Reflections Part 1 – Truck Trials

admin/ January 23, 2018/ Reflections

This post is part one of a three-part series reflecting on my two games I have released so far. Part two can be found here and part three here.

Truck Trials – A reflection

Truck Trials was my first game, it would be fair to say that when I started developing it I had rose glasses on, I expected it to be an instant success, in my head I had already started spending all the money I was going to make.

The Initial Idea

I have always enjoyed those brain contraption games like “The Incredible Machine” and “Crazy Machines”, but also knew that I wanted to learn how to program a physics based game. The physics games I enjoy the most are car games.  The initial idea for Truck Trials was to try and merge the two genres together, a car physics game where you had to use different pieces to solve a puzzle to be able to complete the level.

Development Stage

The development stage took me about 13 months from start to finish, this was an extreme learning curve as I had no idea how game mechanics worked. I was quite methodical in how I approached the problem and spent the first month or two just watching tutorials and things before I moved onto actual code.

During those 13 months I probably spent an average of 20 – 30 hours (or more) per week working on this project, that is quite a commitment when you have a full-time job (I am sure most indies have a similar story) and everything else going on.  Feature creep also meant that I had to continually learn new skills, for example, I decided that I wanted to implement a harpoon and figuring out how to do this with a flexible rope that wouldn’t pull apart at the joins took me over a month to code.

Marketing

I really didn’t do much marketing, as I mentioned earlier I thought my idea was amazing and downloads would just metaphorically fly off the shelf.  Like many devs I thought that marketing was something that you did once the game was finished, plus, I thought my idea was so cool that I didn’t want to share it until it was finished (I still think my idea was cool).

Once I finished coding my game I started looking around to see what my next steps should be and came across a checklist of things you should do when you release an app, this included (most of which cost money);

  • Promo video – I went big, found someone on Upworks
  • Landing page – Took me far too long, but I am happy with how it looks.
  • Press release – paid for someone on Upworks to write and distribute.
  • Emailing a bunch of review sites – quite a tedious process, probably emailed over 200 sites and got very few reviews (no big sites).
  • Attractive icon and main menu – quite happy with how these worked out.

The Good

  • Overall I enjoyed making Truck Trials, it was fun to take an idea go from paper to reality.
  • I enjoyed learning a whole lot of new skills.  I think that if I were to rewrite Truck Trials now I would be able to do it in a lot less time and my code would be a lot prettier.
  • The day I published it was quite a high.  I was and am quite proud of myself at being able to stick with a single project for so long.
  • The feeling of “now I am an app developer”. I think actually releasing an app helped me to validate all the time I had spent.
  • The promo video. I didn’t make it, but I was quite happy with the way it turned out.

The Bad

  • Watching the downloads trickle in (had no one told the app stores of my grand scheme?).
  • .. and as a result of this, spending WAY MORE than I earned. At the beginning I was checking my add revenue every few hours, I soon realized that this was not needed as it wasn’t changing that much.
  • It took way longer than I thought it would.  I originally planned to write a quick game to learn some new skills, however, I was a slave to feature creep and this resulted in the game taking much longer than I planned.  I also rewrote different sections of the code multiple times,  I would find a better way of doing something and felt obliged to make sure all of my code followed the same coding style, in hind site I think I would have been better served to learn the skill, but continue to move forward.

End Result

Financially speaking, not great…  All of the things above cost money (quite a bit for a poor indie), and as of the writing of this post I have made just under $40US (which I can’t transfer back to NZ because it will cost me $40 in transfer fees 🙂 ).

Beyond that however, I have found something that I really enjoyed, this was/is enough to drive me on to ‘rinse and repeat’ with lessons learned (hopefully).