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June 17, 2015Jesse Freeman
Over the past 3 months I have been working on a number of game for the Amazon Appstore and streaming their development live on Twitch. While most people know Twitch as a place to watch people play games, it’s also one of the best places to see game developers make them as well. Twitch now has a dedicated Game Development channel and I’d love to invite you all to come watch me, and my co-workers Paul and Peter, build games for the Amazon Appstore.
I started streaming on Twitch shortly before GDC and figured this was the best time to give it a try as I built out the demos for my talk. I ended up porting over an older HTML5 game of my called Super Paper Monster Smasher to Unity as a way of testing out best practices for optimizing Unity games on Fire devices. It wasn’t easy to start live coding but after a few weeks it became more natural and here are a few things I learned along the way:
The goal of your stream is to build up a community around your game. This is one of Twitch’s strong suits. I found that the people who come in to watch my stream usually come back. They ask questions, they engage others in chat and they have valuable input into how you should fix issues or features you should add to your game. I’ve learned a lot about how to work in Unity better and community suggestions have helped make my latest game, Cigar Smuggler, a lot better too.
Once you build up a following, interact with them and don’t ignore them on chat. It’s a delicate balance between doing your work and taking part in the chat conversation but once you find your rhythm, stick to it and bring them into the process.
I also learned early on that I wanted my streaming setup to be self-contained. If you dev on your personal or work computer make sure you have a clear separation between what you show on the stream and your own stuff. I am constantly being bombarded by emails, phone calls, and IMs all day long while I stream. To keep this out of the videos I work on a VM. I’ve configured a perfect setup just for my streaming development with all the tools I need to get my games running.
What’s also great about the VM is that you can back it up and if anything goes wrong it’s easy to restore. I’ve also copied it to my laptop so I have the two in sync allowing me to stream from my laptop when I travel. If you can’t use a VM at the very least I would suggest making a separate user account on your computer and logging into that when you go on Twitch. It also goes without saying to make sure you can easily mute your microphone at a moments notice too.
Outside of using a VM, I have a decent USB gaming headset with a built in microphone that I use for audio in and out. I also use a USB capture card for showing off Fire TV builds during my stream too. On the software side of things I’m running Open Broadcaster with the following settings:
As you can see I am streaming from a larger resolution of 2560 x 1440 so I scale it down to 720p. One thing to note is that for people to be able to read the code, I usually bump up the font size in all my editors. I also have a watermark graphic that I use during my streams.
I don’t like to keep my web cam on so I use this graphic to simply let people know who I am and if they find a highlight video on YouTube they know where the main stream came from.
A big part of the Twitch process is to make sure after you record a stream, to cut up highlights. I don’t do this for every stream but on important ones I’ll make clips out of them to feature on my profile page.
You can also push these you YouTube to cast a wider net for new followers. People who are interested in your work may not always be able to catch you doing it live. So make sure you get the videos of your steams out to the most places possible. You can check out my own highlights here.
If you want to see some of my game development, learn more about the Amazon Appstore and Fire Devices or just say hi please check out my Twitch channel at http://twitch.tv/jessefreeman. I stream almost daily at 9am – 12pm Eastern and randomly at nights and on the weekend. If you want to learn more about streaming on Twitch, check out the following links:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)
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May 12, 2015Judith Hoffmann
Sign up to the Amazon Developer Program for free. Learn how to easily submit your app or game to Fire TV and Fire tablets, how to publish HTML5 apps and how to test your APK on the Developer Portal.
During the indie developer showcase, hosted by Amazon as part of Quo Vadis game conference during International Games Week Berlin, local developers shared with us their experience getting their games onto the Amazon Appstore, as well as useful tips for other developers.
German developer SlashGames creates high-quality browser and mobile games, as well as consulting in software development, software engineering and producing. For Amazon, they showcased Freudbot, a single player mobile game following a supermarket employee and giving him ‘good’ advice to overcome his problems.
Black Pants Studio demoed their game About Love, Hate and the Other Ones, a fun puzzle game in which, according to PR Manager Florian Masuth, you “influence your surroundings by the force of hate and the power of love [to] find a way through caves and ice, castles and factories”.
Berlin-based publisher Exozet implement popular board games, such as Catan, and have newly implemented Carcasonne for Fire TV as showcase especially for this event. Their premium and free-to-play games are available on all major platforms, from mobile over console to facebook and browser.
Amongst the developers we had Black Moon Design, hailing from near-by Poland, with their fast action, HTML5 game Aliens Attack which “runs really well on FireTV” according to founder Robert Podgorski. Inspired by C64 and classic sci-fi movies from the 60s, Black Moon Design’s mission is to bring fun to players’ lives.
Also from Poland are NowaHutaGames, who presented their game Rounded Strategy. Wanting to make strategy games accessible to everyone, NowaHutaGames target casual and mid-core players instead of the usual hard-core gamers. As a result, Rounded Strategy is a mobile-first strategy game with an extremely low entry point.
Unavailable for video interviews, but with great games nonetheless, were Mimimi Productions with their games daWindci, a highly praised 2.5D mobile puzzle game, and Ooops! Noah is Gone, inspired by the same-named animated movie in which the cuddly characters go on a great adventure and form genuine friendships. The 3-man team Studio Fizbin, focusing on story-based games and original and unique characters, worlds and tales, showcased their tablet game the Inner World, which won the Casual Connect “Indie Prize 2013”, amongst other awards. Finally, Hamburg-based Threaks presented their demo game Beatbuddy on Fire TV, though the game is not yet publicly available on Amazon devices.
Echoed by all developers that we interviewed was the claim that launching on Amazon Fire TV was very easy. Porting their Android app onto the Amazon Appstore was “like a breeze”, explains Jakub Bladek from NowaHutaGames and adds: “We did it in an hour.” Black Moon Design had a similar experience; after adding Gamepad support, “all of a sudden it worked like charms”. Using the App Testing Service, Nick Prühs from Slash Games remarks that “it worked without us doing anything. […] We were live in an hour or two.”
