開發者談如何利用單一機制“電子玩具”在App Store取得成功

原作者:Matt Suckley 譯者:Willow Wu

很大程度上是由於現在移動市場的可持續自主發展已經越來越難了。

用戶獲取成本上升,巨頭公司大展拳腳,這都是很實際的問題。

但是,獨立開發者們並沒有放棄在這個平臺上繼續發佈精品。近幾年來,幾乎沒有哪個工作室可以比Frosty Pop Corps還高產。

這個位於(加拿大)不列顛哥倫比亞省的維多利亞市的遊戲工作室由獨立遊戲設計師Faisal Sethi創建,自2014年10月以來,已經發行了14款iOS遊戲(外加兩款tvOS移植遊戲,三款iMessage貼紙包)。

Monster Maker Mega Pack(from pocketgamer.biz)

Monster Maker Mega Pack(from pocketgamer.biz)

近期他們又發佈了新遊戲Puff——這遊戲的宣稱是Flappy Bird和Downwell的結合體。爲了進一步瞭解Sethi,探究他的開發途徑,聽他說說做一個獨立開發者是怎樣一種感覺,PocketGamer.biz邀請他進行了一場訪談。

PocketGamer.biz: 請簡單回顧一下你目前的遊戲開發經歷。

Faisal Sethi: 我在遊戲開發這個領域的經歷還是挺奇特的。

在Frosty Pop Corps成立之前,也就是2014年,我對於遊戲領域涉及最多的也就是偶爾玩一玩Uncharted,還有其他類似的遊戲,把它們調到最簡單的模式。

老實說,我不怎麼熱衷於嘗試當下流行的遊戲。

我之前已經在創意部門呆了挺長一段時間了,當過平面設計師、藝術總監還有印刷品、電子平臺產品、影片的創意總監。

我感覺遊戲就像是創意的簡單延伸和發展。

對我來說,製作遊戲就是簡單地把我的創意特長應用到某件事中——設計、音樂、寫作、解決問題等等。

我更喜歡被稱爲遊戲設計師而不是遊戲開發者,因爲我並不是程序員,我同時也是一個企業家。

實際上,我的第一個遊戲(就在Frosty Pop成立不久前)是Facebook平臺上的一款社交遊戲,Quiz Monsters。

那是個很可愛的遊戲,設計得像是Maurice Sendak的兒童讀物,但是也讓我認識到了一個無情的現實:這是一個藝術和商業並存的行業。這遊戲沒有收益。

你把你的作品描述成“設計精美的電子玩具”。這和你的遊戲開發方式有什麼關係嗎?

從表層上來看,我的遊戲都不復雜,很簡單,核心只有一種構思巧妙的機制,再加上無可挑剔的設計。

當我拿我的遊戲去跟那些很有深度,需要複雜思維的“超寫實”遊戲比較,我感覺我的遊戲就像玩具一樣,而且那些遊戲的背後還有龐大的團隊投入。

我的遊戲就跟我小時候玩的一樣簡單,我遵循着移動設備優先(mobile-first)的原則,意思就是在開始設計時,我就要充分考慮到移動設備的種類和功能,還有它本身的限制。

這樣也能激發出更多創意。我能從生活中的各種地方受到啓發——雜誌中某個我喜歡的字體,候車亭某個標誌所運用的色彩,閱讀時看到的某一段話。

一個簡單的遊戲可以從這些東西里汲取靈感,我希望這遊戲可以讓人們在早晨買咖啡時享受他們的排隊時間,或者是在一個下雨的週日早晨愜意地蜷縮在沙發中玩遊戲打發時間,或者是跟孩子一起。

我確實也有一些宏偉的想法,跟上面所說的完全不一樣的類型,希望在將來,我會和製作“電子玩具”時一樣,投入同樣的的精力實現它們。

你們發行遊戲的速度讓人佩服,2017年已經出了2個遊戲了。你們是怎麼實現這種發展速度的?數量要求是不是維持你們的工作室順利運作的要素之一?

