Yuckfu has been in the App Store for almost two month now and I got some good feedback from numerous people. The sales numbers however have been disappointing to say the least. The main problem was the lack of exposure.
When Yuckfu went live in the App Store, its release date was still set to the upload date a few days prior. Therefore the game appeared on page 6 of the "new Apps" in the AppStore – the chances of someone stumbling over the game without explicitly searching for it were pretty much zero. I also came to the sad conclusion that a price of $2.99 is much too high for a simple arcade game. I don't like this at all and I don't think this is a healthy state for the App Store to be in, but for now this is just how things work.
Getting my game reviewed was another challenge. Most bigger sites didn't respond to my emails, others required at least 3 promo codes to even consider reviewing. Some reviews were positive, while others failed to understand the concept of inertia - and I can't even blame them. Controlling a rocket powered robot isn't supposed to be easy. Learning to control the robot is the game, it's part of the challenge. It just takes some time to learn - time which most review sites simply don't have.
In the meantime I worked on the first update for Yuckfu, which has some minor UI improvements, but most importantly added the completely new Challenge Mode. This is something I thought of from the beginning – having pre-designed “container mazes” and spawn points. I also created some new animated backgrounds to have some more eye candy. One more advantage of the Challenge Mode is that the game now has a more shallow learning curve. The new version of Yuckfu (iTunes Link) is now available for only $0.99!
So, to gain some more exposure, I also decided to built a free “Lite” version of the game, which just cuts some of the levels from the Challenge Mode and the Highscore upload functionality. Let's see how this works out. Yuckfu Lite (iTunes Link) also made it's way to the App Store.
For some screenshots and more info head over to yuckfu.net.
Finally, Yuckfu is in (closed) beta! I managed to include all the features I initially had planned. This includes the online Highscore table and replays, original music, several background animations and tons of polish. I have to say, it worked out far better than I could ever have imagined. The game looks, feels and also sounds great.
So right now I have some friends testing the game, while I iron out the last bugs. I’ll probably submit it to Apple before the end of the week. I’m also working on a trailer and a minisite for the game, so there's still some stuff to do.
I also have a lot more technical details to share, but this will have to wait until after the game is released. First things first.
It has been a while since my last update on my iPhone game. I haven’t had much time in the previous month to work on Yuckfu, but development is now on full speed again!
As you can see, I refined the graphics quite a bit. The edges of the playing area are now colored to make it clearer where your robot is and where the walls are. I also added the effect for spawning containers which looks great in motion. It’s actually a real 3D model with a rotating spiral.
For the HUD, I wanted a clean and simple solution that is showing only the information you really need. I ended up with mainly two elements: the score on the left, your energy on the right. As your energy is decreasing over time, the energy bar tells you at a glance how much you’ve got left. The four little boxes next to the score shows the “multiplier”. If you collect several containers in a row your multiplier increases and you get more points.
In my last post I said I’d add some exhaust streams to my robot. I also said I’d use particles for that. Well, I didn’t. I spent several hours trying to get it right, but it always looked like my robot’s taking a bubble bath instead of riding on a powerful jet engine. I ended up using a single alpha blended sprite for each of the streams. This may sound cheap but actually looks really good.
As you will see in the following video, I did use particles for another effect: the huge explosion you’ll face every time you loose. Since there really is no way to “win” this game, I at least wanted to make the Game Over as visually appealing as possible. I also added a start animation – the robot now launches like a real rocket from a girder that is disconnected just after the engines have warmed up.
This video shows the game in its current state – it is by no means final. There’s still a lot of stuff missing: a properly designed HUD, effects when crates are collected or new ones spawn and of course: sound! I can’t really talk about sound yet, because I haven’t done anything so far. The only thing I can tell you is that Yuckfu will have sound and music. Hopefully.
Read on for some more in depth (and embarrassing) game developer geekery.
Finally something to write again! I remade the background graphics for my iPhone game, because the old ones didn’t fit too well (flying around with a spaceship in cave?), were never meant to be textured and thus looked unfinished. It was not an easy task. My motivation was at an all time low, because I had to throw away much of my previous work. After two unsuccessful attempts I was eventually happy with what I saw – and I really think it was worth it.
I’ll show you a screenshot of how the game looks like in a minute, but let’s start with something else: The main character. Yes, it’s a character now. Not a lifeless, boring spaceship anymore. Well, ok, it’s a robot – but a cute one! I blame WALL·E. I actually tried to mimic WALL·E’s eyes in my sketch, but failed. The rest, however, worked out quite nicely.
A Google search about cute robots was enough to gather my ideas for a new face. I finished the model in an hour or two, but then spent much more time on texturing, than I did on modeling. As you can see, the texture is quite saturated. I tried to really make him stand out from the background and also wasted my time with details no one will notice in the game. If you know what the number on his body stands for, get yourself a cookie (and a life)!
The background now resembles some sort of space hangar. If you look closely, you can find some influences of 2001 and Star Wars in my 3D model. Modeling and texturing this thing was a real pain. Everything had to fit. I didn’t have the freedom I had with the cave background, where it didn’t matter if the texture was off by some pixels, or one polygon was a bit larger than the next one – after all it was an organic structure. A hangar is not.
The large gate in the background actually opens during the game. Just to make it look more interesting and reward the player. It has no influence on the gameplay itself.
I also textured the crates with some photos of standard shipping containers. They come in four different colors, from red to blue, depending on how many you collected in a row. It looks really nice, when then screen gets slowly filled with these colors. It seems I’m not the firstone discovering the beauty of shipping containers.
Next up: Particle effects – flying a jet powered robot without seeing any streams is no fun.
I spent the past few days to create the main graphics for my game. After lots of trail and error, I was quite happy with the flat shaded cave I had created (topmost picture). It did not look realistic in any way, but rather computer generated – which is, as I said earlier, probably not something everyone can enjoy. However, the flat shading worked really nice with the dynamic OpenGL lighting (quite a complicated topic of it’s own), which gives the whole scene some more atmosphere.
When yesterday a friend saw some screenshots of the game, he told me that it looked all well and nice and then asked a very innocent question: “How will you texture the background?” My response was of course “not at all” – I mean, it’s a flat shaded game, right? I turned out that he wasn’t the only one who thought that this flat shading was just an intermediate step towards the final look.
I was initially opposed to using textures at all, but after some discussing, I decided to give a shot. I unwrapped the whole scene in Wings3D and used Photoshop to slap some colors and textures on it. The second and third screenshot are the results. One with a more comical approach, the other with realistic textures. To be honest – after all this I’m not very satisfied with either one. I don’t even like the flat shading anymore.
Another friend asked me today, why the game is set in this cave in the first place. Wouldn’t it make more sense if you’d collect these boxes in some sort of space hangar? Well, yes… yes actually it would. I’m not sure why I didn’t loose a thought about the overall scenery at all. I just blindly took the very vague cave look from the original game without ever questioning it.
So, I guess I’ll start anew with the background graphics. At least I’m now quite comfortable with Wings3D. It’s a good thing I don’t have a publisher in my neck. Wish me luck!
After my last post I read a bit more about displaying text with OpenGL. One of the more popular solutions is to have a single texture containing all (ASCII) characters of a font. As it turned out, there are several applications to build such a texture for you. Bitmap Font Builder is one of them. It looks a bit clunky, but gets the job done nicely – and it’s free!
Here’s a quick test I did with the Helvetica typeface. I exported the texture as a transparent PNG file, cropped it and added a simple drop shadow effect in Photoshop. For now, I only used the upper case letters. I’ll probably come back later and export the full set of Latin-1 characters.