What comes next…

To celebrate five years of Pirates and Traders, the Gold! version is on 60% sale for the rest of the week on Google Play.

I had hoped to be able to announce the Beta of Pirates and Traders 2 this week, but alas – it is not to be. Easter had me down with the flu for most of two weeks, and with alternate members of my family being ill both before and after, the past month has been rather unproductive with respect to development work. So sadly, the beta of Pirates and Traders 2 is still in the future. I still hope to get this done before the summer holidays, though.

 

Five Years of Pirates and Traders

pt_3According to my records, Pirates and Traders is exactly five years old today.

I started work on Pirates and Traders almost immediately after having released my first game – “A Brief History of Rome” – on the Android market on January 30, 2010. I wanted to do another historical game, because historical games are what I enjoy, but I didn’t want to do another war/4X game just yet. At the time, I played around with two ideas: either doing a trading/piracy game or doing a role-playing game set in Roman times – think something like Nethergate, but more heavily based in history (I’m a Roman history nut), and set on the Roman-Sassanid border. Sanity won out though. I had leave at the time, and knew that I needed to finish something playable during the few months off from work if I were to publish it.

The development of the first version of the game took about two and a half months. I was taking care of my first kid, but he was pretty easy at the time, so I was able to work long hours during the day while he slept, in addition to evenings. I’ve probably never worked as concentratedly on any of my game project either before or since. The game released the game on April 21, 2010.

That was five years ago, Pirates and Traders didn’t make me any real money at first, since – living in Norway – I could not sell the app on the Android Market. But the game gained enough of a following that the ad income actually became noticeable, and all the feedback I received compelled me to work more on the game. Eventually, the ad income accumulated to the point where I felt that it would be worthwhile to spend money on an art upgrade.

pt_4Around the same time (sometime in 2011, IIRC), Google opened up for paid apps in Norway. At this time, I made a mistake: I released the paid app, with a promise that the income from sales would be used to upgrade the game’s art and music. This was a mistake because – by the time the new version (2.0) of Pirates and Traders was ready to release, it was a significant remake. It had a different skill system, new stories, in addition to new art and music – Pirates and Traders version 2.0 was essentially a sequel to the original. However, I don’t run from my promises, and thus the game was released as an upgrade to the existing app.

This was a disaster. Savegame incompatibilities meant that many people experienced trouble upgrading, and it took almost a month before I had all those problems sorted out. In addition, many people found the new version inferior to the old one; they loved the simplicity of the Sld versions of the game for those people). I – of course – also lost money on the decision, although that was less of a concern to me. All in all, it would probably have been a better decision to simply have released the current version of the game as Pirates and Traders II back then. I suspect most of you would have forgiven me.

Five years.

More than 800,000 downloads, but obviously this has slowed down significantly in the past years. I guess it will never hit that million, which would have been cool – but I can’t complain. The active player population today is around 7-8%. This is to be expected on a free app, though. Lots of people download the game and delete it later – and that trend is of course marked for such an old app.

Revenue on the game has been respectable, but never close to the level where I would have been tempted to go full-time. If I built 5-6 games which brought in the same level of revenue as Pirates and Traders in parallel, perhaps… but as Daniel Cook discusses in his article on sustainable development, game dev is a hit-driven industry, and one should expect several flops for every success. I prefer to live without that stress.

pt_2Around 70,000 lines of Java code and 25000 lines of comments.. Considering that I rewrote the game almost completely for version 2.0, I’ve probably written around double that amount of code over the lifetime of the app.

Almost 75,000 words of narrative text, which is about the size of an average novel. Shout out to Stuart Lloyd, with whom I co-wrote the three major quests in the game.

Finally, thanks to all of you, the fans. Without you, this journey wouldn’t have been possible.

Taxing week

Have I mentioned how much I hate doing taxes? Oh, I did? Ok, nothing to see here.

Apart from dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on paperwork, this week has been spent on fixing stuff in the story script engine. That seems to be done, now, so I’m starting to move on to other tasks. I’m still thinking of releasing a small app for writing Story Script modules in, but I’m not quite done testing it yet, but I’ll be playing around a little with it during the week, and if it seems solid, I’ll probably make it available for anyone who feels like beta testing it. Secondly, I’ve started working on the core Pirates and Traders 2 code itself.

Unfortunately, nothing that is worth taking screenshots of yet, but as soon as I have something, I’ll post them. Currently, I’m working on the Character Status view, which has a number of interesting issues. I’ve previously written about my intent to set up more “permanent” relations for the player; i.e., characters that you’ve interacted with a lot should “remember” you, but for that to work, there needs to be some very clear feedback mechanisms in place in-game. After all, it is not reasonable to expect that a player can remember that the Comte Domingo de Viamonte is really, really pissed at them – this information needs to be available easily. I’m still thinking on how to represent it in the story dialogues/scripts, but in the status window, my plan is currently to create a social map (i.e., sort of a wheel with the player in the middle, and the color of the spokes indicating the relationship between PC and NPC). I intend to build something similar for the in-game factions (as suggested by a couple of people for the game before).

Working on the status views will probably take the rest of the week (at least), but once that’s done the game should be closing in on “playable”.

 

 

Story Writing and other things

Apologies for the long time without a word, guys. Basically, things are still extremely hectic in my private life after the move, and I’ve had way too much to do at work as well. Interesting stuff, mind you, but it’s also meant that I’ve spent way too many evenings lately working on… work… rather than working on code for my games. Sometimes that’s just how things go.

I’m still working on the narrative engine; mostly fixing bugs and writing out a small story that tends to continually break the story engine (Ashton has helped with that too…). The new storyscript is a lot more compact, but rewriting everything and adding new functionality has also allowed me to add all new bugs to the mix. Hopefully I’ll be able to stamp the last one’s out soon.

If I succeed with that, I am considering releasing a small app that can translate stories written in the new StoryScript, and present them as simple “choose your own adventures”. The app already exists (it’s my test engine, which Ashton also uses to test story scripts for Dwarf King) so it’s not a lot of work to also release it. I know there are some of you who like writing a bit, so why not? It would be a free app, of course (I might add a few example stories, but there wouldn’t be much of a game there, unless someone takes the time to write something more extensive for it).

When I’ve finished fixing the story code, I plan to work on a beta release of Pirates and Traders 2. I also have a plan to release a bug fix release of Pirates and Traders (including some fixes that will make the game more accessible to blind players). I’m hoping I’ll get something done about that during March.

Thanks for your support.

 

New Year 2015

Happy New Year.

As mentioned in the last post of 2014, the end of that year had me in the process of moving home – a process that takes a while. That process is still not finished (indeed, one can only speculate about when it might be), but it has reached the point where I once again have my evenings free to work on my various projects – such as MicaByte. So if you have been waiting for a reply from me on some subject, you should soon receive it; if you haven’t heard from me before the end of the week, please ping me again.

Apart from that, I’m just getting back up to speed on development work. Current focus is working on the narrative engine and converting stories from the old script system to the new one.

And I’ll try to start blogging/posting more frequently again. Until next time.

 

Comments back on…

As you may have noticed if you’ve visited here once in a while, I’ve turned comments back on for the blog. I turned it off some years ago, due to the amount of spam that it generated and since the forum more or less filled the need for somewhere to discuss. Now that I’ve closed down the forum, I’ve turned on the comments field again, so that people who do not like to use Facebook, have an alternative to contact/comment on my games. Comments are powered by Disqus, though, as I didn’t want to go back to the fully manual spam removal of the past.

Anyway, if you have comments, feel free to state them here, on Twitter, or on the Facebook page. I rarely have the time to respond right away, but I do always (try) to respond.