Dealer’s Life featured in Google Play Indie Corner!

Almost two weeks have passed since we woke up in the morning and found out that Dealer’s Life was chosen by Google Play to be featured in the Indie Corner in the New Indie Highlights” collection.

Oh, wait… that’s our game!

It turned out by accident while I was browsing data about store positioning, I saw a big (which would become ever bigger) increase in daily downloads of Dealer’s Life Premium version and I immediately wondered why. So I went to check if we were featured on the Simulation category page in some new country but I saw a whole new set of “Featured Home” countries, which brings a huge difference in terms of visibility and audience.

This news struck me like a lightning, sure we had submitted our game a couple of months before but we had no news from Google and we simply thought that our request was tagged with a “yeah, sure” tag (probably in their immense data centers they have entire clusters of servers named “yeah_sure”), archived and left for good.
I shared the news with Fiz and we were so surprised that for a good half an hour we did nothing but celebrating with a huge feeling of accomplishment, sharing it on our social pages.

“New Indie Highligts”: congratulations to all other fellow indie developers too!

It’s true, it’s really a great accomplishment that comes after more than one year working on DL, our very first game and our first attempt in making people have fun with our ideas and our visions. It’s an accomplishment that encourages us to go ahead and joins the dozens of positive reviews that we have received. It’s new energy, it’s a morale boost, it’s an acknowledgment that someone in a huge corporation saw our game and said “Hey, that’s actually good!”.

Of course this is no golden pot but it’s helping our sales (which of course keep us *alive* and working on this wonderful path) and most of all our game visibility, because there is no worst thing for a game developer than an ignored game, drowned in a sea of “mainstream” games.
Speaking of choices, we are proud of having got so far by choosing a game design completely free of IAP even if the latter is the current standard for the mobile market and even if this can have hurt a bit our sales. I will surely dig deeper into this topic with an article because it’s something that needs to be addressed carefully but right now I can tell you that this is something that increases our sense of accomplishment, especially when we read reviews from people that celebrate this choice as one of their preferred aspects.

So, probably you are wondering “what now?”.
Well, now there are still a lot of things to do and we are still committed with all our hearts and our heads on improving even more Dealer’s Life.
Two days ago we released in Beta the new 0.76 version which includes, among other changes, Google Play Games integration and Achievements which will increase fun and surely will satisfy all the achievement hunters among our players. In the meanwhile we also reached the huge milestone of 100,000 downloads on Dealer’s Life Lite.
Then there will be the big change we talked about for the last three months: recurrent characters and encounters! The first set of encounters and dialogues (policeman, special agent, mafia guy, mafia boss, construction worker) is ready and we are testing them in those very days, hopefully we will be able to release them in Beta with the following release, meaning that from that moment our players will have to take their choices and accept their consequences

An Italian indie game has a mafia boss in it… seems legit!

And then there will be Google Play Games cloud save (so that players can continue on the Premium version the game they started on the Lite version), a new item pack (*SPOILER ALERT*: it will be geek themed!), German and Spanish localization and a lot of features requested on the Public Roadmap by our players.

Our players… the same people I would like to thank so much for having stayed with us on this journey, helping us with feedback, proposing new ideas or even simply telling us that they like our game.

Thank you very much to all Dealer’s Life players… and keep up the good deals!

Even our your customers now know that Dealer’s Life is now featured in Google Play Indie Corner!
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The importance of the app store description

Hi everybody!

This is the first article for the new “Indie Dev Insights” blog section we decided to start to give some insights to indie developers out there, to help you solve issues we already faced or to have a “in production” point of view on some topics.

In this first post we just want to give you some insights you might find useful if you decide to approach the mobile market, in particular we’ll talk about ASO (App Store Optimization, more on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/App_store_optimization ).
Our thoughts could sound trivial to somebody with more marketing experience than us, but you surely know that for a developer this is quite a new territory and some knowledge in this field can really make the difference.

When we first released Dealer’s Life one month ago, we put a lot of effort to write an exhaustive description of the game that explained as clearly as possible all major features and mechanics, having in mind just the reader (which is of course a potential player) and focusing on concepts rather than on words.

That’s a big mistake.
We later found out that choosing the right words makes the real difference between being visible or not. You should not consider the description of your game just as an explanatory text (which is, of course, what “description” means, isn’t it?), but instead as a group of keywords that the Play Store utilizes to place you in the right spot, especially if we talk about textual researches made by users (the so called “organic searches“).

