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Creating and releasing my first video game.

Some ramblings about creating my first indie game Balloon Gentleman as a "one-man-team".

Balloon Gentleman I'm computer nerd, a modder, a old-school gamer with passion for click'n'point and single-player story-driven games, but I'm NOT a programmer. I have never programmed anything in my life. I was forced to take one mandatory C programming course in school, that's all. I have  done webdesign and stumbled upon PHP/javascript sometimes and in my full-time work you can't avoid bash scripting and some perl, but I'm not a programmer, not by a long-shot. I'm a gamer and a game design groupie. I have followed game development (and demoscene) since early 9os, read hundreds of articles and probably played close to a thousand of games since I was six years old. I have worked in IT for about 15 years. In that sense I was quite prepared to finally make a game on my own. I knew many technicques and softwares for creating games, graphics and sound. I was a somewhat experienced modder. After a larger mod project I was involved completed, I bought a Android tablet for my son. Soon I decided to start develop my own game for it.

Developing Balloon Gentleman
Programming a game engine from scratch was never an option for me. I don't have the skills, so middleware was the way to go. After trying both Game Maker and Unity I decided on Game Maker as it was a bit easier for me to get into GML than C#.  I'm sure Unity would have been fine too, in fact I even know one of the developers at Unity who played a big role implementing 2d features into the engine (and would possible helped me getting started). Still somehow to uninitiated, using Game Maker was a bit easier. Especially as I was developing a strictly 2d game.

The control scheme and idea for Balloon Gentleman was inspired from Windows Phone game called Pocket Sheep. A game where your finger pushes/scares sheeps to their destination through a level. I though this would a excellent way of pushing a Balloon, having you finger to act as the wind. It all started from that. I created a Balloon in Game Maker added some physics and started pushing it around. Then I made an air balloon flappy bird clone as practice. Once it was done (never released), I started making Balloon Gentleman. I spent lots of evenings infront of my computer after I had tucked my son into bed.

Working alone, there were/are no design documents or plans for Balloon Gentleman development. I understand this kind of development would not be possible in a team, and is quite stupid even when working alone, but it worked surprisingly well. Once basics were completed (steering, physics and dynamite throws), I started creating levels. Everytime it started with a blank sheet and then I just created what ever came to mind, if I needed a new graphic asset I would draw it (with Inkscape and GIMP) on spot and then I continued making level.  Sometimes I had some levels days in advance in my head, but sometimes I just improvised. When I didn't know what to do next for a level, I improved other things, sucha as menus, graphics, death animations, sounds and such. Chaotic for sure, but this way development never halted. There was constant progress and I never felt bored. E.g. when I reached the point were I should create a bossfight-level, I had no ideas what it should look like. I decided skip it, three created levels later I came up with an idea and finally made the boss level. Steam says development took 300-350h, it's probably close to the truth.

Game distribution and money
As game development and modding is a hobby for me anything my game earns goes into further game development or my other hobbies.  In-game ads and/or IAPs might be the smartest way for maximum revenues, I decided to go for the traditional pay and play model, where you pay for the game and then play as much as you like without artificial boundaries. This of course means no ad integration, which equals less programming for me, yay! A paid game might not be popular with the give me everything "free" generation, but I hope it sells enough copies so I can afford to make a IOS port of my game. For the IOS port I need Game Maker IOS export module ($200 + taxes) a Mac computer and and a iPhone/iPad. EDIT: I changed my stance later for better coverage, freemium version is now also available .

Balloon Gentleman development costs in numbers (approx.):
- Software €300 (mostly bought at reduced price / sales )
- Google dev registration €30
- Music (2 exlusive songs) €50 (bought from indiegamemusic.com)
- Cover image character art: €60 (bought from a freelance artist)
- Websites registration €15
- Time: 300-350 hours

Additional non-development costs (things I owned or bought for other reasons):
- Computer €600 - €800
- Android tablet €150
- Virtual server $5 / month

Beta testing
When beta started in September 2014, I was sure the game was in very good shape. Luckily my Beta testers were good at spotting bugs, and I got a truckload of things to fix. Lesson learned:  Good BETA testers are invaluable. After about a month of Beta testing my game is much better and  finally good enough for the public. Behold!

Balloon Gentleman is now released on Android and you can buy it on Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.SilentSquireGames.BalloonGentleman

Freemium version with ads:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.SilentSquireGames.BalloonGentlemanFree

 

 

 

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