For Black Pants Studio, apart from porting being easy, the showcase represented a first introduction to the Amazon platform: “Being approached by Amazon made us realize that for new games we can think about putting them straight onto your store when we launch.” Similarly, Robert Podgorski from Back Moon Design points out that the Amazon Appstore is a valid alternative platform for Android games and adds that “Making games for Fire TV and seeing them on the big screen is really good, so consider that.” Linda Kerkhoff, developer at Exozet, seconds that and suggests that developers consider the living room as a new market to attract customers, as “it’s not such an effort to build the game from the device to the TV.”
Finally, Nick Prühs emphasizes the importance of having a good core mechanic. “What is really important is that you iterate very soon and very often”, Prühs explains, “make sure the core is fun and then iterate.” Jakub Bladek goes a step further. He admits that they screwed up their first version and therefore got two bad ratings, so his advice to other developers it to “be sure to have your first release finished 100%” before publishing.
May 07, 2015Paul Cutsinger
As a part of our series on helping developers turn great games into great businesses, we’ve been talking about the importance of evolving your players into a fan base. This week we’ve invited Alex Walz of Apptentive to share his advice. Apptentive's software makes it easy for any company with a mobile app to grow retention, boost app store ratings, drive downloads, and earn customer loyalty via in-app messages, surveys, and intelligent ratings.
Building a fan community isn’t an easy task - it takes time and effort. Many mobile publishers adopt an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. As some of you may be experiencing, getting those crucial first customers- rather than building the app -may prove to be your biggest challenge.
After working with thousands of mobile apps, we have figured out a few ways to make creating fandom at scale a little easier for developers. Tools such as ours, compliment all the hard work you’ve done creating your app. Apptentive powers a suite of customer engagement tools that can be integrated into any mobile app to help developers build loyalty, earn customer love, and improve app store rankings – all of which translate to better monetization.
We’ve put together a list of five tips to create a scalable loyalty program that can turn players into fans. Enjoy!
The first step is to build an app your players can get excited about – an app they can become fans of. At this year’s Mobile World Congress, Amazon’s Paul Cutsinger made the distinction between ‘player’ sports and ‘spectator’ sports. Player sports (like archery, for example) provide a high level of entertainment value to the player. But there’s not a lot of money to be made in archery – it’s not a business. Such sports are designed to entertain a small niche of players but lack the mass appeal to go viral. Spectator sports, on the other hand, have a much broader audience and can support a product line, brand, business, and most importantly, a fanbase. In his presentation, Paul notes eSports as a prime example of a spectator sport harnessing the power of fandom – and consequently racking in $194 million in revenue.
The same goes for mobile games and other apps. If you want to a fan community, you need to engineer for growth and virality. Build a game that players will not only love, but love to share. This brings us to our next point...
With a beautiful interface, fun gameplay, social authentication, easy sharing, and an additional merchandise line, Plants vs. Zombies is a top rated apps in the Amazon Appstore
Let’s face it: None of us know how to build the perfect game. Fortunately for us, our players do. All we have to do is listen.
With over 400,000 apps in the Amazon Appstore, players have pretty high standards when it comes to evaluating which game to play next. It, therefore, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a whopping two-thirds of players ditch a game after fewer than 24 hours. Your players have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for in a game and can provide a fresh set of eyes to something you’ve been laboring over for months – revealing bugs you’ve overlooked or confusing areas in your interface.
Yet, players rarely have a channel for communicating this feedback. They can either take the time to leave a public review of your app or (as we see much more frequently) simply leave your app without leaving any indication of the factors that led them to that point. To capture this feedback and build an app they’ll truly love, you need to not only listen to your feedback, but proactively solicit it. I’ve found that companies that do exactly that –in the form of in-app messages, surveys, and feedback forms – have grown their customer insight collection 15-fold. In the process of listening and interacting with their players, I’ve seen countless success stories of breaking through the noise, growing lifetime value, and boosting retention by as much as 100%.
Average retention rates for mobile games that proactively engage players vs. those that don’t
Want to grow your fanbase? Make it easy to be a fan. Your players don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither should your game. By leveraging existing social networks, you can greatly increase your game’s reach and adoption. Social integration typically comes in two ways:
One-step authentication using a Twitter, Facebook, or other social account. Instead of asking players to create an account log in to your game, consider giving them the option to sign in with their preferred social network. In the world of apps, speed and convenience is everything, with one-third of mobile app sessions lasting less than one minute. By getting players signed up faster, you can remove the first barrier of adoption and convert more installs into active players. Registration with social networks can also be used to sync a player’s contacts with the app, allowing him or her to invite friends and effortlessly evangelize your app.
One-click sharing over the player’s preferred social network. Mobile games are becoming increasingly social, and the value of an app is often in its community. How many times have you set a new high score in a game or gotten an achievement, and wanted to challenge your friends to top your score in the leaderboard? With social integration, posing that challenge should never be more than a click of a button away. The easier it is to share your content, the more shares you’ll get.
With the rise of deeplinks, social sharing has never been more important as an app discovery method. Leverage it.
The previous tip was all about making your app a community. Now it’s time to grow that community beyond your app. Taking another note from Appstore evangelist Paul Cutsinger, this comes down to encouraging the creation (and distribution) of user-generated content that can be shared across the web.
One strategy Riot and several mobile game developers have done to encourage content creation is using Twitch to show championship games and other content streams. Twitch, the live streaming video platform owned by Amazon, started support mobile game streaming last March and provides a way for game developers to spread awareness by sharing gameplay videos to the web and create a second revenue stream through the advertisements shown on Twitch. As of January 2015, the site sees over 100 million views each month, making it a great platform for mobile game promotion.
Other successful strategies include fostering fan communities and message boards, organizing online fan art or fan fiction contests, and creating a product/apparel line associated with your game. For an example of what such a community looks like in action, look no further than Angry Birds – a game that now sees over one-third of its revenue generated from its merchandise empire, with an extensive line of plush toys and t-shirts gracing malls around the world.
