Giant Margarita’s anniversary games jam is away!  

First up, we’re spending time discussing ideas for the game, brainstorming to see what sticks, and what is too absurd or time consuming to deal with in the short time we have together.  We’re looking for fun, engaging, quick win game features 🙂

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At this stage, Ben is going to get started with the graphics – he’s creating us some models to work with.  Lindsay and Ian are cracking on with the coding – happily we’re using a little of our previous code from our Party Golf game to speed up the process.  Adam is going to start with the art, and I’m managing our ideas (using Trello), blogging (using WordPress) and making absurd suggestions that will never end up in the game 😉

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Also, very importantly, I’m keeping the mascot (Fuzzbutt) happy with tuna treats.  He’s very important to the process 😉

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Following the success of our first in-house games jam, Giant Margarita are going to be beginning their next games jam tomorrow (Friday 24th).

This time around, we are going to be live-blogging the process as much as our over-tired brains will allow us, and its all going to be happening right here on giantmargarita.com!

So starting tomorrow @ 4pm AEST keep refreshing this blog to follow the progress of the games jam including screenshots as the game progresses, some pictures of zombie-like developers, and probably a whole heap of expletives.

There’s been a bit of radio silence on the Giant Margarita blog since we released Save the Teenies, but let us assure you this is only because behind the scenes we have been active on some really exciting new things to come!

Recently the wonderful people at Brus Media approached us to be the first interviewees in a series of articles featuring opinions from mobile developers on the challenges of marketing and creating awesome mobile apps. We were really chuffed to get to tell some of our story, and the article is online now at the Brus Media blog, so take a look!

In order to keep the article snappy, they didn’t show our responses to the question “What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced when launching your first mobile app?” So I’ve posted our bonus answers after the cut 🙂

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Hiya! My name’s Aran and I’m in charge of the marketing for Save the Teenies.

So here’s the big news: Save the Teenies has launched worldwide to great acclaim 🙂

If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you may have missed this momentous event. If you haven’t already, you should download the app for Android or iOS for free!

What I wanted to briefly talk about besides this great news, is how to market your app if you’re an indie developer. Obviously, this experience was hard won for me, and I wish someone was around to point me in the right direction.

Our game has been selling well over the last few days since launch, especially on iTunes and I believe that came down to one thing and one thing alone. Here it is:

Quality

If you’re app is not quality, it will never succeed. So you’ve made a Christmas game where you flap a santa’s hat through some candy canes (not at all like every other floppy/flippy/flappy bird clone ever) and you’re wondering why it is not shifting even one unit.

It’s because you’re app is lacking in Quality. Now that’s a really hard thing to say to someone who has put even a small amount of effort into a creative medium and shared it with the world. But it’s true. Rhonda from Mississippi doesn’t go to the App Store, browse for casual games and chooses to install Fluppy Santa 3 HD Christamas Edition when she could just download Angry Birds or Cut the Rope like her friends have.

 

How can we stand out on an app store that contains 1.3 million Android and 1.2 million iOS apps and have a hope of competing with those big guys always in the top 50?

 

You need to start from the start. Great idea and a Passion to construct that idea into an app. Drive to sell that app to the world. Accept small victories as big ones.

Great Idea 

Save the Teenies, while bearing a slight resemblance to other games, is unique. Not all unique things are good, but we think that our unique has hit the right tone of familiar and fresh. That idea was what started the whole long process.

Passion

Here at Giant Margarita, Save the Teenies was in development for nearly 2 years. That doesn’t mean it was continuously worked on like some Frankenstein super app. But it was the sole hobby of two talented developers who juggled full-time jobs and families to create the game.

And the game was good.

Drive

Getting our game onto social media like twitter and facebook early on was the best decision ever. I was skeptical at first. Who would like a game on facebook that didn’t exist yet? But people did, from all around the world. We got Save the Teenies fans in Slovakia 🙂 Social media before game lauch, preferably a month or longer seemed to work well for us.

Putting up meaningful posts, creating a, posting character teasers all helped to create a bit of a buzz.

We jump started the page by inviting all our friends to like the page after we made some promo banners and bootstrapped some content. That bought us around 300 likes (some people just can’t be told like things apparently). While not a huge number, that was now our springboard. We paid for some (very) moderate advertising on facebook to get our game out as well. This was a great decision, as for a really tiny (sub $100 dollars) sum of money and some careful audience targeting we were getting a steady stream of likes per day. These weren’t pay to like profiles either, we very specifically targeted our core audience, matched their app playing behaviors (in this case playing a game in the last 7 days) and only targeted western countries. This was to make sure that old Jimmy LikeAlot in Indonesia didn’t make facebook and his ungainful employer some money by engaging in like buying.

