Posted on | May 9, 2014 | No Comments
I’m not updating this blog often enough so I thought I’d just share a sketch I made earlier with Wacom’s Intuos Creative Stylus and their Bamboo Paper app for iPad.
To get an idea for the style head over to my Playstar Arcade and play Night Bomber.
I’m loving getting back in to the pixel art style and sci-fi games like this lend themselves to it.
Posted on | March 10, 2014 | No Comments
I recently started poring over the search terms to the Playstar Arcade in some more detail.
I found something quite interesting. A number of search terms carried the phrase “no download”.
Here’s a brief summary:
- free online ipad games no download
- mobile games no download
- online ipad games no download
- free games no downloads
- free mobile games no download
- free online games for ipad no download
- free online mobile games no download
- online games no download
- free online games with no download
I receive a healthy amount of traffic from search engines, most of which are on desktop. I’d love for this to shift to mobile but that will take some time. None the less it’s encouraging to see that people are looking for games to play and are aware that games can be played without the need to download an app.
Although the phrases listed above are all variations on a couple of themes they show a brief insight in to the mind of the searching gamer. That list accounts for around a third of all phrases that include “no download”.
The intriguing phrases are the ones that contain “iPad”. I imagine it’s fairly common knowledge amongst the iOS community that there is no support for Flash or any other 3rd party browser plug-in. So this can really only amount to games that can be played in the web browser natively.
The same cannot be assumed for those searching more generally for “mobile” or simply “online”. But by virtue of the fact that they’ve included “no download” I’d assume that they are referring to browser games.
There is a clear opportunity for HTML5 games here. As the quality of HTML5 gaming rises (and it should as publishers demand more visual quality at least) we can hopefully start to see a level of education amongst the browser gaming public that “HTML5″, at least in a gaming sense, can be synonymous with not only quality gaming but crucially “no download”.
Strictly speaking it could also become synonymous with “online”. But let’s not muddy the water as its real strength is of course in “offline”. That’s a different story.
HTML5 is quicker to type and probably ultimately far easier to remember.
Let’s look at that list again with the words changed to suit the HTML5 developer.
- free HTML5 ipad games
- mobile games HTML5
- HTML5 ipad games
- free games HTML5
- free mobile games HTML5
- free HTML5 games for ipad
- free HTML5 mobile games
- HTML5 games
- free HTML5 games
We’re getting there…
Posted on | March 2, 2014 | 2 Comments
Ever since my first foray in to browser gaming I’ve stuck to my goal of creating the kind of games that I enjoyed in my youth. Generally speaking this means classic “pixelled” sprites and the control of an on-screen character / spaceship / vehicle of some kind. Ideally I’d also throw in bombs, lasers and explosions a plenty.
If I’m honest it’s also a pretty easy style of game to write.
I guess right now I’m wondering whether it’s right for me to continue to target this niche in retro gaming or whether I should move on a bit and challenge myself with a different genre.
There are benefits to maintaining a niche and also several drawbacks.
The benefits clearly come in the form of brand association and search relevance. The more I can focus on writing about a specific area of mobile gaming the more I improve my chances of being returned favourably in Google et al.
But sticking to a niche also narrows my opportunities in the wider field of attracting work. Whilst I’m always going to favour working on my own projects and my own designs I can’t disregard the fact that there is some value in being a coder for hire.
Arcade games, the classic ones (which I guess we now refer to as retro arcade games), offer some wonderful pointers for achieving an optimum in designing games for casual mobile play.
Arcade games almost by definition were games that you could play and access quickly and each “go” would last for little more than a few minutes. This is what your single coin gave you and if the experience was a good one you’d possibly sink another coin. If not you’d move on and find something else.
This has real parallels with today’s online games scene. Especially the mobile web gaming scene.
HTML5 game portals tend to target mobile devices. The good sites are clean and optimised for display on the smaller screens. As such they are pretty straight forward to navigate around and generally uncluttered. The same cannot be said for the desktop equivalents which in many cases are more of an excuse to litter the screen with advertising than offer any kind of a gaming experience.
