Update from the Nebula

Yesterday, I spent 14 hours implementing two new features in my iPhone game, Nebula Rescue. One is a statistics screen, where you can track your averages and totals, and secondly a series of 20 achievements that can be unlocked while playing the game.

This is the first update to Nebula Rescue since its launch back in spring, and though I’m very excited about it, I’m not expecting a bump in sales for my efforts.

Designing games has taught me many things, among them that competition is insane in the marketplace – my other apps far outsell the game, in spite of being much simpler in nature.

Without proper marketing and a good deal of luck, indie games from an unknown developer such as myself are bound to drown in the constant flow of new apps. But this does not deter me. I make games because I love it. If just a handful of people like playing it, it was worth building.

The new update contains features (and a couple of bug fixes) that I’ve wanted to add since I first launched the game. As with any software project, there were things I deliberately put off until the update, just to get the game out and see how the reactions were. And though reactions have been nothing but positive, it still felt unfinished to me.

Finally, late last night Nebula Rescue 1.1 was submitted to the App Store for review, and I feel better.

I don’t think, as a solo game developer, you should ever design games with the primary goal of making money. Do it for the love of the genre, to have fun and for those fans who will share in your joy of the finished product (I’m super thankful for every person who tells me they’ve played it and had a good time). The same could be said for any other creative endeavor, whether you’re a musician, an actor or an artist.

We do it because we can’t not do it, and never mind the consequences.

Gobbler’s Run – Thanksgiving Game Challenge


Two days ago I decided to challenge myself to make a Thanksgiving game in time for the big turkey day. I’m still not sure what possessed me to do this, but I did, and with a little help, I was able to pull it off with a decent result.

In the game, which is Mac only for the time being, you control Gobbler the Turkey (voiced by Kelly Cline), whose sole purpose in life is to not die. Not dying means it’s time to run, run, run! Also, eating lots of corn and cornucopias. Because apparently turkeys eat those. Ways to die include getting hit by arrows, hatchets and colliding with tree trunks.

You use the sideways arrow keys or A and D to steer and Space to jump.

There was supposed to be an online version via GameSalad (which is also the tool I used to make the game), but I never got it to render quite right. If enough people like playing it, I may polish it and add more platforms. There are a couple of details that I would have spent more time on, were it not for the challenge deadline, but all in all I’m very happy with the result.

[FREE] Download “Gobbler’s Run” for Mac (zip file, 17mb)

Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.7 or newer
  • Unsigned apps must be allowed (in your security preferences)

Update: Since creating the game, I have updated it with slightly lower music volume, and a bug fix.

Apart from the music – a track by Pitx called “See You Later” – everything in Gobbler’s Run was created specifically for the game, and all within the 2 days allowed. Huge thanks to Kelly, the GameSalad team (who were very encouraging on Twitter) and everyone who supported the challenge.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and please enjoy Gobbler’s Run.

5 Ways to Promote Your Work

This post was originally written for artists, but its contents will apply to many freelancers as well. Whether you’re a writer, an actor, a designer or a band, all those seeking to make a living off their creative work must also take on the daunting task of self promotion. If you don’t, you will more than likely perish in the sea of other creatives working harder at getting seen than you.

Creating great work is essential, but in today’s market it is not enough. You need to be seen.

In the time I ran Another Passion, I interviewed many different artists and creative professionals, and I started to see patterns. Many don’t do a good job of marketing themselves because they either don’t know what they are doing, or have no interest in it (and thus either avoid it or do a half assed job). I’ve written about this topic before, but this time I will offer 5 specific suggestions.

The thing is, promotion should be part of your process no matter what artform you practice. It is not a bad thing, and you don’t have to “sell out” (which I define as pretending to be something you are not, in order to make a buck). But you do have to put in some time, effort and a little structure.

Here are 5 things you should be doing at the very least. Even if you only do three of them, but do them well, you will start building a stronger following of fans, clients and patrons.

1. Email, email, email!

Few things compare to the power of the email list. There are many good sources on how best to use them, and how not to. There are great services like MailChimp who make it easy and let you get started for free.

Email lists are important, because subscribers on your list are typically more than casually interested in what you’re doing. They want to be kept in the loop, and your job is to do just that. Let them know about upcoming events, progress on current projects or those sweet T-shirts you had made. It doesn’t take that much time to put together a decent email once a month to share the latest news – just keep it relevant and short.

2. Get on Twitter

If you’re not on Twitter, you should be. Once you figure out how to use the service, it becomes an amazing tool for both collaboration, networking and marketing. For free. The key is how you approach it, and again the answer is to keep your fans and followers up to speed with what’s going on, share relevant links and stories that relate to the values you stand for. And most importantly, engage with your followers and follow those you admire as well as those who support you. Twitter is all about sharing, so retweet others when they share something relevant or interesting. Have fun with it!

Twitter might not suit your personality, but give it an honest try. You can find me there – I’m @theprint. And if you end up hating Twitter, try taking your efforts to other social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Etsy (find one or two that fits what you do and the people you want to connect with).

3. Attend Events

As awesome as the web is, nothing beats meeting people face to face. The hardest part is finding the right events to attend, meaning that not everything labeled “networking event” will be for your network.

If you’re in the performing arts, think of every performance as potential networking. You never know who’s watching and might be able to help you later, so try to stay open minded, honest and forthcoming.

Seek out conferences that center around what you do, go to launch parties, performances and premieres when others in your network invite you, or just invite someone you admire out for coffee. Get out there!

4. Share!

You may have already noticed that sharing is a recurring theme here. Sharing is key.

What are the thoughts behind your process? What would you like to achieve through your work? Sharing process, progress and pieces of material is a great way to keep your name fresh in people’s mind, and to assert yourself as an authority within your field.

If you’re a writer, share insights into your work, give away a short story for people to sample. If you’re a painter, show us your sketches as well as your final work. If you’re a game designer, give us a demo! You get the idea.

Being personable and engaging will get you attention, but in the end it’s your work that will make you money. Make sure your work is never far away, so those interested can check it out and get in touch. Which leads me to the final point…

5. Stop Reading and Start Producing

Maybe you’re reading this hoping for inspiration, or maybe you’re procrastinating. Almost all of us do this on a regular basis, instead of spending the time and energy on actually producing work. However, at the end of the day it’s the work that counts.

No amount of self-help books and how-to articles is going to make you successful. Only you and the effort you put in can do that, with help from your network – but you have to take the first step and lead the way. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike or some angel patron to pave the way, start producing and shipping right now.