Archive for category games

2016 Retrospective

With 2017 fast approaching in this neck of the woods, it’s time for my annual year-in-review post.

I usually don’t have too many complaints in these posts, but I have to say 2016 really tested me. And it wasn’t just election-related!

It started with some health issues that began late last year, persisting into early summer. I had a bunch of doctor’s visits and several expensive tests, but there was no real insight into what was going on. Things improved in the second half of the year, thankfully. I still don’t have any idea what was going on, but I’m making an effort to get more rest these days. Work continues to be a major source of stress, unfortunately.

Once again we had several costly car repairs in the first half of the year. Both cars are over 10 years old, with mine almost 14. This ongoing hassle culminated in having to make a decision in May when my car broke down yet again. We had to consider either spending twice the value of the car on repairs, or junking it and getting a new one. We decided on the latter option after realizing we’d have to spend the equivalent of six months of car payments to fix it! As luck would have it, our mechanic was interested in the car (supercharger, anyone?) and ended up buying it. He got a great deal. As for us, we re-entered the world of car payments and bought a new 2016 Dodge Charger. Alas, a V8 Hellcat model was out of reach…

My writing goals for the year were pretty much a bust. I submitted way more stories this year, but didn’t write much new fiction. As with last year, the bulk of my spare time was occupied by working on apps. I released a new PC app, two new Mac apps, a new iOS app, and 33 app updates.

In February I self-published my short story, That Which Dwells Beneath, in eBook and paperback form. This story first appeared in Lovecraft eZine in 2014. That was a fun learning exercise, even though it didn’t sell much. My plan was to use the knowledge gained when launching my first novel. Incidentally, I didn’t work on the novel, other than to re-read parts of my 2011 NaNoWriMo effort.

I entered two flash fiction competitions during the year, this time for Escape Pod and Cast of Wonders. My Escape Pod entry made it past the first round, but not the second. It probably didn’t help that I wrote both at the last minute!

I read more writing books this year and took two classic Dean Wesley Smith writing workshops related to genre and writing in series. I also signed up for Mark Dawson’s Facebook Ads for Authors course when it was offered this past summer, as well as his new Self Publishing 101 course. All of the above were well worth it, though it’ll take awhile longer to get the full benefit from the FB Ads course.

This year I read a good amount, taking part again in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. My reading continued to be almost exclusively in eBook form. Here are my reads for 2016:

Zeroes by Chuck Wendig
Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells by Chris Fox
Irregular Creatures by Chuck Wendig
Zen of eBook Marketing by Guido Henkel
How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours by Andrew Mayne
Jumper: Karma Police Book One by Sean Platt & David Wright
Iterate and Optimize: Optimize Your Creative Business for Profit by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant & David Wright
Dead Man: Black Magic Outlaw #1 by Domino Finn
Cursed: The Thrice Cursed Mage #1 by J. A. Cipriano
Launch to Market: Easy Marketing for Authors by Chris Fox
Wrong Side of Hell: The DeathSpeaker Codex #1 by Sonya Bateman
Writing about Magic by Rayne Hall
Justice Calling: The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1 by Annie Bellet
Blue Collar to No Collar: From Trucker to Bestselling Novelist in Two Years by Wayne Stinnett
Storm Front: The Dresden Files #1 by Jim Butcher
The Shambling Guide to New York: The Shambling Guides #1 by Mur Lafferty
Lustlocked: Sin du Jour #2 by Matt Wallace
Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books by Chris Fox
The Forever Endeavor by Chuck Wendig
Karma Police: Karma Police Book Two by Sean Platt & David Wright
The Collectors: Karma Police Book Three by Sean Platt & David Wright
Ameriguns: A Thriller by Scott King
The 5 Day Novel by Scott King
Book Cover Secrets and Shortcuts: Book Cover Design for Everyone by Ed Lewis
Tales from the Loop by Simon Stålenhag

I continued listening to some great short fiction podcasts on my daily commute, including Escape Pod, Pseudopod, PodCastle, and Cast of Wonders. I highly recommend them, even to people who might not be short fiction readers. The podcasts are free, but please donate or subscribe if you enjoy listening.

