Interference is in Apps for Windows Ink!

If you’ve been reading our blogs you’ll know that we have been campaigning on social media to get Microsoft to put our drawing and describing game, Interference into the Apps for Windows Ink Collection – a curated collection of apps that are perfect for the Surface devices and pens.

Each day we would post on Twitter and Facebook our plea – along with a gif of a particularly good drawing that we’d had submitted to the game that day.

We got up to DAY 118

Interference @playifx Jul 24 DAY 118 Try to impress to put into APPS FOR WINDOWS INK Today a boy!

… when Jen from Microsoft got in touch and said that they would have a look at it. Seems we didn’t have many recent reviews – as we have forums in the game so players usually say nice things about Interference in there. We put out a plea to our players for a few new reviews in the Windows Store and got them. Then we were told that we could have Interference in Apps for Windows Ink for 30 days – to see how it went.

It is so great as we’ve had lots of new players already and get emails from the Windows Store to say that our trends are up.

It’s good to know that persistence pays off – we’re not sure how long we will be in the collection – but long may it last!

 

Virome – Update

Virome is the new colour-matching game from Centrifuge – the makers of the hit drawing and describing game: Interference

It came about from a quick game we made for a game jam – where the theme was Small World. See previous posts for more on that.

After the great feedback we got from other game developers during the game jam, Ludum Dare, we decided to expand the game and put it out into all the app stores.

It had been called Superbugs, during the game jam, but once we decided to put the game out we discovered that there is already a game with that name. So, after consultation with an actual scientist (Berni’s brother at York University) we chose the name VIROME. It refers to the viruses that live in the human body – so it seemed appropriate. Plus – there was definitely no other game with that name!

Nathan expanded the original concept to include 28 increasingly difficult levels. Complete those and you unlock the Daily Viromes – a new Virome to defeat each day. This mode is ideal for competition among friends and family as you all see the same puzzle on each day.

There is also a Random Virome – which gives you a unique puzzle each time you click it. So, you’ll never run out of puzzles to try. As we say – a scientist’s work is never done!

It is now available in the app stores for Windows, Android, iOS and Amazon Kindle – check the website for links: viromegame.com

 

There are MANY colour-matching games out there – usually match three or more of the same colour to clear a grid. Virome is a different take on colour-matching that involves matching the colours to the viruses – which will involve some colour combining as well as making sure that no cell gets overdosed! It will have you addicted in no time. Download it now before it goes viral!

 

 

 

Taking Part in Ludum Dare Game Jam – Part 1

Nathan has been wanting to take part in a Game Jam for quite a while – so when we saw that the Ludum Dare game jam was about to take place – and they were celebrating their 15th year – we decided we would give it a go this time.

Amazingly, as we are busy most weekends, this particular weekend everyone cancelled on us and we had an entire weekend to ourselves – we took this as A Sign and resolved to definitely try to make a game in just one weekend. We have never done this before so we thought it would be a great challenge and possibly fun 🙂

The first step was to vote on the possible themes on the LDJam website – these had already been posted by other users and game jam enthusiasts. The actual theme of the competition would be announced at 2am (UK time) on Friday night while we were sleeping. We were hoping that it would be “Keep it alive” as we’d thought of a really great idea for that – but when we stirred in the night and checked our phones we discovered that the actual theme was Small World.

We tried to go back to sleep and hoped we’d dream up a really good game idea before morning. We had a brainstorming session as soon as we woke and talked about what Small World could encompass:

  • there are already games out there already featuring small worlds that are fought over because they won’t fit everyone on
  • small world can also mean child-sized things
  • small world theory where everyone turns out to be connected to everyone else – could we make a game about that or would it just end up being too massive?
  • then, we had the brainwave that small world could also mean – microscopic!

That idea really got the cogs turning and we came up with superbugs – a game where you’re in a science lab and peer through a microscope at viruses in a petri dish. The aim of the game would be that you have to kill them off with combinations of drugs before they grow too big and become Superbugs – and resistant to ALL drugs.

We’d start with a few simple levels , where you just have to kill one virus with a drug of the same colour. This would be scaled up to many viruses – some needing multiple drugs and others needing colour combinations to kill them off.

As Nathan, our developer, is halfway through his first course on Unity – we thought we’d make the game in that. It seemed like a good way of testing his understanding so far!

