We’ve learned a lot through the development of Mr. Snapz: Cookie Caper – but most important was settling on a definitive monetization strategy. The model you choose influences everything – from the game design, to the marketing campaign, to justifying the game as financially viable. Along our journey, we made two erroneous stops before we reached our final model for monetization. Our first option was the traditional method of selling the entire game as a premium experience. The trick with this model is choosing the right price for the game. By “right,” I mean the point where you’re making the maximum amount of money out of each purchase, while still attracting new players. Alternatively, we could sell the game at a lower price, but to more people. This method was chosen during my stint as a member of the start-up Villainous Software, LLC. Purchasing games outright was popular during the early period of the iOS App Store; however, it relies on amassing a large number of single purchases. That means to make a game viable, you need a lot of sales, which requires a lot of attention. Now we come to the same problem we encountered time and time again at Villainous: getting the game noticed. One positive aspect of this monetization method is that it requires no code implementation whatsoever. All you need to do is upload your game to the respective store and set the price point. The store takes its cut and that’s the end of it. No need for in-app purchases. Our second attempt revolved around selling expansions for the game. The first series of stages would be available for free and subsequent stages would be sold in-game for a nominal price. Exposure is still a dominating factor, but in this case, one is not limited to a single transaction. Every expansion provides a new opportunity for revenue. There are multiple flaws with this approach, the first being that players can experience the core game without spending a penny, whereas before that revenue was already in the bank. Secondly, even if the player likes the game, all the income comes from the expansions. The money spent on development for the first set of stages is distributed across the additional sets of stages. Thirdly, there must be a minimum amount of stages to attract the player and, at the same time, each expansion must be profitable to make it worth continuing. Finally, an in-game store must be implemented. Our third and final option was micro-transactions. The game remained free to install with expansions as free updates and all revenue is made with in-app purchases. The game is not ‘Pay to Win.’ The purchases are either for the player’s entertainment or to make the game a little easier to progress through. The player is able to either earn in-game currency through play or purchase add-ons and upgrades with real money. Of course, earning through play is much slower than purchasing in-game currency, but it allows everyone to enjoy those extra features however they like. The main positive factor is that there is (or can be) a multitude of purchase options. In addition to that, there are the options such as consumable or expiring items which must be repurchased for reuse. The problem of exposure and the extra work of implementing an in-game store exists for micro-transactions as well. In addition to those two difficulties, a certain amount of creativity is required to generate add-ons, items and upgrades that will encourage the player to spend real money without feeling cheap or manipulative. As you can see, Mr. Snapz: Cookie Caper?s monetization strategy has gone through several iterations, so I hope you learn from our mistakes and make sure you choose the appropriate method for your game.
Greetings One of the lessons learned early in the production process was not to wear every hat. Something very quickly became clear: it’s important to know when to hand off an assignment or task to a more skilled professional. Art, music and sound effects are obvious cases. But with Cookie Caper, the best example is really the level design. Designing the levels sounded simple to us before reaching that phase. However, once we arrived, it was another story entirely. Even using Tiled – a really great bpiece of software that did simplify the process a lot – coming up with more than two or three creative puzzle designs became a daunting and seemingly hopeless task. It was clear that I needed a person with more experience with this type of work. Ultimately, we hired a former co-worker of mine who worked on the Cartoon Network game, FusionFall. He was able to pump out the levels in a extremely efficient and timely manner. In addition to that, he included ideas we never considered, such as trapping enemies and taking advantage of players’ tendencies to travel right rather than left. Everything about his service was great. We believe the game is much better for hiring him. Although I focused on level design in this blog, we at Tiny Ogre Games remain of the mindset that outsourcing tasks that are outside our area of expertise is always the best approach. Time is a resource that is at least as valuable as money – but finding a balance between the two usually isn’t as tricky as one may think.
Hello again! Today I’d like to talk about our flagship game – Mr. Snapz: Cookie Caper. The inspiration behind the game, funnily enough, originates back to 1990 when I (John) first played Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle on the Nintendo Game Boy.
When we first set about designing Cookie Caper, it was a very different thing: a science-fiction puzzle platformer, rather than one set in a colourful candy-filled world.
But those memories of Crazy Castle kept coming back to me. Your mission in that game was to find all the carrots on each stage of the game. Obstacles included fellow Loony Toons characters, in addition to the stage itself being a maze. On the player’s side were objects that could remove the enemies from the game – dropping an anvil from a ledge onto Elmer Fudd, for example, in classic Loony Toon’s style.
Also on the player’s side were stairs and stairway halls. The stairs were just brick steps that lead to a higher level. The stairway hall allowed the player to disappear for a moment and re-enter the maze on the other level of the stairway. I remember really enjoying the strategic use on show here, since only some of the enemy AIs could use the stairway halls. The corollary to Cookie Caper is that Mr. Snapz is chasing down cookie pieces to make a whole cookie. He also has comedic enemies, mostly of confectionary nature.
But instead of the player being the source of humor, the villains in the game provide comedic antics. There’s something intrinsically funny about a giant lollipop biting off the head of a gingerbread man.
Another difference is that, in addition to the objective of collecting all the cookie pieces, there is a time factor. The pieces must be collected within a certain amount of time in order to pass to the next stage.
The stairs and stairway halls inspired the lifts and the teleporters in Cookie Caper. Both the lifts and the teleporters provide advantages and disadvantages to players. They can be a quick getaway or false lead – and there are much more interesting applications that I’ll leave for players to discover on their own. Thanks for reading – and stay tuned!
Hi all! Welcome to the Tiny Ogre Games development blog. Over the coming weeks and months we’re going to be sharing lots of insight, ideas, and general musings we’ve had over the course of our time running the studio – and perhaps even a little before that. It makes sense to start with introductions. Tiny Ogre Games is an independent video game studio based in Loganville, Georgia, in the United States. I’m John Mooney, and I founded the company with my good friend Michael Krussel, whom I met in college way back in 1997. We’ve been working together for ages, too – across three jobs and two states. My expertise has been in iOS development, while Michael’s main love is Android. Coming together to form a mobile studio across both platforms seemed to make a lot of sense. In fact, however, this isn’t the first time we’ve worked together at an indie studio. We previously worked together at Villainous Software, and in many ways Tiny Ogre is a reincarnation of that venture. We gained a lot of valuable experience at Villainous but our ambitions never quite matched with the practicalities of that studio. We’ve got new visions, and long-term goals now. We want to take our time with the games we create – ensuring each title is of the highest quality, rather than rushing straight to market. To our minds, this is a major pitfall of many mobile-focused studios, who churn out content at an incredible rate but never quite see the returns they hope for. Our plan is simple: focus on quality, and look to the future. Fingers crossed this will work! We’re self-funded, too. Right now, we’re both working full-time jobs and making our own games in our spare time. This isn’t the end goal, of course, and this blog is in many ways an opportunity to walk you all through the process of going from a small start-up to a bigger operation. Let’s hope the coming months and years will allow us to do that. We’re quietly confident. So, where are we right now? Currently there are two games in production. The Cookie Caper is a puzzle-platformer about candy. Because, well, why not? So many games are dreary and dull: we wanted to make something colorful, quirky, and a little bit silly. This is our main project right now but we also have another title, Tiny Ogre Slots, which is around 60% of the way through production too. What is Tiny Ogre Games, then? We’re a small studio with big ambitions. And, over the coming weeks and months, we hope to talk about these ambitions a little more. Thanks for joining us on this journey. Speak soon!