Now for some stats:

2016 Stats:

New apps released: 4
App updates released: 33 (includes Lite and Paid versions)
2016 Word count: 1,513
Stories written: 2
Stories published: 1
Total submissions: 32
Total acceptances: 0
Total rejections: 32
Waiting for response: 0
Books read: 25
Comics read: 12

As previously mentioned, I did a tonne of work on my apps this year. I released 4 new apps and more updates than last year.

My iOS, Mac and PC apps continue to decline in sales, despite the release of new apps. Revenue is slightly lower than last year. My new apps tanked badly, but I’m hoping they’ll do better by next Spring, since gardening app sales are typically seasonal.

In mid-April I released a Mac version of my orchid collection tracking app, Orchid Album. Like the iOS and PC versions, this app is localized into 6 languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

October saw the release of both Mac and PC versions of my iOS cactus collection tracking app, Cactus Album. This year I’d localized the iOS app into an additional 6 languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai), and likewise for the Mac and PC versions.

In December I beat the App Store shutdown deadline and released my first new iOS app in two years, Plant Album. This is a more general-purpose garden and plant tracking app for gardeners, localized into 6 languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Despite adding a few more Android test devices to my collection this year, I didn’t do much work on Bonsai Album for Android. I’m getting stuck into learning the platform from scratch (again!) and hope to complete the app in 2017.

I’ve abandoned the untitled shoot-em-up game I was working on late last year. It would’ve been too much effort and expense to bother with considering the totally flooded game market these days. It’s a pity, since I had a prototype working on iOS, Mac, and Apple TV with the same codebase, including game controller support on all three platforms.

My interest in bonsai this year was confined to keeping my trees alive. I didn’t attend any bonsai shows or botanic gardens this year. I also lost a handful more trees, due to the harsh winter and a squirrel (or was it a rabbit or raccoon?) chomping apart one of my tropical trees at the roots.

Travel-wise, this year we made a bunch of trips to Michigan as usual. We also visited Amish country in Indiana, and the Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio. No exotic Florida vacation this year!

I wasn’t terribly happy with my personal fitness in 2016. Between the aforementioned health issues and slacking off in the final few months of the year, I didn’t exercise anywhere near as much as I should have.

This year I voted as a U.S. citizen for the first time, voting in the Illinois primaries and the general election. I wasn’t happy with the result of either one, but at least I voted, unlike most of the population!

So that’s my 2016 in a nutshell. My 2016 goals were a total shambles, but that’s not going to stop me making plans for 2017! Here are my goals for 2017:

– Write more fiction and complete my first novel.

– Complete my first Android app (most likely Bonsai Album). I still need to finish off the iOS, Mac and PC updates for Bonsai Album I’ve been working on since Summer, but after that the decks should be clear to get cracking on Android.

– Get back into my usual exercise routine, at least 3 times per week.

– Spend more time in our garden. I worked on the veggie garden this year, but just about everything else was neglected. It has been depressing looking at some amazing photos of our garden from the past decade and realizing it hasn’t looked that great in many years.

I hope everyone had a decent year, and I wish you well as we head into 2017. Happy New Year!

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2015 Retrospective

With the start of a new year, it’s a good time for one last look back at the previous year.

I don’t have too many complaints about 2015. The day job was a madhouse for much of the year, involving stacks of overtime and some overseas travel. Both of our old cars continue to test the pocketbook, and finances will prevent their replacement anytime soon. On the bright side, I finally paid off my large medical bill, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Revisiting my 2015 goals, I wasn’t able to focus on writing so much. I didn’t go back to my novel at all, though I wrote a bunch of short stories instead. I mostly expended a huge amount of effort on my apps. In addition to 20+ iOS app updates, I released 3 new PC apps and an Apple TV app.

During 2015 I wrote a new Lovecraftian story and a whole bunch of flash fiction. From the latter I selected the two best stories to enter the Pseudopod flash fiction competition. One of the two stories made it past the first round, but was knocked out in the second. It was loads of fun to create some glimpses of new worlds and characters, so it’s something I’d like to do more of in the future.

Last year I read several writing books and watched some James Patterson Master Class writing lectures, as well as another lecture by Dean Wesley Smith and the folks at WMG Publishing. While there were no mind-blowing revelations, there were plenty of cool things to add to my writing toolbox.

