Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Indie Sixy Times

Last week was the sixth anniversary of the start of my journey into independent game development. Every year I like to write up a little recap of the past year, and this year is no different. And we’re off!

For me the past year has been quite different from previous years. Most of the year was spent not working on my own Streaming Colour projects, but instead working with Matt Rix on games for Milkbag Games, our new company.

I did manage to put out a few things by Streaming Colour: Finger Tied Jr. (July, 2013), and Baby’s Playful Hands (October, 2013). I was also lucky enough to have Apple ask me for a demo version of Finger Tied that they could put on iPads in actual, physical Apple stores. That was pretty exciting, and being able to see my game on iPads in Apple stores was extremely rewarding.

The rest of my year was spent working with Matt on games for Milkbag Games. At the start of my year six, Matt and I were in the middle of working on a game called Snow Siege. However, by the fall, we both needed a break from the game. We’d been working on it for a year and were still months away from it being finished. At that time I was working on a prototype for a bonus mini-game in Snow Siege. The game was a little scratch card where you tapped on squares to reveal shapes that rewarded you with prizes. The game was so much fun on its own that we started joking about taking the mini-game idea and making it about rescuing cute, pixelated animals. But the more we talked about it, the less it became a joke, and the more it became something we really wanted to make happen. This mini-game became the core of Disco Zoo.

Disco Zoo started as a three-week prototype to test the idea and see if it was fun. Once we were able to play the game, we were convinced that it was something worthwhile and we spent the next three months expanding the prototype into a finished game. We teamed up with our friends at NimbleBit to publish the game, and the game launched on iOS in late February, 2014 to an Editor’s Choice feature on the front page of the App Store. We brought the game to Google Play in April, and between the two platforms we’ve had nearly 3 million downloads so far.

Needless to say, we’ve been extremely pleased with the response to Disco Zoo. Matt and I had a great time making the game, and people seem to really enjoy playing it, so we couldn’t be happier. Some people buy things in the game, so that makes us happy too. 😉

On a personal note, Disco Zoo couldn’t have come at a better time for me, because if the game had flopped, I might have been at the point of having to decide between continuing with indie life or finding a full-time job again. I’m so lucky to be in a position where I can keep doing this. I have said this before, but none of us do this alone. I’m always aware of how much help and support I’ve received from family, friends, journalists, twitter acquaintances, players, and more. I’m extremely grateful to everyone who has supported me in a myriad of ways over the past six years. Because of you, I can continue to do what I love and keep making games for the future. And after all, that’s kind of the whole point.

Here’s to year seven!


P.S. The title of this post was blatantly borrowed from TOJam 6: “TOJam Sixy Times”. 🙂

5 Years Old

I can hardly believe it myself, but Streaming Colour is five years old today! Five years ago today I arrived in Toronto after moving back from Vancouver, sat down at my computer, and started my indie career. When I started Streaming Colour I had no idea if I’d survive for five years. It was a gamble. I had a left a good job as a senior programmer in the console games industry and I was taking a big risk. My goal was to build the business to the point where I was making a livable income after five years. Not be rich, just making enough to keep doing what I wanted to do.

It has been a very long and very short five years filled with lows and highs, and everything in between. Being an independent game developer definitely hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been a huge struggle at times. But it has also been incredibly rewarding on a personal, professional, and creative level. There are few things as creatively rewarding as taking an idea in your head and turning it into something that people can experience for themselves.

Over the past five years I have taken on some really interesting contract work. I’ve spoken at conferences in Guelph, Toronto, and San Jose. I wrote a chapter in a book on iPhone development. I moved to Guelph, Ontario with my amazing wife, and we’ve had two incredible children. Through it all, I somehow managed to release seven games/apps. I’m not releasing any numbers today, but these are those games ranked from most revenue to least, for those curious:

  1. Finger Tied (Oct, 2012)
  2. Baby’s Musical Hands (July, 2011)
  3. Dapple (Feb, 2009)
  4. LandFormer (June, 2010)
  5. Monkeys in Space (Nov, 2009)
  6. Dirty Diapers (Dec, 2010)
  7. Finger Tied Jr. (May, 2013)

Update: A couple of people on twitter were curious about relative revenue. Here’s a graph showing each game/app as a percentage of total revenue earned on the App Store:

Game Revenue Percentage

Breakdown of revenue by percentage of total App Store revenue. Accurate as of 2013-07-08.

I have learned some hard and important lessons about developing games on my own. I’ve learned some very hard lessons about marketing and PR. I feel like I’m getting better every day at what I do, and I intend to keep learning and improving with every game.

After releasing Finger Tied last fall, one thing I realized was that I really missed working with other people. Working on one’s own gives you a lot of creative freedom and choice, but it’s also really difficult to see the big picture at times. Late last year, Matt Rix and I teamed up and started prototyping some game ideas. He and I had worked together a couple of times at TOJam in Toronto, and we decided we’d see if we could make a game together. Earlier this spring we founded a new company called Milkbag Games and we’re currently hard at work on our first game: Snow Siege. It has been a fantastic experience working with Matt so far and I think Snow Siege is going to be a really great game.

Finally, I wanted to extend a big thank you to everyone who has supported me and Streaming Colour over the last five years. If you bought my games, offered encouragement, talked with me about game design at GDC or 360iDev, or just sent a friendly message of twitter, thank you! Nobody can do this alone, not even those of us who work alone. I wouldn’t still be doing this if not for all of you. Here’s to the next five years!


Finger Tied: A History

Yesterday I released a big update to Finger Tied (get it on the App Store) which enables the sharing of levels in the game. You can now share the levels you create, and download levels created by other players. I think it’s pretty cool, and I hope the players do too.

As I was working on the update, I started thinking back on the process of creating the game from start to finish. I like it when other people talk, in detail, about the process of creating their games, so I thought I’d do something to share the process of making Finger Tied. I wished I’d kept a diary or journal about the development of the game, but then I realized that I had the next best thing: my commit logs from my Git repo for the game. Every time I check in code or art, I add comments about what I accomplished.

With that in mind, I exported the logs and wrote a little PHP script to generate HTML code of all the commit comments. I’ve also gone back through my screenshots and pulled some that are relevant to given dates. I haven’t edited any of this, so you’ll see references to features that don’t appear in the finished game, because I decided to cut them.