When the game was ready to launch, we posted a big launch post with all the relevant links, a gorgeous post image and a big thank you. We also crucially asked people to share the post with their friends if they thought the Teenies were cute. Result? 13,000 impressions around the world, 37 shares, 50 comments and over 100 likes. Not bad for a game with a marketing budget of a peanut from a company no-one had heard of three weeks before.

Reviews

To my mind, reviews for apps from unknown developers these days come in two flavours. Paid, or paid. You’re not going to get reviewed by a moderate sized website with good traffic without encountering a paywall. These sites will review your game for an “expedited administrative cost”.

Basically, an ad masquerading as a review. Whilst it’s hard to not want to cough up the money for some exposure, we here at Giant Margarita would rather have our app reach a handful of people, than engage in pay-for-comment type situations. The worst app in the world will have its praises sung to the heavens if the dev pays enough to the reviewer.

We submitted press releases to quite a few review sites and have received very little encouraging news. Time will tell if any reviews come out of this process. It seems that other indie devs are suffering from this blight just as much as us. Our advice? send out a nice email to some little guys, basically begging for a quid pro quo promotion and hope for the best. That’s not say that games don’t get reviewed for free, but they’re usually either games that are made by well established companies, or are games that have already taken off in popularity.

In my anecdotal experience, Rhonda from Mississippi doesn’t sit on app review sites all days trying to find apps to download. Rhonda just goes the the app store. Heaps of people read reviews, but the VAST majority do not before they click download on the App Store or Play Store. Better spend that time cranking your direct social media profiles, meeting people in person or creating attractive app icons.

So what have we learned from this long and sometimes discouraging process? It’s hard being indie. But that’s why we struggle, for the joy of making games.

To recap, once you know you’ve got a good game idea we’ve learned from our own experience to focus on these things:

  1. Creating, polishing and finishing a game so that it can stand next to big name games and not be laughed at.
  2. Getting your game on social media, creating gorgeous promotional materials and engaging as many of your real and facebook friends as possible. Burn the app name into their memory. Save the Teenies. Hard to forget right?
  3. Try for, but don’t obsess (and especially don’t pay) for reviews. What’s more important is making a game that 500 people liked and downloaded, than buying app reviews from people who didn’t care to game the system. And if your game gets a little bit successful? It’ll get reviewed in no time at all.

Indie is about small people making games from the heart. Getting that game out there is hard, but if you like it, the game is already a success

 

 

Crunch kinda sucks.

It’s long hours, lots of stress, very little sleep, and sometimes hard to see how we’ll ever get to the end.  My job, as producer is to keep Ian and Lindsay moving forward, sometimes with a stick (yelling, sticky notes doors from hell) and sometimes with a carrot (sugar, sugar, and KFC).

This blog is about a carrot 🙂

A year or so ago, I watched a documentary called “Indiegame: The Movie”, which followed the development process of a few Indie games like Super Meat Boy and Fez.  At one point in the doco, the Team Meat guys are heavy into crunch and going a little nuts, and sitting quietly in the background is the wife of one of the developers.  It was what she was doing that caught my attention.  Firstly, she was looking online for hairless cats (?!), but as well as that, she was making a little Super Meat Boy plushy toy.

So, getting to the point, when things were getting towards the pointy end for the Teenies team and they weren’t sure it was going to ever be real, I decided to make them something real.  A plushy Teenie 🙂

Now, for anyone who knows me, I’m more “Management” than I am “Domestic Goddess” and I can”t sew a button to save myself, so the first task was to get LOTS of help.  Luckily we’re surrounded by a terrific bunch of friends, who are crazy talented in many ways including design and crafts.  So, the plan was to secretly get this group together, and make a set of Plushie-Teenies to give to the guys as inspiration, if you will 😉

So I sent secret emails, and stole design diagrams, and organised a craft night.  Very Mission Impossible, no? 😉 *cue music*

 

 

Here’s my illicit sewing team – Steph, Bindi, Nadia, Jamie, Issy, Nicholas, and Brooke.

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So, basically we spent an evening cutting…

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Sewing…

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Adding hair…

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Stuffing…

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And finally adding the adorable Teenie faces…

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Until we had a bunch of Plushie-Teenies!!