Angry Birds plush toy. Photo credit: Aira Vehaskari/AFP/Getty Images
Last but not least, you’ve got to ask for evangelism. At Apptentive, we’ve helped leading apps dramatically boost their review volume and sentiment almost overnight simply by engaging customers with intelligent, well-timed rating prompts.
Ratings and reviews are a crucial component of any mobile marketing strategy – so much so that the difference a single star makes is often enough to bring developers ‘above the poverty line.’ We looked into the relationship between willingness-to-download and star ratings in a recent consumer survey and found that a boost from 3 to 4 stars can increase app store conversion by as much as 89% while an increase from 2 to 5 stars can increase conversion by an incredible 570%. When it comes to mobile gaming, keeping players is a big pain point for many developers and acquiring them is even harder. Do yourself a favor, and ask for the ratings and reviews to help make this all a little easier.
I hope you found these five tips helpful as you propel your app to the top of the Appstore charts and turn your player into fans. In the words of Paul Cutsinger, 40% of mobile game developers fall ‘under the poverty line.’ But then again, 40% of developers don’t have a fanbase.
For more information about getting started with the Amazon App for Android, Amazon Fire devices, or how to submit your game check out the following additional resources:
April 23, 2015Simon Howard
My colleague Peter (@peterdotgames) recently wrote a blog about St Patrick’s Day, and as I live in the UK I thought I would write something about St George’s Day. St George is the patron saint of England, and St. George’s Day is celebrated on April 23. His emblem is a red cross on a white background, which is the flag of England and part of the British flag.
Unlike St Patrick’s Day, there isn’t a wealth of apps specifically to celebrate St George’s Day, however, there are a number of apps that are related to England and will help you celebrate the occasion. So without further ado, below is a set of apps and games that are in some way related to England and that you can download from the Amazon Appstore.
Some people say that there is nothing more English than Cricket. They may be right although I think a Cream Tea with a Scone and Strawberry Jam is up there too!
ECB Cricket was created by the England and Wales Cricket Board, the body that looks after Cricket in England and Wales. It’s a useful app that enables you to keep track of all sorts of things that relate to Cricket. You can view information for upcoming Cricket matches, get the latest Cricket news and check out the statistics for a club (that’s the same as a team) that you follow.
The Radioplayer: UK Radio on Your Kindle app by UK Radioplayer Ltd allows you to listen to hundreds of UK based radio stations including those from the BBC. You can listen to the radio whilst doing other things and listen to catch-up programs and podcasts.
So, this could be a great way to experience a little bit of England from a far – maybe listen to some retro music from the 70s and 80s or local UK news J
England is a nation that is fascinated with Football (or should I say Soccer) - after all it is where the game began!
With the Football Live Scores app by holoduke you can keep track of what’s happening in Football in England and internationally. You can get match schedules, checkout live match scores, find out where your favorite team is in the English Football league or find out who the top scoring players are. There are also some quizzes built-in to the app.
It’s an ideal app if you are a Football fan!
If you live in England or are visiting you’re likely to come to London at some point to do some shopping, see a musical on the West End, or even go to a business meeting as I frequently do! Aside from Buses and Taxis, the London Underground (or the “Tube” as most of us Brits like to call it) is the main way to get about London.
Tube Map London Underground by Visual IT Ltd allows you to plan your journey from A to B on the London Underground.
The app has a handy London underground map and a route planner (so you can figure out journey time). It also lets you check the status of each of the underground lines.
The TripAdvisor app is a great way of finding good places to visit on your day off or your vacation (we call it ‘holiday’) or restaurants to eat or places to stay. You can do lots of other things with the app too as part of your trip planning.
So why not use the app to plan your day out in London or to the Roman Baths in Bath? You will often by the way hear the English debate whether “Bath” should be pronounced “Baaaaath” with an emphasis on the “a” or not. I’m not really sure…
If you’re interested in doing anything in the great outdoors in England (walking, running, cycling…), the OS MapFinder app by Ordnance Survey Leisure Limited is the app for you. With the app, you can search for thousands of places in England (plus the rest of Great Britain) such as town, points of interest and so on. You get overview mapping from the Ordnance Survey for free and optionally you can purchase more detailed maps for areas you’re interested in. This app is designed for Kindle users only.
If you want to know more about the history of St George’s Day in England, check out this Wikipedia link. St George’s Day is actually celebrated in various countries and for different reasons – you can find out more about which other countries celebrate St George’s Day in the same Wikipedia link.
So that’s it. I hope you have a happy St George’s Day, whether that involves planning a holiday in the Cotswolds or listening to UK radio or reminiscing about drinking a nice pint of real ale or a glass of wine in a pub somewhere in the depths of the countryside.
Simon Howard (@SimonH109)
April 21, 2015Paul Cutsinger
As a part of our series on helping developers turn great games into great businesses, we’ve been talking about the importance of evolving your players into a fan base. This week we’ve invited Daniel Shir to share his advice as the co-founder and CTO of Nextpeer, a platform that has helped over 7,000 game developers with discovery and retention through social features.
According to the recent data shared by Vision Mobile, roughly 50% of mobile developers are below the so called “app poverty line”, which has them making less than $500 a month. The number of apps out there is staggering, and game developers have an even harder time, with around 65% of the one million apps out there being games. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the competitive gaming landscape that’s out there for mobile game developers.
If you’re a game developer then you base your business up on three major pillars - product, monetization and customer acquisition. To sum it all up in a brief sentence you need to make sure that you have a compelling game, a way to monetize it and a way to obtain players to play it. Let’s assume that you have an awesome game idea and that you’ve even thought of ways to monetize it, say with in-app purchases or ads. How would you go about acquiring players for your game early on and making sure that those players attract even more players? One of the best ways of going about that is to build a fan base and a community around your game.
