two about sound since i’ve been spinning records, releasing vinyls, CD’s and digital releases and designing sound for almost two decades in my spare time.

I don’t have time for some in depth research of various arcade cabinets, consoles and home computers’ technical specifications, but back in the day when i owned Amiga 500 i only had 4 audio channels (i remember making music in Octamed with 4 channels, it was quite a challenge). In shooter type video game practice, you have one channel for music, one channel for player bullets, one channel for enemy bullets and one channel for explosions, each with one voice, which means, if the explosion channel needs to play another explosion, it will either stop the current explosion sound playing and play the new explosion sound, or it won’t play it at all.

Needless to say, (as far as i know) live audio processing was not available until more modern engines and computers that could process it all appeared. Game would simply play the sound in a predefined manner – and that’s it.

The things i can do with Unity nowadays are incredible. I can have zounds of channels and voices as well as live audio effects and audio source positioning, but i don’t really need that much in a 2D game of this type. With all that power, (i can’t point out this enough) we must be careful not to overuse the possibilites given to us.

I decided to go with the relatively simple approach. Audio mixer compoment has a master bus with sub-bus for music and sub-bus for sound effects. Sound effects bus also has a few more categorized sub-buses (enemy shots, player shots, pickup sounds, explosions and so on). This enables me to fine tune the control of each and every sound via integrated tools since once you import the sound into Unity, you’re done fiddling with it except applying effects (unless you use some of the assets which enable you to do so, which i don’t. This one looks particularly cool, but i’m unable to afford it at the moment).

Unity Audio Mixer with various buses and sub buses

But an asset i am using is for managing my sounds and music in an organized manner with some added perks. It’s called Master Audio (one of the most popular audio assets on the Asset Store), a fine tool that enables you to do some great stuff which would take a lot of time to code. I highly recommend it since it really saves a lot of time.

It allows you to set (code-free) number of voices per sound, which is very important as you need to strike a fine balance between a sound being cut by another sound played or (more prominent today) a complete cacophony of sounds clashing together. Another useful perk is making of sound variations which i use profusely in the game, mostly by changing pitch and volume of most of the sounds lower or higher by a very small amount, so no sound played is exactly the same. They don’t differ that much, you can easily hear a bullet is fired from the same gun, but you won’t get ear fatigue from listening the same pitched sound of the same volume over and over.

Modern technology enabled us to add more and use more of everything – almost unlimited number of channels and effects, but my experience and experiences of many other, more advanced audio producers and musicians say that less is more. It’s about the same as in game development: cut, cut, cut again.

We’ll talk more about that in part 2.

Perspective of living as an indie dev in my country

Perspective of living as an indie dev in my country

Game development is a really nice job, at least when you’re an indie, not a cog in an AAA crunching machine. You can sit in the comfort of your home and have no expenses for commuting, office rental and eating out, at least that’s how i imagine it to be. But the real question is – can you earn a living wage by doing it?

You can read a lot on indie game developer hardships these days. Things are looking quite grim – Steam is not showing too much love for indies, some are afraid the subscription models will start to be a to-go model in selling video games, accessible game engines are making games easier to produce and that makes for a stiffer competition – it’s really hard for your game to be discovered. I’ve seen too many good games with lousy sales numbers because nobody know that they actually existed. A lot of devs are wondering is it really worth it anymore? Is it possible to live by making good games with niche market or do you need to strike gold with new Nuclear Throne or Minecraft? We’ll leave aside the marketing part of the story – you all know it, start as early as possible and build a community, preferably with your own brand if you released games before.

And now, let’s delve into the cold, dark world of numbers. For this analysis, i will be using some Numbeo statistics. According to them, cost of living for a single person in capital of Serbia is around $500 (without rent, which is around $200 for a small flat). It may be a bit hard too look at those numbers objectively, but i don’t know how i would survive with a salary of $500. Realistically, you need $100 for bills regardless of the flat size (if you want flat cable internet, cable TV and a cell phone subscription. Heating, electricity, water and garbage disposal have to be paid) so you’re left with $400, which is enough for you to eat (strictly at home) and maybe spend $50 on leisure. Forget about savings, driving a car and going out.