My experiments in self-publishing fell flat, leaving me to conclude that short stories are a very tough sell at the present time. Then again, I can’t discount the possibility that my stories really sucked!

I had one story enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (KU) for 3 months, but had zero borrows over that time. If you’re a reader signed up for a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you would’ve been able to read it for free (i.e. borrow). The economics of the program changed during the year, which means it’s no longer possible to earn substantially more per short story download from a KU borrow vs a direct purchase at 99 cents. What was odd was making a handful of sales after pulling that particular story from KU.

While sales at Amazon were bad, everywhere else was completely dismal (zero!). As a result, I have since made both stories permanently free on all eBook platforms. I’m now getting a steady trickle of downloads, but still only on Amazon.

I did okay with keeping my stories out for submission at traditional markets, but like always, could’ve done better.

In 2015 I read twice as many books as the previous year. It probably helped there weren’t too many phonebook-sized tomes in the list. I took part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge which was a great motivator. Like last year, I read almost exclusively in eBook form. Here are my 2015 reads:

Threshold by Sean Platt and David Wright
The Martian by Andy Weir
Supercharge Your Kindle Sales: Simple Strategies to Boost Organic Traffic on Amazon, Sell More Books, and Blow Up Your Author Mailing List by Nick Stephenson
The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
Invasion by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
Writing High-Performance .NET Code by Ben Watson
Alamo Rising by Josh Rountree and Lon Prater
Contact by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
Reader Magnets: Build Your Author Platform and Sell More Books on Kindle by Nick Stephenson
Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker
Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction by Douglas Smith
Indie Author Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn
5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox
Colonization by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox
Build IOS Games with Sprite Kit: Unleash Your Imagination in Two Dimensions by Jonathan Penn and Josh Smith
Stories From July by Dean Wesley Smith
Fiction Unboxed by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt
Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace

I continued to listen to short fiction podcasts on my daily commute via Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and PodCastle. I highly recommend them, even to people who might not be short fiction readers. The podcasts are free, but please send a few bucks their way if you enjoy listening.

Now for some stats:

2015 Stats:

New apps released: 4
App updates released: 21 (includes Lite and Paid versions)
2015 Word count: 13,958
Stories written: 14
Stories published: 0
Total submissions: 12
Total acceptances: 0
Total rejections: 12
Waiting for response: 0
Books read: 20
Comics read: 12

As mentioned above, I did a huge amount of work on my apps in 2015. I released 4 new apps and even more updates than last year.

My iOS and Mac apps continued their steady sales decline, with most almost reaching saturation point for their respective niches. Revenue for my iOS and Mac apps is roughly flat compared with the previous year. My PC apps didn’t do as well as expected, but they still helped minimize the impact of the lower sales of the rest.

Near the end of March I released Bonsai Album for PC. This is the PC version of my Mac bonsai tracking app, and it contains pretty much the same features. Like the Mac version, this app is localized into 7 languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese. There were some particular challenges on the PC platform with respect to obtaining a code-signing certificate and getting the licensing code working, but I was able to reuse this work in my other PC apps.

In mid-May I released the PC version of my submission tracking app for writers, Story Tracker.

In July I announced Bonsai Album for Android, taking my first tentative steps into Android app development.

September saw the release of the PC version of my iOS orchid collection tracking app, Orchid Album. Like the iOS version, this app is localized into 6 languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

In October I released an Apple TV version of my flying jackalope game, Flapalope. This was a fun exercise, since Apple TV apps are quite similar to iOS apps. I’m using the Cocos2D game development framework again. I also had fun creating a game trailer on YouTube. A single 99c purchase unlocks both the iOS and Apple TV versions. Unfortunately the Apple TV App Store launch was botched in the first few weeks, leading to most apps being difficult to find. The situation has only marginally improved since.

Despite having made a grand total of 63 cents from this new game, I was excited to work on another one. This time around it’s an untitled shoot-em-up, also done with Cocos2D. The prototype is already working on iOS, Mac, and Apple TV with the same codebase, and also has game controller support on all three platforms. I’m still trying to decide which direction I’ll take the game, but I’m hoping to release it sometime this year.

