Postmortem: Farkle Friends
I had a lot of fun making Farkle Friends. being my first game I didn't really know what to expect. Being a mobile app developer, I noticed a lot of differences and similarities in developing a game. But overall I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to my next game which I will have more info on in a future blog. There were a lot of highs and lows developing this game but I'll go over a few of the bigger ones here in this post.
What Went Right
1. Using a Facebook Account
I created a Facebook account to use for my games as I knew it would be a good way to attract players. It worked quite well actually and I already have a small following of people (68) who like my page.I was able to post updates for blogs and the game there and people were watching. I even got some people looking at my game pages in the stores from Facebook. So it definitely helped get the word out about Farkle Friends.
2. Choosing UE4 For Development
I tried both UE4 and Unity mostly to get a feel for each so I could decide which to use. I also tried a few other engines but they mostly lacked in some areas so I didn't spend a lot of time using others. I originally wanted to have the game fully multiplayer using Facebook so players could play the game against their Facebook friends. There is more on why I took it out in the "What Went Wrong" section. So Unity originally appealed to me since Facebook has an SDK for Unity built right in. But I tried both for a while and just fell in love with UE4. At that time it was far more feature rich than Unity plus with UE4 you get full source code access, all development features for free. You only pay a 5% fee when your game makes $3000 or more in a quarter. See the EULA section 5 titled Royalty. So it grew on me and I think I'll be using that as my engine of choice from now on.
3. Making a Trailer
I originally wanted to pay someone to make a trailer for me, but found out it was way more money that I thought it would be. So I decided to make my own trailer. It was actually an enjoyable experience and I think I will do it in the future as I make more games. It was also a lot easier that I thought it would be. The tools I chose make creating a trailer fairly simple and straightforward. I use Flashback Express to record game play. Lightworks to actually make the trailer from the recorded game play. And because Flashback doesn't export video in a format Lightworks can import, I used EyeFrame Converter to convert it to a format understood by Lightworks. Flashback and EyeFrame are fairly simple and straightforward to use. Lightworks is a little more powerful and slightly steeper learning curve but its actually really easy to accomplish a simple trailer.
4. The Game is Fun
For people who enjoy playing Farkle or other dice games. It doesn't have a great appeal for a wider range of audiences, but for my first game I wanted to keep it simple so I didn't get discouraged for longer development times. I think for a first game it was perfect. it gained me the experience in UE4 to be more confident in making more complex and feature rich games in the future. As a matter of fact my next game, which I already started on and will be making a new blog introducing it very soon, will have Facebook multiplayer, many different levels for single player, and a quick play option if you just want to play a random level. It is a very good stepping stone into future games.
5. Facebook Marketing
This for sure helped my game out around release time. Its fairly inexpensive and easy to advertise a post on Facebook. When you create the post and after you post it, there is a button to boost your post. That will step you through setting up an advertisement to run on Facebook. You can spend as few as a few bucks up to as much as you want. I have done 3 advertisements one about a week before release, one on the day of release and one a couple weeks after release. I certainly would not have the number of followers if it wasn't for this. I was able to reach thousands more people than if I had done no adverting at all. It was money well spent. You can choose where it will run, how many people you want to reach, how much you want to spend, and much more.
What Went Wrong
1. Lots of Time Spent Switching Engines
As stated above I spent a little time using both UE4 and Unity to figure which I liked best. Well I also changed my mind on which engine I wanted to use a lot. I would start developing the game and I would start to think of a feature that would be handy in the other engine that I could use now. So I would switch to that engine and restart development in that engine. I restarted development probably 5 or 6 times going back and fourth between Unity and UE4. I finally got to the point where I has to ask myself which one I really enjoyed using and just use that one from now on. No more going back and fourth like this. I'm not entirely sure why I did it. I think it might have been a little of the classic saying, the grass is always greener on the other side. So I finally chose UE4 for my engine and will no longer be going back to Unity or any other game engine for the foreseeable future. After all I have more games I want to make I don't want to spend all my time restarting development like that. So I have thankfully moved past this stage.
2. The UI
The user interface could use a little more love. Its plain and sometimes a little clunky. I used free items I found on various different sites for the UI. I think in total I spent maybe 5 to 10 bucks on assets for the game. I know now that I am not a graphical designer so in future games I will be putting more love into the UI to make the experience much better. The UI in the new game I recently started working on is miles better, I think, than Farkle Friends. But again I new for my first game I wasn't looking to have the biggest and best game I could possibly make.
3. No Facebook Support
After spending far more time investigating engines than I wanted to, I decided to not include Facebook support in the initial release. I originally wanted the game to be fully multiplayer allowing the player to play against Facebook friends. I knew adding it would take a bit more time to get it implemented properly. So I ended up shelving the idea and figured I would include it in a future release.
4. Delayed Release
I originally wanted to release the game on October 6th. I set up all the stores I wanted to release in. For Steam specifically, through the process of creating my account, they told my it would take up to a week to set up the store and up to a week to approve the game builds. October 6th was a little over 2 weeks from the day when I submitted the store and the game builds so I figured that would be enough time. However what Steam didn't tell me while creating my account is that the first game you release, your game must wait 30 days after submitting the store and game to Steam for review, regardless of how long it take to approve both. So I ended up having to push my release date back an extra 2 weeks to allow for this. If I would have known that I would have added that time into the original release date to avoid a delayed release. Now for a one-person indie developers first game its not a huge deal. However, I just feel better when things go according to the plan.
All in all it was a good experience. Now that I have the first game jitters out of the way I can spend more time actually developing games in the future. It was a good challenge and I certainly learned a lot from it.
As I mentioned above, I have already started work on a new game. I'm looking forward to applying what I learned making Farkle Friends to this new game to make it better. Its a game similar to Minesweeper and I will have a single player mode where you can play many different challenging levels, a quick play option to allow playing of a single random level, and a multiplayer component with Facebook that will allow you to try complete a level with a friend. I will have more on this game very soon.
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