The first commit comments are from Guelph Game Jam 3, in April, where I first prototyped the game. It was a game about planting flowers, called Trillium Fillium. From there you can see it involve into something more abstract and into the final game.

This post is long. I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t read it. I hope one or two of you find it interesting. 😉

Finger Tied: From Start to v1.1

Wed Apr 11

  • Adding cc2d files. Adding shell project for GuelphJam3.

Sun Apr 15

  • Background renders.
  • Drawing dirt.
  • Adding some flowers
  • Starting condition.
  • You can draw flowers.
  • Lose condition
  • art & sounds
  • Broken attempt at 2 touches
  • Multitouch mostly works. There’s some buggy behaviour, but it’s somewhat playable.

Original Prototype created for Guelph Game Jam 3 (Apr 15, 2012).

Fri Apr 27

  • New artwork. Removing 2nd touch for now for testing in sim.

Mon Apr 30

  • New artwork, start of json data implementation.
  • Passing level data through to the game scene, but not using it yet.
  • Added triply animation to the stripes…not sure if it’ll stay or not…
  • Experimenting with changing the speed of the frame animations on the fly.
  • Crazy colour anim experiment.
  • Fixing size values used for the experimentatl animations

Tue May 1

  • Tying the animations to the percentage complete. Tying the colour animations to the colours of the touches.
  • Doing a bit of refactoring to set up for tracking touch history.

Wed May 2

  • Limiting how much of the screen fills with colour.
  • Committing for posterity: Trying out a moving stripes colour animation. WAY too distracting.
  • Loading all the level data from the json file and using it to build the starting conditions for the level.
  • Tying touch index to the start point index, instead of the order you touched the screen.
  • Fixing a lot of problems with the multi-touch handling logic.
  • Adding a separated level. Fixing some of the math that a split level exposed.

Fri May 4

  • Properly handling highlight state updating.
  • Fixing bugs in multi-touch
  • Fixing ending the level if you work yourself into a corner.
  • Fixing starting presses logic.
  • More multitouch fixes.
  • More multitouch fixes. Multitouch *seems* to be working like I expect it to now? Hopefully…
  • Added a four touch level. It’s showing some weird behaviour starting the level, though…
  • Fixing a bug where all starting fingers needed to happen without any movement.
  • Added spin animation to show history.

Sat May 5

  • Splitting the game scene up into play/edit classes in prep for an editor.

Mon May 7

  • Getting the main editor UI flow working.
  • Adding start highlight markers so you can see which fingers are active on start.
  • Adding easing equations to the animations for little tweaks.
  • Refactoring some code, and fixing a bug that would allow multiple touches to start in the same tile in editor mode.
  • Improving the editor start touch stuff. Fixing some bugs in the multi-touch stuff in the editor start stuff.
  • You can now draw your areas in editor mode.
  • Handling end tiles in editor.
  • Unhighlighting in editor after done editing.
  • Starting to work on generating level data from the editor.
  • Fixing a bug where you could take your finger off the ipad once you had no more options to move without ending the level.
  • Working on more level data output.
  • Start/end points exporting.
  • Writing the tile histories to the json data.

Tue May 8

  • Fixing a bug where you could move your finger around (without lifting it) once you’d backed yourself into a corner with one finger. Now you can’t.
  • Adding some rough sfx for select/cancel.
  • Starting to rough out the UI flow.
  • Colour theme support/implementation added.
  • Changing the history animation so that it only starts once the whole previous anim has finished.
  • Adding some transitions to the FE screens.

Wed May 9

  • New buttons in the play menu, and pagination now. Yay!
  • Copying the play menu code into the level editor menu.
  • Adding ability to delete levels created with the editor.

Sun May 27

  • UI mockups file.

Wed May 30

  • Lots of UI mockups and colour changes.
  • UI mockups and font projects.
  • Starting to work on the new front end. NOTE: You CAN NOT launch the game in this build. I removed some art from the texture atlases, so we get crashes going into the sub-menus for now.
UI Mockups:


Fri Jun 1

  • Playing around with a texture applied to the game in the UI mockups.
  • Solid implementation of the square button.
  • fonts galore!
  • Setting the clear colour to magenta to make it obvious where I’m not drawing.
  • Making the BM font label pay attention to padding values.
  • Default colours.
  • Adding fonts to project file.
  • Main menu buttons hooked up. New fonts in.
  • Some quick fixes to stop the missing art crashes in the play/editor menus.

Mon Jun 4

  • Switching the FE implementation around so that screens aren’t scenes, they’re nodes. WARNING: This build crashes if you go passed the Main Menu then try to get back to it.
  • Font padding tweaks.
  • Playing with a “stamped ink” effect over the screen.
  • Screenshots.
  • Converting all the remaining screens to the new class format to get rid of the crashes. Also handling the colour changes better.

The style of the game is starting to come together.

Tue Jun 5

  • Refactoring FE “scenes” to “screens”. Setting up zOrder on tiles so that they mask the FE contents. Reworking the Main Menu squares to centre anchors so they can be scaled for intro animation nicely.
  • Main menu intro animation, but also broke screen-to-screen transitions somehow…
  • tweaking spacing on sd-font
  • Fix for broken MM buttons
  • MM outro anim (for now). Also put in temp code for other screens to handle exit properly now that the hack code isn’t in the base class.
  • Tweaking MM anims
  • Play menu. Setting it up for the 4 finger buttons. Just animating them in and out right now. Set up a back button for all screens, managed by the FrontEndScene.

Wed Jun 6

  • Switched MM animations to move-based instead of scale-based
  • Disabling input during screen transitions. Disabling multitouch in the FE.
  • Adding text and finger icons to the play menu buttons
  • Changing the back button’s highlight colour when the theme is changed.
  • Hooking the play menu up to load the level select screen and pass a variable that tells it which file it should load (not used yet).
  • Changing the squarebutton to use standard touch delegate instead of targetted, so that I can get it to play nice with the scroll node. Starting the scroll node implementation.
  • More work on the scroll node.