Another big milestone this year was finally obtaining my U.S. citizenship! I’ve been eligible to apply for years, but with the looming 10-year expiry and renewal of my greencard, it was time to do some serious thinking. I applied in January, studied furiously for the test, and the interview and subsequent ceremony was in May.

My interest in bonsai waned further in 2015. I lost a few more trees during the horrendous winter, which added to the tally from the previous winter. There were no new trees this year, either.

I attended one bonsai show at Morton Arboretum, but missed the big show at the Chicago Botanic Garden due to travel.

I didn’t take much time off in the first half of the year, but enjoyed having my parents visit during Summer. We spent some time with them in Milwaukee and upper Michigan before they headed to the next stop on their trip. Later, we went camping with the inlaws, and in December we headed to Florida for Christmas, visiting Daytona Beach, Saint Augustine, Epcot, Key West, and Legoland (including the new Legoland hotel).
I also had two week-long business trips in 2015, spending some time in Paris and Guadalajara. Alas, not as fun as they might sound.

I was fairly happy with my personal fitness in 2015. I made time for regular treadmill workouts, consistently exercising 3 times a week, except for travel weeks and when the treadmill died in February. Funnily enough, the treadmill died a week before its 10-year warranty expired, so we only had to pay for the labor cost of repairs.

That about sums it up for 2015. I like setting New Year’s goals, despite not always being able to meet them. Here’s what I’m planning for 2016:

– Number one goal this year is to complete my first novel. I’ve always wanted to have at least one under my belt before hitting 40, and time is fast running out!

– Further to the previous goal, I plan to focus on my writing this year, rather than sacrificing it for apps. This includes both writing more stories and substantially ramping up submissions.

– I plan to continue my usual exercise routine. It gets tougher with age, but the benefits are too great to pass up.

– I’d like to release my new shoot-em-up game on iOS, Mac, and Apple TV. I’ve spent a bunch of time on the prototype, and I’d hate for all that effort to go to waste.

So, that’s it for another year. I hope 2015 treated you well, and best wishes for the New Year!

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Flapalope Gold Now Available for Apple TV

Flapalope Gold landed on the Apple TV App Store today. It’s quite possibly the best and only flying jackalope game in the entire world!

It’s a 99c endless flapper, with Universal support. A single purchase gets you the ad and IAP-free Apple TV and iOS versions.

Here’s a link to the iOS version: Flapalope Gold (iOS)

In addition to simple tap-to-flap control with the Apple TV remote, the game includes Game Center leaderboards and achievements, and a fun side-quest to collect golden jackalope eggs to unlock a one-time-use mystery item. And who could possibly forget the ear-worming music and amusing sound effects 😉

Fill that jackalope-shaped hole in your life and take this majestic creature for a spin!

Flapalope – Now Available on the Mac App Store

Download on the Mac App Store

For anyone who has ever dreamed a jackalope could fly… pilot the world’s finest cryptozoological creature through perilous terrain, with Flapalope!

Flapalope is now available on the Mac App Store. If you’re curious what this remarkable game is all about, there’s more details in my earlier blog posts.

Flapalope is also available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, with free ad-supported and ad-free versions.

You can reach me with any game-related enquiries via email at games at andrewnicolle dot com, or on Twitter I’m @andrewnicolle. Like Flapalope at the Facebook page.

If you’re enjoying Flapalope, please spare a moment to leave a review on the Mac App Store. Reviews really help. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Flapalope v1.2 update

Flapalope

Flapalope available on the App Store

For anyone who has ever dreamed a jackalope could fly… pilot the world’s finest cryptozoological creature through perilous terrain, with Flapalope!

The Flapalope v1.2 update flapped onto the App Store today! For more about the game, see my previous blog post.

New in this version:

– Game Center leaderboards and achievements are now shared with Flapalope Gold (ad-free).
– Bug fixes

You can reach me with any game-related enquiries via email at games at andrewnicolle dot com, or on Twitter I’m @andrewnicolle. Like Flapalope at the Facebook page.

If you’re enjoying Flapalope, please spare a moment to leave a review, or update your existing review (they get reset with every update). Reviews really help. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Flapalope Gold: The Flapalope experience, minus the ads!