For your game to be discovered by people looking for that kind of content, you’ll have to use specific keywords in your description (and in your title, if you manage to do so).
Run a brainstorming session, try to imagine what words a potential player would use, find valid synonyms and separate them in terms of their difficulty score by answering simple questions like “How common is this word?” or “How many Apps is this search returning right now?”. Remember that synonyms are very important as it’s almost always better to be higher on an easier search (the so called “long tail“).
After you have your ideas then look at your competitors, analyze their game descriptions, find other inspirations and broaden your point of view.

Now that you have a list of keywords, look for the specific app store guidelines.
We currently are only on Google Play Store so we looked for every information about it; let’s recap what we found out:

  • The “short description” (which is less than 80 characters) is of course very important.
  • The first 160 characters from the description are the most important.
  • A specific keyword should not be repeated more than 5 times otherwise it is not taken into account.

With all this information you can now begin to rewrite your app description!
Of course be honest and don’t overuse keywords (remember that players, not just search engine algorithms, are reading this too) and you’ll see that every “search” you’ve refined this way will return an higher ranking.

There are also some tools out there that could help you decide which specific keyword fits best for your game and monitor your game’s ranking in keywords searches.
Most of those tools are quite expensive but there are some free alternatives that can help you out. We used the basic free tier of App Annie: we are not, in any way, affiliated with them, but it was very useful during this process and we’d like to suggest it.

And if you do this job right and if your game stands out from similar apps, you’ll surely see some results!
Here you can see a graph that displays daily downloads for Dealer’s Life Lite, with the blue arrow pointing to the day when we introduced some ASO concepts in the game’s description.

And that’s all for our first “Indie Dev Insights” article!
If you have any question or feedback, be sure to tell us in the comment section and if you like it, feel free to share it!

Meanwhile inside Abyte headquarters…

Hi there!
Those were some very busy days filled with news and events, I am sorry if we were a bit missing but hey, let’s recap everything that happened!

Of course the first bad news was the unsuccessful end of our Kickstarter campaign.
We kind of saw it coming, I think the main issue here it’s that we are good developers but terrible sellers, it’s just simply not our line of work. We have a solid product with very good feedback from our testers but we lack in marketing skills and consequently our campaign lacked in visibility.

I also deeply overestimated Kickstarter internal campaign exposure: it turns out that the main source of traffic for a campaign is not from Kickstarter browsing but from views from outside links and leads. Marketing is a key factor for this, so we decided to start some talks with a couple of agencies and friends to get some professional help on this topic (and relieve me the pain of thinking about tweets and FB posts instead of being able to develop our game full time 😉 ).

With the failure of the campaign the morale was not so high, not to mention a cold that was spreading among us (I am currently its next target…), so we decided to take a small break to breathe and recover from the last month and our working long hours.

Then during last Friday and Saturday we attended the Codemotion Milan, a great annual conference I know from years with dedicated speeches for game development topics.

We spent two very intense days, the speeches were very interesting and we talked with a lot of guys, things that were fuel for our mind with an explosion of a lot of great ideas.
I strongly encourage all of you to find similar events around you and places to share ideas and experiences, those are really important for our minds and our jobs (in game dev, software dev or whatever dev you are!).

So… what’s next?

We still completely believe in Dealer’s Life, we know it is (and will be) a great game and despite having not reached the funding goal on our Kickstarter campaign we will go on developing and building it! Monetize our work in order to keep developing and keep bringing you an even better game is of course one of our concerns. We are evaluating our possibilities and you will surely have some news if you follow us here!

We have also just recorded a gameplay video so that you can all see a couple of days of Dealer’s Life, its core mechanics and the current state of the art of the Beta version.

It’s nice, isn’t it? 🙂 The next step will be to record a couple of small videos where we explain some key features, but those are really time consuming, we are trying to find a time frame for them.

Speaking about development, we are now currently working on end game and win/lose conditions, we are also doing another balancement pass (this time on player characteristics) and further graphics improvements with more polished sprites.
So, as you can see we are still working hard and we’ll keep working hard till we can bring you our game!

Last but not least, I want to send a huge THANK YOU to all our Kickstarter supporters and our friends, we are working for you and your faith in us will be rewarded!

See you soon and don’t forget to follow us here, on Twitter and on Facebook!

Animations!

