2019-12-29 - Tinytouchtales
At the end of each year i look back on the things i worked on and the interesting things that happened around my games. And even though I’m a bit early this year, here is my traditional End of Year post for 2019. So take a few minutes and let’s recap what was going on in 2019.
My year started with a banger. In February I was invited by Apple to a secret meeting in Berlin to meet some of the executives that pitched me a subscription based service, later known as Apple Arcade, which Apple was going to launch at the end of 2019. I prepared a short keynote to showcase what i’ve been working on at that point. After exchanging ideas with them we agreed that i would pitch one of my ideas and we would see if it could fit their new service.
In the coming 2 weeks Mexer and I put in a few extra hours to polish Maze Machina and even made a short trailer to showcase it’s basic idea. But after some conversations with them it became clear to me that we could not meet their deadlines and we decided not to join Apple Arcade for it’s launch. Honestly this was a big bummer for me since it was a very awesome opportunity but in the end it was the right call. Without massively scaling up the people that would have been needed to finish Maze Machina on time and the toll it would have taken on my private life we would not have been able to finish on time. I’ve talked to many other devs who joined Apple Arcade and they all told me that they sacrificed quite a lot to be on the services for the launch. Kudos to them for pulling it off, but one of the amazing things in my independent career is that I’m in charge of deadlines and without that I feel like I would not be able to deliver the quality I am able to otherwise. With that said I’m not against Apple Arcade and surly will take another chance with them as soon as I have a new cool project to pitch.
In March the annual 7 Day Roguelike Challenge was held and this year I planned to participate after skipping the 2018 edition. But as things go, in the week where the actual jam was going on I got busy with Family stuff and had to postpone my game. Luckily a week later my Wife and Daughter went to visit our Grandparents and I had about 5 days to finish my idea. I wrote a more in depth post about The Kings Carriage on my blog already but the base idea was that I would make a minified version of Into The Breach with a minimal board gamey look and a few changes such as hex based tiles and a fantasy theme. The game came out quite cool and I’m super happy that I could finish the jam.
What i would like to do for #7DRL but might be way out of scope: A glorified Into The Breach train mission, stretched out over 5 environments. Lead the Kings carriage through each map and protect it with your 3 heroes. (Art stolen from Pinterest…) pic.twitter.com/iBfJk8gGgi
— TiNYTOUCHTALES (@tinytouchtales) 1. März 2019
Amaze Berlin / Zach Gage
In April 2019 the annual Games Week Berlin started again with it’s many Game related events and for me as a „Berliner“ this is always the highlight of the year. This year’s AMAZE took place in a new location that what quite different from the last years and had a lot of cool games and talks to offer. My highlight though was that I was finally able to meet Zach Gage. Zach is a New York based Artist/Designer which I consider as my main inspiration for most of the games I made. From early on I followed his extraordinary work and ways to think about games and game design. His ideas in the card game Scroundrel where the base to my Magnus Opus Card Crawl and I will be forever in his debt for making my current life as an independent games creator possible. From the first minute on it was an amazing conversation in which we exchanged quite a few ideas and thoughts and rapidly talked about all the cool stuff that is happening in games (specifically mobile and board) right now. It was exactly like I imaged it meeting one of my favorite creators.
In June we finally announced our next game Maze Machina.
It took me quite some time to figure out what I was going to release after Miracle Merchant, which was already more than 2 years ago. In 2018 I did a lot of prototyping but could not figure out a new card based game idea that really would be inline with the quality and depth of my older releases. In addition to my still quite limited time in 2019 due to Josefine’s pause from daycare and Wiebke’s project deadlines I struggled a lot do decide what would be the best next thing to release. In the end due to how Apple Arcade did not work out for me and having not enough time to come up with a brand new concept I decided to pick up an old 7DRL concept which i made back in 2017 called King of Nothing. It’s a super fun mix of Asher Volmer’s Threes input mechanism and Michael Brough’s Imbroglio tile based item system. The idea that I had for the 7DRL was „What if the enemies in Imbroglio could use the weapons the player can use.“. I paired this idea with the simple swipe to move all units at the same time that Threes has and made King of Nothing in about one week together with Mexer. After the jam I thought the concept was done and that there is not much design space to explore, but after picking it back up a year later I could add quite a few new ideas to it and decided it would be the best to make this game as a quick one in between the big card games. In the end it took us almost a year on and off to finish Maze Machina’s 1.0 version.
We had a very productive alpha phase with a lot of awesome testers and fans that help to polish the game tremendously. A lot of feedback happened in our newly opened Discord Server which is a cool place to hang out and chat about our games. We have not announced the official release date for Maze Machina yet, but it will be somewhen very early next year, so stay tuned!
In 2019 I managed to work on three new prototypes.
The first one creatively called Hex Prototype was my second attempt of making a tile based city builder. I twitter blogged openly about it’s development and it turned out quite interesting.