When i take my family in consideration, the math is following, to live relatively comfortably and maybe spare a few dimes on the side, you need about $2,000 for a three member family (for easier calculation, let’s presume that your SO has no income). That amounts to $24,000 a year. If you are selling your game for $10, Steam takes 30% and you are left with $7. Now, you probably think “Wow, only 2 grand to live comfortably with a family? What is this dreamland you’re living in?” and yes, Serbia IS a cheap country compared to most of the European countries and that is all fine, but my country has no tax treaty with US and it makes a lot of impact compared to other more expensive-to-live-in countries that have tax treaty with US. So, i have to give another 30% in taxes to the US. So, i’m left with meager $4.90 if i’m lucky to sell the game at full price.

But that’s not the end of taxation, i have to pay some taxes in my country too. If i earn up to $23,000, i don’t pay any income taxes, but from $23,000 to $45,000 i pay 10%, and over that i pay 15%. Let’s say i managed to earn more than those $23,000 a year and i have to pay 10% of income tax.  That means i need to have a net profit of $27,000 to earn a nice living wage for me and my family. To make a net profit of $27,000 i need to sell around 5,500 copies of the game at full price. That’s quite a number.

Now, according to this article, the average game on Steam will sell about 2.000 copies and make $12.500 in revenue in its first month. The average game will make $30.000 in its first year. I’m not quite sure what do they mean by “make”, but i guess it’s the revenue. So if you’re from around here and make an average game, you’ll be left with around $15.000, which is around $1250. A fine salary that most of the people living here dream of (average is around $350-$400) and it’s ok if you’re living alone and have no family to support.

But, lest we forget the cost of making the game itself. Unless you are a multitalented person that knows how to program, draw in 2D, model in 3D, rig and animate, design sound and make music, you need to spend some money to pay someone who does any of those better than you and has the time to do it. Until now, i spent around $4,000 on Rick Henderson. Sure, there’s some stuff like assets which are one in a lifetime expenditure and some of the art made will be left unused, but i need even more to finish the game (reason why i’m making an IndieGoGo campaign), so if all went perfect from the start, i think i would need minimum $5,000 to make a game of this caliber. So let’s readjust the figures. I no longer need $27,000 but $32,000 net profit so i have some money to invest in the next game, and that translates into 6,500 copies of the game at full price.

How did the others do?

How some of the similar games fared on Steam? I will use the data from the big Steam leak from last July in this one, so some data may be a bit off, but not too much i presume. Taken into account will only be some games of a newer date, since older once basically guaranteed sales once they were on Steam.

Super Hydorah – This fantastic game sold only 2,073 copies. It was already selling for a year when data leaked, so i presume it didn’t sell many more after that. But the price was a bit high i must say, €20. If it did sell 2k copies at that price, that’s cool, especially considering it’s a one man game.

Starr Mazer DSP – Still in early acces, but sold a nifty 5,500 copies for 10 bucks a pop. Nice, but their press kit says three of them are making the game, and paid artist is doing graphics.

Drifting Lands – Not really your usual shmup, but fits the genre. 8,275 copies for €18,99. Also, at least two guys work there, but probably more, so it’s not much of a success.

Steel Rain – We’re getting into five figure sale numbers. A whopping 10,440 sold games, full price €9,99, but there’s almost two digit number of people in their studio, so i’m not sure how successfull this was.

Monolith – 10,880 copies sold by three guys. Price – €7,99. Great success if you ask me. I suppose they sold a decent number of copies since then too.

Super Galaxy Squadron EX Turbo – 25,940 at €8,19. I suppose a lot of those copies sold at a discount, and as far as i can see they happen pretty often. Now it’s on sale at €2,99 so i guess that’s closer to median sales price. There’s a lot of them there, so i can’t even presume how many of them took part into making the game actually (and reaping the profits).

Sky Mercenaries – Made by PolarityFlow, team that also made Steel Rain. 30k+ copies, regular sales price €9,99, pretty good.

