Getting ever closer to release time, so I thought I would highlight some other features of the game.  Pictures work better than words, so here’s a shot of the Upgrade screen.

This is one of our menu screens, accessed from the set of 4 tabs at the top.  When you receive Upgrade Points, you can spend them here.  If you upgrade the Vault, Crypt and/or Farm to 2X, you’ll get 2 Coins, Coffins or Veggies per match instead of 1.  3X will give you 3 per match, etc., up to a maximum of 4X.  Using these upgrades can really power up your puzzle matching!

And the best part is, these points can always be changed at any time.  So if you find yourself on a tough level and you can’t seem to get enough Coffins to survive, you can rearrange your points into the Crypt upgrade to get more Coffins on every match.  This is just one of the ways to make your game more customizable as you play through it.

We hope to have a professional gameplay video in the near future, so we’ll post more details when they happen!

Mind the (Shortening) Gap

We’re getting close to the first release.  We should have a gameplay video coming soon that highlights the game’s features, so that’ll be exciting for us.  We’ve also received some more testing feedback and are tweaking some elements, such as the tutorial and the reaction and/or coloring of UI items.  Overall it’s looking good.  Hopefully we can get the game out there in June.

Anyway, back to work!

The Road More Taken

More progress, more headaches, less time…sounds like indie game development!  After jumping to a new MacOS and XCode compiler last week, I was getting errors during compilation, so I moved back to an older version of XCode (4.2 I think) through some consternation and hammering.  Turns out that was unnecessary, as the build errors were the result of some missing link libraries that Unity isn’t pulling in automatically, for some reason.  A few manual clicks later, and it was working again.  Unfortunately, I have to do those manual clicks every time I compile now.  Oh well.

It’s getting close to another one of those “decision times”…the iOS version has been running pretty well, and seems to have all the extras working (like Gamecenter achievements).  The Android version’s extras are not working very well.  So I’m at a small crossroads:  do I get the iOS version ready for release and get it out there, or do I continue taking time to make Android work, and release both versions at the same time.  I had been hoping to do a multi-platform release, but some things are just inexplicably not working on Android at the moment.  I’ve heard over and over from other developers that you should release on iOS first, and if it sells or you have time, go do the Android version.  I do plan to put our game on Android (the main game is working now, after all), but I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and get iOS out there, and send Android out at a later time when everything is working properly.

It’s hard to tell which way to go, but conventional wisdom says to get it out on Apple hardware sooner.  Plus, I’m in the middle of my 7th month developing the game, which (surprise!) is about 1/3rd longer than I thought it would take.  Indie developers who also have full-time jobs always stress that when you make games in your spare time, you need to realize it will take a lot longer to get it done.  I’ve known that for a while, but it’s still different when you are in the middle of it, and as I’ve mentioned before I’m rather impatient.

This post sounds a bit more down than I intended it.  In actuality, things have still been moving forward, we’ve completed some more rounds of testing, and added some polish and embellishments along the way.  It’s shaping up pretty well, and it’s turning into a product I can be proud of, especially considering that it’s my first game.  This is only the beginning.


I always told myself I’d never work 80-hour weeks, but that has been my reality for the past few months.  This week, however, a friend of mine surmised that it’s more like 2 different sets of 40-hour weeks, which is a slightly different mindset.  My game development doesn’t feel the same as work, and I’m happy about that.  It was always one of my biggest worries about going down this path.

Anyway, the game!  I currently plan to release a free ad-supported version and a paid full version, hopefully on multiple platforms at once.  For some, this is considered an act of madness, but I’ve been used to juggling multiple projects for a long time now, and it’s actually not too difficult for me at the moment.  It helps that I’m essentially juggling different versions of the same code, instead of different projects entirely!

Also received a new iPad this week (whatever Apple says, it’s the “iPad 3”), and managed to get the game running on there with it’s newer HD higher-definition Retina display.  Unfortunately, since the iPad ran on iOS 5.1, I needed a new SDK, which required the newer XCode compiler, which required the newer Mac OS.  3 upgrades, 5 GB, and about 3 hours later, I was able to make all the Apple bits happy again.  Android is mostly happy, but it may be a ruse since I’ve only looked at one device so far.

Villagers Vs. Vampire running on iPad 3 (left), iPhone 4S (middle), and Android Galaxy tablet.

Forward Progress, In Reverse

Since I’ve been on a backward-looking nostalgia kick this week, here’s some additional history of our development, which helps me gain some perspective on our progress.

Here is a very early screenshot from the beginning of November 2011.  I was trying to get the gameplay mechanics sorted out.


One month later, near mid December 2011.  Added the basic layout and art style, and was figuring out how everything would work together, and just how much art work I had left to do (which was “very yes!”).  This was the form our game took during our first alpha test, when we found out just how addictive the game could be!


This is the game today.  There are a few pieces that remain similar to the alpha, but several elements have been tweaked and refined (and this screen doesn’t show the various menus and levels that were also added).

Lots more to do, but we’re getting closer!


Time marches forward, and so does our game development.  I’ve been trying to keep my head down, nose to the keyboard, continuously working.  It’s better on some days than others.  But the game is coming together, and we’re more-or-less in the polish phase of development.  Still some gameplay bits to test and consider, but the game is very playable.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that it works on our Android tablet without any modification.  Of course, I still have to move some UI stuff around since the resolution isn’t the same as the iPhone/iPad, but it was heartening nonetheless.  We may be able to have a true multi-platform release after all.