I know i've just announced our new game, but you never know when inspiration strikes. So i'm working on my City Builder idea again. For the 3rd time now. But this time i feel like there could be a good game somewhere. We'll see… #gamedev pic.twitter.com/KkX0eoW3JQ
— Arnold Rauers (@tinytouchtales) June 24, 2019
The base idea is that you need to connect the right amount of colored tiles to several goal tiles. Think of powering up a lightbulb with different types of energy all connected through a grid of hex tiles. A deck of cards allows you to perform movement actions on the board to bring each hex in the right position to create the right combination of colors. While being relatively simple to play the game is quite complex in it’s rules and at this point I’m not sure where I’m going with this. If you dare you can try it out on my Itch.io page.
The second idea came out of a joke i made on twitter as seen here:
— Arnold Rauers (@tinytouchtales) August 13, 2019
The core idea is a weird mix of pulling out cards of the 9 decks and moving through those cards as if they were rooms. One of my favorite board games Labyrinth was one of the inspirations. I did put in a few weeks of work into this already, but haven’t found a proper game loop yet. As of now it’s not playable but if I find some time next year I would love to revisit this idea and work on it a bit more.
The third prototype I worked on is the most promising so far and for that matter I can not talk about it yet. The one interesting thing about it is that it’s actually not an original idea that I had but instead I got contacted by Matthew Dunstan, a board game designer from Sydney who has already quite a few board game releases under his belt, who pitched a similar concept to me he had been working on. We decided to join forces and worked on the new idea, again on and off, for a few weeks now. It’s super interesting for me to work with another designer on the initial stage of a project since I’m only used to sitting lonely in my room bashing my head against the early design and either give up or finding and interesting concept totally exhausted. This is why having a constant flow of input and feedback made this early stage quite enjoyable so far. I think the new idea has a lot of potential and we’ll see if it’s going to be the next game i’m working on.
Google Play Pass
Subscription based services are all the rage since a few years now. Needless to say that after Apple announced Apple Arcade, Google joined their effort and presented Google Play Pass, their own version of the subscription based game service. While Apple Arcade produces original content for mobile that is not available outside of AA (at least on mobile), Google offers existing games through their services that either become free when they were paid or removes iAp and Ads if the game was free before. Through a generous contact (thanks to you when you read this) I got introduced to the Play Pass team and got offered to add Card Crawl and Card Thief to it. Upfront I didn’t had high expectations that this kind of deal would be really good in terms of extra sales, but after the first month I’m very surprised. While I can’t talk about detailed numbers I can say that Card Crawl and Card Thief are performing very well within the service and while I can maintain my own versions of the game in the regular Play Store the additional revenue from Play Pass is significant. I’m really curious how this will evolve once the services hits Europe and the rest of the world.
2019 was the second year in a row where I did not release anything new. In regards to that I was aware that my sales would drop off quite a bit since my newest game Miracle Merchant is as of August 2019 already 2 years old. But another warm surprise: my old games still sell like hot cake.
If you ask me why that is I can’t give you any real clues, but it seems that there is still a huge „solitaire style game with strong theme“ shaped hole in the App Stores. Besides the hunger for single player card game experiences my unique selling point, especially with Card Thief which is the only card game that tackled stealth gameplay, is still a strong revenue driver. All games got good feature placements throughout the year, Card Thief got a massive German games sale featuring in the beginning of October and Card Crawl despited or because it’s raised price ($4.99) could drive 40% more revenue on Google Play in comparison to last year, which is quite amazing for an almost 5 year old game. Even Apple Arcade did not affect my baseline sales in any way as you can see from the stable sales graph. On average my card games brought in $9.170 per month which equals around $350 a day. In addition to that Card Thief and Miracle Merchant bring in a bit of Ad revenue which was about $350 a month. With the additional revenue that the Google Play Pass will add i’m quite happy how 2019 turned out. Here’s the sales graph for iOS and Android in detail.
As a bonus: Since my first release in Aug 2012 (Super Zombie Tennis for those of you who remember) I could reach 3.000.000 downloads (free & paid) and reached a life time revenue of $677.000 which is about $96.700 for each of the 7 years.
2019 was quite a busy year in comparison to 2018 where I mainly shared quality time with our newborn. We (finally) finished our new game, I made some new prototypes and met some amazing folks along the way. Games wise I played a lot of the old classics like PUBG and Slay the Spire, but also enjoyed quite a few new creations like Michael Brough’s game P1SELECT, Phillip Stollenmayer’s crazy good puzzler Song of Bloom, Zach Gage’s card game Card of Darkness, Nolla Games Spelunkylike NOITA, Shelly Alon’s puzzler SNIKS, Jussi Simpannen’s puzzler Total Party Kill and Pollywog Games deck builder Card Crusade. In terms of innovation and fun mobile is still one, if not the best platform to experience new and hot stuff and I feel that this vibe is still one of the big motivators for me to stay with mobile despite it’s harsh climate for smaller devs these days. I’m quite curious how Maze Machina will be received and I hope that our existing fans and maybe some new ones will enjoy what we’ve been working on.
At the end I once more would like to thank everyone who has contacted me over the year, asked for advice or just sent encouraging messages, thanks to everyone who has bought one of my games or supported me through word of mouth or just by following me on this amazing trip.
Thank you to all my collaborators and the people who directly contributed to the success of my games! Without you I would not be here typing these sweets words.
I wish you all the best for 2020, have a good one!