Companies that do this well hit that sweet spot where the fan base acts as a sort of a perpetual motion machine, driving and pushing the game forward all by itself. We’ve all heard of the Minecraft fan base and how it propelled that game to success. The tipping point came early on for Minecraft, while the game was still in alpha. Devout fans went ahead and talked to anyone they could about how cool this game was. The end result? The game passed 1M purchases only a month into the beta phase with advertising done strictly via word of mouth.
Image by evoo73 flickr.com (under CC BY 2.0 license)
Kotaku names word of mouth as being the most persuasive factor to convince players to check out new games. Also mentioned are so called “Influence Multipliers” which are essentially gamers that are hyper connected to other gamers. According to a Waggener Edstrom Worldwide study, “Influence Multipliers” make up about 20% of the gaming audience. Think of those gamers as a central node in a huge interconnected network of gamers, it is those gamers you want to reach and persuade to become advocates for your game. It is those influencers that should become the base for your game’s community.
At Nextpeer, we’ve taken a look at a lot of successful games and analyzed what makes them tick. Sometimes simply enabling the players to communicate and share content with one another is a sure way to allow advocates to have their voice heard. Pixowl’s game, The Sandbox, does precisely that. The game itself allows the player to play a sort of mini god and create a small mini world. While the game is a lot of fun, the real ingenious propulsion engine for it comes after the player is done playing. The Sandbox enables players to share their mini created worlds and also view worlds created by others. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for advocates, for instance in educating other players and so online tutorials are created on how to create super complex worlds.
A mini world as shared by The Sandbox player Marian205 (rights owned by PIXOWL, used with permission)
Another channel that have risen in popularity lately is fan created content. Companies encourage their fans to create additional content based on the games they love. League of Legends is famous for their fan art competitions where the winners are usually rewarded with in-game items. Players feel important when they’re included in the creation process. It’s not rare to see game companies sharing live discussions with their fans whilst obtaining live feedback from them.
Yet another ingenious tactic employed by Riot Games is to reward players that invite their friends to the game with special in-game rewards and items. Some game items are impossible to come by unless you invite others to play the game. This switch in thinking turns inviting outsiders into the game to something of a badge of honor. We’ve all read about virality and how important it is, yet so many games make the mistake of not giving players a simple way to invite others. Even if an influencer loves your game and wants to share it, no one is going to do that if there’s no simple way to do it.
So what’s the best way to kickstarting your fanbase? Well the most important aspect of any fanbase if the player-to-player connection which happens around the game. The key to change a player into a fan is to give the player a way to act as a fan. Multiplayer games have this almost from the get go, since players are connected through the game itself either competitively or cooperatively. If your game is strictly designed for a single player, think about how to connect your players in other ways. If your players create or achieve something, let them share that moment in the game. Is your game a puzzle game that gets gradually harder? Let experienced players create tutorials and share tips with novices. Sometimes even having simple like a forum (with easy access from the game) is a way to get things rolling.
Creating a game all in itself is a challenging task, but building a fan base and reaching out to players makes that even more complicated. It used to be that game design, programming and graphics were all that were required to create a successful game. Nowadays, in order to succeed developers find themselves needing to understand social networking, sharing dynamics, analytics, and community management. This precisely the reason we created Nextpeer, a social service for mobile games, to take care of all those things so that game developers can focus on their game.
For more information about getting started with the Amazon Appstore and Amazon Fire devices, check out the following additional resources:
Also, if you’re in Berlin for the April 2015 International Games Week, let’s connect.
- Paul (Twitter:@PaulCutsinger | Twitch:PaulCutsinger)
April 17, 2015Corey Badcock
Hearthstone fans can take advantage of exclusive deals from the Amazon Appstore, and with the new Free App of the Day bundle customers can get $105 worth of apps for free. And this week, BlackBerry announced the availability of Leap in the UK, which is preloaded with the Amazon Appstore, and Amazon Game Studios released ‘Lost Within’ on iOS and Fire devices. Check out the top Appstore stories from the past week below:
Hearthstone is a digital CCG from Blizzard, set within the World of Warcraft universe. Amazon has just announced a few things regarding this game. First, it's now available in the Amazon Appstore. Second, in celebration of this, they're offering some discounts relating to Hearthstone. First, Amazon coins can now be used for in app purchases, like booster packs for Hearthstone. Read more here.
BlackBerry's latest handset, an affordable touchscreen smartphone aimed at young execs, has gone on sale in the UK. It runs the BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system and the company said the 2800 mAh battery will provide up to 25 hours of heavy use. Users can download business and productivity apps from the BlackBerry World app store and games and other apps from the Amazon Appstore. Read more here.
Amazon is giving away $105 worth of premium apps, and all that's required to own the software is a free account to manage it all. To download and use the apps in Amazon's Free App of the Day Bundle, consumers will have to install the Amazon App Store. After that, it's only a matter of selecting each of the desired apps. Read more here.
Proving that nothing positive ever comes from abandoned asylums, Amazon Game Studios has announced the launch of Lost Within on Amazon Fire and iOS devices. Developed by Human Head Studios, developer of Prey, the first-person survival game sees players investigating the halls of an apparently abandoned mental institution, set for demolition. As the game’s title suggests, players are quickly lost within its many corridors, and will uncover the asylum’s demented secrets as they search for a way out. Read more here.
March 20, 2015Judith Hoffmann
Having an Amazon Fire TV and the LAOLA1.tv app will come in very handy this weekend! One of the most-watched football games in the world, El Clasico, is taking place this Sunday, March 22nd. Spanish rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will face each other, along with hundreds of millions of supporting fans worldwide. Previously available online and via mobile devices through video on demand only, LAOLA1.tv decided to tap into a new segment by distributing unique content live on the big screen. LAOLA1.tv and Amazon are offering customers in Germany exclusive television coverage of El Clásico with the LAOLA1.tv app on Amazon Fire TV. Plus, the game will be free to watch on mobile devices for Amazon Appstore customers in Germany and Austria.
