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Origins of a solo game dev - Part 3

I was going to begin work on the first major update to Taps just now. Sadly however, the battery just died on my laptop. Instead therefore, I thought I would make a start on part 3 of this series. This pleases you no doubt, or else you wouldn't still be reading.

Ok where were we? Ah yes, the ultimate mind virus was a failure - see here. But that's ok, because I had been concocting a master plan. Ingredients? Some fun here, a touch of zingy puzzle goodness there, and a whole bunch of cuteness.

Meet Floobz.

Now given our inexperience at the time, this game was a huge undertaking. The concept for Floobz was inspired by the classic game Lemmings which was a brilliant puzzle game. If you don't know what Lemmings is, I invite you to have a quick history lesson here.

In short, Floobz, like Lemmings, would require the player to help save as many creatures as possible from certain death, by solving increasing complex puzzles.

Floobz would be different from Lemmings in a variety of ways. All of these would contribute to a greater variety in the types of puzzles that could be created:

  • Use of a physics engine

  • Lots of ways to interact directly with a Floob as the game progressed

  • Ability to manipulate the environment

I remember taking this game so seriously that even wrote a 20 page game design document. If you are interested (and I can find it), I would be happy to share it.

In hindsight it was definitely overkill, but it did help to solve many "how is this supposed to work" questions from the other guys, as I could simply respond with "check the GDD".

Floobz took a gruelling 8 months to create with 4ish developers. The last 2 months in particular were very hard for me. You see, I had written a level creator for Floobz, with the intention being that the other guys could chip in and split the load evenly. But in the end I created the majority of the levels myself (all 50 or so).

I can understand their reluctance though looking back. Level design is HARD and takes a serious amount of TIME. Inevitably because of this, many of the levels suffered from bad design as I was just burnt out. Lessons to be learnt here I think.

We had decided to target iPhone only due to some design decisions we made early on (not using a cross platform solution). That was a shame given the emergence of the Play Store on android.

We also decided to release two versions, following a seemingly popular trend at the time.

  • Floobz Lite. A free version limited to the first few levels. Ad supported.

  • Floobz. The full paid version

We were all incredibly excited about Floobz. It felt like this was THE game that would take us to the next level. Feedback from friends and family had been mostly good, and we ignored the bad (terrible idea).

So, finally, spring 2011 saw the full release of Floobz. Here are some screenshots. I urge you NOT to download the game because it is currently barely playable, and I will probably ask Matt to remove it from the store.

I am not gonna dress this up. Floobz did not perform well. Between the lite version and the full version, Floobz had around 1000 downloads in the first year. The majority of those came in the first month when we had period where the paid version was available for free.

How could a game that we put so much love and effort into fail so miserably. Well, in hindsight, I believe there are a few simple contributing reasons.

No Promo

After the release of Bungee Ninja we got lots of downloads almost immediately die to the New Releases section in the app store. We were relying on this to give us an instant boost again. But by the time we released Floobz, the app store had changed, and being so easily visible in the store was a thing of the past. Times had changed and the market was much tougher.

We were naive to think that was our only means of promotion. But that is exactly what we did. We thought that nobody was downloading Floobz because it was rubbish. In reality, nobody was downloading it because nobody knew about it - a situation that indie developers are all too familiar with today.

Now that is not to say that Floobz was without its faults. Which brings me onto my next point.

Not listening to feedback

Whilst most fiends and family were quite complimentary of the game, some did offer more inciteful critique. Which we "cleverly" ignored to save time. In truth, by the end we were burnt out and just wanted to swim in vast collections of 50 pound notes that we would surely be recieving. *Sigh*

This was obviously a mistake. Some of the criticism we got included:

  • Complicated tutorial

  • Game progresses too quickly

  • No time to master or even get comfortable with one thing before moving onto the next

  • Complicated user interface

  • Some graphics looked unpolished

  • Crap sound effects

  • Some levels were impossible to complete.

And so, rather than address these issues, and do some promotion, Floobz was left to rot. Hidden behind the issues above were some geniunely great puzzle concepts, and a good game. We did lots right. Cute characters, interesting levels, lots to learn and master. But ultimately Floobz was left to rot. Which is a shame because it could have been so much better.

After Floobz I really struggled for motivation. There was plenty to learn from the whole experience. But it would be another 3 years before I would have the hunger to try again. Thankfully I did.

So, no more Floobz? You will just have to wait and see about that...

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