Steredenn – These guys kicked ass. 50k+ copies made by only two of them plus musicians and a pixel artist which probably had their fixed cut. At €12,99, hell, even at half the price, this game made a small fortune for them.

One game it’s like to point out to is Star Saviors, game that sells for €0,99 and has sold 300k+ copies. I haven’t played it but it’s not my cup of tea regarding rendered graphics, though i must say it looks like it feels good to play and makes me wonder of the pricing policy and what is right to do.

I didn’t take into account games like Ikaruga, Mushihimesama and Crimzon Clover, they’re quite specific and have their own audience. Bear in mind all these developers live in countries which are more expensive to live in than in my country, but also have tax treaties with the US to some extent.

Summa summarum

When i take all things into account, i didn’t move my point of view too far. I still believe that you need to have a top notch product (compared to few years ago, where you could be cool if you have a contagious game with maybe not so good graphics) to even scratch the surface. You need to start marketing your product as soon as possible, build a community and be involved if you want to have a crack at selling your game in a decent number of copies that will enable you to live nice until you launch your next game.

Interview with Play! Zine

Interview with Play! Zine

Hi Uroš, we’re glad that we finally have the chance of doing this interview. For starters, can you tell our audience a bit more about your project – what is Rick Henderson?

In short, Rick Henderson is a horizontal-scrolling endless shooter. Five factions, five bosses, loads of guns, perks, great music and beautiful pixel art graphics. When you get to the end, you go on – until you leave your bones in space.

How did the whole story start and where did the idea come from? You’re not really into game development business, this basically started out as a hobby, right?

In 2013., unhappy with the direction my career is going, i got enrolled into Java course in a small software school hoping that i’ll change the course of my business tenure towards programming. It seemed logical to me, i was in front of the screen since C64 and i am more than average Joe in that regard. I have to admit i was totally lost, abstract thinking was really not something i was good at. After finishing another course, this time a year long one, things were much better, but i still didn’t get that „click“ in my head. I was always pragmatic and decided to try out Unity because it’s using C# which is quite popular and you can see the result immediately. I realised i liked it, the things i did started to get the shape of a real game and i decided to follow the path that was getting laid in front of me.

Are you working on the project by yourself or do you have associates?

Besides me,only (paid) associate i have is @lighterthief, great Dutch artist who does pixel art. I found him via Pixelation forum. Game was supposed to have very simple graphics, but cooperation with him gave birth to something new, wonderful art full of colors that revives memories of old shoot ’em up from golden era of home computers of the nineties.

We know that making music is one of your passions. Are you having any plans of making some of your own music for the game and what kind of soundtrack can we expect in the game?

I’d really love to, but when you work alone, time is an extremely limiting factor so i decided to pass that satisfaction to others this time. I contacted a lot of musicians on Bandcamp and managed to strike a deal with two of musicians (for now), Mlada Fronta and Cryocon. Mlada Fronta is Rémy Pelleschi from France and Cryocon is Dan Exton from USA, great guys. They agreed to lend me their music to use in the game, and i’ll be giving them all the proceeding from soundtrack and part of the funds that will be gathered via IndieGoGo campaign (if all goes according to plan).

You can expect a lot of good synthwave and electro. You can listen to the 9 tracks that will appear in the game here with more to come soon.

What technical skills did you need to possess before venturing into this project? After all, this is a one man job, what does one have to know to start working on a game like this?

For individual engagement in the world of game development you need great organizational skills and rational approach to work. Only after that tech skills come in, which are not hard to learn. C# is a simple language, Unity itself has an uncomplicated API and web is full of tutorials which can help you learn anything. If you don’t know how to draw or make music, you can always pay someone to do it, which i wholeheartedly recommend, people that know how to do everything are a rare sort.

What were the greatest challenges while working on the game, what is hard, what is dull, what is simply boring?

I wasn’t really expecting that, but a lot of things are uninspiring and tedious. Finding and squishing bugs is on the top of the list, and testing is not any less mind-numbing, while waiting for compiler every time you hit the play button on a 10 year old CPU. Greatest challenge is to be consistent and do at least one task every day. Feeling of progress is very important because there’s a lot of work to do and motivation is an easy thing to lose if you don’t have a sense that you are reaching towards something.