Wow, another full time immersion in the magical world of shapes and colors has just passed like an hurricane! It’s been a day and a half, this time. I feel a little less tired than that “customers rendering” time but that’s just because now it was actually simpler… Anyway, what a change!! Now customers can MOVE! I mean, they really don’t move at all, but they use to… you know… jump around in the shop, if we want to say so. It’s not a real movement, they don’t, you know, WALK, but it’s something that reminds the South Park way to walk. And since I LOVE South Park, I think this is REALLY GREAT! ❤

entrance

Finally I’ve approached with seriousness the feared Unity Animator, a tool that can radically change the way of programming, creating much more confusion in your brain… but in a good way!! Is it possible? Well, I suppose so… O_o

After a couple of hours of brain bombardment with new concepts and revolutionary ideas, deleting all my previous work and remaking it from the beginning just to discard it again… I came up with THIS:

ss_npcq

This is ART, my friends. Can you see the balance, the symmetry of everything, the clear similarity with a space station…? This is real art… and it’s broken, of course. Obviously the final scheme is much uglier than this but at least is stable and perfectly efficient! Even Tanek, who tried to break it in every single way he could think of, had to admit it is UNBREAKABLE.

foto-animator

So after all this creativity we now have moving customers, new UI graphics, brand new shop with YOUR ITEMS shown on the shelves, and many other little & nice details I don’t remember having put in… but they’re there! I guess it was me, maybe during sleep.

Stay tuned for more updates and other details!

Because… Graphics!

What a weird word for a programmer… but hey, this is going to be the facade of the game, right? First impressions come from there so let’s work hard on that!

CheldonSooper

I’ve always known I would put my hands on graphics again: I’ve got a very clear idea of how I want the game to look, and I know it wouldn’t come to it so easily. We’re two programmers and only one graphic here, it’s not easy to contain all work necessary to fit just one person. Luckily I’ve got some skills in making animations and playing with sprites in Unity, so I’m sure I’ll eventually come with exactly what I want, and it’s gonna be really good.

Graphics is a totally new field for a programmer like me, and I think that’s the reason of the quite huge performance problem that came out lately within our last internal test version… but after a couple of days of pure insanity in front of this monitor I can say I solved it! It was all a matter of sprite resolution and image compression… but I don’t want to bother you with boring technical details (Tanek already does that 😀 ). The one thing that’s really important is that I made the game 75% lighter!! Not 10% or 15%. SEVENTY FIVE PERCENT, and that’s a number given by Tanek so I’m sure it’s completely true! A few clicks here and there, a little hundreds lines of code rewritten, and yeah baby! Job’s done!

While I was doing that I was also thinking about actually putting some more details and improvements in the main scene of the game: I want the shop interior and UI elements to look quite different, so I talked about it with the team and we made a (long) list of changes we want to make to graphics. It’s all in a checklist that will become my Bible for the next days. I’m starting today with this task, so expect big changes in the game’s look in the real short future!

Animations… here I come!!!

Hello World #2

As Fiz said, now that we are live on Kickstarter it’s time to introduce us and greet all new visitors coming here.

So… Hi there! 🙂

I am Giulio Marra, or Tanek for everyone who knows me online, and I am the lead developer, project manager and algorithm mastermind of Dealer’s Life. I will be the harbinger of… release notes, technical insights and advices for all of you who are curious or want to learn more about game developing.

Let’s talk about me! I have 10 years of experience in working in Java on the “backend” side of a lot of important IT projects, ranging from massive data analysis structures, API design and implementation, an e-commerce platform and payment gateway integration.

And I am bringing all of this in Dealer’s Life!

tanek_prof-01

Yes, you heard it right, everything I learned since my first day on the job as a software engineer can (and should) be used during the development of a videogame.

Let’s start with the most obvious aspect: from the code perspective developing a game is not so different from developing anything else. You have to design it and evaluate design patterns, you have to think about the data structures and accessing the database, you have to think about modularity and reusability. And in the end, you have to write it in a clean and readable code.

Another important aspect is project management: even if our team is composed of only three people, the project cannot be left growing on its own, it has to be supervised and managed. Some examples of what has to be done are: identify, plan and assign priority to tasks, set milestones and estimate effort needed to reach them, use tools to share project planning, design documents and knowledge, and so on, not to mention try to stop (or at least delay) Fiz from implementing his latest crazy idea for some animations. Those guidelines help us drive, or steer, the project towards the best route, trying to avoid bumps and obstacles.

After 4 months of working on Dealer’s Life I can say that we chose correctly a good number of things to prioritize. Now we have a stable version with a Google Play integration for our testers, everything is running smoothly under the curtains, all the services providing algorithm implementation are working and generating content. Of course, as DL has procedurally generated contents, algorithms are very important but I will talk about them in another dedicated article.

Oh look, a line of code!

And what’s in for the future? Well, we have a lot of things to do and to manage: the closed beta is currently ongoing with more than a dozen of testers (or should I say friends? 🙂 ), we worked during last weekend to release a major update and we have just planned our next days, we will to continue the work in progress on the graphics while also implementing end game (with win and lose condition). In the meanwhile we have to manage all the work needed for the Kickstarter campaign and all our social media.