Our first prototype was one petri dish containing the viruses – but it wasn’t very interesting and did not need a lot of skill. Also it was difficult to animate the viruses and get them to interact with each other.

Then Nathan came up with the idea of hexagonal cells – like a beehive – where each drug would affect the cells around the target one. This would make it into a proper puzzle game. It also allows for drug colours to be combined to make the other colours needed.

We didn’t have any access to sounds – so Nathan did the sound effects himself and recorded them to put them in the game.  I especially like the “pop” as each virus explodes as it is eliminated by the correct drug combos!

One of the hardest parts of making the game so far is working out how to automate the production of each level to ensure that it is still solvable. They do it with Sudoku – so it must be possible!

Check back in a few hours for part two, where we’ll show how the game turned out and how you can play it!

Find the game here: https://centrifuge.itch.io/superbugs

Zeitgeist – How Trump Influences Online Games

When you are running a game where there is mainly user content generated – like Interference our drawing and describing game – you get to see the current zeitgeist. With players being able to start games on any topic it’s something we find fascinating, seeing what subjects players describe and draw over time.

Recently, as you would expect, there’s been a lot of Donald Trump popping up in our games. Some seem to be complimentary and others humorous or insulting – as you might expect in real life! Not just our US players but everyone all over the world has an opinion on what he’s doing.

Descriptions that players put in to start new games have been showing what most consumes players’ thoughts – these include some of his key election pledges such as “Drain the swamp” or “Trump’s wall“.

It’s also interesting to read the discussions taking place between the players in the Comments after the games. Recently some have been upset about the negative representation on the President – and some have resolved to try to resist this in future – as our community is usually very supportive and respectful of each other.
As game devs we obviously have our own opinions – but Interference is resolutely neutral – like the BBC 🙂

During the election period there were fewer Hillary Clinton pictures or mentions – except in relation to Trump. For example the charming portrait below:

Obama didn’t get as much attention when he was president – but again can be seen popping up in relation to Trump in more recent months.

Needless to say – it’s not only our game that Donald J Trump is affecting – he has been appearing in more games that any US president before.

For example Surgeon Simulator added a special Trump mode where you could give him a heart transplant with a gold or stone heart (At the time of writing stone hearts are winning with 56%).

A new game called Mr President came out, where you play a bodyguard and can decided to save (or not) Ronald Rump, a billionaire president, from a raft of crazy assassination attempts.

There are a slew of mini games such as Trump Donald – where you can just spend all day blowing his hair with a trumpet.

So, love him or hate him at 100 days in to his presidency he’s certainly been influencing popular culture in a big way. All eyes are on him to see what he does next.

 

How to get Seen in the App Store – Maybe…

We have made our UWP (Universal Windows Platform) app for Interference – so how do we get it seen in the App Store? It’s an indie game and it’s free to play – but so are many others in the store.

However, it is also a really good game for all devices – especially those with pens, such as the Surface range – so therefore perfect for Windows Ink. It just so happens that there’s a Category in the Windows Store called “Apps for Windows Ink” – so how can we persuade the custodians of the Store to let our Interference app in?

The apps in there already have been there quite a long time and not many of them are new and on the Universal Windows Platform – so surely Interference would fit in well and be able to show off the Ink’s awesome capabilities.

However, we do not know who the mysterious custodians are – searches via Twitter or the internet do not yield any identities. Well, you can’t blame them – if they let us know who they were – they’d be bombarded with pleas, bribes and offers of all kinds of favours all day every day!

So, we wondered what we could do. Then we decided – let’s mount a CAMPAIGN! We would try to impress the @windowsstore via Twitter. We started back in January – with Day 1. Each day since we have tweeted at the store and included an amazing gif of one of our players playing Interference by drawing a picture.

We have tweeted a plea and a gif everyday since then – we are up to Day 41 today 🙂

Sometimes we try to appeal for sympathy:

Other times we are vaguely threatening:

Then we tried bribery:

So, how’s it going? Well, we’re not in Apps for Windows Ink yet (or even “Apps for Artists” ) – but it’s fun to do each day and just maybe one day….

 

Discoverability – the Struggle is Real!

So you’ve made your game and you think it’s awesome. Even your friends and family think it’s awesome – so how do you get people to play it? Or even find it among all the millions of games out there?