Thu Jun 7

  • Non-dragging scroll works.
  • End bounce working.
  • Cancelling input to children of a scroll node once movement starts.
  • Fixing the case where the innersize was smaller than the viewsize. It was causing weird bounce behaviour.
  • Fixing gaps between scroll view elements by setting “Extrude” to 1 in TexturePacker. Setting 2D projection.
  • Better spacing on the 40pt font
  • Working on the level select screen.
  • Hooking the level select buttons up to the game to launch the appropriate level. Fixing a crash that resulted.
  • Font spacing
  • Adding more things to the level select buttons.

Fri Jun 8

  • New editor UI screens implemented. Main FE flows now working.
  • Lots of new colour schemes, mockups, things tried, fonts. Progress with visual style!
  • Tweaking position of screen titles for new font.

Main Menu design is largely what shipped, though obviously with different colours.

Tue Jun 12

  • ASL fonts and new UI designs.
  • Adding ASL letters to MM
  • Swapping finger icons on Play Menu for new ASL font.
  • New ASL font and layout in Level Select screen.
  • Playing with title text colours…
  • Applying text colour to a few labels in the level select screen that were missing it.
  • Adding a whole bunch of new colour themes.

New colour palette is in the game.

Wed Jun 13

  • Splitting levels into their respective json files based on num fingers used. Adding a bunch of new levels.
  • Create now launches straight into the level editor. Adding a “My Levels” button to the Play Menu. New animations for the Play Menu. Quitting to appropriate FE screen from inside the game now.
  • saving some level editor json files.
  • Fixing bug in level select where extra row of space would show up in scroll view when even number of levels present.
  • Bug fix: colour animation was kicking in full-blast if you sat at 25% completion
  • Bug fix: you could move a finger onto an end point that wasn’t appropriate for that finger
  • Adding a one-tile buffer around the play area for the “audience” animations
  • Bug fix: resetting tiles to the background colour (instead of white) when stopping the colour anim. Also tweaking the math that calculates how much of the screen to use for the anim to take into account the new buffer around the play area.
  • bug fix: flicker on startup. failure animation (breaking glass) added. added a buffer to touches so the game feels a bit more forgiving.
  • Failure anim only plays on tiles playing colour anims.

Fri Jun 15

  • New start/end point art
  • Switching the start/end icons. Playing with the colour/lines animations to make them come in sooner, appear right away as the user completes the level. This makes the tiles dropping off feel a lot cooler.
  • Save implemented for percent complete progress on both built-in levels and created levels. Also painting the preview using the background colour.

Tue Jun 19

  • Hooking up the Testflight SDK and adding some checkpoints.
  • Adding a few more one-finger levels
  • Tuning FE animations.

Wed Jun 20

  • Adding in scroll-to animation functionality to the scrollnode class.
  • Limiting the level creation area to a 12×12 centred grid. This gives room for UI elements that are guaranteed not to overlap gameplay area.
  • Colour palette inspiration from wes anderson movies
  • Creating new button class. Replacing the back btns with the new btn class to make sure it works.
  • Converting the custom buttons to use selectors instead of delegates. Changing all relevant code. Added a temp “back” button to the game that returns you to the FE immediately. This will become the pause button.
  • Removing several unneeded source files.
  • Starting work on the pause screen class. Cleaning up a bunch of compile errors.

Thu Jun 21

  • Removing the stars hand and percentage complete when user hasn’t completed the level.
  • New pause button art. New art and positioning code for the stars on the level select screen.
  • Functional pause menu. Needs some new fonts. Needs intro/outro animations.
  • Pause menu for main game play complete?

Fri Jun 22

  • WIP: Batching tile draw calls. NOTE: FE is currently broken as the background tiles render in front of the FE buttons.
  • Changing the tile default bg to be the on-square with a colour tint as a lighter version of the bg colour. This looks really nice when the tiles fall away on failure.
  • Fixing the FE drawing by splitting the tiles in the bg out into a separate batch node.
  • Adding classes for the other soon-to-be in-game menus. Hooked the existing pause menu up in the editor scene.
  • Building new post-level-play menus. Buttons all quit for now.
  • Level retry implemented.
  • Fixing a couple of compiler warnings causes by method name changes.
  • Implementation for the post-edit menu.
  • Adding a new, really hard, 3-finger level.

Wed Jul 4

  • New created levels.

Mon Jul 16

  • Most of the failure cases are displaying the fail point (except back-tracking). Build Target renamed to “FingerTied”. Game display name now “Finger Tied”.
  • Handling showing the failure marker for backing up over a tile already added to the path.
  • Adding an animation to the failure point sprite.
  • Splitting fail point sprite into two sprites, that can be colour tinted…though not sure how to get the colours to them properly, yet…

Tue Jul 17

  • Tinting the fail point to be in the same colour family as the touch that caused the failure. Doing conversion to HSL so I can adjust the brightness.
  • Saving a few new created levels.
  • Reskinned the editor “how many fingers” menu.
  • Starting working on the tutorial.

Wed Jul 18

  • Lots of work on tutorial system. You can launch it now and run through the tutorials. A bunch of bugs to do with retry levels, or actually finishing the tutorial, though.
  • Fixing some colours in the tutorial post screen.

Fri Jul 20

  • Checking in progress on the tutorial, but I’m about to rip it out.
  • Removing all tutorial code.
  • Pulsing all the starting points to make it more obvious that you have to touch them. To do this meant switching the main game atlas to an anti-aliased texture…no side-effects so far…
  • Tweaking start tile pulse anim time. Adding a pulse to the end points once all start points are activated.
  • Displaying a reason message for failure and reworking the success message for when I have timing working.
  • Implementing the “next” button on post-game screens.

Mon Jul 23

  • Removing “next” from the play fail screen. Timing levels and displaying the time in the success screen. Times are not saved yet.
  • Tutorial levels json file. New screenshot.
  • Saving and retrieving per-level best scores.
  • Changing time format strings. Displaying total time for a level pack if the whole pack of levels is completed.
  • Fixing some labels that weren’t using the same naming convetion as other places.
  • Adding the tutorial levels to the start of the various level packs.
  • Saving the scores for the user created levels properly by adding a -1 score when the level is created to the NSUserDefaults.
  • Bug fix: levels with start/end point on the same tile would show the failure marker even though level had been properly completed.
  • Hiding pause button when pause/postgame menus are up.
  • Adding a whole bunch of created levels to the appropriate level packs. These are NOT in any particular order yet.
  • Fixing missing comma in one of the level files.