On the other hand, what part of work is enjoyable for you?

Actually, i really enjoy the marketing side of the production lately which requires as much time as a game development. Positive reactions and a good-natured, quality critique are beneficial for motivation and work quality.

What 2D side scrollers were inspiration for you? What do you consider good in the genre, where do you see room for improvement and innovation and how does that fit in your game?

Galaga Deluxe, Project X, Xenon, Raptor, Steredenn, U.N. Squadron, R-Type, Z-Out. This genre exists for more than 30 years and it’s hard to reinvent the wheel, but from time to time some shiny gems appear like Rival Megagun or Enemy Mind and really surprise me. I can’t say Rick Henderson is revolutionary, but it combines several elements that i still haven’t seen together in one game.

What would you highlight as the main characteristic of your game that should attract the target audience to fall in love with this title?

Non-stop action with fantastic music and gorgeous graphics, challenging bosses and different game every time.

How would you describe your experience for the past few yours during the tenure on the game? What did you learn and realize, how did it help you in your professional and personal life and how did you come out from the whole process?

I certainly got out older 🙂

It was painstaking, lots of sleepless nights, ups and downs. I have a family and a full time job and it is extremely hard to fit everything and remain sane and healthy. I learned not to rush things and that there’s no amount of passion that can speed up the complex and time-consuming process that is game development. Actually, good work-life balance gives the best results, which i learned the hard way. There’s still a lot of work to do, but now i’m taking it easy, step at a time.

Idea behind the whole game was very ambitious. When you first shared your project with us in May 2017., there was a few game modes including Story mode. Fast forward, does everything still seems doable?

Of course not! Like every beginner, encouraged by quick progression and vast Unity possibilities i bit of more than i can chew. Rick Henderson was first imagined as a complete experience for one player that we are used to in this genre: level, boss, weapon store, level again and so on. However, as the unwritten rule dictates, cut the game you imagined in half, the cut that half in another half and the you get something that you can really finish in a reasonable timeframe. Rick Henderson is still a great challenge, but doable for a one man show.

One of the reasons we’re talking about your game right now is because we want to emphasize that your game has an active IndieGoGo campaign in the moment we are writing this, so everyone who is interested in the project can help directly. Tell us some more about the campaign, what are the goals, how long will it last and what can potential players expect.

Campaign is in the pre-launch phase at the moment, which is used to gather e-mail addresses if a person is interested in supporting the project. You can find the pre-launch page here and leave your e-mail for news and announcement when the funding phase of the campaign starts. The goal is 3.000,00 USD, which is how much i need for one more faction, backgrounds and additional graphics works, translations… Perks that a backer can expect are beta access, early access, Steam keys, soundtrack, involvement in creating new enemies and having your name on a space blimp that will appear throughout the game.

With your current experience, what would you recommend to someone that wants to make his old idea reality in a similar manner? What would you advise?

Start with small, short games of different genres so you can learn as much as possible in the short time frame. Don’t be shy, publish them on the websites where you can do it for free, like itch.io. When you finally decide to work on something more serious, start with marketing immediately – indie games market is incredibly saturated and it’s hard to strike through the noise. Of course, if it’s not working out, don’t be afraid to ditch the project, you will do yourself a favor.

Thanks for the conversation, we wish you luck with IndieGoGo campaign and we can’t wait to review Rick Henderson on the pages of Play! Zine!

Thank you.


How i made my IndieGoGo campaign, part 2

How i made my IndieGoGo campaign, part 2

Needless to say, i made a lot of research on best time and best ways to launch the campaign. Here’s the graph from medium.com on Kickstarter campaigns from 2014.

Kickstarter campaign success per month

Obviously, i missed the train for December, which is one of the best months for launching the campaign. It makes sense, people spend more money in the holiday season and they’re a bit dry in the following month, which is January, and the worst month for crowdfunding campaigns. I don’t have time to wait for March, which is the next decent month before summer, so i suppose i’ll be biting the bullet, launching in mid January, maybe beginning of February and hoping for the best.

