Sunday, 16 December 2012

Our new game


 Things have been a bit quite on the Flump Side recently as we’ve been ferreting away on our new Xblig game, Pester.
For pester we’ve tried to take our favorite elements of the newer CAVE style bullet hell games and our favorite elements from the more classic old school shooters to make a game that we hope will appeal to both camps. The screen still fills with bullets and your ship has a small hit point but every play is different as we have used random bullet patterns and sprite positioning. The randomization has been delicately handled as to ensure the game is never unfair.
 

Our official blurb is:
“Prepare to be Pestered, in a good way!
Pester is a new vertical shmup from Flump Studios and is due for release on xbox live indie in early 2013.
With over ten different game modes, including: Classic, Reverse, Duo, Old school and Tempus mode. A unique blend of Old School pixel art
combined with particle physics and stunning backdrops, Pester is the perfect for both shooter enthusiasts and anyone up for a good challenge.
For a real challenge try our new duo mode, where two ships are controlled by a single game pad using the analog sticks. 

In other news it looks like super killer hornet maybe heading for the PC, we’ll keep you posted.


Monday, 15 October 2012

XBLIG vs Windows phone- How'd we get on?


It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, things have been crazy busy.

Five months on from out first Window Phone 7 release and just over 3 months since our first Xbox indie release. How’d we do???

Windows Phone 7

Retro Wars 1999
Developing for the windows phone is a bit of a double edged sword, with far less competition than Android and iOS it’s far easier to get your game spotted but with far less users it’s hard to make decent money.

We currently have 5 games in the market place with 3 due for release this week. Download wise we’re doing pretty well (Currently sitting at just over 60,000), but revenue has been very poor. Currently all of our Windows phone games generate revenue via adverts supplied by Microsofts own ad provider, Pubcenter.

Retro Racer: Combat
To say Pubcenters eCPM is a bit up and down is a massive understatement, swinging from £0.01 per thousand for some days up to £4.50 per thousand on other. The £4.50 days are nice but are, unfortunately, hugely outnumbered buy the £0.01 days. It’s like flying through massive turbulence on an easyjet flight, sat next to an obese man with hiccups, who’s just finished a particularly strong in flight curry and instead of landing in sunny Spain your destination is Glasgow in January (which would account for the obese man)

Ok, it’s not that bad, in fact we’ve probably earned more through pubcenter than if we would have sold our games at the minimum price of £0.69, but it’s just so frustrating when you see a thousand people have played your game today and you’ve earned £0.01 from it!



Xbox Live Indie Games

I’ll start but saying I love Xbox Live Indie almost as much as I love my own legs. It’s a fantastic service for both developers and consumers and doesn’t nearly get enough respect it deserves.

I went into developing for Xblig with some degree of hesitation (mainly due to the bad press it seems to get ALL THE TIME!!!) But as soon as I put Super Killer Hornet up for peer review my worries dissolved, I have never been involved with such a wonderful, warm community as the Xbox indie community. Pretty much as soon as the game went up for peer review, messages of support and advice poured in.

Super Killer Hornet
Revenue wise we faired far better on the Xbox than on windows phone (approx 3x more at the moment) and as of last month we actually moved into profit territory, just. But what I’ll take away most from this experience is the reception our game received. I had people from Japan, France and Canada tweeting me telling me they loved the game. Some guys in the US mentioned us in their pod cast, SKH was reviewed on around 10 different sites with mostly positive feedback(7/10 average), but the real jewel in the crown was when I got a call from Nick to say we’d been mentioned in Retro Game Magazine, A REAL LIFE MAGAZINE!!! If I wasn’t so drunk when he told me I could have cried.

Future

Since the release of Super Killer Hornet a few months ago I’ve pretty much been working solidly on our next Xblig/PC game, working title ‘Our next game with guns and explosions in it’.
I can’t say too much about it as I still don’t know 100% where we’re gonna go with it. All I can say is ‘It’ll be a horizontal shooter with heavy references to gaming culture old and new’. God, that makes it sound so generic. Here's a couple of screen shots from the first level.

