Tales from the Dev Side: Earning Your Keep by Shahed Chowdhuri
March 26, 2012 8 Comments
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.