Thinking about Interference – our first game, we have new players join every day. They say things in the comments like:

Vick the Stick 2 days, 3hours ago
“This is hilarious! 😀 ”

PointyCatEars 10 minutes, 30 seconds ago
I laughed so much at this one X)”

Bun 4 days 6 hours ago
“OMG I’m dying here 🙂 How did I not know about this game?”

How indeed? That is one of the biggest problems for indie developers. How do you get eyes on your game?

So, what have we tried already?

  1. Internet
    As suggested by all the best guides on this “discoverability” problem we have got an eye-catching website and the front page features the highest ranked pictures of the week so far, as well as some reviews from the app store. We have also put how to play the game and a link to download the app – for players who don’t want to play the web version. We made it easy to join up and sign in – using Facebook or Twitter, or even a Microsoft login.
  2. Social Media
    Interference is on Facebook and Twitter and I post to both platforms several times a day. I choose both morning and evening to ensure we hit most time zones. Guides always stress that pictures make posts more interesting, so I always include some art work from the game:
    Recently – to make posts even more noticeable I have been posting animated gifs of particularly good or funny pictures to grab more attention. Check out our feeds to see more!
    Facebook doesn’t seem to work too well for the game. The only people who share the posts are my own personal page and the developers parents! We ask friends and family to share – but very few ever do. However on Twitter we have a lot more success. By following other indie game studios and devs, art and drawing groups and interesting individuals we have a good rate of retweeting and likes.
  3. Other websites.
    The biggest spike in new players came when we had an article on the MS Power User website. It was about an update we’d made to the Windows app – but we had a flurry of new players from all over, particularly Indonesia. We already have players from all over the world and this is one of the nice things about Interference – it’s not just a game it’s a community. So, what other websites can we use to promote our game?
    We found this useful list on LinkedIn – called Indie Games Pusher  a list of many webpages, blogs and other media that help Indie Game Developers. Just need to get on that now 🙂
  4. App Stores
    How to get on the front page of an app store – or even in a featured collection  and who decides this seems to be a well-guarded secret. Obviously the most popular games are there due to downloads and reviews and ratings. But, what about “Apps for Artists” and “Apps for Windows Ink“? Interference would be perfect for either of these collections and yet our pleas to the few Microsoft evangelists we know have not produced any results, yet.
    We have a brand new shiny Interference UWP App which we’d love to promote, yet many of the apps in these collections are old and have been there for a very long time. It would be lovely if the app store would feature new apps in here – even if it’s just for a few days. They could have a more vibrant and exciting collection if they did this. We’ll never get 1 million players without a bit of help! 🙂

In conclusion – we will keep on trying everything we can think of. We even went on a TV quiz show and talked about the game at length – we just hope they don’t cut it all out when they screen to show next month!
We’d love to hear from other indie devs about the cunning ways they have promoted and marketed their apps. Please get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn  🙂

 

User Engagement

First, before I begin this post -we have exciting news. As mentioned in a previous blog post  we have a two-pronged approach to raising money for our new game development. Both seem to be going quite well, as today we were informed we had gone through to the second stage of the UK Game Fund application process! We are very pleased about that.

The other possible money-raising idea is now TOP SECRET – so can’t say much more about that at the moment. Keep checking the blog!

So, today’s topic is User Engagement. Now that we have a popular and fun game – how do we look after our players and keep them coming back day after day?

The nature of Interference is that nothing happens immediately. The players choose to draw or describe in a game that has many steps. So between 15 -33 are needed to complete each game. However – that makes it a strength – as we email the player to let them know when their game has finished. This means they will come back to see how their game ended up and how their own contribution affected the game outcome.

This is one of our recent favourite games as an illustration: Owl and Pussy Cat

Another hook is that we allow other players to “like” individual drawings or descriptions, so that players will log back in or open the app to see how many likes they have got. Players can also comment on games once they are finished which helps to get the players engaged with each other.

We also provide a forum area – where we as the game devs can give updates and news on the game and future developments. It also means that any player can start a thread – related to the game or completely random. It had resulted in some interesting topics. There’s the “Where is everyone from” thread created by a player that gives us useful insight to all the countries where Interference is played.

They have even used the forums to make up their own word games such as “Last and First” which has been going for three years now! It really has reinforced Interference as not only a casual game – but a social one too.