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They came out brilliantly and were so freakin’ adorable, and could not casino have been done without this awesome team, so, just another thanks to them all 🙂 xx

I’m just adding this next development picture here for those who are still confused about the ‘Kristy and Crafts’ convergence.  You can see I really was there, I actually helped, and cut out and stuffed with great vigour (if not precision ;P).

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The plan was to give the completed Plushie-Teenies to Ian and Lindsay after a few more weeks of crunch and much closer to release.  However, another interesting and fun fact about me is that I’m terrible about hiding super exciting things for more than one day 😉  These were too good not to share 🙂

 

So, the very next day, I set up the Plushie-Teenies (in a Giant Margarita glass, naturally), and called the boys.

Now, for grown men, I have very rarely seen such glee and giggling.  Here’s what it looked like…

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So the Plushie-Teenies now watch over the development desk, helping the guys to remember what they’re working towards.  On some days, when things are getting frustrating, they also serve as cuddle toys to cry into 😉

 

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Overall, success I’d say 🙂

Yesterday, Save the Teenies moved on from its Alpha test phase to the Beta test phase. The beta will run for about a month until we release, so theres still time to sign up to be a beta tester and see if you can break the game (or you know, provide constructive feedback and new ideas for how to make it EVEN MORE awesome!).

Testing has being going strong so far, and noone has managed to break the game yet (with the exception of old unsupported devices simply not starting due to their hardware). We”re excited by the initial tester feedback which indicate the that the game is fun (queue the celebratory music), with some testers mentioning how the challenges that we spent so long implementing and the levels that were so intricately designed have really challenged them. One goal was that most nederlandsegokken online casino levels can be completed to 1 star with relative ease, yet 3 stars being much more difficult. Initial results indicate we are achieving this, but we look forward to examining the analytics data to see if certain levels stick out as too difficult. A few issues to do with intuitiveness of- and finding of- features have cropped up just like any Beta test should (after all we have been staring at the generally the same UI for about a year now), and there are still many challenges to fix this up before final release.

All of our testers get a spot in our (awesome) credits screen, and we thank each and every one of your for not only your interest, but also for devoting even a small part of your time to playing our game 🙂

Following up from our last post about crunch time, we are happy to announce that Save the Teenies has been accepted as a main entrant in The 17th Annual Independent Games Festival!

It was a tough week getting the game ready for the judges, but we look forward to the useful and insightful feedback they should provide.

You can check out our entry page, as well as our strong competition at the IGF website.

For now though, we are back into crunch mode trying to get the game ready for beta testing. If you would like to be part of this process why not shoot us an email or sign up for updates on the Save the Teenies landing page. We want to release a polished and well-tested product onto the Play Store, and to do so will need as many testers as we can!

Crunch time brings out the best and worst in developers, and this certainly holds true for us at Giant Margarita. While we have our main timeline’s deadline a few weeks away before we hit beta, a more immediate deadline to submit to the Indie Games Festival has just been.

I’m still in wind-down mode (before winding back up toward our next milestone) so sadly this post will be as short as my last, but given the events of the last few days I felt it worthy of a blog post. I guess since people blog about anything these days being “worthy” of a blog post doesn’t mean all that much–but to us, the last few days have seen the Teenies game take great strides toward our vision of what the released game should be like. And all under the pressure of crunch time.

Amidst an environment of moans, groans, muttering, and more swears than a Martin Scorsese film, (the worst of us) a number of bugs and problems that had been hounding us for months (and even years) finally resolved themselves, and little dances of running around the room flailing arms took place (the best of us). As if the fact these things were resolved in the dying hours before submission wasn’t ridiculous enough, the way in which some were fixed just compound things (a rollercoaster ride of emotion, I thought this would be the last of us).Continue reading

As the resident “person who knows how to make the internet do the things with the stuff” at Giant Margarita, it is my honour to write the very first post on the blog. Welcome!

We hope to use the blog to keep you all up to date on the latest on our games, as well as to share some of our stories and tips that come about from the development process.

We have been working on Save the Teenies for some time now and looking back it feels a shame that a lot online casino of the stories and many lessons learned will go undocumented. Looking forward however, it is an exciting prospect to try and share the new things that will come up in the future.

But for now I must stop blogging and get back to writing the tutorial system for Teenies so that it”s not just Ian who knows how to play our game!