Archive for the ‘monkeys in space’ Category

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!


Postmortem: Monkeys in Space

I never wrote up a formal postmortem for Dapple and I wish I had. Now that Monkeys in Space has been out for over a month and I’ve released one major update, I thought it was about time to sumarize what went right and what went wrong on my second game.

Because I really enjoy reading Game Developer Magazine, I thought I’d follow their template for a postmortem and list 5 things that went right followed by 5 things that went wrong on the project.

Buy Monkeys in Space - $0.99

What Went Right

1. Prototyping, Iteration, and Early Feedback. One of the processes I put into place when I started Streaming Colour Studios is the extensive use of prototyping and rapid iteration. When you build a large console game, you need to plan out everything a lot more because there are 100 people working on the game. When it’s just you, you can afford to play around with ideas a lot more.

Monkeys in Space actually started out as a completely different game. The first prototype I built involved controlling space ships with black holes. One of the things I learned with Dapple is that the sooner you get feedback the better. So this time I sent that first prototype out to a few trusted friends to get their opinions on it. The feedback that I got was that the controls weren’t intuitive enough and the game wasn’t really fun to play, just frustrating. This was fantastic feedback to get so early in the process and I was able to start trying new ideas and iterating on the design.

Eventually I got to the point where the game was fun, but the space ship theme wasn’t working for me anymore. I had had an idea for a bonus level that involved picking up monkeys floating in space with your ship, but after discussing this with a few friends over coffee (one of them ended up writing the music for the game) I decided that the game might be more fun to play if the monkeys were the focus of the game. Once this decision was made, it opened up new avenues for art direction, marketing, names, and even merchandise.

Once I had the monkeys in the game, I opened the game up to much more public play testing. People were playing the game and providing regular feedback at a much earlier stage of the development than with Dapple. This proved to be invaluable for fine tuning the design and polishing the game.

2. Gameplay. Monkeys in Space fits into the “line drawing”/”chaos management” genre of games, but it needed something to set it apart and help it to stand out. I had also learned, through my experiences with Dapple, that I needed a gameplay mechanic that was easy to understand, but offered depth to the experienced player. Monkeys in Space offers familiar gameplay goals to players familiar with the genre (get the monkeys to the bases), but adds a twist that adds depth to the game (linking monkeys together). The chaining mechanic was added about mid way through the prototyping process, but the feedback from play testers was unanimously positive. I’m very happy with how the game ended up playing out. The chaining adds a risk/reward factor to the game that has been mentioned in a lot of reviews.

3. The Name. I mentioned above that the game was originally about space ships. Well, it was a search for a name for the game that ultimately led to the game being about monkeys instead. I was brainstorming game names with some friends when I mentioned I had been thinking about adding a space monkey level to the game. Immediately we all started thinking about fun names for a game involving space monkeys. My favourite at the time was “Space Monkey Rescue”, but I ultimately abandoned it because of trademark concerns. I contacted my friend Stacy, who is a writer, and asked her for help. I sent her some of my favourites, including just “Monkeys in Space”. I told her I was looking for a 50’s or 60’s sci-fi b-movie feel for the title and she came up with “Monkeys in Space: Escape to Banana Base Alpha”, which I absolutely loved. I think the name is perfect for the game in that it captures that silly retro feel I wanted, and it says “yes this is a game set in space, but it’s not a serious sci-fi game; it’s fun and it has monkeys!”

4. Artwork. With Dapple I had decided to hire a professional artist to do the game’s artwork. While the artist did an amazing job and I was extremely happy with her work, hiring an artist is also expensive. With Monkeys in Space I decided to take a different risk and do the artwork myself. Now, I took some art classes in university, I’ve done a little life drawing since then, and I once had a job where I was using Photoshop for eight hours a day, but I’m not a professional artist, so this was kind of a risky move. However, in the end, I was quite pleased with the art in the game. I think the monkeys especially turned out quite well. No doubt a professional artist could probably have bumped the artwork up a notch (or two), but I’m happy with the results. On top of that, it was also really fun. It was great to get back into drawing regularly again and I think it’s something I’ll be considering for future games, if it’s a possibility.

5. Reviews and Apple Feature. Monkeys in Space has received some great reviews from the iPhone gaming press/critics (you can read them on the Press page). Every good review helps to build buzz around a game, but one of the biggest reviews the game got was from Their Monkeys in Space review was on their front page for two days and during that time I saw a sales spike close to what I was to see being featured by Apple. Then a week after the Touch Arcade review ran, the game was featured on the App Store in the Games -> What’s Hot section. This happened just before Christmas, which couldn’t have been better timing. It wasn’t a front page of the App Store feature, but it was enough to push me into the Top 100 Kids Games in the U.S. store. This gave the game some momentum through the holiday boost.

