Tales from the Dev Side: Earning Your Keep by Shahed Chowdhuri

Way back in November, I played a game that I called “one of the worst on XBLIG” and implied the developer had his head up his own ass. 

Well, this is awkward.  Because the developer of that game, Angry Zombie Ninja Cats, has taken me up on my open invite to Xbox Live Indie Game developers to do an editorial here at Indie Gamer Chick.  And unlike his game, this isn’t the worst thing since Angry Zombie Ninja Führer.  Actually, Mr. Shahed Chowdhuri has become a respected member of the Xbox community, possibly by forcing people to endorse him or he’ll subject them to more play-time with his game.  I kid, I kid.  Actually, like most XBLIG developers whose games I was, ahem, less than kind too, Mr. Chowdhuri was a good sport about things and vowed to do better next time.  He also has some words of encouragement for would-be game developers. 

INTRO

My name is Shahed Chowdhuri, and I work as a Senior Consultant in the software industry.  Like many Indie developers, I am essentially a one-man shop, and do all my game development in my spare time.  Game development runs through my brain every waking hour (and sometimes, when I’m sleepwalking).  Some of you know me as “OnekSoft Games”, the creator of Angry Zombie Ninja Cats.  Many of you are aware of my R&D initiative “OnekSoft Labs”, home of the Xbox Live Indie Games Sales Data Analyzer and the XNA Basic Starter Kit, also known as the SDA and the BS Kit.

I’ve always wanted to make fun games for everyone, so I started looking at various Starter Kits.  In the real world, however, “fun” is subjective and “starter kit” is a 4-letter word.  Everyone’s a critic, and your game might suck as much as it is loved.  Probably more.

A newbie Indie game like mine may be destined to become the proverbial face that only a mother would love.  But I had other plans.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

I had come home from work one day, and put together my first working XNA game, 2D Math Panic, in 1 evening.  I made a few more tweaks during play-testing and peer review, and the game was published quickly.

That's either a rocket or the strangest novelty condom I've ever seen.

Math Panic “achieved” over 2,000 downloads and under 200 sales.  It lacked polish, and never took off. But I made back my $99 investment in my App Hub membership.  I also learned a few lessons and got to know the Indie Community, which is something you can’t get out of a book.

Ninja Cats evolved out of the XNA Platformer Starter Kit, over a course of 2 weeks.  It spent more time in play-testing and peer review, and was released on Nov 21, 2011. Just in time for Thanksgiving.  But the competition gobbled it up.

AZNC got 5,500+ trial downloads and under 500 sales. The top games were getting thousands of sales.  Or hundreds of thousands, if you had a polished Minecraft clone in your hands.  Or an Avatar/Girlfriend game.  With boobs.

Note to self: name my next XBLIG title “My Avatar Zombie Miner Girlfriend.”

NEXT STEPS

But I got a lot of experience out of all this. I was now on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. I had a website and my new game was getting reviewed. The reviews ranged from “cute” to “horrid”, and from “try it” to “one of the worst games”.  But the ratings bounced between 3 and 4 stars and I was happy with the 3.5 average it has, as of this writing, even though Murphy’s Law states that someone will downrate my game as soon as this is published.

I published 2 post-release updates to address customer requests, and started building a sequel. The original and the sequel are built on a common codebase, so that the core engine improvements are automatically added to both games.So, what’s next?

DEV TOOLS & THE MICROSOFT/XNA COMMUNITY

I turned my focus to helping the Community that got me this far. I started building dev tools, and made valuable contacts in the US and around the world. My work was recognized by the XNA Community and my MVP colleagues at my day job.

As a result, I got a lot of things lined up in 2012:

  • XBLIG Sales Data Analyzer released
  • XNA Basic Starter Kit published
  • Media coverage by ArmlessOctopus.
  •  Continued development of the Sales Data Analyzer and the Basic Starter Kit.
  • Media Interview by The Indie Mine
  • International Game Developers Association invite by XNA MVP Jim Perry.
  • MS TechEd 2012 invite by my employer (all-expense paid free trip to Florida!).
  • Selected at work to speak on “XNA Lessons Learned.”
Best of all, top developers and newbies alike were discussing their game projects with me. They included Take Arms developer James Petruzzi (of Discord Games) whose game sales spiked after a price drop, and FortressCraft developer DJ Arcas (Projector Games), whose game sales topped Xbox sales charts worldwide.