我把開發工作全都外包了。這就能夠讓我順利地解決問題,繼續往前走或者是同一時間內快速地淘汰掉好幾個項目,根據不同進度計劃我的遊戲發佈時間。

我腦袋裏的主意很多,但是知道要怎麼下手的就沒那麼多了。好在豐富的創作經驗可以讓我快速地執行它們,把注意力都放在修改細節上。

這就是我擁有的“不公平”優勢。尋找資源——時間、金錢、開發者們,然後實現它們,這就是我的唯一要過的關卡。

數量是有幫助,但這並不是硬性要求。數量多的話就能在一定程度上減少風險——如果我的其中一個遊戲虧錢了,另一個就可以彌補。

數量多的話也能引發複利效應。每發佈一款新遊戲,我之前的那些遊戲就會得到一批新玩家。

比數量更重要的是質量。高效地創作出一批質量不怎麼樣的作品,即使它們很賺錢,但對我來說這個過程毫無價值。

如果一個遊戲在我個人看來並不是滿意之作,那我寧願承擔損失把它拋棄掉,也不願意讓它流入市場。(等我申請破產的時候再問我這個問題看看)。

在2017的移動行業背景下,當個獨行的獨立開發者是什麼感覺?感覺更艱難了嗎?或者你覺得“獨立遊戲大災難(indiepocalypse)”這個詞太誇張了?

作爲一個不起眼的獨立遊戲開發者,我認爲沒有比現在這個時代更有利於製作遊戲了,但是要(持續)收益是更困難了。

現在的移動市場被某些遊戲滲透了,它們爭先恐後地想要引起玩家的注意力,而這羣玩家大多數都改變了觀念,他們認爲遊戲(可能甚至包括音樂、電影、藝術)應該是不要錢的。

實際意義就是這種商業模式並不不好。我真的算是一個走運的人,但是我一直都沒有注意到。

App Store重點推薦了我的遊戲,所以我的用戶獲取成本非常低。這樣一來,保本對我來說就變成了一件比較容易的事,甚至還能轉爲盈利。我對這此非常感激。

給那些有所抱負的遊戲開發者們一句忠告:眼巴巴地盼着App Store推薦你的遊戲也不是一種明智的商業模式。

你的作品已經被蘋果推薦了27次。那麼對於小型開發團隊來說,遊戲熱不熱門還重要嗎?還有,這是你爲什麼不爲安卓設備開發遊戲的原因嗎?

我得說清楚,我是被推薦了27次,但是有些遊戲是被重複推薦的(在不同類別,用不同的推廣方式)。

我之前發佈的16款遊戲都有被最佳新遊戲(Best New Games)板塊推薦,在世界各地的很多國家都可以看到。

App Store的推薦是我成功的關鍵因素之一,對於小型開發團隊來說也是挺重要的,你的手頭的資源有限,但是App Store的推薦可以幫助你獲得人氣。

即使你的資金並不充裕,也沒有強大的人脈關係,App Store推薦也可能讓你的遊戲成爲佼佼者。這絕對不是什麼不爲人知的祕密。

總的來說,我放棄安卓平臺並不是因爲App Store推薦。

這原因其實是跟商業方面有關:我的資源是有限的,如果要返回遊戲再開發一個安卓版本的,那麼我的收益將會變得少之又少。

就是很簡單的原因,安卓遊戲對我來說性價比不高。更不用說你還要應對麻煩的隱私問題、多種分辨率的適配,或者是另外一個平臺的用戶服務問題。

我沒有時間,也沒有金錢去認認真真地把它做好。

雖然我知道安卓市場很大,能獲得一筆可觀的收益(我有一臺Nexus 5備用)。

近期我跟一位中國發行商達成了交易,計劃把我的其中一些遊戲移植到安卓平臺上。這就減少了我上面提到的那些麻煩。

你覺得iMessage貼紙是掙錢的好辦法嗎?從你的經驗來看,你覺得消費者們會更願意把錢花在買貼紙而不是付費遊戲上嗎?

我確實理解消費者們更傾向於把辛苦錢拿去買貼紙而不是買付費遊戲。這真的是個不爲人知的祕密。

整個生態環境對我來說都很陌生(大概是Snapchat這一代的新APP)。我認爲比起玩家來說,這一消費羣體還是相對比較少。

Monster Maker Mega Pack的截圖

但是iMessage貼紙又是一個複合效應的優秀例子。

貼紙不需要成爲穩定的收益來源,但是小小的投入就能獲得用戶的關注。

iMessage貼紙本身就帶有社交性,因此當用戶下載、分享之後,其實也就在間接地推廣我的品牌、我的遊戲。

再加上做貼紙也是一件很有趣的事情。

你近期發佈的遊戲,Puff,製作它的時候有什麼想法嗎?開發過程有多久?你對這遊戲有什麼期盼?