I’ve decided that while I don’t want to share sales specifics about the game (like the infamous Dapple “Numbers” post), I will share the shape of the graph of sales since the game’s launch:

Monkeys in Space Sales

What Went Wrong

1. Release Date. I mentioned this earlier this week, but my release date turned out to be a big mistake. I submitted the game to apple in mid-November and wasn’t sure when to expect it to be approved. I got the email from Apple saying the app was ready for sale at about 7:30pm on Wed, Nov 25th. I was so excited that I switched the app into the “for sale” state (by setting the release date to the 25th) and started preparing the email I’d send out to the press in the morning. On Thursday morning I sent out my press release along with screenshots and video, etc, to iPhone sites. At that point I started getting back “out of office” replies and suddenly released it was Thanksgiving in the U.S. See, we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, so the date completely slipped my mind.

At first I didn’t think it would be a big problem. But then I started reading the review sites that were staffed for the holidays and most of them were just running stories about the hundreds of games that were going on sale for Black Friday in the U.S. Not only that, but it turns out a lot of people apparently take a long weekend from Thursday-Sunday, so it meant I didn’t hear from anyone until well into the next week.

However, I can’t really complain as the game eventually did get picked up by review sites, but the roll out was more gradual than I had hoped. The delay meant that my marketing lost some momentum right at the start, which isn’t ideal. In the future I will be paying closer attention to U.S. holidays when I set my release dates.

2. Delays. When I did the first concept sketches for the game that was to become Monkeys in Space, the original plan was to build the game in 2 months or less. From start to finish, the game ended up taking almost exactly 3 months. One extra month isn’t terrible, but that’s a 50% overshoot of the original plan. Now I have excuses: my wife and I moved cities, which ate up a few weeks with packing, moving, and unpacking, etc. But I think the biggest reason the game took longer than I thought it would was because I decided to do the artwork. Because I was doing the art and the programming, it meant that the two couldn’t happen concurrently. When you work with an external artist, they can be drawing while you’re coding, but I didn’t have that ability this time. The artwork took longer than I thought it would, which pushed my timeline out. Ultimately, it was worth the extra time to make sure the art was good enough to meet my expectations for the quality of the game, but it did delay its release.

3. Marketing Push. I learned some important lessons with the launch of Dapple. One of the most important was the need to have your marketing push happen all at once. You want everyone to be talking about your game at the same time. I’ve already mentioned the problems the release date caused with this, but I suspect there were some other missed marketing opportunities around advertising that I didn’t explore. I haven’t had a lot of luck with advertising driving sales. However, I think if done properly, there may be ways to leverage advertising effectively, even for $0.99 games…I just haven’t figured it out yet.

4. Not Enough Levels in v1.0. During development I had to make a call about how many levels to include in the initial version of the game. I looked at the great games in the genre (e.g. Harbor Master, Flight Control, etc) and looked at how many levels each had shipped with, and decided to ship three levels. I also chose to limit myself to three levels at first because the game was already taking longer than I had expected. However, what I discovered is that people expect new games to contain as many levels as the other games do now, not how many they contained when they shipped. Some of the reviews of Monkeys in Space have mentioned that they would have liked to have seen more levels in the game. Since then I have released a fourth level as part of a free update and I hope to release more. Regardless, what I failed to realise is that the free update system for iPhone apps creates a different set of expectations in people’s minds. They don’t care that game X shipped with one level; what matters is that it has five now. This was an important lesson in competitive analysis for me.

5. Public Recruiting of Testers. I almost listed this in the “What Went Right” section as well, and it just barely squeaks into the “What Went Wrong” list. Very early in the process (much earlier than I’d ever considered before) I started asking people to play test the game and provide feedback. I put out a call on Twitter, on this blog, and in iPhone gaming forums, looking for people who wanted to play the game and provide some honest feedback about what did and didn’t work. The reason this should also be in the “What Went Right” is that I got some terrific people playing the game and providing me with insightful and helpful feedback. However, I also had a lot of people sign up, get the builds, and I’d never hear from them again. I think there is a small group of people who say they’ll beta test a game just to get a free game. The good news is that I’ve met enough great people that I now have a decent list of preferred testers I’ll ask first next time.


