Riding the wave

Even with the launch done and dusted, we've had little to no time to relax. All thoughts of making Glyph Quest a fire-and-forget game have fallen by the wayside as it appears to be quite popular. There's still a very long way to go before we can even think about giving up this life of crime and actually paying the rent, but if the landlord was willing to accept feelings of gameplay satisfaction, we'd be sorted.

The response has been nothing short of amazing. Everyone who has played it seems to like it - even anonymous internet people who, let's face it, don't have the best reputation. Even when the game is a bit rough around the edges or even downright rude about getting you to part with your money, the people have been patient and understanding.

Best. New. Games. It says it right there
A few of my friends have blitzed their way through to the end game and then gone back to try and discover all of the monsters and spells. Looking back, I might have preferred to make the game a bit longer - even just by gating the quests a bit more rather than giving the player so much choice at each level, but on the whole I think it's okay. Leastways, I haven't heard from anyone complaining about the length or price so maybe we pitched it about right.

That doesn't mean to say that we haven't learned a great deal or wouldn't do stuff differently if we had our time again. Knowing, for example, that we had a couple of weeks longer than we thought we might before Sproglet's arrival could have helped with the polish. That and more devices to test on, although that in and of itself is a bit of a logistical challenge.

Becoming a featured app was simply stunning. We had no idea it was going to happen. It has raised an interesting problem where we find ourselves glued to stats pages or charts or review forums, hitting refresh like a deranged woodpecker. This has led to the odd sleepless night where all we want to do is see where we are in the charts or if another user review has come in.

Similarly, being named as Touch Arcade's Game Of The Week was an entirely unexpected turn up. I mean, this is a website that we've actually heard of and it seems like they like the game. That's not to say that the general internets don't have something to say about the whole thing*.

v1.03

I'm not sure how long this ride is going to last, but I'm going to try and make the most of it while I can. This means the crunch isn't over yet - I've got bugs to fix and features to implement.

I've fixed the text problems with iPhone 3 / 3GS as well as on the retina iPads. That is to say I think I've fixed them - there's still no way of knowing. Suffice to say it involves a spot of maths, so what's the worst that could happen?

I'm trying to put a layer in front of the mage license - a pop up that explains what it's about to charge you for when you tap on the booth. Part of it is giving me grief because it requires dabbling in the native code - a scary domain of curious syntax and types. Part of it is giving me grief in my own c#, which is much more believable if still hard to fix**.

I've also implemented Endless Mode - the game's infinite runner mode. You start out fighting level one monsters and they keep increasing in level and difficulty until you eventually die. You will eventually die as there's no visiting the shop and there are no loot items. A skilful player will be able to maximise his damage output and survive longer than most, but it's an attrition thing and even the best player will have to succumb eventually - especially since we've disabled the inventory for this mode.

Endless Mode features a score. In fact the scoring system is simplicity itself. You score points on a one-to-one basis with how much damage you inflict or health you recover. The reason it's so simple is that the complex stuff already happens in the combo / reversal / attunement system, so there's no reason to do it again.

With that in mind, I've also taken a stab at implementing the Game Center leaderboards. It seemed remarkably simple - Unity has a Social class which appears to handle everything I need - but it does raise a bit of a concern. If I just polled it for leaderboard data, and there were thousands of users, what would happen? Would the app just keel over? Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic problem to have, but for now I think I'll just filter it for friends. Besides, those are the leaderboards that people actually care about.

In the end, I think I've managed to sort it out and limit the range. The player has three options - Friends (which I believe is capped at the Game Center end anyway), My Score (which lists a number of scores either side of the player's position in the table) and Top Scores (which will be irrelevant to most people and clearly the target of many hax). If I get a bit more time, I might like to expand out the Friends stuff to display the next one up the list in game like Geometry Wars did. That's always a good little spur for competition***.

I tell you what has become a lot easier though - actually getting a correct build up and in to submission. Once everything is already set up and you know the process, it's really quite simple. Getting to that state is a bit tortuous and I'd be very interested to see if I can do that from scratch on a future project.

Results So Far

Again, one of the advantages of being so small is that we can be quite personal and, in some cases, very reactive. I try to respond to people's queries or any issues that arise on the forums and I think this helps smooth over the obvious cracks in the final game. I believe this personal approach is what is gaining us a small, yet vocal fanbase, eager to step in and put people on the correct path where Glyph Quest is concerned.

Another thing that has become glaringly apparent is the results of a backlash against IAPs. That is to say that people don't trust them and, unless you make it abundantly clear that what you're paying for is a one-time deal after which you're going to stop bugging them, they'll default to not buying. Even then, some people just have a blanket "I don't buy IAPs" rule.

We've had some Jolly Co-operation
As it stands, our conversion rate is running at about 5%, which is high for F2P but I think a bit low for try-before-you-buy. Okay, so the data I'm basing this on is derived from the old days of XBLA, where some titles would pull between 10-20% and it might just be that this is the norm for these days. We could easily have had a better conversion rate with the tweaks we've put in place for v1.03 but the key thing for me is that people are actually playing and enjoying it and not one person who has picked up the full game has come back and said they didn't think it was worth the money.

*They say you should never read the comments.
**Young Parker to the rescue. Again.
***Possible filter it so that it never displays any score from George Foot - it's just not worth it.

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