Lee Vs Jose the worm
Me just dodging some bullets



Nick Vs Stinky the retired ghost














We’re looking at a release date early next year and hopefully we’ll be showing it at the GameCity Nights tour on the 5th Of February at the MAC.

Also Nick would probably slap me if I didn't mention that he has started work on our first 3D project.
Can't say much other than it's a survival horror FPS and looks to be shaping up pretty nicely.
Will have more info soon.

As for the nearer future we have 3 games due out on windows phone next Wednesday , Plane Crazy and Retro Racer: Combat please download and have a look if you own a windows phone device.

Cheers

Paul

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Our First Xblig Game!!!


Image from Super Killer HornetWe are proud to announce that our first game, Super Killer Hornet, is released today on XBOX live indie.
A frantic bullet hell shooter with a strong Japanese influence and a strong emphasis on difficulty, Super Killer Hornet is the type of game we’ve always wanted to make.
At only 80 Xbox’s points ($1/69p) why not have a look and support a poor defenceless little indie developer.
 
To celebrate the release of the aforementioned Super Killer Hornet we are running a little contest. The first person to post a picture on the flump facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/Flump-Studios/256473597756346 ) of the unlocked ‘Score King’ trophy will receive 400 xbox points.
Not the biggest prize I know but we are as small as a game studio could be.
 
I have no idea how we will perform on the Xbox indie network but all I can say is so far my experience with using Xblig as a publishing format has been fantastic, such a wonderful and creative community that I am genuinely proud to be a part of.
 
I would Just like to say a big thank you to - sixth floor games, Halcyon Softworks, Peter Schraut, Golconda, Sparkelsoft, Maxminus and Monster Bite Games for peer reviewing and passing SKH, to Toby Harris for sorting the website out for us, to Scott Benbow for playtesting and annoying me with his unbeatable high score, to Nick Osborne for being my business partner and forcing me to get off ass and get something made and a special thank you to my wife for putting up with my endless nonsensical game speak for the last 7 months

Thursday, 28 June 2012

So, How’d we do???




So it’s been nearly 2 weeks since we released our first creations on to the WP7 marketplace and as you may have noticed the world has been visibly shaken by their release.
Emergency meetings between David Cameron, Fran├žois Hollande and Barack Obama were called in a bid to find a solution to breaking the 1000 point mark on the Retro racer.
Natwest and RBS were brought to their knees as 90% of their IT team tirelessly worked to get all the Trophies unlocked on Super Killer Hornet.
England were painfully knocked out of the Euros after Ashley Cole decided to f**k up a penalty so he could return home to grab some more stars on Badly Draw Box.
I’m pretty sure we can all agree the world will never be the same, but how did the launch actually go? Well good and bad.


The Good!
We got downloaded! And that’s the main thing. We were downloaded over 10,000 times in our first week which we’re more than happy with. For me this confirms that free apps with advertising on the Windows phone is a viable format to turn a profit, it might not be the quickest way to make your first million but it defiantly has potential.
It’s a strange feeling knowing that that many people have played something you’ve made and by most accounts have liked; this brings me on to our next positive, reviews.
It’s almost impossible to guess how a game is going to be received but I must say I was surprised by the responses, reviews range from 1 star L to 5 stars J but overall we faired very well.
Currently (and this really surprised me) Retro Racer is on 5/5 in the, Super Killer Hornet is on 4.5/5 and Badly Drawn Box is on 4.
Here’s a few responses.
(5 stars)“Works fine on my HTC… J Good Game – Krashload on Super Killer Hornet
(4 Stars) “Not Bad” – Faziotech on Super Killer Hornet
(5 Stars) “Can’t stop playing Retro games. This one’s great” -  F4llen monk on Retro Racer
(4 Stars) “Not a bad little game” – Rez1976 on Badly Drawn Box
Pretty satisfied with these results considering we’ve only been making games for 6 months. But it’s not all good L


The Bad!
Yeah, not all good I’m afraid, made some classic school boy errors which I think really hurt our downloads and potential profit.