Post Game screen. It’s becoming clear that lanscape orientation is becoming problematic.

Tue Jul 24

  • Bug fix: changing colour theme would reset all the tiles in the FE so the black background would disappear.
  • Fixing font spacing for non-retina chunk 18pt.
  • Disabling the fps counter.
  • Adding temp app icon so testers have something to see at least.
  • Better testflight beta tracking points. Anonymizing TF tracking data.
  • Reordered all level packs based on some difficulty testing play-throughs.

Wed Jul 25

  • Various project/code changes readying the first tester build.
  • Making the available tiles highlight significantly more subtle, as it was confusing some testers.
  • Trying a new version of the play menu that shows two hands instead of single hands for multi-finger level packs.
  • Working on a popup message for multitasking gestures warning. Works when returning to gameplay, but not if the game is quit while it’s in the background…
  • Multitasking Gesture warning is implemented. It gets stored that a gesture was made and displays a message next time a 4-finger level is launched.

Fri Jul 27

  • Adding random tips to the menus.
  • Increasing the fudge factor by a few pixels to make it a bit easier to larger fingered players.
  • Wasn’t comfortable with how much I increased the fudge factor. Slight decrease.
  • Applying a fade to the non-active start/end pieces. So end pieces start faded, then start pieces fade out once all active.
  • Removing testflight SDK, adding Flurry for beta testing analytics.
  • Tweaking some tips wording.
  • Post-level screenshots for doing mockups.
  • Conversion to Portrait mode, step 1: Front End
  • Portrait step 2: post-level screen and pause button.
  • Portrait step 3: level editor.

Game has been reworked to render in portrait orientation, making everything better.

Mon Jul 30

  • Better flurry event names.
  • Adding first pass at music loop to the game.
  • Disabling the history animation during gameplay and playing it as soon as the user finishes a level instead. Several testers mentioned the animation was confusing/distracting during gameplay. This feels much nicer.
  • Applying the stripe animation to all FE tiles.
  • Adding some interactivity on the menus. Touching the background tiles plays a one-time colour tint animation.
  • Attempt at new finger icons for the play menu, but I don’t like them. Checking them in, but will be removing them.
  • Reverting to the ASL letters on the Play Menu screen.
  • Fixing an animation in the Main Menu. One of the squares was sliding in slightly faster than an adjacent square.
  • You can set mandatory and directional tiles and they render properly. There’s no UI and the values aren’t stored yet, but you can draw them.
  • New music loop from the composer. No sax.
  • Bunch of artwork that needed adding.

Tue Jul 31

  • Created new flurry api key.
  • Special tiles can be saved and loaded from json data.
  • Making the square button class toggle-able.
  • Adding top menu for the post edit screen that has buttons for directionality and mandatory tiles. Buttons do nothing yet.
  • Exposing whether the square button is on/not on as a property. Allowing other code to set the state of a square button.
  • Post edit UI hooked up and functional. Allows full creation of levels with special tiles.
  • Gameplay now has rules for special tiles. However, failure reasons not implemented yet.
  • Adding all the logic to detect new failure reasons: diagonals, directionals, mandatory colours, slipped end points, and a catch-all. Adding help text to the failure screen for the new cases.
  • Bug fix: post editor screen wasn’t dismissing properly when Erasing or Quitting

Wed Aug 1

  • Removing the upside down screen title text (doesn’t work in portrait) and moving the tip text up into its place. Shortening the tip text (and adding some new tips) so that they fit into the new space next to the back button.
  • Tweaking the sizes of the mandatory square markers. MUCH nicer now that they all feel the same size.
  • Removing unused iPhone icon sizes.
  • Adding some temp code to kill any level progress save data for this version because the level ordering will change.
  • Fixing button order dismiss for fail screen.
  • Upping version number to 0.2
  • Not sure what’s changed in this PSD, but checking it in.
  • Adding new levels with special tiles to the level sets.
  • I had broken the FE when switching colour themes during the switch to portrait. Fixing.
  • v0.2 build sent to Testflight.

Fri Aug 31

  • Latest music loop. GameCenter implementation (no icon in main menu yet).
  • Latest adhoc build.
  • Game Center leaderboard icon art.
  • Custom game center icon added to the main menu.
  • Disabling the GC icon on the MM when the player isn’t authenticated. Also, setting up a notification to the MM to let it know when the state has changed, so that it can enable/disable based on the async event.

Tue Sep 4

  • Adding the “More Games” popup.
  • Replaced the AAC music loop with an AAC-compressed CAF file. This eliminates the stutter when looping.
  • Build the UI for the Options screen. Still needs to be connected to things…
  • Hooking up a few of the options menu items.

Thu Sep 6

  • Adding icons for the music/sfx controls in the options menu. Properly updating them based on state. Initializing music/sfx on launch based on saved states.
  • Uncompressed WAVs for the various versions of the music loops.
  • Credits screen implementation. Needs final credits list.
  • Adding particle effect on level completion. Needs tweaking, but looks pretty good so far.

Fri Sep 7

  • Finished tweaking the level complete particle system.
  • Various screenshots.
  • Improving the “fail” icon animation. Is much more obvious now, which should help people recognize a fail state has occurred when playing.
  • First pass at a “select” found effect. Still a bit too loud, but a good start.
  • Tweaked volume on the select sfx. Added new “back” sfx. Changed the button class to expose the sound it plays on trigger.
  • First attempt as lose SFX.
  • Fixing bug where launching in upsidedown portrait didn’t launch in proper orientation. Upping version to 0.3
  • Changes to credits.
  • Fixing bug where returning to game from multitasking to a FE screen outside the MM caused a crash because it wasn’t cleaning up its NSNotificationCenter registration.
  • Some new screenshots.

Mon Sep 10

  • Bug fix: leaving a directional from the wrong edge generated an “incomplete” fail state instead of a “directional” fail state.
  • Bug fix: if finger 1 is stationary and finger 2 boxes finger 1 in, the game didn’t end.
  • Final music track!
  • First pass at COMPLETE LEVEL REORGANISATION. UI still needs work, and level progression needs extensive play testing.