Flapalope Gold available on the App Store

For anyone who has ever dreamed a jackalope could fly… pilot the world’s finest cryptozoological creature through perilous terrain, with Flapalope Gold!

Flapalope Gold is now available on the App Store, for those who appreciate a more refined, ad-free flying jackalope experience. If you’re curious what this remarkable game is all about, there’s more details in my earlier blog posts.

For those of you crying out for a desktop version, never fear. I’m putting the finishing touches on a Mac version, coming soon to the Mac App Store!

You can reach me with any game-related enquiries via email at games at andrewnicolle dot com, or on Twitter I’m @andrewnicolle. Like Flapalope at the Facebook page.

If you’re enjoying Flapalope Gold, please spare a moment to leave a review on the App Store. Reviews really help. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Flapalope Easter Update

Flapalope

Flapalope available on the App Store

For anyone who has ever dreamed a jackalope could fly… pilot the world’s finest cryptozoological creature through perilous terrain, with Flapalope!


The Flapalope v1.1 Easter update flaps its way onto the App Store today! For more about the game, see my previous blog post.

New in this version:

– Collect golden jackalope eggs to unlock a one-time-use mystery item
– Added Game Center achievements
– Added landscape cacti

I’ve updated the Flapalope Press Kit with new screenshots. You can reach me with any game-related enquiries via email at games at andrewnicolle dot com, or on Twitter I’m @andrewnicolle. Like Flapalope at the Facebook page.

If you’re enjoying Flapalope, please spare a moment to leave a review, or update your existing review (they get reset with every update). Reviews really help. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Here comes the Flapalope!

Flapalope

Flapalope available on the App Store

For anyone who has ever dreamed a jackalope could fly… you’ll soon get your chance to pilot the world’s finest cryptozoological creature through perilous terrain, with Flapalope!

Flapalope is my first-ever iOS game. I’ve been developing productivity apps since the early days of the App Store, but for some reason never got around to working on a game. Flapalope is my take on the ‘Flappy-genre’, and hopefully you’ll find it a little more polished than most. It’ll soon be released as a free ad-supported game on the App Store for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iOS 5.1.1 or higher.

Why a jackalope, you may ask? They’re not merely rabbits in antler hats. In my opinion they’re the finest of cryptozoogical creatures, and are too often unappreciated by the general public. I think they’re fascinating creatures, so much so that we made a day trip to Douglas, Wyoming (birthplace of the jackalope legend) during our South Dakota trip a few years back. They appear in my fiction, and we even have one mounted above our mantelpiece! I hope this absurd level of appreciation comes across in my rendition of this most magnificent of creatures.

Flapalope has a Western theme throughout, from the desert landscape through to the use of fonts and “ear-wormish” harmonica and banjo solos. It even has cacti and tumbleweeds! Playing the game should be fairly simple – just keep tapping! Getting a high score may be a little trickier, however. Flapalope includes Game Center support to track high scores. It’s also a universal app, with higher-res artwork for iPad.

I wrote the initial version using Sprite Kit, following a tutorial on Ray Wenderlich’s site. Sprite Kit is Apple’s answer to 2D game engines and it has a lot in common with Cocos2D. It’s fantastic for anyone looking to get a start at making iOS games, and it can only get better with future iterations.

Toward the end of development it became apparent there were still a few bugs with Sprite Kit. I also wasn’t satisfied with only being able to support iOS7 or higher. Enter: Cocos2D. This open-source 2D game framework has been around for years, and it solved both issues for me. The conversion from Sprite Kit took me longer than expected (about 23 hours), but I’m happy with the end result. The game now runs on iOS 5.1.1 or higher, and works pretty well even on the original iPad.

I’ve added a Flapalope Press Kit to my site with more screenshots and so forth, to grease the wheels of the inevitable media coverage. I can dream, can’t I? 😉 You can reach me with any game-related enquiries via email at games at andrewnicolle dot com, or on Twitter I’m @andrewnicolle.

UPDATE: Flapalope is now available on the App Store!

I hope everyone enjoys the game, and I look forward to the day when I finally beat my brother’s Flapalope high score of 42!

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