I’ve heard several developers mention that the Android market is not worth the effort to support, as it’s fragmented, has multiple device configurations, and far fewer people actually buy things on it.  I’ve heard others say that if you’re working in a multi-platform dev tool (like we are with Unity), you’re essentially just leaving money on the table by not releasing an Android version.  Both are valid points.  So I’m trying to go somewhere in the middle, where I only support phones and tablets that have high resolution, say no less than 640×960.  I know it will limit my market a bit, but at least where Android is concerned, releasing on some devices is way better than releasing on 0 devices.  At that resolution, I can still release to the Galaxy Tab and the Kindle Fire, and probably several other devices as well.

In other news, I’m still constantly second-guessing myself, as is my nature, but I keep trying to remember that this is a learning experience and things aren’t as bad as I make them out to be.  For the past year, I’ve been trying to strangle my inner pessimist, and have had mostly positive results, but he still shows up on occasion.  I’ve been told by others that my game is better than I think it is, and that it’s improving at a quick pace as opposed to the pace of glaciers that I feel.  It’s still something that’s hard for me to accept, though.  One thought did hit me today as I was looking through my art and found my castle designs.  Here’s what my first castle looked like in mid November (granted, it was supposed to be placeholder art, but still):

This is the castle 2 weeks later:

Maybe I’m improving after all…

On the Winding Road

The game is coming along, although slowly.  I’ve had a bit of a setback due to my day job, as I’ll no longer be able to work from home soon and will have to take on more responsibility.  As I’ve been saying a lot over the past few years, it appears that the reward for doing excellent work is essentially more work.  Not that it’s bad, necessarily.  It’s a good thing to have work and be employed, but constantly providing high output and not being rewarded for it except by “continued employment” is one of the reasons I started my own game company.  I hope that one day I’ll be able to obtain full rewards for the fruit of my labor.  That, and to have my own creative work out there that people can see and enjoy.  Working for so many years in corporate and government custom software, there’s almost no body of work I could show anyone anymore.  Those applications are locked away from public view, and some are gone altogether.

Anyway, enough of being inward and morose, back to the game.  Here’s an animation of the Dire Wolf minion you can use to scare away villagers.

There are currently 7 different villagers and minions spread out across 70 levels.  Still thinking about how the game is going to end, I haven’t decided yet.  Do I stop at 80?  Do I have an end boss?  Does it just continue forever?  I’m still not sure.  The game changes here and there as I learn more, but it’s been in a playable state for a while now and I’m getting much closer to beta.

Things still left to do:  a new title screen, reworking of minion art and animation, some UI graphic tweaks, a tutorial, an in-game store, and more testing/balancing of gameplay.  At the end, it should be a solid, enjoyable puzzle game.  I could probably just go ahead and release it at this point, but I don’t feel right about it yet.

I’m also not sure about pricing.  Part of me wants to say “it’s a puzzle game, release it at $.99 and be done with it”.  The other part says “releasing it for free and making some sales through in-app payments is the way to go”.  I’m planning to put in-app payments in the game in either case, but not in a way that tries to take advantage of a player.  For instance, I only have 1 type of currency in the game (the pumpkin coins), instead of the normal freemium model which has 2:  the “abundant” currency and the “really scarce” currency that ends up being the “real” currency, bought with real money.  There’s an option to buy more pumpkin coins in our game (assuming I get it to work), but that’s it.  Coins are gathered during game play, and each player can try to gather more or less coins depending on their particular strategy.  There are unlockable stats you can change during the game, but those are bought with pumpkin coins too.  I’m hoping to keep the economy system very simple and straightforward.

Anyway, I should stop writing and get back to coding.  Happy gaming!

On Bats and Broccoli

So, we’re moving along on our little game, and I thought I’d post a bit more about it.  Here’s the back story:  A “young” vegetarian vampire has been cast out by his sire for his non-bloodsucking ways, and must find a new home.  He happens upon a long-vacant castle that’s strangely in move-in condition.  The nearby villagers, however, aren’t very fond of the idea that a vampire lives within their backyards, even though the only things he would attack are salads.

Here’s a snippet of our little guy and his castle, done in my “semi-decent…for a programmer” art style.

The game is a match-3+ puzzle game, in the vein of Dungeon Raid or Puzzle Quest.  You create a winding path of matching tiles vertically, horizontally, and diagonally, collecting vegetables (health), coffins (defense), coins (coins), and minion spells (to scare villagers away).  At the same time, and on the same board, villagers are attacking you with pitchforks, torches, arrows, and so forth.  By matching these attacks with coffin tiles, you defend yourself against damage.  There are also upgradeable stats as you progress, so that you can get more health, defense, etc., along the way.

Here’s what the game board looks like, although it’s subject to change, and doesn’t show the whole screen.  I’ve selected a number of bat tiles in this shot, which will be used to summon a horde of bats, scaring some of the villagers away.

This will be the first full game we’ve ever created, much less to sell, so even though we’re trying our best, we know it will be rough around the edges.   This is the first step to bigger and better games as we get more experienced at making them, and we hope you’ll come along for the ride.