Tue Sep 11

  • Adding additional “trumpet” particle systems to the sides of the screen. Had to convert blend mode back to additive after discovering I was using an invalid blend fun parameter in previous blend.
  • Only playing the new side-of-screen fanfare particles if you set a new record on a level. Otherwise you just get the end points bursts.
  • Bug fix: Game would slow down significantly the longer you played it. Discovered the post-puzzle screens weren’t being cleaned up, so were still be rendered and reallocated every time you finished a puzzle. Eventually caused massive slow down. Now being cleaned up properly.
  • Improved the handling of mandatory and directional tiles. These could produce “blocked” fail messages, which were confusing. Now lets the user move incorrectly onto them first so that they get a more useful fail message.
  • Starting to reorg the layout of the level select buttons.
  • Finished new layout for the level select screen.
  • Two-pixel tweak the positioning of text on the level select screen.

Final layout of the Level Select menus.

Wed Sep 12

  • New stars art. Positioning stars. NOTE: this build displays random stars for every level, just for positioning testing.
  • Only displaying stars in the level select screen if you’ve completed a level, and displaying the correct star based on the par times.
  • Par times for beginner levels
  • Displaying target times on post-level success screen.
  • Adding animated star awarded for your current time. Fixing case where 3rd significant digit would prevent you from winning a star.
  • Par times for easy levels.

Thu Sep 13

  • Only showing the goal stars above what you just earned. So you just got silver, it only shows you the gold target time.
  • Post game screenshot.

Fri Sep 14

  • Adding the star target times to the play fail screen.
  • Making the centre of the screen tappable to restart on fail. Has a 0.5s delay before activating to try to prevent mistaken triggering at the end of a level.
  • Allowing user music to play instead of game’s music.
  • Par times for Medium and Hard. Rearranged a couple of levels.
  • Bug fix: double play music on startup.

Mon Sep 17

  • Returning the play menu screen to use single-handed icons for different difficulty packs.
  • Adding trash can buttons to the level select screen when viewing your created levels (but they don’t actually delete yet).
  • Converting the SquareButton to use either standard or targeted touch. Adding new input blocker class. Adding popup for delete confirmation to the level select screen. Delete still not actually being done.
  • Actually deleting levels and their associated save data!
  • Touching up the font bitmaps: fixing holes and funny spikes.
  • Updating music/sound credit.
  • New launch screen.

Tue Sep 18

  • Locking level sets until prev set has 10 levels completed. Added lock icons and lock explanation text that fades in when a locked button is pressed. Reworded the “incomplete” text to show how many levels have been completed.
  • Adding a compile-time cheat to allow me to unlock all the level packs.
  • Displaying stars for each level pack on the Play menu. Displays the star for the lowest star level you’ve got across all the levels in the pack.
  • New tips.

Fri Sep 21

  • LOTS of work on the icon.
  • Lots of new icon art, including final icon designs!
  • Copying final icons into the project.
  • Adding first pass at SFX files. Adding in hookups for the FE sounds.
  • In-game sound hookups for first pass SFX.

Sat Sep 22

  • Applying a tiny random pitch to the soundOn SFX so that they give a bunch of really subtle variation in the sound.

Mon Sep 24

  • Adding promo popup code in case I ever need it.
  • Some screenshots
  • New SFX files.

Tue Sep 25

  • Bug fix: side particle effects systems were not cleaning up on restart. Resulted in big slow downs on iPad 1 after playing many levels.
  • Adding SFX hooks to the editor for edit start and end.
  • Some new raw level files.
  • Tweaked SFX files.
  • Icon design progression image.
  • Final raw SFX from audio guy.
  • Increasing default capacity of sprite batch nodes since they were overfilled every time, which caused a realloc.
  • Adding in final levels and doing some removal and rearranging for difficulty tuning. No par times for new levels yet.
  • Created levels.
  • Tweaking the character padding on the 18pt font for non-retina iPads, as it was rendering too wide in the UI.
  • Fixing some buggy behaviour in the scroll node. Touching it wasn’t stopping an scroll in progress. And performance dips on 1st gen iPad would cause really messed up behaviour because of where the dt was being used.

Evolution of the icon design.

Fri Sep 28

  • Made the silver/gold targets for beginner levels easier to achieve.
  • Fixing float rounding display bug on the play success screen and level select menu.
  • Tuning target times for all easy levels.
  • Tuned the Medium difficulty target times.
  • Replaced accidental dupe level. Tuned target times on Hard up to level 28.
  • Finishing the tuning of the hard level target times.
  • Tweaking the ‘tap to retry’ time on the fail screen. Needed to be slightly shorter delay.
  • Bug fix: Disabling input to the game when the pause menu is up. Also disabling the pause button while fingers are playing a puzzle.
  • Bug fix: play menu lock text was displaying incorrect instructions (wrong level pack name displayed)
  • Upping project to v1.0 in preparation for submission.
  • Upping reset value to 1.0 so it resets beta testers’ builds because all levels were reordered.
  • Rewording some tips text.
  • More levels exported from ipad.
  • xcode scheme file changed?
  • Release Candidate ad hoc IPA.
  • Thanks sections added to Credits screen.

Sat Sep 29

  • Adding help message for players to the My Levels screen if they haven’t created any levels yet.
  • Removing a bunch of unnecessary flurry events.
  • Repositioning the multitouch gesture popup for portrait layout.
  • Pointing the twitter button to the new @FingerTiedGame account.
  • First draft of app store description.

Sun Sep 30

  • App store screenshots.
  • Updated description and keywords.
  • Screenshots PSD file.

Tue Oct 9

  • FT description updates.
  • PressKit WIP
Thu Oct 18
  • Launch Day!

Fri Oct 19

  • Displaying Multitasking Gestures popup *as soon* as a gesture is detected, instead of on next launch. Should help with people getting confused.
  • Sound files show as modified, but not sure why. They appear to be correct, so maybe I forgot to check them in?
  • Lots of finger tied ads and screenshots.
  • A whole whack of screenshots.
  • Archived builds.
  • Latest changes to the FT app description.