“We know we can reach millions of customers through ConnectedTV, especially via Fire TV, and monetize well on Amazon Appstore, therefore we decided to double down our investment and commitment in the Amazon ecosystem. Together with the Amazon Appstore team, we were able to build the perfect story, not only for the start of LAOLA1.tv live streaming on set top boxes and ConnectedTV, but also for the growth of the Amazon Appstore and Fire TV in Germany and Austria" says Felix Blank of LAOLA1.tv.
Follow LAOLA1.tv’s example. Find out more about how to build your app for Fire TV and reach millions of customers in the living-room.
March 17, 2015Peter Heinrich
We know that, as an app developer, your days are long and thankless. You work hard to enrich the lives of those around you with hardly a thought for yourself. That next-generation match-three game? It's not going to write itself. The new dataset with the latest tax updates for New Hampshire? Somebody's got to upload it. Fixing the bugs Dale introduced just before we went on vacation? That's on you.
Still, on a day like today, don't you deserve a break? You don't have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and you may even learn a little Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) along the way. Sit back, relax, and enjoy an app or two in the spirit of St. Paddy—apps that you didn’t have to write.
For arcade fun, Lep's World 2 by NER Brothers is our favorite (leprechaun-themed) side-scroller, second only to its predecessor, Lep's World. Defeat the evil wizard by helping Lep run and jump his way through 64 levels across 8 different worlds.
If you prefer casual games, check out the St. Patrick's Day version of 24/7 Games' Mahjong. They have implemented several other perennial favorites in the same theme (such as Sudoku and Solitaire), so you have a few shamrock-inspired options to choose from.
DifferenceGames just released two new hidden-object games themed for the holiday. Hidden Object – St. Patrick's Day and Hidden Object – Pot O' Gold will keep you hunting for distinctive words, pictures, and silhouettes through 20 levels each, with match-three and memory mini games built in. All of the scenes are lush and beautiful, tied together by one special, secret visual element. It would spoil the surprise to mention it here.
Green. Oops, it slipped out.
Games aren't the only way to get in the Irish spirit. Stream Irish radio live with the Irish Radio Music & News app from Witch Apps. Whether you're looking for Celtic music or the latest hurling scores, chances are there's an Irish radio station broadcasting it live.
You can also check up on Irish current events with digital versions of traditional media. The Irish Mirror (by Trinity Mirror) and Irish
Examiner (by Landmark Digital) serve up business, sports, weather, entertainment, and other news categories in the format of their physical counterparts. The only thing missing is the accent.
Everyone has a little Irish blood for one day in March, so sláinte chugat (“health to you”) as you observe St. Patrick’s Day. Erin go bragh (“Ireland Forever”)!
March 03, 2015Peter Heinrich
Another year, another bazillion new apps and games… in a good way. If you’re a mobile developer and released a product of your own last year, congratulations; if you published it on Amazon, thanks! You helped us grow our catalog to more than 300,000 titles.
I’m at GDC in San Francisco this week, which is all about what’s happening now and in the future in the gaming industry. While there’s lots of exciting stuff coming, there are lots of great games that are already here. Below are a few of my favorites that you may have missed. Enjoy!
Mobile gamers, especially, had a lot to choose from in 2014, and many standout games gained widespread popularity. Monument Valley, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Flappy Birds Family are just a few examples of games that “broke out” as innovative and even genre-defining. There were other jewels, though, that didn’t achieve the same notoriety. They kept a low profile, even as they kept us glued to our devices.
Here we present a few more of our favorite game titles from 2014. Some you may not have heard of, but all are worth knowing and adding to your library.
Bonza Word Puzzle, MiniMega — A crossword-type puzzle game that combines jigsaw, word search, and trivia knowledge. This game also offers free daily puzzles and topical challenges based on current events, special dates, and famous people.
Hitman GO, Square Enix — Quite a departure from the console game that spawned it, but an excellent adaptation for a new medium. Solve grid puzzles to infiltrate guarded locations and eliminate your target.
Threes!, Sirvo LLC — A math puzzle game that is easy to learn and fun to play. The basic mechanic is deceptively simple and surprisingly engaging.
Crossy Road, Hipster Whale — An adorable reimagining of an arcade classic, updated for modern times and rendered in the “new-old” style that my kids don’t even realize is retro.
One More Line, SMG Studio — This game is fast, beautiful, and hard. It’s the perfect combination: the spectacle and energy of disco, married with the split-second timing of… disco?
Game of Thrones – A Telltale Game Series, Telltale Games — A six-part episodic game set in the world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels and HBO’s television adaptation, it introduces the new house of Forrester. You play as various members of the family to influence events and direct the story.
Whispering Willows, Night Light Interactive — You play as Elena Elkhorn, searching for your missing father as you try to unlock the secrets of mysterious Willows Mansion. Using astral projection to talk to the dead? Check.
Elliot Quest, Ansimuz — Explore a mysterious island in search of an ancient demon, solve puzzles, and conquer bosses to prevent our hero Elliot from transforming into a demon himself. (Long story short: he’s cursed. Help him out!)
Thomas Was Alone, Bossa Studios Ltd — A charming story adventure masquerading as a platform puzzler. Who knew inanimate shapes could have so much personality? And they’re so animated!
Mines of Mars, Crescent Moon Games — A story-based adventure that generates its world procedurally, so no two are ever exactly alike. Mine resources, craft weapons, battle enemies, and explore a beautiful, expansive underground world.
80 Days, inkle Ltd — An awesome combination of imagery, story, ambiance, and gameplay, 80 Days establishes you as the loyal valet to Phileas Fogg as he circumnavigates the globe on a schedule.
Bit Brawlers, tinyBuild —Battle up to three live opponents with local multiplayer (or test your skill against the machine), using sword and sorcery to ensure you come out on top. Exclusive to Amazon Fire TV.
Meganoid 2, OrangePixel — Fast and furious, this game is not easy. Complete each level in seconds… but only after practice, practice, practice. (Then practice a little more.)
