Dev Diary #13: Cally’s Caves 2 Postmortem

Well, it has now been about 75 days since we released Cally’s Caves 2, and we figured it was about time to write an article about our experience since the game came out.  If you missed it, we got an awesome PlayPressers Trailer, and some attention from some media.  It was all wonderful, but this article is about the stats so let’s just get right into it.

Downloads

Screenshot 2014-09-18 15.01.02

We currently have 131,000 free downloads after two and a half months.  It was way more than we expected to get, and our team feels incredibly lucky to have reached that many people.  To many game developers, 131,000 is nothing, especially considering that Cally’s Caves 2 is free game.  To us, however, it has far exceeded our highest hopes.  When we first started working on Cally 2, we set a lofty goal of getting a hundred thousand downloads to try and grow our name and build an audience.  It was the kind of goal you set because you know it’s so high you’ll never hit it, but the act of aiming for it will make your product better in the end.  The fact that we actually reached and exceeded it is a dream come true. Continue reading

Development Diary # 10: Implementing Feedback from the Beta

Sorry it’s been a while since our last update! It’s crunch time for Cally’s Caves 2, which means we are spending a ton of time polishing, bug fixing, and getting ready to submit to Apple. In our last post we detailed how we hoped our Beta test would go, and at this point we have wrapped up the testing phase.  It didn’t last the 8 weeks we planned on, it actually only took about 2 weeks to receive feedback from all of our testers.  We thought it would be a good time to discuss the feedback we received, and how we are using it to make our game a lot more user-friendly and fun.

Screenshot 2014-05-03 15.56.53

The Testers

We ended up having 15 people beta test Cally’s Caves 2, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but for an indie developer like us, it was a gold mine of useful information.  I put a post up on my personal Facebook and Twitter pages, and the testers all volunteered from there.  Of all the testers, only 2 people tested the game on iPad, 5 people used iPhone 5 or 5s, and the rest were on the older iPhone 4 or 4s models.  We were lucky to have a wide range of devices testing the game, and that’s mostly just due to luck with who signed up.  We also (as detailed in our pre-beta dev diary), sent out an introduction package and survey with the beta files, which most of the people filled out.  It also helped to have my phone near me, as testers would often text me the bugs, which I would then add to my to-do list.  We did have people report quite a few bugs, which was amazing because we may have never found them if we were testing the game ourselves. Continue reading

Cally’s Caves 2 Development Blog #8 – More on Level Design in a 2D game

We already posted on some of the thoughts behind the level design in Cally’s Caves 2 a while ago.  In the time since that blog came out we’ve made a number of crucial decisions regarding how the levels will be laid out.  Also, the overall level design is such an important part of developing a 2D game that we figured it would be worth another post to discuss some of the decisions we’ve made.  We’ve already written about how we approach tutorials, the smaller level sizes, and increasing density of objects in a level, so this time we are going to focus on the smaller things that go into making a level for Cally’s Caves 2.

cally and big bear

Hazards 

A good 2D platformer should always be fun to run and jump around in.  Player movement mechanics are incredibly important, and part of developing player movement is figuring out how the player’s interaction with the environment works.  If the player stands on a brick block, they shouldn’t fall through it.  If the player runs into a wall, horizontal movement should stop.  Basic stuff, right?  But if that’s all there is to the game, it might get a bit boring after a while (although plenty of games don’t, and are awesome).  Introducing hazards allows a designer to inject some danger into a level design, which helps keep the player on their toes.  It also increases the reward value for a player when they beat a level.  Would a player feel more satisfaction if they ran down a level that was designed like a hallway, or if they navigated through a maze-like level filled with spikes and lava pits?  We believe the latter provides more opportunity for player satisfaction, although there isn’t an objectively correct answer.

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Development Diary #7: Art!

Today’s Dev Diary is written by Yal, who is one of the two artists working on Cally’s Caves 2 (along with OHKO).  She shares some of her experiences and insights into the process of creating art for a 2d platformer.

A guest article? Does that mean… there is a guest?! Um, well, yeah. Long story short: OHKO asked me whether I was interested in helping out doing some weapon graphics for Cally’s Caves 2. I said yes. Done, stop yawning. Now let’s change subject to the actual graphics! =]

Since a large majority of all AAA games released nowadays are FPS games, it’s only natural that they use guns. The problem is, most of them also try to be vaguely realistic, which in turn means all weapons are of the type “fires bullets in a straight line”. Now how fun is that? This also generally results in unbalanced weapons, since if all weapons fire in a straight line, why bother getting more than one? The answer is: because every new weapon is tons better than the previous one, so why bother keeping that anyway?

Contrast that with a game like Cave Story by Studio Pixel:

cave story

 (Official screenshot from the game manual) Continue reading

Development Diary #6: RPG Mechanics

Levelling up and increasing different aspects of a character is one of my favorite parts of playing games. Series like the Elder Scrolls and the Ratchet and Clank games have always kept me hooked through the promise of being able to see a little meter fill up and know I’m about to reach that next level.  Considering how deeply RPG mechanics hook me, it should come as no surprise that Cally’s Caves 2 includes a number of mechanics that will help Cally grow more powerful as the game progresses.  Player leveling, finding weapons, leveling up those weapons, the upgrade shop, and in-game currency – these are the RPG mechanics at the core of Cally’s Caves 2.  Since we are making a sequel we can some of the ideas we had for the original game and taking them as far as we can.

Cally's Caves 2

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Development Diary #3: Music Beginnings

I started working on the music for our second game before we knew we would be making a sequel to Cally’s Caves.  This is mostly due to the fact that I’ve always been into making music using Propellerheads’ Reason software, as well as playing guitar and piano in my spare time.  In the lull between games, I knew I could be productive by just making some songs and experimenting with different sounds and chord progression ideas.  I was proud of the music from Cally’s Caves and wanted to continue to make tracks since I find it very creatively satisfying, even if my ears are the only ones hearing it.

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The general feel of the soundtrack in Cally’s Caves was not exactly coherent, it was a melange of upbeat, hyper tracks, and ambient, atmospheric ones.  I liked the way the music evoked different moods in the different levels, but I know I can do better this time around, and give the soundtrack more of a coherent feel.  That being said, my musical process remains the same, and it always begins with a guitar or piano.

(note – this diary links to my soundcloud for the tracks I’m writing about, since WordPress doesn’t like audio files)

https://soundcloud.com/jordan-pearson-10/cally-2-lloyds-theme

“Lloyd’s Theme” was one of the first tracks I composed for Cally 2, and I came up with the idea while noodling on my guitar.  I eventually came up with the verse and chorus riffs, which are incredibly simple (and not very well-played in the recording).  Lloyd is a character that helps Cally learn the systems of the game, and appears at many different points throughout Cally 2.  He’s always sitting there, playing guitar, and I wanted a guitar-based theme to play every time he shows up, so the player hears it and knows a tutorial is sure to follow, a Pavlov’s dog kind of situation.  After recording the acoustic bits, I fed them into reason, sequenced them, and created a simple drumbeat, bassline, and synth melody to round out the track.  It’s very simple, but that’s the feel I was going for, and I hope that it will come across like Lloyd is playing the guitar in the final product. Continue reading