Big mistake number 1
Our first mistake was to submit all three games at once, the idea behind this was so we could compare how different styles of game would perform on the format and this backfired somewhat for us.
We always knew how important it was to have your game show under the ‘New’ section on the main Market place but (stupidly) didn’t think about the fact that because we were releasing 3 games at once the very games we were putting up knocked the other 2 off, only Super Killer Hornet made it to the New section on the front page :o(  judging by first day download figures we believe that we lost between 3000 and 5000 download due to this.


Big mistake number 2
Second mistake we made was assuming that using the smaller advert size in pubcenter would be just as profitable as the larger format, turns out we were wrong.
Super Killer Hornet, which uses larger adverts, was downloaded 3000 times in the first two days and received 2900 ad impressions; Retro Racer, which uses the smaller adverts, was downloaded 4000 times in two days and received fewer than 100.
That’s over 30 times more revenue from just using bigger adverts. My advice to anyone planning on releasing ad based WP7 apps/games is to squeeze in the larger ads somehow otherwise it’ll be barley worth it. Combined with big mistake number one we would guess we made only around 10% of our potential profit.


Big mistake number 3
I can barely bring myself to write this bit as it’s such a classic misstep and what I consider to be our biggest mistake, what is it?  ‘Not lending enough weight to the importance of the game icon’, that’s what!
The game Icon is your cover art, the window to the soul of you game and probably 90% of the reason that people will be downloading your game.
We always knew this was important but after seeing the download results it’s easy to see that it’s by far and away the most important marketing tool at your disposal.
I was initially happy with the icon art for Super Killer Hornet until I started trying to look for it on the market place and missed it over and over again, I now realise a bit of yellow on a sea of grey is not exactly eye catching. In contrast, Retro Racer which has a far clearer and colourful icon has started to overtake Super Killer Hornet in downloads despite it being a far more basic game and not having the initial boost of being on the new section of the marketplace.


Big mistake number 4
To complete this checklist of idiocy I will conclude with the father of all errors and that’s assumption.
I’ve always been a massive fan of old school SHUPS (shoot ‘em ups) and especially anything by CAVE, anyone who is acquainted with CAVE’s style of manic bullet dodging, small hit points and ultra complex combo systems would instantly recognise that Super Killer Hornet is massively influenced by these Japanese masters of the genre. Unfortunately I forgot to remember that Japanese style bullet hell shooters are a little bit of a niche market in the west.  My mistake was assuming that people would just ‘get’ my game the instance they played it, not so.
Not including a basic tutorial in any of our games was a big mistake, when people play phone games they don’t want to spend 20 minutes working out how a combo system works or figuring out what does what. People want to pick up, play, smile and get on with their day. Advert based games depend on strong replay value and anyone who picks up a game and doesn’t understand it will never play it again.


Lesson leaned…


Summary
At a glance it may seem that the bad outweighs the good but all in all we’re happy with the launch. Even if it wasn't a massive financial success, was a lot of hard work and a Chinese person called our game ‘garbage’ the lessons learned are invaluable and more importantly it’s been fun.
With super Killer Hornet being releases on XBOX Live Indie next month I really hope we can take our own advice and avoid as many pitfalls as possible. Of course it’s a completely different medium so I’m pretty sure we’ll f**k it up somewhere down the line. 
We'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


At Last


5 Months, 2 weeks and 3 days have passed since Flump Studios was formed over a nice friendly (if there is such a thing) game of Fifa 12 and now, finally, we are ready to release the fruits of our labour upon the digital world.

The development side has been a bit of a double edged sword to be honest, it’s been way harder than I originally thought but, at the same time, far more fun. First of all I’m knackered, pretty sure I’ve been averaging about 4 hours sleep a night since January. Secondly, I almost literally haven’t been thinking about anything else; every meal, every film, even every bowl movement is accompanied by 
an orchestra of code based internal thoughts and self directed murmurings. Even worse, I’m pretty sure I haven’t been talking about anything else either, unfortunately my wife has taken the brunt of this self indulgent gaming chatter and I think she might be getting a little board now; but what fashionable, self respecting 27 year old woman wouldn’t want to hear about Bounding boxes and 3 dimensional arrays?
But having said all that, I have enjoyed every second of the last insomnia drenched, monofocused months and wouldn’t change it for the world. For me, the most important product to come out of the development process is the realisation this is what I want to do with my life.