Groundskeeper 2, OrangePixel — Funny and fast-paced, this game pits you against supernatural robots from outer space as you navigate an endlessly changing world of 2D pixel art.
Worm Run, Golden Ruby Games — A gigantic, nasty beastie provides incentive for you to navigate continuous procedural levels in this creative take on the endless runner.
Wind-up Knight 2, Robot Invader — Guide a miniature clockwork automaton through a beautiful 3D world of perplexing traps and puzzles. Side quests and tournament mode provide additional interest.
Luftrausers, Devolver Digital — Engage in aerial action as you target enemy pilots and surface ships to unlock special weapons and levels. Customize your plane to alter its performance and abilities.
Smash Hit, Mediocre AB — Traverse a stylized world of glass and try to break it. What could be more rewarding?
Desert Ashes, Nine Tales Digital — Turn-based strategy game with online multiplayer and single-player campaigns, day-night modifiers, and weather patterns. Play as the Winged Crusade or Landians.
Out There, Mi-Clos Studio — Survive in the far reaches of space after you come out of cryonics. Scrounge parts and oxygen where you can, craft what you need, and interact with alien life forms you encounter (don’t expect them all to be friendly).
Goat Simulator, Coffee Stain Studios — Once in a while someone comes along and creates just the thing you never knew you needed.
February 16, 2015Paul Cutsinger
Twitch is a place for gamers to watch live game streams and interact with other gamers. For the past few months we’ve started to see devs use Twitch to reach out to their audience in a new way. They live stream development, interact with players, and build a fan base on a channel dedicated to game development.
I’ve really enjoyed watching these and I thought you might too. So, time to share! Here are a few streamers that I currently follow on the Twitch Game Development channel.
With over 8 million views, these folks are the ones to check out first. They’ve built several games including Ridiculous Fishing, Nuclear Throne now Luftrausers.
The team from Unreal Engine runs tutorials and answers questions. If you’re curious about how to use Unreal Engine, check this one out.
This is the team behind Bit Brawlers – the game I break out at nearly every party on my Fire TV.
Matt has a console dev background and is building his new game in Unity. I like getting that deep perspective.
While most channels feature developers writing code, there are a few that feature artists. I enjoy these. In addition to showing how the art is created, I find they tend to talk more about the back story of the game. This show is particularly engaging.
This one is a bit different… They sculpt game characters out of clay. Just cool.
There are many more and you can see which devs are streaming right now by going to the Game Development Channel, here. Our own Jesse Freeman has started streaming as well. You can check out his stream here and my stream here.
As you think about your social media presence, consider streaming on Twitch. It’s a highly engaging experience and there are a lot of opportunities to reach a new audience. Minimally, watch a few fellow game dev streams just to throw a little support their way.
-Paul Cutsinger (@PaulCutsinger PaulCutsinger)
February 13, 2015Jesse Freeman
Crossy Road is an incredibly popular game that recently launched on the Amazon Appstore. The best way to describe the game is a mix between frogger and flappy bird. It’s super addictive with a unique art style and rock solid gameplay. We sat down with the creators and asked them how they created it, what their plans are for the game, and where they see it going next.
Hipster Whale was formed midway through the development of Crossy Road. Once Matt and I (Andy) realized that the game had potential we decided to form the company.
Left to Right: Ben Weatherall, Andy Sum, Matt Hall.
Matt and I first started talking about game ideas after GCAP 2013, an Australian game developer conference. We kept bouncing ideas backwards and forwards online and eventually found something that we both really liked. Matt and I live about 90 minutes away from one another and so we did all of the development remotely, only meeting up once during the entire 12 weeks of development.
Matt: Andy and I have both been creating games since we were just kids. For my 8th birthday I was given a Commodore 64 and I played and made games with it for 10 years. It’s the one hobby I could never quit. I became an independent developer in 2008 making games for PC first and then for mobile.
Andy: I've been making games since I was about 10. I started with some basic visual tools, making free games as a hobby and for competitions. I began making games for PC commercially in 2008 and now Crossy Road is my first mobile game.
Crossy Road is built with Unity3D and C#. The art was created with a brilliant tool called Qubicle. I discovered it a few years back.
The crazy success of Flappy Bird earlier this year was one of the key catalysts for creating the game and the alliteration in ‘Crossy Road’ was a wink toward Dong’s game. While others aped the design of the game we just wanted to carry on that same spirit. The idea of combining Flappy Bird with Frogger popped into my head and Andy thought it was a great idea. There are lots of other influences including Skylanders, DOTA 2, Disco Zoo, Temple Run, Subway Surfers, FEZ and Tiny Wings.
The procedural generation in Crossy Road is something we spent a lot of time tuning to get the right balance of difficulty and fun. We wanted a system that would allow new players to enjoy the game, while giving experienced veterans a worthy challenge. The game gets harder and harder the higher your score goes, as cars, trains and logs all move at a faster rate. After about 150 hops forward you'll start to see more difficult world configurations, such as ten lanes of traffic in a row or alternating rivers and railroads.
In future updates we’ll add even more hazards, but we won’t spoil those just yet.
There’s no one reason other than we set out to try to make the stickiest and most viral game we possibly could. Every feature added was carefully considered to make the game fun to play and share with friends. It was important to us that nothing got in the way of the “play again” button.
I’ve been excited for years with the possibility of really easy to access video games on the TV. Mobile gaming is so popular because it’s right there in your pocket and the touch interface is perfect. But there’s so many types of games that would benefit from a physical controller. That the Fire TV has done so well is fantastic!.
We have a long list of ideas for things that we want to add to the game, including adding more depth and unique elements to existing characters.
We're going to keep adding new characters every month, which will hopefully keep players interested for a long time. There has been very positive feedback from players about the current secret characters and we're thinking up exciting new ways for players to unlock more.