Wed Oct 24

  • Added Parse framework and started working on level sharing. Realized how huge this is going to be. Going to set this aside for now and come back to it later.
  • FT description changes.
  • Created an iPhone target. Builds and deploys, ready to start work on iPhone version.

Fri Oct 26

  • Main menu converted. Loading iPhone textures. I think I found a good size for the tiles, but it’s hard to tell yet.
  • Rough pass at Play menu for iphone. Functional, but not pretty.
  • Level select screen working on iPhone. Editor basic functionality working (but not UI)
  • Working on the editor post edit screen for iPhone.

Mon Oct 29

  • Editor post screen layout works, but still needs tweaking.
  • Better layout on the editor post screen.
  • Pause menu updated for iPhone
  • Play fail screen for iPhone.
  • Success screen for iPhone

Tue Oct 30

  • Centering the completion time lbl on success screen when no star to render (iPhone)
  • Duplicating the levels json files and splitting them into iPhone/iPad folders. And apparently I forgot to
  • Options screen for iPhone
  • Credits screen for iphone.
  • TexturePacker 3.0 file for the game atlas.
  • Better layout for play menu screen (iphone) and intro/outro anims
  • Splitting tips into iPad/iPhone. Customizing iPhone tips. Reducing tip display time from 10 to 7s.
  • Some first iPhone level designs.
  • Adding button for 4 fingers in the editor for iPhone.
  • More iPhone levels.

Wed Oct 31

  • Temporarily putting all created levels into Beginner so I can send an iPhone build to testers.
  • Fixing the More Game popup for iPhone.
  • Changes to prep a test build for iPhone.

Fri Nov 2

  • scheme files.
  • Some debug code that forces the iPad build to run at iPad Mini size. Committing inactive.
  • Fixing a few UI glitches introduced to iPad code during iPhone porting.

Tue Nov 6

  • Adding “more levels” button to the main menu.
  • Stubbed out the more level screen.

Fri Nov 9

  • Working on level sharing stuff. Built a popup widget I can use for general popup messages now. Converted the level select screen to use the new popup. Adding Parse code back in.

Tue Nov 20

  • GC sign in popup when trying to share a level if not signed in.
  • A whole whack of Finger Tied related files. Not sure why some are marked as modified, but checking ’em in.
  • Uploading levels and tying them to a player object works. Tracks which levels have been uploaded. Does not handle the errors well yet.
  • Starting to work on loading “more levels” data from parse server.

Mon Nov 26

  • More Levels screen properly loading/closing without generating extra buttons.
  • Added buttons for filtering results with stubbed out calls.
  • Implemented 3 of the 4 queries we want for filtering. Search needs more UI. No caching yet.

Wed Nov 28

  • Displaying search UI in more levels. Non-functional yet. Textfield needs property tweaking too.
  • Properly positioned/sized search field. Not doing proper attributes yet.
  • Proper text field attribute settings.
  • Two search fields now. Search works.
  • Caching the queries. Handling network failures nicely. Canceling queries when moving between filters.
  • Adding a constant upward counter for created levels. Renaming levels player has already created to conform to the new system on first boot after update. Adding proper level naming to editor code.
  • Killing active queries when leaving the more levels screen.

Fri Nov 30

  • Built the popup menu for settings on the My Level screen. Upload/delete now done via this popup.
  • Bringing up a popup when a level is selected in the More Levels screen. Buttons just call callbacks, but don’t do anything yet.
  • Fixing a bug where the game became unresponsive if you closed the keyboard from the search page and attempted to back out of the screen. Also added some text to the screen in cases where no results are returned from the server.
  • Likes and Reports working. Game auto-ignores any levels with 3 or more reports.
  • Implementing the download button in the More Levels screen. Though you can’t actually view the levels anywhere.

Sat Dec 1

  • Adding a downloads screen, and a button to the play menu. Seems to be a crash trying to save best time on downloaded level. May be bad data in the NSUserDefaults? Need to update the level buttons in More Levels screen to use the new font/level name stuff from Downloads screen.

Sun Dec 2

  • Fixing the crash after completing a downloaded level. Handling deleting best times on downloaded levels properly.
  • Displaying proper levels names for More Levels screen. Displaying # likes on More Levels. Fixing some bugs with incorrect Setttings displays.

Mon Dec 3

  • Implementing pagination of search results.
  • Displaying a “loading” animation when a query is running.
  • Displaying game center message to user when going to “my levels” sub-screen. Shrinking button text on the FEPopup slightly to accomodate slightly longer text.
  • Displaying network errors as popups in More Levels. Fixing a bug where some queries weren’t being cancelled.
  • Fixing a bug in the More Levels where rapid tapping would result in a duplicate copy of the level data.
  • Fixing a bug where tapping the Refresh button when search boxes were showing caused a crash.
  • New settings button art.
  • Implementing deletion of shared levels.
  • Fixing a bunch of potential crashes. Better network error handling and display. Not displaying Like/Report buttons if already liked/reported. Displaying proper level names in popups.
  • Created new art for more levels filter buttons (but they’re not in-game yet). Removing some unused art from the atlas.

Tue Dec 4

  • Added icons to the filter buttons for More Levels screen.
  • Delete/settings popups on My Levels were showing incorrect level name.
  • Adding delete confirmation when deleting uploaded levels. Making popup msg scale to fit text that’s too long. Fixing some calls to open vertical popups that were displaying level name incorrectly.
  • Adding instructional popups on upload/download telling the player where to find the levels.
  • Ordering the user level’s query by creation time so they see their most recent uploads first.
  • Adding a “new” icon to the More Levels button on the main menu that disappears once clicked.
  • Improving the promo system so I can show popups with users with specific builds. Will be used so I can show players who haven’t updated a popup announcing the update.
  • Upping the build version to 1.1.
  • Parse requires iOS 5.0 or higher, so upping the min supported version to 5.0 from 4.3.
  • Adding version (read from info.plist) to the credits. Pointing the twitter button to my own account instead of the FingerTiedGame account.
  • WIP: Level sharing and custom URLs.

Wed Dec 5

  • Handling custom URLs to load into the search page properly.
  • iOS 5 pasteboard sharing.
  • New splash screen.
  • Doing proper copying to pasteboard for iOS5 (previous version wouldn’t copy both text and images).
  • Removing the level id search box. Making the level sharing shorten the fingertied level link with tinyurl. Made it async so it doesn’t hang things.