We are planning to release 4 games over the next month and a half, all free and all exclusive to windows phone 7(at the moment). First up is our 8-bit love letter, ‘Retro Racer’, which is due out this Friday (01/06/2012), then on Monday (04/06/2012) our little brain trainer ‘Pressure’ will be hitting the market place, with Badly Drawn Box and Super Killer Hornethopefully following shortly after.
If you have a windows phone please download and have a look, they’re all free and every play puts money into funding our next project. I don’t want to sound like an Oxfam advert but please support the, far from endangered, indie developer because we really love what we do and all we want is to carry on making games and dreaming in code. Here’s to the future...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Great time to be an indie!!!

Man I love making games! It's been nearly 5 months since Flump studios created its very first line of code (public Texture2D PlayerTexture; if you must know) and I have thought of little else since, in a good way, a very good way.

Amstrad CPC 464, with CTM644 colour monitorFor as long as I can remember I've had a passion for video games, in fact one of my earliest memories is playing Roland In The Caves on my sisters Amstrad CPC. As the years go by my passion has matured into more than just a love for playing games but a love for the industry. An industry that I truly believe is the most interesting, exciting and creatively diverse currently in existence and I'm just happy to be part of it.
Starting up a game studio (however small) has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and it's exciting that the industry has come back to a point where a team as small as ours (2 guys and a gal) could potentially make an impact on the market, we probably wont, we might not even make a single penny but the potential is there and this is what makes the industry great. It's because of this potential that we have such great indie games like Limbo, Dear Esther, super meat boy, Fez etc....

But it's not all good news, although the indie scene is flourishing it feels like the mainstream developers are becoming,well, dickish. DRM, On disc DLC, Online codes and if rumors are to be believed account locking to kill the preowned market (so wrong) none of which screams customer first.

So basically what I'm trying to say is, it's a great time to be an indie. With the indie scene creating so much great content and the mainstream punishing the consumer with anti piracy, anti-preowned measure and greed, more and more consumers will flock to the indie scene. Maybe we do have a chance after all...

By the way we have a game coming out soon!! Check out the trailer for Super Killer Hornet Black Label....



Monday, 12 March 2012

Hello again,

It's been ages since our last post but here I am again.
it's all been a bit hectic the last few weeks and this little blog had completely slipped my mind.
'So what have we been up to?' I hear all 7 of our followers cry in unison. We'll lots actually, Retro Racer our first project has been completed (more of a Windows 7 phone experiment than a game) and will be hopefully available for download soon, absolutely free!. This was supposed to have been up ages ago but we figured before we pay developer fees we might as well have a few programs to put up.


That brings me to our next and newest project, 'Super Killer Hornet Special Black Label' started of the back of 'Little White Box' from our last post(Hopefully also will be available soon) it's a frantic SHMUP(Shoot 'em up) this title pay homage to the great bullet hell shooters of Japan.

Pretty much since I started playing video games my favorite genre has been the humble horizontal SHMUP  just the raw energy and sweaty palms you get from blowing the crap out of everything just cannot be beaten.

Killer hornet pays tribute to probably the greatest SHMUP of all DonPachi in both name and content. A horizontal bullet hell experience with a slight twist, in arcade mode you get your multiplier up (and big scores) by answering simple sums and catching the falling numbers. This may sound slightly dull but it works really well and makes for a real challenge when trying to thread the needle between a hundred bullets.

If this mode really does sound like too much hard work, there will be an arrange mode, specifically designed to be 100% focused on dodging and destroying.

This project is nearing completion but I'm guessing it will be a summer release as we're still adding polish and are hoping for a simultaneous Windows phone 7 and XBOX 360 release.


Watch this space :0)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Game 1 done!!!

25/01/2012

Retro Racer is now complete! After a small surge of geeky activity Retro Racer is now finished in all its 8-bit glory! We hope to have a release by the start of Feb, exclusively to Windows Phone and for the sum of absolutely free.

Simplistic but fun is what we were going for and should prove a perfect mini game to test the viability of using the windows phone format.