All in all, I’m extremely proud of Monkeys in Space. I think that I learned a lot from some of the mistakes I made with my first game, but I still made a few new mistakes. I suppose that’s all part of the process of becoming a better game designer, developer, and business person. What I like most about Monkeys in Space is seeing new players pick it up and to watch how easily they get involved with the game. I also love watching people laugh when the monkeys scream and wave their arms frantically. People seem to have fun with the game, and that makes me happy. To me, that alone makes the game successful.


We Live in the Future

Hello 2010! Every time someone mentions that it’s 2010 to me, I can’t help but thing “2010…but that’s the future!” According to Arthur C. Clarke we were supposed to be sending manned missions to Jupiter by this point. Besides, it just sounds like the future!

At any rate, since it’s the first day back at work after the holidays, I thought I’d take the time to write up a post looking back at 2009 and looking forward to what’s coming up in 2010. I know…big surprise, right? 😉

First, let’s take a look back at what 2009 held for Streaming Colour Studios:


In February, I released my first game as Streaming Colour Studios called Dapple for the iPhone and iPod touch. The game has had several updates made to it over the year and I was extremely pleased with how the game turned out. The game was received very positively by the game critic community. It didn’t sell as well as I had hoped it would, but I learned some hard and valuable lessons about the importance of marketing a product. One bit of nice news is that the game continues to sell a few copies a day nearly a year after its initial release, so that makes me happy. After nearly a year of sales, and a lot of perspective, I can honestly say that I think Dapple did well considering it was my first game.

Dapple Lite

In March I released a free version of Dapple that let players play 3 levels of the game and try it out. I believe that it helped sell a lot of copies of Dapple over the months, especially when the price of the game was over $1.99. At $1.99 and below, I question how much the lite version helps. I think at that price point a lot of purchases are impulse buys and having a free version available might actually take sales away from the full version. However, I don’t have enough data available to draw any real conclusions from this; it’s just a hypothesis.


In March I gave a talk at the first 360iDev conference in San Jose. I gave a talk on the processes and lessons I learned in creating Dapple. I think the talk was well received. The conference was amazing and was one of the best conferences I have ever attended.

App Treasures

At 360iDev, myself and a few other devs started talking about ways for indie developers to get more noticed and for ways to cross-promote our games. We started looking at what publishers do, but we didn’t like the limitations that working with a publisher can place on you. We decided to form an independent games label called App Treasures. Since its formation, we have grown to include 8 top independent developers and 20 games.


I was lucky enough to be able to attend WWDC this year. What an experience that was! I learned an incredible amount in the sessions and I met really amazing people at the parties. My wife and I then spent a week in San Francisco after the conference on vacation. I have to say, San Francisco is probably my favourite city I’ve been to in the U.S.

Mobile Developers and Designers of Toronto

Early in the year I decided that Toronto needed a meet-up for iPhone developers. I set a date and discovered that another local developer, James Eberhardt had had the same idea and called a meeting for the same night! We decided to roll the two meetings together into one bigger group that wasn’t iPhone focused, but rather mobile development focused. While I was in Toronto I really enjoyed being a part of that community.


In September my wife and I moved from Toronto to Guelph (a small city about an hour West of Toronto). Since I work out of my home, that meant that the business moved too. I still try to remain in contact with the Toronto dev community, but I’ve been trying to get a south-western Ontario developer meet-up going. The problem is that there are a lot fewer of us outside of Toronto. 🙂

A Chapter

Earlier in the year I was approached by Apress and asked if I’d be willing to write a chapter for one of their new iPhone books. I said I would, and I wrote a chapter called “You Go Squish Now! Debugging on the iPhone” which appeared in their “Advanced iPhone Projects” book. It was fun to write the chapter, and now I can add “author” to my list of credentials. 😉

Monkeys in Space

Finally, at the end of November I released my second game: Monkeys in Space: Escape to Banana Base Alpha. With my second game I tried to learn from a lot of my mistakes made around the Dapple launch and marketing strategy. I also tried to create a game that was much more accessible. I think I succeeded in creating a game that was much more easily played, but still had some depth to it. However, although I learned a lot on the marketing side of things, I still made one critical error: I accidentally released the game on American Thanksgiving. It was an honest mistake; it didn’t even occur to me that that’s what the date was. However, when I started sending out press releases, I started getting back “out of office” replies from review sites. Couple that with the fact that what seemed like 90% of the games on the App Store had a Black Friday sale, and the whole thing derailed my marketing plan.