要是Flappy Bird和Downwell生了一個孩子,天天就喜歡晃來晃去,還喜歡dubstep音樂呢?從根本上來講,Puff就是我對這個問題所給出的答案。

這就是個開頭,遊戲玩法和主角的運動方式(最終決定是左右射擊)有了雛形。

小時候玩老遊戲的經歷結合靈感素材,我把目光鎖定在簡單、畫面粗糙的像素風格上。關於色彩我只也選了區區幾種,爲畫面增添美感,也爲遊戲增加氛圍。

迄今爲止的反饋都是一片好評。

從概念萌生到最終測試版本發行,完成Puff總共用了6周時間。不管你是不是經常玩遊戲,我希望這種復古街機遊戲風格能讓每個人都情不自禁地嘴角上揚。

正在閱讀這篇文章的人,如果你們知道哪位先生或者女士在Puff中得到了232,113分,請給他/她一個大大的擁抱,在兩邊臉頰都親親。

太厲害了,值得嘉獎。

Frosty Pop Corps接下來還有什麼值得期待的動作嗎?

這個嘛,爲了將腦中的各種創意、瘋狂想法在遊戲中實現,以及再次證明我的靈感可以來自生活的各個角落,我目前正在製作:

一款和武士有關的遊戲(Cloak & Dagger)

一款不會死的射擊遊戲(Boomstick!)

一款內含10000+謎題和數學思維的解謎遊戲(rvlvr.)

還有對我的遊戲Teeter進行一次大更新(順帶一說,我覺得這是我的得意之作)。

更新Teeter和發佈rvlvr.可能會同步進行,在三月末或者四月初大家應該就能看到了。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Much is made of the growing difficulty of sustainable independent development on mobile.

With user acquisition costs growing and major companies flexing their muscles, it’s a valid concern.

However, indies continue to produce impressive work on the platform, and few have been more prolific in recent years than The Frosty Pop Corps.

That’s the banner under which lone Victoria, BC-based game designer Faisal Sethi operates, churning out 14 iOS games (plus two tvOS ports and three iMessage Sticker packs) since October 2014.

Following the launch of his latest game Puff – billed as Flappy Bird meets Downwell – PocketGamer.biz reached out to learn more about Sethi, his approach to development and what it’s like being a one-man indie in 2017.

PocketGamer.biz: Please give us a brief overview of your career in game development so far.

Faisal Sethi: My practical experience in game development is still quite novel.

Prior to founding The Frosty Pop Corps in 2014, most of my involvement in the games industry was limited to the infrequent play of Uncharted, and games of a similar ilk, set on the easiest mode possible.

Truth be told, I’m not much of a contemporary gamer.

I’ve been in the creative sector for quite some time though, professionally as a Graphic Designer, Art Director and Creative Director in print, digital and film.

I feel like games are a simple extension and progression for me creatively.

For me, making a game combines many of my creative proficiencies into a singular experience – design, music, writing, problem solving and so on.

I much prefer to be called a Game Designer than a Game Developer – I am not a coder. I am also an entrepreneur.

Actually, my first game (this was just before I founded Frosty Pop) was a social game on Facebook called Quiz Monsters.

It was a lovely game designed to look like the pages of a Maurice Sendak children’s book, and provided me with an unforgiving realisation: this is an industry of both art and commerce. It made no money.

You describe your work as “beautifully designed digital toys”. What does this say about your approach to game development?

On a surface level, the complexity of my games is largely elementary, focused on a single, clever mechanic and impeccable design.

When I compare my games with the impressive amount of thought and depth that goes into making “real” games – the scale of some games and the large(r) teams behind them – comparatively, my games feel more like toys to me.

My games are simple like the ones I played with as a young boy, and mobile-first in the sense that I am contemplating the form and function of a mobile device and its inherent limitations when I start the design process.

This also opens up a lot of creative possibilities for me. I see inspiration for games everywhere – a font I might like in a magazine, the color palette of a sign in a bus shelter, a paragraph in a story I am reading.

All of these can inspire the idea of a simple game that I hope someone can enjoy standing in line waiting for their morning coffee at a local café, or curled up on a couch passing time on a rainy Sunday morning alone or with kids.

I do have a few epic ideas in me that are outside of the moderate scope described above, and in time, I hope to be able to bring them to life with the same vigour and attention to detail as my “digital toys”.

The speed of your output is impressive, having launched two games already in 2017. How do you approach this pace of development, and is volume required to make your business sustainable?

I outsource all of my development. This allows me to manage, move forward, or quickly discard multiple projects in parallel, and plan my release schedule accordingly.

I have more ideas than I know what to do with. The depth and breadth of my personal creative experience allows me to execute on them swiftly, and with a keen attention to refined details.

This is my unfair advantage. Finding the resources – time, money, developers – to bring them into fruition are my only limitations of significance.

Volume is helpful, but not required. Having volume mitigates the risk of loss to a certain degree – if one of my games loses money, another will make up for it.