Fri Dec 7

  • 1.1 build and what’s new notes.

Today only: FREE GAMES!

Yes, you read that right: for today only, I’m reducing the price on four of my games to FREE. I have never dropped the price of any of my games to free before, and now you get four in one day!

Maybe it’s that the holidays are coming up, or maybe I was just in a good mood. Who cares?! You get free games! So what are you waiting for? Go to the App Store and download these games now!

Dapple (Reg. Price: $2.99)

Monkeys in Space (Reg. Price: $1.99)

LandFormer (Reg. Price of Premium Content: $1.99)

* LandFormer was always a free download. However, the Premium Content is available from the In-Game Shop for FREE today.

Dirty Diapers (Reg. Price: $0.99)

I hope you enjoy the games. And if you do, please feel free to throw a good review up on the App Store. 🙂 Happy Holidays!


Results: iOS Game Revenue Survey

Please read the Disclaimer

10 days ago I launched a survey in the iOS game developer community aimed at gathering revenue data from as many developers as possible. The goal was to get a more realistic view of what the iOS game marketplace actually looks like and share the results with the entire dev community. The reason I felt this was necessary is that we tend to see two kinds of articles written about iOS game revenue: “Developer makes millions on iOS games!” or “Game makes $0 on App Store”. I felt it was important that we get a more realistic look at what the market we’re developing for looks like.

With that in mind, the survey launched on Monday, September 19, 2011 and ran for seven days. 252 developers filled it out! Now, before I get to the actual data, there’s some important disclaimers I need to make, and I want to talk about methodology. Let’s begin…


The survey was conducted entirely using the online service SurveyMonkey. The survey consisted of eight questions. Two questions gathered information about the type of developer and the number of people working on their games. The next three questions gathered data about lifetime game releases on the App Store, and revenue those games generated. Finally, the last three questions gathered data on games released within the last 12 months (more on this in the next section on errors and bias).

Requests to take the survey were distributed via the following social networks and web sites:

  • twitter
  • facebook
  • Google+
  • Reddit
  • TouchArcade forums
  • iPhoneDevSDK forums
  • cocos2d forums
  • Unity forums

The goal was to engage as many active iOS game developers as possible. More on this in the next section on errors and bias.

The survey was closed on Monday, September 26, 2011 at noon, EDT. Survey responses were downloaded at that point, and I’ve been using Numbers (from iWork ’09) for Mac to analyze the data.

It is also worth noting that when I launched the survey, I stated two things:

  1. The survey would collect no personal data
  2. The data would only be released in aggregate, no raw data would be released

This is why I’m not releasing the raw data.

Errors and Bias

Disclaimer: I make no claims as to the statistical validity of this data. There is a good chance that the sample population is not representative of all game developers on the App Store. There is a good chance that I introduced measurement bias/error into the data by the way I worded the survey questions. In short: I am not a professional statistician. Do not treat this data as 100% accurate. It is just interesting to look at.

Ok, let’s talk about that disclaimer in a bit more detail.

Sample Population

Because the survey was completely voluntary, and I have no information on the demographics that make up App Store developers, I have no way to determine how representative the data is. Further, because of the way in which I went about gathering the data, the developers who responded are all likely developers actively working on games, and who are actively involved in the development community. Because of this, I would be tempted to guess that the numbers we see here are actually higher than on the App Store over all. However, I have no data to be able to back up that guess.

12 Month Data

One of the things I really wanted data on was a snapshot of what the last 12 months have looked like for game developers on the App Store. However, the questions I created to gather this data clearly confused respondents. The intent was that devs enter only revenue from games released within the last 12 months, but many developers provided revenue from the last 12 months for all their games. This made the data I collected for these questions largely useless for the purposes I wanted. Further, most people didn’t understand the instructions and didn’t match the sales revenue to the non-sales revenue in the two questions, making drawing conclusions there impossible, also. You’ll see later on that I did manage to get some basic data from it, but couldn’t do the detailed analysis I had hoped for.


There are, no doubt, other sources of error and bias in the data. The main thing to remember is that these numbers are not 100% accurate, but rather just provide a glimpse into the App Store market for games.

To the data!


The survey was open for exactly seven days and had 252 respondents.

General Questions

The first two questions of the survey were there to get an idea of the kinds of developers responding.

You can see from the results in Figure 1 that only about 1/3 of respondents consider themselves full-time independent game developers. Over half the respondents are part-time indies, hobbyists, or students. (Note: Click the charts to see them full-sized).

Figure 1. Developer Type

When questioned about the number of people (from now on referred to as “developers”) working on their games, half the respondents were working by themselves. I was surprised by the number of respondents who were working for larger companies in the 10+ developers range. However, over 93% of respondents have 5 or fewer developers working on their games. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. Number of Developers

Lifetime Game Releases and Revenue

The next three questions of the survey gathered information about lifetime revenue on the store. The three questions asked for data on:

  1. The number of games released on the App Store
  2. The number of months the developer had games on the App Store
  3. Lifetime revenue for all games on the App Store

Using this data, it’s possible to generate some very interesting results. First, let’s look at all the lifetime revenues reported (see Figure 3). One of the most interesting features of the graph is the clearly exponential curve associated with the revenues. The graph makes it very clear that most developers aren’t making a lot of money selling games on the App Store, while a few are making a lot of money.

I’ve made note of both the arithmetic mean average, and the median average on the chart. This is why the median is so important. The extremely high revenues reported by a small number of developer skew the arithmetic mean significantly. If you looked at that as an average, it would be easy to say “the average game developer has made about $165,000”. However, the median tells a very different story. The median splits the developers in half. This means that 50% of developers have made less than $3,000 lifetime revenue on the App Store, while 50% have made more. The reason that the mean and median are so different is that the computed sample standard deviation is 639,966. A standard deviation that high means that the mean average is not very representative of the data spread. Because of this, I have used median averages everywhere in these results, instead of mean averages.

What is also telling is that if you were in the 75th percentile, you would have made about $30,000 on the App Store. This means that only 25% of developers have made more than $30,000 lifetime total revenue selling games on the App Store. Conversely, we can see that 25% of developers have made less than $200.