It’s good to see the same players returning again and again. We want Interference to be addictive!

Obviously there have been minor incidents where there has been disrespect on the forums – but this is dealt with by the moderation system and players are warned that if they abuse the system they will lose the ability to post on there.

Recently Nathan and I went on a free PR course – run by a local media expert Nigel Howle, which we won as part of the perks of being a finalist in the Business Boost Awards. We try to take advantage of such opportunities – as we are on a start-up budget (i.e. zero!) and we love to learn!

One of the other participants were a local firm that make company videos and they advised us that a company will get much more engagement with their advertising and social media if they include a video. Apparently the ideal length is just 60 seconds – as not many people will keep watching after that.

That is why this year we have resolved to do a short weekly video update for Interference in 2017. That means that everyone will be able to see the people behind the games and maybe we will get some new players too. The only problem is that when the first one was due – we were both struck down with ‘flu! But, a resolution is a resolution – so we did the video anyway – in our pyjamas!

I’m sure you can find it if you look on Interference. Hopefully the next one will be a little more professional!!

We’d love to hear ideas from other game devs about how to engage players – get in touch!

The next blog will be about – how to get your games noticed and find new players!

 

Have you got Loose Vowels?

We’re very excited here at Centrifuge as we have released our second game – Loose Vowels. Not only is it on Windows 10 but – by popular demand – it’s our first ever game on iOS!

So, where did the idea come from? There are a lot of word games out there and we LOVE them – but we wanted to make something a little bit different from the many Scrabble-type games or word searches out there.

As we are also fans of TV quizzes too, we love the final missing vowels round in Only Connect. Talking to friends and family who watch it we found that it was actually EVERYONE’s favourite part of the show.

That gave us an idea for a quick, casual game where we could make a Daily Puzzle with a theme and then make some much bigger puzzle packs in various categories that people could buy.

So, what we do is have a list of 10 words or phrases on a theme, take out the vowels and move the spaces around a bit. Then all the player has to do is solve the clue. These are the Daily Puzzles – here’s an example:

Deck the Halls
PNC NS
T NSL
GN GR BRD
PPC RN
BL LS
MS TLT
HLLY
CN DYC NS
FRY LG HTS
BB LS

Then for the actual puzzle packs , we made eleven categories, for example Animals, did 25 different topics, for example Poisonous Animals, Books about Animals etc. each with 25 puzzles in them. The first pack is free and the other 10 packs are 79p.

But, for players who don’t want to pay there is a new free Daily Puzzle every day! We thought that would get people coming back to the app everyday – increasing the ad revenue too.

We released it first on Windows 10 – but then lots of people were asking us to bring out an iOS version too so that they could play on their iPads. As we were intending to get Interference out on iOS soon, we thought making a smaller game like Loose Vowels first would give us some practice on iOS before tackling something REALLY big 🙂

Nathan finished the coding on Wednesday 21st December – and we submitted it to Apple at 13.40 that day. We weren’t sure if it would get through certification and into the store before Christmas – as Apple said they were taking a break between 23 -27 December. We kept checking the dashboard to see what was happening, with bated breath. Then at around 19.02 last night (22nd) – we had a message to say that Loose Vowels was in the iTunes store!

Thank-you, Apple – that’s a great Christmas present.

Raising Money for Indie Dev Studios

Hello again

Today I’m going to outline two approaches to raising money while setting up an indie dev studio. Grants and Game Shows.

Firstly – applying for grants. There are many grants out there and all have different criteria and terms. Some need you to raise matched funding – which means they’ll give you an amount of money if you can match it with the same amount of your own. This is not too helpful when you are starting out and your games and other products are not making tons of money yet.

So, we just applied for a £25,000 grant from the UK Games Fund. The money, if we were to get it, can only be used to pay wages for UK-based staff and contractors on one particular project, which you had to pitch to them.

The first stage involved filling in a form with our details and something about our top secret new game – and also uploading a video pitch about our team and the game.

The form was fairly simple and only allowed 100 words for the game pitch. However the video had to be 2 minutes long and tell them about the team, what we can do, what we’ve done before (they like it if you can show that you’ve actually finished a game and brought it to market) and some footage of the prototype of your new game idea. You had to finish off with your plans for the future.