Volume also affords the effects of compounding interest. With each new release, my back catalogue of games sees an influx of new players.

More important than volume is quality. Creating a bunch of mediocre products with efficiency, even if they make money, is not a rewarding process for me.

If the game is not at a level I am comfortable with on a personal level, I’d rather take a loss and trash it than put it out into the wild (ask me this question again when I’m filing for bankruptcy).

What is it like being a lone independent developer on mobile in 2017? Has it got harder, or is the so-called ‘indiepocalypse’ exaggerated?

As a small, independent game developer, I believe it is easier now than ever to make games, but more difficult to make (sustainable) income.

The mobile market is saturated with games vying for the mindshare of the gaming populace, a populace that has generally shifted to an expectation that games (perhaps even music, movies, art) should be free.

In a practical sense, this is not a great business model. I am truly one of the lucky ones, and this is not lost on me on a daily basis.

My games have been featured in the App Store, so my user acquisition costs are minimal. This makes it much easier to break even or turn a profit. It’s something I am super grateful for.

A word of warning to aspiring game developers: hoping to get a feature in the App Store is not a sound business model, either.

You’ve been featured by Apple 27 times. Does this remain crucial for smaller developers to gain traction, and is this a factor in your decision not to develop for Android?

I want to qualify, I have been featured 27 times, some games multiple times (in different categories and promotions).

My last 16 releases in row have been featured in the Best New Games category (among others) in various countries around the world.

The App Store features have been critical to my success and can be important for smaller developers, with limited resources, to gain traction.

The exposure an App Store feature provides for an independent game is impossible to match without a significant amount of fiscal resources and/or industry connections. Not a revelation, by any means.

Being featured by Apple is not a factor in my decision to forego Android development, in general.

The reasons are commerce-focused: my resources are limited and the return on investment for creating an Android version of my games is minimal at best.

Android games simply do not generate enough revenue for me to justify their cost. Never mind having to deal with rampant piracy, seemingly dozens of screen resolutions, or another platform to support on the customer service tip.

I just don’t have the time or money to do it correctly and with sincerity.

I do think the Android market is large enough to warrant consideration, though (and I have a Nexus 5, just in case).

Recently, I signed a deal with a Chinese publisher to bring some of my titles to Android devices. This helps alleviate many of the issues I mentioned above.

Have you found iMessage stickers to be a good revenue stream? In your experience, are consumers more willing to pay for them than premium games?

I do get the sense that consumers are more agreeable to parting with their hard-earned-cash-money for stickers than premium games. Quite a revelation, really.

An entire ecosystem completely foreign to me (the Snapchat generation, I suspect). As a qualification, I think it’s still a comparatively smaller group of consumers than gamers, though.

Screens from Monster Maker Mega Pack

But iMessage stickers are another good example of the compounding effect.

They are not necessarily a good revenue stream, but they are another way to capture the mindshare of an audience with minimal additional investment.

iMessage Stickers are inherently social and therefore implicitly promote my brand and games when they are downloaded and shared.

Plus, they are fun to make.

What was the thinking behind your most recent game, Puff, and how long did it take to develop? What are your hopes for it?

At its root, Puff is my attempt at answering a benign question of little international significance: What if Flappy Bird and Downwell had a love child with the shakes and a penchant for dubstep?

Using that as a starting point, the gameplay and principal movement of the protagonist (as a consequence of shooting left or right) began to take shape.

Taking a cue from my childhood retro-gaming experiences and inspirational source material, I fixated on simple, chunky pixel art and a limited color palette as an aesthetic choice for the look and feel of the game.

The feedback thus far is overwhelmingly positive.

From conception to release candidate, Puff took about 6 weeks to complete, and my hope is the game provides gamers and non-gamers alike with a burst of a nostalgic arcade action that will inevitably make their faces dissolve into an uncontrollable grin.

If anyone reading this knows the gentleman or woman that scored 232,113 in Puff, please give them a well deserving bear hug, and kisses on both left and right cheeks.

Incredible.

What can we expect next from The Frosty Pop Corps?

Well, to exemplify the creative, schizophrenic mind at work – and perhaps reiterate that my inspiration comes from myriad sources – I am currently working on…

A samurai game (Cloak & Dagger)

An undead shoot ‘em up (Boomstick!)

A puzzle game with over 10,000 puzzles and counting (rvlvr.)

And a major update to my game Teeter (which incidentally, I feel is my best game).

The update for Teeter and my puzzle game rvlvr will likely be released in tandem, and should be out at the end of March or early April.(source:pocketgamer.biz