It’s been really frustrating to have so many players want to play the game, but couldn’t. Our team is really tiny and so we have had to slowly stagger our rollout so that it wouldn’t overwhelm us. If we knew it was going to be this popular we would have gotten some more developers onboard to help ensure the game is available everywhere as close as possible to launch.
If you're really interested in making a game for the Fire TV then make sure you spend a lot of time designing how it will work with controllers. The best games on TV have carefully thought out control schemes and make navigating around menus feel very natural.
For mobile games and game development in general it's important to watch other people play. Take note of what they struggle with and think about what you can do to help them understand concepts better.
We are glad that Hipster Whale took the time to talk about how they made their game and also release it on the Amazon Appstore. Make sure you check it out and if you are looking for additional resources to bring your own game to the Amazon Appstore and Fire TV be sure to check out the following links:
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)
February 10, 2015Corey Badcock
Did you miss the Twitch live stream of The 18th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards? We are excited to congratulate two games from the Amazon Appstore on their big wins! The D.I.C.E. Awards are the video game industry’s most prestigious honors recognizing outstanding contributions and achievements in gaming. Congratulations again to all of the nominees from the Amazon Appstore on this honor.
Monument Valley: Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
Publisher: ustwo Studio Ltd
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
Presented to the individual or team whose work represents the highest level of achievement in designing a unified graphic look for an interactive title.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft: Mobile Game of the Year & Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Mobile Game of the Year
The Mobile Game of the Year shall be the game developed for a mobile device platform such as a mobile phone, tablet or convergence device. These games demonstrate a skilled usage of the devices software and hardware features to offer a unique and addictive play experience
Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year
Strategy games are defined to be those titles in which the user directs or manipulates resources to create a set of conditions that result in success as determined within the confines of the game. These games can offer the user the chance to simulate or to virtually reproduce an experience, real or imaginary, which would require some form of equipment. Strategy games emphasize the planning of tactics rather than the execution.
The full list of winners can be found here.
January 21, 2015Corey Badcock
Congratulations to the following games from the Amazon Appstore on their nominations for the 2015 D.I.C.E. Awards! The D.I.C.E. Awards recognize games, individuals and development teams for their contribution to the entertainment software industry. The apps below have been recognized for their outstanding achievements in gaming in 2014. The awards ceremony will be live streamed through Twitch on February 5th, 2015 at 10pm ET. Tune in to see who takes home the biggest awards of the night!
You could be nominated next!
Publisher: Inkle Ltd
Nomination: Mobile Game of the Year
Publisher: Versus Evil, LLC
Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year
D.I.C.E. Sprite Award
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Mobile Game of the Year
Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year
Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay
Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design
Game of the Year
Publisher: Ironhide Game Studios
Nomination: Mobile Game of the Year
Publisher: ustwo Studio Ltd
Mobile Game of the Year
D.I.C.E. Sprite Award
Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
Publisher: Activision Publishing Inc.
Nomination: Family Game of the Year
Publisher: Sirvo LLC
Mobile Game of the Year
D.I.C.E. Sprite Award
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design
Outstanding Achievement in Story
Adventure Game of the year
Publisher: Telltale Games
Outstanding Achievement in Story
Adventure Game of the Year
Shout out to the following games from the Amazon Appstore for their console franchise nominations at the 2015 D.I.C.E Awards.
Publisher: Electronic Arts Inc
Nomination: FIFA 15
Sports Game of the Year
Publisher: Electronic Arts Inc
Nomination: Madden NFL 15
Sports Game of the Year
Publisher: 2K Games
Nomination: NBA 2K15
Sports Game of the Year
November 19, 2014Judith Hoffmann
Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores just went live on Amazon as an Android exclusive. Dan Gray, Executive Producer of the game, reflects on his experience and offers helpful tips to developers.
Ustwo is a 120-head design studio based in Shoreditch, East London. Our main activities evolve around designing digital products like apps and services for clients. The game-side of the business, and with it Monument Valley, is actually really small – only 9 of us work on games. As such, Monument Valley was never part of the core business of ustwo. With all of us having a lot of freedom in what we wanted to create, our team were inspired to create the most beautiful product possible. Four months later, after vigorous prototyping sessions and lots of different concepts and mechanics, we came up with a visual basis that became Monument Valley in April 2014. Our emphasis was on quality, not quantity, and on engagement over distraction.
Based on our experience creating Monument Valley and Forgotten Shores, we’ve gained some interesting insights into building games.
Premium can still monetize even in a world when many games are moving toward freemium—Monument Valley broke even in only 7 days!
A year ago, most people in the industry believed that you were wasting your time creating a premium game and that nobody would pay for it but we thought that adding leaderboards, achievements and consumables would distract the users from the experience they were having. What that meant was that we had zero ways to make our development costs back without charging a fee for it. Consequently, at $3.99, the game has a price point that some may consider high.
We had no idea that the game would be as successful as it turned out to be, and in such a short time span. We expected to break even after 1 year, but instead we reached that milestone after only 7 days. In addition, it was very surprising that a high proportion of our Android downloads came from Amazon. In fact, 25-30% of our revenue on Android comes from the Amazon Appstore.
Games can target people who don’t see themselves as gamers through providing a great user experience
We have a very big emphasis on our social interaction with people since last year. Before we released Monument Valley we had 350 followers on Twitter. Now we have almost 40,000 followers, people who are really dedicated as well. If your customers feel they are part of the development process, it humanizes you as a developer and creates a much stronger bond between you and your customers.
What surprised us most was the breadth of users, ranging from 9 year-olds to grandparents. We thought we would have a broad range, but this completely blew us away.
Monument Valley takes Ida and her friend Totem through a mysterious world of geometric structures. The story ends after chapter 10, and we didn’t want to challenge the finality of this by bringing out a sequel. But we did have so many ideas for more mechanics that we wanted to explore. And customers were screaming for more content, asking us every single day: ‘When is the new Monument Valley out?’ That’s when we decided to create Forgotten Shores, the forgotten chapters you didn’t know existed. They are extra chapters that take place within the main story of Monument Valley, without conflicting with Ida’s journey and without disrupting the user’s experience.