So, the form was due in at noon on November 23rd – and we actually made the deadline! We were then invited to upload our video pitch – so now we have to wait until January to hear if we’ve made it to the second round.

The second round involves a much longer form – so we’ll let you know if we get that far! Check out the blog in the New Year 🙂

Meanwhile, we had another plan to raise money – why not go and win some money on a TV game show? Well, we have been on Pointless a few years ago (although we did get knocked out in the second round on both our shows!) so maybe it was worth a go.pointless

We both liked The Code when that was on a few months ago and we had noticed that they were asking for contestants for the new series. I filled in the form yesterday and attached a photo of Nathan in a sombrero and sent it off via the web.

Within half an hour we had a TV researcher on the phone asking if we were free to answer some general knowledge questions over the phone. There would be 10 questions – but she wouldn’t tell us which we’d got correct. We agreed, so I had to take my phone into another room, while she asked me the questions, then leave Nathan alone in the office while he did them too.

nat-sombrero

There was a variety of topics including history, geography, celebrities, maths and poker! I’d better not tell you them all – in case they are still using them, but I knew the celebrity question and Nathan didn’t. Not sure what that says about us! Anyway, as soon as Nathan finished his questions, she asked us to come to Birmingham for an audition on Tuesday!

So, wish us luck! If we get through that, which involves written general knowledge test and a run through of the actual game format, then the TV programme is filmed in January. So, next year could be quite interesting!

Check back soon to see how the audition goes…

 

 

Team IFX go to the TIGA Awards

Last week we enjoyed another jaunt down to London – this time to attend the very swish TIGA Awards at Christ Church in Spitalfields. wp_20161110_18_15_10_pro

We went because our first game, Interference, was shortlisted for two awards – Most Original Game and Best Casual/Social Game – so we had to dress up!

We managed to find some where to stay (as it was going to be a late night!) just down the road from the venue. It was Commercial House – a kind of aparthotel – which was lovely! We especially liked the swans 🙂 It was easy to get dolled up and then walk the 3 minutes down the road to the venue.

The ceremowp_20161110_13_32_21_pro-1ny started at 6pm with a drinks and canapés reception. There was plenty of champagne and the smart staff circled guests with trays of tasty treats – the tiny ham and eggs were delicious, as was the smoked salmon.

When we got there we were assigned Table L, so we hung around there waiting to see who we would be sitting with. We got chatting to Gareth Wright from Double Eleven – the UK studio who reimagined Prison Architect for the Xbox and PS4 as well as making Goat Simulator for the Xbox last year!

We had a very interesting chat about prisons – as I used to work in a couple. Hopefully I gave him a few tips on what it’s like in the “inside” 🙂

Then we had to take out places at our tables so that the food could be served. We were sat with a couple of chaps from a technology tax company MMP – who were up for an award and staff from Spirit AI who make digital interactions between game characters and players “feel human”. They were handing out one of the awards.wp_20161110_22_40_29_pro

There were bottles of beer, water and wine on the table and the first course was fillet of beef with baby baked potatoes and salad. It was very nice, although the chap sat next to me said “I thought that was a starter!” The dessert was delicious though – an individual lemon meringue pie. It was perfectly baked – no soggy bottom here and the top was beautifully browned and crisp. Yummy!

Then the nerve-wracking part began – the giving out of the awards. Well, to tell the truth we weren’t too worried – we knew we weren’t going to win over all the big companies in our categories. So many of the teams who went up on stage were huge – and we are just two people who make games in a home office!

wp_20161110_18_21_27_pro-1The winner of most Original Game was The Assembly – a virtual reality game from nDreams and the Best Casual/Social Game was a motorbike racing game, Raceline CC by Rebellion. They both looked very impressive – congratulations to them. There were so many amazing games shown that we felt privileged to be sitting there with them! In fact Nathan’s Imposter Syndrome was kicking in bigtime! He’s going to writewp_20161110_21_03_33_pro a post about that very soon – so look out for that one. Still it was fun to see Interference up on the huge TIGA screen when they showed our video!

After all the awards had been handed out and all the booze on the tables drunk – the party continued below in the Crypt. It was an amazing space, where a bar was up and running and there were sticks of TIGA rock liberally spread around.

We had a chat with a few of the winners and the TIGA staff as well as reconnecting with Gareth and others. It was a really good night and we were so happy to have been TIGA Finalists in our first year!