pnathan: elephant bypasses fence to drink from pool (Default)
Looking over, I am forced to think about monetization of Critters (should it be Critterz?).

It seems clear that IAP enables 'whale' behavior, which substantially increases total & average revenue per user. Since I am someone who likes making money (and likes having a way to keep getting the customer's money), it makes sense to figure out how to 'play' IAP.

By the way, I'm mentioning numbers here, but these numbers are, flatly, provisional and are not final.

Key idea: You get your game and the non-cosmetic content by giving an up-front fee. Cosmetic & 'hard-core' play costs money. Things that increase database burden cost money to cover it. No handwaving.

Set up account and play the game, free, for 24 hours.

Purchase the game for a price point (between 2.99 and 4.99).

This gets you access to N critters. You can play the critters as much as you like, as long as you like,until the service shuts down. Since the game is running online, you will get updates as part of your purchase.

Certain add-ons will cost money. For instance,

- a default emotion set will be available for dogs, cats, and foxes(have to figure out the picture rights for dogs & foxes, since I don't have either). If you want to upload your own pictures, that will be a charge. Say, $0.99 for a picture set.

- If you want to write a history of your critter, it will cost some $X (not too expensive) per critter. Maybe more if you really want to write a lot. This is directly targeted at role-players and people who want to record their virtual pet's story.

- Another idea might be swag. Say, you can feed your cat - Amos - kibble every night. He is a happy cat. However, you can buy 'Tuna' from the swag menu for 0.25[1]. Amos adores tuna, adores you for giving you tuna (boost in stats and behaves better). You feel good, and I get a wee bit of money.

Fundamentally, I am someone who played games as a teen and young adult - you bought them, and that's all. No continual mooching. I played WoW. It seemed reasonable to pay a monthly cut. This worked out, as I knew that they were keeping servers alive and improving the game. I don't want to play a game where I have to 'insert a quarter to keep playing'. Holding your experience hostage to money seems... off. It's not above-board. It's like if a hotel informs you that in order to turn the lights off to go to sleep, you have to pay extra. And then to pay to turn the lights back on. Yech.

Seems much more fair and honest to charge up-front for a fair and reasonable service, with any premium services available and marked as such.

[1] This might actually not be workable due to payment processors wanting a cut. If they want a $0.25 min transaction, it'll have to be more.
pnathan: elephant bypasses fence to drink from pool (Default)
In Critters, it's very important to ensure that things work - no one wants their game to mysteriously break.

This is a technical discussion of the current plan - if you're not interested, you can skip this!

There are several basic parts of the Critters system: the database containing the information about the pets & accounts, the 'smart system' which updates the database regularly, the web server, and the web client. Right now, the database is pretty much done; the 'smart system' sort of works (mostly, I hope!), and the web server is "mostly" done. The client is about half baked though, and needs more work.

One key idea of engineering is the idea of "integration testing", where tests are run from start to finish on the product, verifying that components work together. In order to have a working client, we need to have a working server. I don't know that my client works unless the server works reliably. What I'm doing to test the server side of the code is building a "test client". This test client will be a library to talk to the server. Tests can be written with it (or, if I want, play the game on the command line).

The test client is under development right now. I'm writing it in Haskell, a language designed to be very exacting and catch errors. My plan is to release the source code of the test client publicly (Probably under a AGPL license). This way others can use it for example code (or perhaps use it for their own Critters client).

Anyway, back to the code!
pnathan: elephant bypasses fence to drink from pool (Default)
My major upcoming (side) project is Critters, a game I'm writing. It's design for mobile phones - specifically, the Firefox OS phone. Being as FirefoxOS is HTML5+JS for a front-end, this means that it will work on arbitrary browsers (which are relatively modern). The basic idea is a virtual pet game, but I plan to make it quite a lot more. In particular, I plan to build certain AI features in over time. Why is that? Well, I noticed that, hey, a lot of mobile phone games are kind of uninteresting; not much intellectual enjoyment.

So Critters is an exploration into what that will take. How much fun can you pack into a virtual pet game, anyway?

Well, the initial fun is going to be driven by Ridiculously Photogenic Pets. Primarily, my cat Amos. You'll be able to play with a virtual Amos at first. For someone who grew up playing Warcraft 2, Unreal Tournement, etc, this is pretty lane. So...

After the initial version is viable and spinning along, learned behavior will be the next key upgrade I'll make: how you interact with your pet will matter over time. Poke your cat? Eventually he'll be upset at you and not purr (& do other things)! The overall learned behavior ideal is to have behavior I never dreamt up showing up in your pet's actions. Pretty cool IMO.

Prosaically, the business model is going to be up-front payment + in-app purchase for add-ons for your pet(s). Fundamentally, I want to ensure that my user's interests for giving me money are aligned with me getting them a better game experience. Ads are such a poor experience in my experience!

On the sheer geek front, my plan is to publish the API and have an official specification. The official spec will be encoded as a Haskell CLI program. This way iOS, Android, and other applications can be created if someone really wants to make them.


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