However, what seemed at first like a failed launch had a turn-around. Good reviews started coming out for the game in the week following Thanksgiving. One of the big turning points was the Touch Arcade review of the game. Getting on the front page of Touch Arcade gave me a two day sales spike akin to being featured on the App Store! Then a week before Christmas, the game showed up in the Games -> What’s Hot lists on app stores around the world. The first week of being featured was great and helped boost the game’s rank in a lot of different countries. Because it wasn’t a front page feature, the boost wasn’t enough to get me into any Top Games or Top Paid Apps lists, but it was still great to see.

So I think it’s safe to say that 2009 ended on a high note for Streaming Colour Studios. 2009 was certainly an exciting year for my company, and for me personally. Running my own business has proven to be an extremely rewarding, and challenging, experience.

What’s coming up for 2010?


I missed the second conference in Denver because I was moving, but I’ll be in San Jose in April for the 3rd 360iDev conference, dagnabit! I’ll be giving another talk, and this one might be a little crazy. It’s called “Improv Prototyping” and I’ll be attempting to code a game prototype on stage based on audience suggestions…in one hour. I will also, at the same time, talk about the processes I use in my own games for rapid prototyping. If you can make it to San Jose in April, it’s going to be an incredible conference. 360 Conferences runs an amazing show and their prices are ridiculously low given the quality and quantity of presenters. And if you book soon, the prices are lower than if you book later. So go book a ticket!

Monkeys in Space

I do have some more level updates planned for Monkeys in Space, so stay tuned for more news on that.

More Games

My book of game ideas is bursting at the seams. In 2010 I’m looking at putting out at least 2 more games, and hopefully more. I have a bunch of small game ideas I’d like to build, but I’ve also been thinking about a much bigger game concept that I’d like to get to at some point. We’ll see if 2010 is the right year for that or not. I’ll still be doing iPhone stuff, but I’ve been thinking about taking on another platform or two. We’ll have to see things go.

South-Western Ontario iPhone Dev Meet-Up

I would really like to get a dev meet-up going for Guelph, Kitchener/Waterloo, Cambridge, London going. If you’re a local developer and are interested in meeting up once every month or two, please send me an email and let me know:

It looks like 2010 is going to be another exciting year for me and Streaming Colour Studios. Here’s hoping it’s a great year for us all!


Monkeys in Space 1.1

Apple approved the new update last night, which clocked in at about 60 hours. That’s record time! It was so fast that it caught me totally unprepared and had to scramble to get new screenshots up on the app store and on the website. At any rate, it’s live!

So if you already own the game, go update and grab the new level to enjoy over the holidays. And if you haven’t bought the game yet, it’s an even better deal now with 4 levels for only $0.99!!

Here’s a screenshot of the new level in action:

Monkeys in Space: Threes a Crowd

Monkeys in Space: Three's a Crowd

Happy Holidays!


Monkey News

I’ve been rather busy trying to get the word out about Monkeys in Space, so I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting the blog a little. However, today I have a few exciting tidbits to share with you…

First of all, I was pleasantly surprised to find Monkeys in Space featured on the App Store in Games -> What’s Hot this week! The feature is in every App Store I’ve checked (US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia), so it’s really exciting to see it out there. I’m not sure how Apple picks the features, but Monkeys has been getting some good press, and I’m sure the Touch Arcade review didn’t hurt.

Secondly, I submitted update v1.1 of Monkeys in Space to Apple for approval yesterday. The main new feature is a new level that will be part of the free update. Here’s a sneek peak at what’s new:

Have you mastered the first 3 levels that Monkeys in Space has to offer and are looking for a new challenge? Try the new level “Three’s a Crowd” which adds a third monkey to the mix! “Three’s a Crowd” features a new big blue baboon that must be docked in the new blue banana base. It’s more monkey fun than you can shake a banana at!

With the new level comes two new achievements specific to “Three’s a Crowd”!


  • Monkeys now panic when they’re too close to asteroids on the “Asteroids!” level.
  • If you unlocked a level before signing up for OpenFeint, v1.1 will now grant you the achievement you missed.
  • Updated to OpenFeint 2.3.1.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a speedy approval. I’d love to see the level out before Christmas, but I’m not sure what to expect with approval times anymore. I’ve been hearing from some developers that they’re much improved, so I hold out hope.

If I don’t get a chance to post again before Christmas, then Happy Holidays everyone! Here’s hoping you get the apps you want from Santa this year!