Project duration is a typical 30 days. It’s silly to make it last shorter than that since i don’t have a lot of visibility anyway, but lasting longer is also not an option. Why? Psychology is a strange science, shorter durations increase a sense of urgency in people and may help them decide earlier so they don’t miss the deadline.

I believe i shouldn’t press myself to launch as fast as possible, but once the wheels start turning when you press that big pre-launch button, there’s no going back and you should work on making as much people as possible subscribing for the regular e-mails that will lead to the official launch and the notification of the launch itself.

They say that the conversion rate from the subscribers is a mere 5%, so if everyone leaves a basic pledge of 10 USD, i need about 6000 subscribers if i want to be sure i will reach my goal. I don’t think i’ll manage that big of a number, but i’ll keep tracking the numbers and when the number of daily subscribes start falling down, i’ll announce the campaign start. So far, i collected 24 e-mails in a few days, which is a number i’m quite happy with to be honest, considering the scope of the project and the type of the game i’m making – a niche arcade shooter. But, to be realistic, that’s not nearly enough, especially when you take the conversion rate into account.

When you’re having a project like this, it’s quite natural to pay attention to even the smallest details. That said, even the time of the day when you launch the campaign is of utter importance. In my case, that will be 7 o’clock in the morning, which is just the time people get back from lunch on the east coast in the United States, which account for the largest crowdfunding contributor in the world. You get back from lunch, and before you get back to work, you decide to check IndieGoGo a bit if there’s something interesting, and there it is – just launched! Wednesday also looks like a promising day. On monday, people are in a grumpy mood and they need to get to speed to work, not much time for stuff like this so it’s a big no-no. Tuesday’s better, but not as good, and Thursday is too far off, you are usually starting to wind down and think about the weekend. So Wednesday it will be.

One of the most discouraging facts from the Kickstarter statistics is that two thirds of the campaigns fail miserably. I try not to think about it too much. Maybe their goals were to far off? Maybe their campaign was lousy? To be honest, there’s a lot of campaigns out there looking for much too money for what they’re offering or having a campaign that’s written poorly. Asking for too much money is one of the main issues people tend to overlook. It’s better to ask for a smaller amount since people will pledge for something that seems achievable, fair and has constant income of pledges. If you’re on a train that’s going to be hard to catch – nobody will want to ride it. The funny thing is – when you fund the project, even more and more pledges will usually start coming. People want to give their pledge to something that already succeeded and they know they’ll get the product they pledged for.

First 48 hours of the campaign are crucial on IndieGoGo, since the campaign will only appear in search results for the first 48 hours after launch. After that, you need to have at least two pledges to keep it searchable. Not only that, they recommend that you already have 30% of the funds needed secured and pledged in the 48 hours of the campaign, which, in my case, is 1.000 USD. It’s big bucks for me, and i don’t think i’ll be able to provide this via friends, family and so on. Where i live, it’s 3 monthly wages so i think it’s better that i prepare that demo for launch so i gain more traction and attract more people.

So, the thing i need to do is to step up on gaining subscribers by regularly posting the progress, work on the demo and shout everywhere. Here’s the list of the stuff i did lately:

I opened the account on itch.io, but the game is not showing up in search since there’s no downloadable content. There was a small surge of visitors from Twitter on the day i listed the game, but since then no views at all, only one follower and that’s it.

I opened the accound on GameJolt (few moments ago), the game is also invisible there, so i don’t expect anything.

I posted a teaser on r/shmups on reddit, there’s only few likes and that’s it. It’s a small subreddit, so i plan on posting the teaser and some text on few other subreddits like gamedev, indiedev, and unity2d.

I posted a devlog with teaser on tigsource, hutonggames (makers of Playmaker which i use), shmups.system11 forum, there has been no significant response.

Obviously, the way to increase visibility is to publish a demo which will be downloadable on itch, gamejolt and steam (when i make the profile) and then we’ll see how it goes. Launching the campaign now would fail 100%.

So, off to make the demo!


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