 'Little White Box'
We now have two larger scale projects on the go. 'Little White Box'(Right)- a kind of bullet hell shoot-em-up without the shoot, more a bullet hell Dodge-em-up with a punishing difficulty level- and 'Little Pig Planet' - a more laid back casual game which sees our hero 'Flumpy the Pig' steering his home planet with his feet, like a big pink barrel walker, through meteor storms(it's hard to explain, wait for the demo).

We hope to have both these titles released on Xbox Live Indie, Windows Phone 7 and PC buy this summer with a possible iOS release depending on sales.

Friday, 20 January 2012

PROBLEMS!

20/01/2012

Ten minutes after writing the last blog entry it all went pear shaped, ten minutes later and my face was planted in my hands, palms sticky with the tears of frustration. A memory leak, a BASTARD memory leak! Basically the algorithm for randomly repositioning the sprites once they had left the screen was eating so much memory that 2 minutes of play would use more memory than running all the CODs at once.

At 2300 points things get a litte tricky!
Nick was horrendously worried that if this got any worse it would start to devour the internet and blast us all the way back to the stone age; this would be bad because I have delicate lady like hands that wouldn't take kindly to rubbing flint together, pretty sure Nivia didn't exist back then.

So Monday night consisted of basically rewriting the entire 'Rival' class and not sleeping or blinking, this paid off though; memory leak, plugged, controls sorted and scoring system added. We're on our way...
Still super basic at the mo, but what can you expect after 2 weeks.

The next couple of days have seen collision detection working(Woop Woop) and some basic game play mechanics added and controls and scoring refined, so we are now nearing somthing playable, not good or fun but playable!

The next stage will be menus, sounds and working out how to make it actually worth playing. Will keep(anyone board enough to be reading this blog) posted.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

It starts!!!!


17/01/2012 -

Us.
Another year another promise to myself to do something that involves something other than eating, scratching and watching Mythbusters and so far it's going ok.

Last week marked a momentous occasion in entertainment history with the birth of  'Flump Studios'! An indie game studio which consist of myself (Paul Marrable) on lead programming and game design, my beautiful wife on art design and the all powerful Nick Osborne on Menus design, audio and marketing.

It's something we've always wanted to do to be honest (except my wife who probably want to be a ballerina or something, I don't really listen) but have never really got around to. I've been programming applications for years in VB,C++, Pascal and Python and Nick's always been the hardware guy who has forgotten more about motherboards and CPUs than most of us will ever know(Thanks for all the xbox and ps3 fixes down the years).

The one thing we've always had in common is the love for video games, not just playing them but an odd fascination with their design, their art and the industry as a whole. So it has always made sense for us to create games at some level but unfortunately we are both cursed with an almost terminal apathy. This week though feels different, somehow more important, more powerful, I can only describe it as how Bruce Banner must have felt after the first time he turned into a giant green monster; Flump Studios started it first project.

Happy Retro Racer

It may not look like much here but when it's in motion you'd
swear you were watching F1.

It was Saturday last week when we decided on the concept; we wanted something simple, colourful, would work as well on a phone as it would on a console and most importantly fun! We decided on a top down racer with the visual style of an old Atari 2600 game, we thought this perfect as it would prove easier to design, easier to keep consistent and having grown up with the archaic console a wonderful homage to our gaming past.

We're looking to add a psychedelic mode once the main mechanics are down with modernised graphics and audio; I'm quite looking forward to this bit as we'll be using pulsing pigs, spinning Jaffa Cakes and possibly little Ronnie Corbett.

We decided to use Microsoft XNA for development as this uses the C# language which I am quite familiar with. So far the project is coming along quite nicely, we have a scrolling road with three lanes, a moveable car and multiple rival sprites that re-spawn at random when they leave the screen. It's not much but it's something!

Next is the collision detection, I'm looking forward to getting this out of the way so the real game can begin, once the programme can recognise that the player car has hit a rival car I can get working on scoring, level upping, crash animations, messing with the sprites; you know the stuff of  dreams. Collision detection is something I've never really had to tackle before in any of my previous applications so I have no idea how this will play out, only time will tell.