Figure 3. Lifetime Revenue - All Respondents

I wanted to take that revenue data and plot a distribution curve from it. However, the range of data was so large that I couldn’t plot it on a linear scale. This was the case for many of the graphs you’ll see. Like Figure 4, I have made note whenever one of the axes is using a logarithmic scale instead of a linear scale. By breaking the revenue down into buckets (each one 10x greater than the last), I was able to get a better distribution graph (see Figure 4). From this, we can clearly see that nearly 25% of developers have made between $1,000 and $10,000 on the App Store. What is particularly impressive is that 4% of respondents (10 respondents) had made over $1,000,000 on the App Store!

Note on Figure 4: You’ll notice duplicate values between buckets (i.e. 1-10, 10-100, etc). This was done only for the labels so the chart was easier to read. The data is actually divided into (10n)-(10n+1 – 1) buckets (i.e. 1-9, 10-99, etc).

Figure 4. Lifetime Revenue Distribution (Note: Logarithmic scale on x-axis)

That 4% of respondents got me wondering about the idea of where the revenue was going on the App Store. So next I took a look at what percentage of the total revenue reported was reported by what percentage of respondents (similar to a distribution of wealth chart you might see for a country’s population). See Figure 5. What is fascinating to me is that the top 20% of developers are earning 97% of the revenue on the App Store, with the top 1% earning over 1/3 of the revenue on the App Store. The bottom 80% of game developers are earning only 3% of the revenue.

Figure 5. Distribution of Revenue

Next, I wanted to start comparing lifetime revenue to the other data the respondents had provided. To start, I wanted to see how revenue compared to developer type. Figure 6 shows a graph of median lifetime revenue, divided by developer type. It is no surprise to me that full-time indies, and representatives for iOS game dev companies reported the highest revenue. Note that revenue in Figure 6 is charted on a logarithmic scale, so the median earnings of a full-time indie developer are reported to be 30x greater than those reported by part-time indies. This does not mean that going full-time indie will guarantee you 30x the revenue, these are just the numbers that have been reported.

Figure 6. Median Revenue by Developer Type (Note: Logarithmic scale on y-axis)

Next I wanted to see if developers who worked with more people earned more revenue than those working alone. Figure 7 clearly shows this is the case. Note that the revenue for companies with 10+ employees may not accurately reflect a good median, because there were so few responses in these categories. However, it’s clear that individuals have earned the least lifetime revenue, on average.

Figure 7. Median Revenue by Number of Developers (Note: Logarithmic scale on y-axis)

But then I started to wonder if it was just because larger groups might be able to release more games, meaning their total revenue would be higher. So, I broke the revenue down, dividing it by the number of games released, and by the number of months the developer had had apps on the store. The result is a chart of median per-game, per-month, lifetime revenue by the number of developers who worked on the games. You’ll see in Figure 7b that the curve looks almost identical to Figure 7’s. The conclusion that I draw from this is that, in general, larger groups of developers are able to create games that earn more money. Wagering a guess, this is perhaps because they are able to create games that are larger in scope, more technically interesting, and more polished, because they have more people to work on the game and provide input into its improvement.

Figure 7b. Median Per-Game, Per-Month, Rev by Number of Developers (Note: Logarithmic scale on y-axis)

Finally, a friend was curious whether or not releasing more games meant that a developer ended up improving over time. To attempt to answer that question, I divided each respondent’s lifetime revenue by the number of games they had released on the App Store, then graphed the median distribution curve by the number of games released. The results can be seen in Figure 8. What is really interesting to me is that developers do seem to generate more revenue over time (on average). This should be encouraging if you really want to make games, but your first game was a flop. Fear not! 50% of developers who have only released one game made under $500 on that game. However, the more games developers had released, the more per-game average revenue they seem to generate. This seems to validate the old adage: practice makes better than doing something once. Wait…that’s not quite right…

Figure 8. Median Per-Game Revenue by Number of Games Released

12-Month Releases and Revenue

The final three questions of the survey were supposed to deal with revenue generated by apps released within the last 12 months. However, since many respondents provided the last 12 months of revenue from all their games, I can’t draw the same conclusions that I would have liked. However, what I have done is graph the revenue for each individual game reported.

Figure 9 shows the individual game revenues over the last 12 month period. It is a graph of 382 games that reported non-zero sales revenue (including IAP). You can see that the curve follows a very similar line to the lifetime revenue chart, in that it’s exponential. Again, we can see that the difference between mean and median is significant, telling us that the high earners on the right distort the mean average.

What’s important to note in Figure 9 is that the median game earned $1,100 in the last 12 months. This means 50% of the games earned less, and 50% earned more. 25% of games earned less than $140, while conversely, 25% earned more than $10,675.

Figure 9. Per-Game, Non-Zero Sales Revenue - Past 12 Months

And finally, Figure 10 shows the non-sales revenue generated by the 85 games that reported non-zero revenue. The non-sales revenue was to account for all revenue generated from a game aside from sales (e.g. ads, affiliate links, merchandise, etc). Figure 10 is graphed on the same y-axis as Figure 9. You can clearly see that the top end is much lower than for sales. However, in the middle of the graph, games that reported non-sales revenue, reported slightly higher earnings on the non-sales side of things.

What this means is that there is clearly some good revenue to be made through things like ads, affiliate links, and other non-sales sources of revenue, and there are clearly some games doing this very well.

Figure 10. Per-Game, Non-Zero, Non-Sales Revenue - Past 12 Months


Phew! Did you make it all the way through? Good. This is a lot of data to process, so thanks for following along. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get more useful data out of the 12 month questions. I clearly needed to word the questions differently.

Hopefully these results have provided some insight into the games market on the App Store. I hope that it can be used to help set expectations for new and experienced developers alike. It is clear that there is a lot of money to be made in games on the App Store. However, as the data shows, it’s not easy, but the more games you make, the better you’ll get. Common sense, I suppose…but sometimes it’s nice to have the data to back it up.

Thank you so much to the 252 people who participated in the survey for sharing this data with the rest of the community. We all appreciate it greatly.

Now you’ve been reading this for much too long. Get back to work on your next game!