Even Indie-tile featured game Orbitron had its sales analyzed by developer Firebase Industries. I don’t have Orbitron sales data yet, but the developer has informed me that the data may be shared soon.

The shared sales data spawned a “Featured” section on OnekSoftLabs.com, where any developer can share their sales charts with the world. The basic Analyzer still needs more features and better performance, so I am already at work on a more personalized tool, called mySDA.  You can check out my FAQ for details.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Not content with my meager game offerings, I have multiple game projects under way.  They include: a 2D fighting game, a 2.5D sidescrolling action game with a custom game engine, and a 3D multiplayer party game.

As for the Ninja Cats sequel, it’s on hold until next holiday season (Oh darn! -Kairi) as it has a wintry theme to it, and is in dire need of better graphics. Apparently, no one cared for my PowerPoint drawings from AZNC, and suggested that I should hire an artist.

I fired back by publishing my real artwork on Facebook. Pencil sketches, pen drawings, tablet creations and CG… I can draw better than the average person, I just need some practice.

Yes, practice makes perfect.

CONCLUSION

In closing, I would like to thank Indie Gamer Chick for giving me this platform to speak out.  Kairi may be tough, but your customers will be tougher.  Read between the lines of each harsh review written about your creations.  Fix what you can, explain what you won’t fix.  Learn something, then move on.

No cats were harmed in the making of Angry Zombie Ninja Cats.  I can’t say the same about my bruised ego though, after reading Kairi’s Angry Zombie Ninja Cats review.

Check out OnekSoft’s official website.

Check out OnekSoft’s Gallery on Facebook.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

9 Responses to Tales from the Dev Side: Earning Your Keep by Shahed Chowdhuri

  1. I swear you’re one of the friendliest, most optimistic guys on the channel, Shahed! 🙂 Keep up the great work.

  2. Pingback: Tales from the Dev Side: 150,000 Served Edition – May 2, 2012 « Indie Gamer Chick

  3. Pingback: Tales from the Dev Side: What Xbox Live Indie Games Have Meant to Me « Indie Gamer Chick

  4. An XBLIG Guy says:

    Hi Shared,
    You are my new hero, second to Shotgun Aces (“There will be brains”). My experience is similar to yours, however your conclusion may do more harm that good to the average Indie developer. With all due respect, I’d like to complement it with my two cents. Based on my own experience, I’d like to advice to:
    * Learn how to be deaf: Public figures are public targets, and no matter what we publish, there is always someone protected under animosity willing to tarnish with scathing comments about what we have done. It’s not something against us – they do it to everybody.
    * Take what is good from the feedback received, but whatever happens, do not lose the love of making videogames. That is the worst thing that could happen, ever.
    * Do not pay attention to the revenue. XNA is not a platform to make money. With a price of $1 USD in a limited exposed channel, it is easy to understand why serious developers jump to iPhone, Steam or PC markets.
    * If a game fails, we are hereby sentenced to create a second game, regardless of how painful it can be. As we approach to the end line, we are reminded why million starts but only a thousand finish what they’ve started.
    * “Indie” stands for “Independent Game Developers”. We have the choice of doing our games our way, without constraints from anybody. I recon that such approach is a marketing suicide, but it sure is an uplifting phrase to raise spirits up after a difficult day on our hobby.

    Kuddos on being a one-man band!!! Not many can do it.

    • Hey XBLIG Guy,

      Thanks for the compliments and your advice.

      I understand what you’re trying to say, but I don’t think “being deaf” will really help Indie developers. The more important thing is to own your own decisions.

      Don’t let the opinions of others derail you from your own path to success. (That includes my opinions here… feel free to disregard parts of my advice that you disagree with!)

      So, we can still still hear what others have to say… we just don’t have listen to them.

      Coincidentally, my next “Tales” article is about redefining Indie success, and covers the above topic. It should be available on IndieGamerChick.com this weekend… stay tuned! 🙂

      ~OnekSoft Games
      .

  5. Pingback: Tales from the Dev Side: Redefining Indie Success by Shahed Chowdhuri « Indie Gamer Chick

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