Ship a mobile game in 3 weeks. Go!

  • The shipping experience is critical in the lifecycle of game development and something we avoided for far too long
  • If you are a game creator without any products on the market, get something out the door as soon as possible
  • It probably won’t be your Mona Lisa, and it probably shouldn’t be
  • A mobile game is a great first project because the scope is naturally smaller than a desktop or console release
  • It’s not set in stone; we’ve updated GeoTap six times since launching, and only did so after getting a great reception and loads of player feedback
  • Find some X-factor; something that makes your game stand out visually or conceptually
  • Get your game in front of people: Submit to Apple, Google, and Amazon stores for featuring. Post the game on popular forums like Touch Arcade. Submit to review sites and festivals. We submitted with no expectations and got featured by Google a month later!
  • Know when to stop. If your game goes live and you are diligent about getting exposure, but it still gets panned, take what you’ve learned about shipping and marketing and apply your insights to the next project. Also, think to yourself, “Why didn’t my game turn any heads?”
English, Japanese, and Korean home screens. We translated them as a requirement for Google Play featuring.

Just go.

Ideation

Early prototype, before exploring art direction and “feels”

We are naturally drawn to games that are beautiful, expressive, and relaxing.

Early shape GeoTap motion rendering

Escapism, calmness and mindfulness quickly became our emotional targets.

30+ shapes were created all with a range of difficulty
The 3 different gameplay modes at launch

The game, after 3 weeks

  • 3 Game modes, each with a subtle twist on the basic game mechanic
  • 10 unique shapes
  • 20 color palettes
  • Leaderboards for each game mode
  • Advertising placements for monetization
  • A single In App Purchase (IAP) to remove ads

The real work begins after launch

  • Website: While not required, a simple one page site is a great place to show off the game outside of the constraints of the store listing page. Its only function is to drive traffic to the app store pages and to boost credibility when reaching out for reviews or coverage. We also have a press kit and privacy policy on the GeoTap site.
  • Store listing assets: the game’s description, listing and promotional images, trailer, and icon all have an effect on who will find your game and if they’ll consider downloading it. That consideration happens before they even play your game.
  • Community management: reviews, bug fixes, and feature requests began trickling in and we responded to every one of them. Be discerning when deciding which feature requests to act on, and always be gracious, even for bad reviews. We’ve turned a many 1-stars into 5s simply by thanking the player for giving GeoTap a try.
  • Marketing: Most indie devs are aware of this, but we can’t stress it enough. Getting your game into people’s hands is hard work, especially when you don’t have name recognition or a fan base. Submit your game to Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and the Amazon Appstore. Submit your game to every indie game festival and event you can find. Submit your game to every review site that covers your platform (mobile, console, PC). This is all free to do, it just takes time.
  • Translations: Google required full support for Japanese and Korean in the store listing and in-game UI to be featured. Of course, our first build didn’t include support for translating the UI, and of course our awkward Google Translate copy wasn’t good enough to get their approval. We hustled to get native translations just in time, but going forward, all of our games will have translation features right out of the gate. Russian and Spanish will be next, because those languages represent the majority of our player base.
  • Platform support: we rolled in Google Play Games Services and Apple Game Center support early on for our leaderboards and IAPs, but there are other gotchas that show up. For instance, Apple requires a Restore Transaction button for users who bought the game or IAP and want to restore that purchase after reinstalling the game. We learned this on day four of our submission review, and of course we had to get back into the code to support it when the build was rejected by Apple.
  • Monetization strategy: If your game is ad-supported, like GeoTap is, monetization should be hard-wired into the game design. We definitely ignored that and after our first launch, we got a ton of feedback that there are too many ads and they don’t positively reinforce player engagement. We’ve since tweaked our ad placement and timing considerably.
  • Cultivation / Analytics: Stats! Once the numbers started rolling in, we got hard data to work with. As JRPG fans, the numbers became a meta game that we played while watching installs, uninstalls, ad revenue, review averages, and custom events. There’s so much to learn from this information, so stay on those dashboards and watch the charts.

Continuous improvement

The new game modes, previewed in 2.3, will be released in 3.0
  • Virtual currency system: We wanted to reward players for their gameplay. Originally, the high score for a game mode was the only way to track progress.
  • Unlockable shapes: We designed 30 shapes that users could unlock with their coins. These shapes added more complexity and variety to the game and gave completionists something to work toward. More are coming for the final release.
  • Revive mechanic: Players felt that a single fail was too harsh, so we added a revive screen where the player can spend coins or view an ad to revive, giving them some alternative to failure that they have agency over.
  • Settings panel: We added a setting panel with a global mute option, platform sign in/ sign out buttons, and some merchandising for Lucre Games social accounts. Many players wanted to play GeoTap while listening to their own music. We will also link to our other games in this section in the future.
  • Game mode help menu: Players were unsure how each game mode worked, so we built a help menu that displays on the first play of any game mode, and can be opened any time during play.
  • Coin multiplier bonus: Sometimes players would get very high scores, so we added a reward video button that would give them double their coins. This lets the player choose when to watch a video, so they can ignore the button or use it when they have a high score for extra impact.
  • Daily reward: Player drop off became evident, so we added a quick hit of coins every 24 hours, to keep players coming back.
  • Achievements: Some people like to complete challenges, so we gave them more ways to engage with the game
  • 3 new game modes (coming soon): Pushing our basic mechanic just a little further got us 3 new ways to experience the game. These modes will be part of the final 3.0 release
  • Extra juice: We added little touches to make the game more satisfying, like coins that explode out from the center of the game over screen and the shape exploding on fail and rebuilding on revive.
  • Ad mediation: We originally used a single ad platform and found the fill rates to be too low. We’ve since rolled in a mediation platform that serves up ads from dozens of networks, each with their own regional strengths.
  • Remote settings: Unity has a great feature that lets a developer tweak variables in real time and the game will update without having to ship a new build. Now we can A/B test against specific tweaks without jumping into the code.

The results of our efforts

Eric Howard — Game Developer (sunglasses left) & Jeff Toll — Game Designer (cap right) pitching GeoTap at Casual Connect 2018 Los Angeles
#1 Trending Casual game
We respond to every single review good and bad.

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