Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas blog post

Hi everyone, long time no blog! I've been meaning to do a writeup about our current situation for a while, but just haven't had the time or energy to do so. Now that the holiday season is approaching and things come to a stop for a couple of weeks in Finland I decided to write something.

Choppa postmortem

As it happens 2016 was the year we finally "made it" as game developers and launched our first hit game (Choppa) with over 2 million(!) downloads to date - a number that's hard to comprehend. My last blog entry is dated 31st March 2016 which means it's about three weeks before we launched Choppa on iOS & Android so I had no idea what would happen very soon. Choppa was launched April 21st 2016 during Apple's "Apps for Earth" campaign which we had no knowledge of. We of course immediately thought the game was not going to be featured anywhere because of the prominent earth stuff. Boy were we wrong and we got a "Best new games" feature from Apple in 30 countries, including USA and China. Bigger publishers had been warned about "Apps for Earth" so we got a good slot and for some reason Choppa performed a lot better than the other, more prominently featured free games that week. We got 600 000 downloads and we're #1 iPad Arcade game in many countries, including the US. If I remember correctly we also broke into the top-10 arcade games on iPhone, which is awesome considering the amount of daily downloads you need to get to be there. In a nutshell Choppa was a hit, it made some money, it has had a long lifecycle for such a tiny game (every update we've made except one has been featured in one way or another by Apple). Everything went better than expected.

Other platforms

High from the success of Choppa we also put the game on Steam Greenlight (and got through!) and we also developed an Apple TV version that has also been very well received by players since it's launch on November, 17th 2016. Steam version is still under construction, mostly because of the big changes we need to consider for not being able to monetize the game with ads and in-app purchases. We want to make a good game, not "just a crappy mobile port".

What next?

As Ville has been doing contract work for the last 6 months we've been in a kind of a standstill with creating cool updates and improvements to Choppa and so on. Our next goal is clear though: we want to start working on our next game as soon as possible! As we're completely self-funded we need to consider the time it will take to create it and plan and scope it properly so we don't run out of funds in the middle of development. It's no problem for us to do contract work for a while but we've already witnessed that it's not an optimal solution because it forces one of us to run the company by himself and as the other one doesn't have the energy to work on the game it slows things down so much it's almost a living nightmare. We're also notoriously slow at making games anyway so good planning is key. We hope to be able to shed some light to our future projects soon!


I also want to take this time to thank everyone in the Finnish indie scene for the overwhelming amount of support, advice and encouragement we've received since we started. We couldn't have done this without you and I'm completely serious. We've learned so much stuff we couldn't have otherwise without your help. We've also met so many cool people from all around the world since we started and we're super thankful for that. We've been very budget conscious before so we've only traveled around Finland but our goal for the next couple of years is to be able to attend conferences outside Finland too and meet with even more cool people. You're all awesome!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Parta Games!

God bless you, Antti Kolehmainen, Co-Founder

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What has become of Choppa?

As you may know, 'Choppa' is our second game under the name of Parta Games and we've been quite busy preparing it for a global launch. We had a great beta testing phase and managed to soft launch the title in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Finland already. The feedback has been mostly very positive so we're really psyched and humbled about the whole pre-launch buzz! We've also been quite surprised about the attention the game has gotten in countries we haven't even officially gone yet like China and Russia. Hopefully we get to officially launch there very soon!

I'm glad to say that the game is now feature complete. We're currently contacting people about the impeding launch (sorry, no public date yet) preparing press information, trailers and stuff like that. Exciting times for sure!

Artistic vision

We didn't really think about having a proper "artistic vision" when creating the game but at some point we realised we had one. We were inspired by the great action movies of the 80s like Top Gun, Predator or Rambo and as you might remember they were usually pretty violent. We wanted the theme and the feeling and the explosions but we didn't want to make a game about killing. So we decided to use a prototype of a chopper game we had that made you rescue people instead of shooting them and combine it with 80s rock music, Amiga-esque pixel art and explosions. So in our mind the game is kind of like MacGyver of video games where you don't need to resort to violence to save the day but you're still the coolest guy there is.

When we were showcasing the game some people pointed out that the game is a lot like the old classic 'Choplifter' and they were not wrong. It's just that we didn't even know 'Choplifter' exists so the similarities probably come from some games that are in turn inspired by it. It's a funny world.

Development and openness

So we initially talked about making Parta Games' game development a bit more open. We wanted to livestream the making of prototypes, how the game is starting to shape up, discuss about the very organic decision making process we have and stuff like that. At some point we realized we don't have the required skills and time for streaming so we had trouble finding the motivation. I have a bit of streaming experience but when you constantly feel busy it's almost impossible to see the benefits in mobile game development streams. I'm not saying they wouldn't have been beneficial but it's a bit late to dwell on that now.

What I'm trying to say is the main reason we didn't stream or make dev videos to YouTube is that our game design bloated yet and that induced busyness. Instead of making a short flappy bird-esque mobile experience we created a strange hybrid of: surprisingly-long-play-session plus tough-as-nails-highscore-system plus casual-but-configurable-experience. Toucharcade called the execution "interesting" so we'll have to see what the masses think about it.

We were initially also quite worried that someone would just outright steal the idea and since we are super slow at making games we were afraid that someone will beat us and launch the clone before us. In hindsight we were maybe a bit too early to be worried about things like that and also 'Choplifter' already existed so the idea was not that original. Live and learn.

What did we learn?

While making 'Choppa' we learned to use Unity3D a bit more effectively. We might have the courage to start calling ourselves proficient with it quite soon.

There are also lots of PR related lessons we have learned since 'Go! Go! Meatball' was launched last year. We still feel a bit uncomfortable with PR but we're learning. Bear with us!

We learned how to make trailers and videos without getting super angry at the tools. We haven't learned how to not get super angry at each other yet but we're getting there!

Ville always says that the best way we can learn is launch the game and see what happens and while I have launched many games and totally agree with it I'm still the one who usually wants to keep polishing the game until it cracks or just burts on fire from the friction. I just don't want the game to go out looking like crap or feeling broken because I'm so afraid if the FTUE is bad the game will be abandoned. I have realized my thinking is a bit outdated because mobile games currently are very iterative and especially soft launch can be used kind of like "Early access" in the PC side to tweak the game closer to what potential players like the most.

Anyways I hope I have the and energy to write a postmortem after we get some perspective from the global launch.

God bless you, Antti Kolehmainen, Co-Founder