Quality can still sell games—Ustwo has a team that is passionate about gaming and focused their efforts on a beautifully designed game
At the get go it is not about making money, but about making a great product with the hope that it would lead to success. It has been a long 7 months since we first launched Monument Valley. Our main learning from this experience is that there are genuinely many people out there that care about high quality products. We invested a lot personally in making this game and to know that our stake has been repaid by those players is a very good feeling.
Generally speaking, when you are coming up with a game concept, the most important factor is not the business side, your technology or your game engine. It is the passion in making that game that is more powerful than anything else. Make sure that every single person on the team cares about the game. Empower them and allow them to feel like it is theirs. Everyone on the team needs to be trusted with the creative directions so they are emotionally engaged with it.
After these exciting last months, we are going to take some time off from Monument Valley for a while. Until then, we hope you enjoy Forgotten Shores.
Meet Ida and Totem and explore Monument Valley’s Forgotten Shores by downloading the game on the Amazon Appstore (or download Amazon Appstore onto your Android device). Find more information about the Amazon Appstore Developer Program on the Developer Portal.
Dan Gray is an Executive Producer for Monument Valley & Land's End at ustwogames, ex Producer at Hello Games & Lionhead Studios. BAFTA Breakthrough Brit 2014.
ustwo is a global digital design studio with a 200-strong family of designers, developers and strategists based in New York / London / Malmö, Sweden. We create meaningful digital products and services that drive innovation for the world's leading brands, the next big things and our own product initiatives. Founded in 2004 by two friends, Mills and Sinx, as a 'studio of dreams' – a place where people come to do the best work of their lives. Our heritage and ambition remain to this day and has seen us grow from humble beginnings in London into a global family with a proven track record of delivery from concept to launch.
We consider user-centered design and integrated design & development the foundation to deliver standout user experiences. Our studios are self-sufficient homes to multi-discipline design and multi-platform development teams, all committed to agile process. Together, our designers and developers work and collaborate directly with our clients (we don't have 'account management' layers in the way). Driven by our focus on good process we are always open to new ways of doing what we do better.
We're a studio not an agency, so for us it’s about good design & development practices, iterative product design and products going live. We're independent, self-funded and on a mission to grow and establish a world leading studio with a work and revenue blend of client service, own product, joint venture and games.
November 04, 2014Jesse Freeman
It’s time to kick off a new developer series on the Amazon Developer Portal. These interviews help to highlight how developers on our platform are using our services and tools. To help promote how we are making publishing Web Apps a first class citizen on Fire Tablet, we sat down to interview SB Nation. Chris Hines, SB Nation's Sr Product Manager, tells us about how they are leveraging responsive design, HTML5 and our web app publishing tools to deploy their fan-centric sports community sites to Fire Tablet users.
Can you tell us a little bit about SBNation and your products?
SB Nation is the fastest-growing online sports media brand and the largest network of over 300 individual fan-centric sports communities. From the beginning, SB Nation has focused on developing the highest quality grassroots sports sites on the web, recruiting only the most respected web-native journalists to build their communities. SB Nation's audience consistently ranks as the most affluent and influential in the sports category.
SB Nation is published on Chorus, Vox Media's proprietary modern media stack. Chorus supports seven different verticals, over 300 individual communities, and thousands of writers.
Why did you choose HTML5 as your development platform?
Our sites our completely responsive at this point and when Amazon reached out about being a partner in their HTML5 program, it was really a no-brainer way to seamlessly enter the Kindle App marketplace.
Have you found HTML5 to be an easy platform to scale on?
Absolutely. We already have almost 70 apps running with only minimal development effort from our team.
Talk about your move from Web to mobile. What hurdles have you faced and what successes have you had?
The move from web to mobile was really very natural for us. Our audience was increasingly discovering and using our sites on their mobile phones and tablets (a percentage that is still growing every day). That led us to prioritize the development and performance of our mobile experience. The switch to a fully responsive experience across all of our sites was not without it's challenges, but it has ultimately been very fruitful for us.
How did you hear about publishing HTML5 apps on the Amazon Appstore?
Amazon reached out to us about being a partner.
Can you describe the process and how you got your web apps ready for the Amazon Appstore?
The process was very simple. We connected with an Amazon rep who got us squared away with a login for the developer console on Amazon. We pulled together an XML file of a number of our sites and passed that over to the team at Amazon. Less than a week later, our apps were live.
Were there any special modifications you needed to make to your site in order to get them working with the Web App Tester?
No changes were needed at all. It was very simple.
What are your thoughts on the move from Web to mobile for HTML5 developers?
For publishers, the mobile web will always be a large source of traffic, given the in-app browsers for large traffic sources (Twitter and Facebook) and search traffic, but HTML5 wrappers are very good ways for developers to take advantage of the native app experience and audience
What advice do you have for other companies that are leveraging HTML5 on the Web in order to make the move to native stores such as the Amazon Appstore?
Ultimately, the move to developing in HTML5 will be a benefit to the performance and flexibility of a web app and limit the specific development necessary for a native app thanks to stores like the Amazon Appstore.
Anything else you would like to add or say about the platform, your experience working with it or about the Amazon Appstore in general?
It has been a pleasure working with the Amazon team. Everything has been very simple and straightforward.
SB Nation is just one of many companies taking advantage of our HTML5 publishing tools for Fire OS. If you are looking for more information on how to publish your own Web Apps to Fire OS and any of our devices, make sure to get yourself a free developer account at http://developer.amazon.com and checkout the following links.
About Chris Haines
Chris Haines is the Senior Product Manager for Audience Development and SB Nation at Vox Media. In this role, Chris leads product development for Vox's SB Nation property and leads up all product efforts on Vox Media's Audience Development team.
- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman) is a Developer Evangelist at Amazon focusing on HTML5 and Games for the Amazon Appstore.