Pretty much a 24/7 job, isn’t it?

But there is no problem, this is our job now and I feel realized and happy while working on these things. And as a matter of fact this developer diary makes me feel even happier, so there will surely be other articles with updates or insights on technical details of our game. 🙂

Thank you for reading and… stay tuned! 🙂

Hello World

Now that our Kickstarter project has begun, it’s time to say a new and big HELLO to all new visitors coming here! Time to better introduce myself, I suppose…

Well well, where to begin?

Hi! I’m Federico Palombini, but people call me Fiz or Faso. I’m the lead designer/storyteller and programmer of Dealer’s Life! Together with Giulio and Valentina I’m working like crazy to create a REAL videogame! See? I said it! It’s real! Yeaahh!!

The A-Team
The A-Team

Ok, you have to forgive my enthusiasm: this is a dream coming true for me, I’ve been a gamer for such a long time, and for every game I play I’m always like: “Wow! Good game! But IMHO if they change this and that, this game would be absolutely GREAT!”. You know, that’s usual routine for a long time gamer: you’ve seen so many games out there, it comes natural linking game mechanics between games and dreaming about the result.

For almost everyone of us gamers, finally comes the day when you think: “Ok, it’s very easy to criticize other’s work from the couch, feeling you could make something better, but what if you actually MAKE something?”. Most of people would stop at this, wisely discarding the idea because of the amount of work needed, the almost unpredictable gain perspective, and many other absolutely good reasons I myself have thought about many and many times.

For only a few of us, though, something triggers in the brain when you realize that you actually have both knowledge and tools to make something by your own. That feeling goes stronger and stronger, till becomes an unbearable need when you start meeting friends as mad as you and decide to make something together with them.

That’s exactly what happened to us. During an evening passed drinking beer and watching Youtube videos between me and Giulio, the idea came out almost naturally. I mean… why not? It was a life changing idea but, you know… As for quite everything in life, you never know what does it really mean until you actually live it.

Four months ago I used to work in an office with my business laptop, my business cell phone, my business workstation, badge and company canteen. Now I’m here at home with my gaming pc, using my gaming mouse to browse the internet and C# compilers, sitting on a broken office chair that keeps lowering. I’ve got some biscuits, plum cakes, quite too ripe fruits and other snacks as usual daily meal. I’m losing weight, and I don’t sleep easily. My mind is chock-full of thoughts, fears, things to do, things to remember, new things I’ll have to learn…

imm_fiz_pc-01

But you know what? I like it. I mean, I really love it. It’s a damn hard and draining work, but I actually think it’s one of the best periods I’ve ever lived in my life.

Now things can go good or bad. Will this Kickstarter take us somewhere? Will the game be liked by people? Will I fix all bugs?? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: I’ll never forget all this, and I’ll do all in my power to make a GREAT game.

fiz_hero-01

Dealer’s Life is now live on Kickstarter!

Our game is now available on Kickstarter!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/abyteentertainment/dealers-life?ref=6jd2ww

Check it out and spread the word!

A big thank you to all our friends and testers who helped us (and are still helping) since our Alpha version launch, another update is on the way for you in a few hours. 🙂

We are unbelievably happy for having reached this goal and now, with your help, we will continue bringing life to this great game!

Let’s Play

You’ve been playing for ages with your smartphone or your tablet, Google Play Store it’s like a second home for you. Then suddenly you develop a game that can actually be counted as one of those up there. How do you feel? Well, f***ing good!!

We did it! We’re now on Google Play Store!! I mean, if you look for us in there you won’t find anything, of course, as it is a private Alpha version, but our testers can finally download the app directly from GPlay!

The more we go on with this project, the more we realize most of what we are doing is thanks to Google tools. We’re using practically everything from Big G. Thanks to it we are able to do great things in so little time, so easily! Thanks G…od!

3, 2, 1… Alpha!

Hi all!
We cannot stop! Another month has passed and we are now proud to present you…

an ALPHA VERSION!

We implemented better mechanics, brand new UI and graphics, and of course a bunch of new content!

A screenshot from our Alpha Version
A screenshot from our Alpha Version

This new shining version features:

  • the Daily Journal, to be read in the morning, with funny news and useful ads
  • inventory management.
  • being able to move to a new shop, with different features and graphics.
  • being able to hire and fire employees that provide bonuses to your skills.
  • being able to save your play and continue in another gaming session.

This is getting greater and greater! Stay tuned for updates!