My stats continue to show me that my games are popular. When somebody visits the site they generally play around 3.2 games per session before they disappear. 6% of visitors exit via an advert. I’m not actually sure whether those 6% have enjoyed their time on the site and played that average 3.2 games or whether they’re simply hacked off with the experience and were looking for a way out. I guess there’s every chance this is the case.
Regardless mobile arcade games and mobile game design (HTML5 game design) continue to challenge my brain cells. I’m always thinking of new elements to games that I scribble down for later reference and often draw upon them when I’m thinking of the finer details of a game’s execution.
I use SNES and Arcade emulators (ZSNES and MAME) on a regular basis to research gaming styles, challenges, reward systems and every other vital element of a good gaming experience.
MAME generally offers that throwback to the mind boggling and dazzling array of cabinets that beeped and zapped at me as I stalked the arcade for that perfect way to spend 5 minutes and 10 pence. I suppose it gets me in the mood :)
The SNES games on the other hand are showing me the visual style that I’m aiming for. Especially in my most recent game Jumpin’ Jasper which was every bit a SNES inspired game.
I’ve not set out to find any magic solution here it’s really just a Sunday morning blog update with a coffee and some thoughts.
I have to say that playing and designing retro-styled arcade games still thrills me. There’s a lot to be said for this.
I may be missing a trick or two by not becoming a more high profile game developer but maybe that’s not for me.
An old manager once said to me “Stick to what you know by all means but do it well. Do it very well. Be the best at what you do well and above all enjoy it.”
Posted on | February 25, 2014 | No Comments
I recently posted an article on Gamasutra about the association with HTML5 and gaming. I go in to a little detail about how we as HTML5 game developers can improve the perception of HTML5 as a viable medium for mobile gaming.
You can read the full article here: The public perception of HTML5 and its association with games
Posted on | February 25, 2014 | No Comments
It’s World Cup year. As a football lover I love the world cup finals. This year we are in Brazil, the home of traditionally the most exciting team in the world. Brazil are generally the neutrals favourites and have, in years gone by, come to epitomise a free flowing style of football that is both easy on the eye and extremely effective at opening up the opposition’s defence.
I’ve thought about making a football game before but have never really settled on a design that suits the nature of the touchscreens that I target.
Lately I’ve been thinking about a game in which the player controls an attacking player with the sole goal of dodging oncoming defenders.
For as long as he has his finger on the screen the player is controlling the movement of the player. It’s all about timing. When an approaching defender looks as though he is about to slide in the player must lift his finger off the screen. This triggers a jump from his on-screen attacker.
If the jump is well timed the play continues until the attacker reaches the edge of the box.
Now it’s about position. As the player steps on to the edge of the 18 yard box the game automatically shoots. But it’s not over yet, the player just has the keeper to beat. To maintain the momentum I don’t want to completely stop the action for the player to place his shot. Instead I’m going to give him as long as he has earned!
For each well timed jump to avoid the defenders the player earns valuable time. Also, to distract the player in to changing direction during his run toward goal I will drop bonuses on to the pitch. The more the player collects the longer he has to aim his shot at the goal.
After each attack it’s the turn of the opposition to attack. But I’m not interested in displaying that. For that I’ll roll a dice and present whether or not they scored to the player. I want to get right back in to the attacking phase so that the player is primarily concerned with scoring goals.
I think I could probably take this design forward in to an initial concept with some crude graphics.
Posted on | February 21, 2014 | No Comments
I’m on something of a mission to have my HTML5 arcade visible to the search engines. Naturally I’ve a number of keywords and phrases that I want to have positioned favourably in Google et al. My goal is to have phrases such as “free arcade games” on the first page of results and ideally “above the fold”.
To this end I’ve done a good deal of work in making sure that the site’s content is specific, relevant and perhaps most important of all unobtrusive to the player. I think I’ve achieved a reasonable balance.
Every once in a while I grab a coffee and spend 5 minutes punching in variations on my keywords in to Google.
The most recent search phrase was “free arcade games for ipad”.
Before I go on I must at this point pledge my love for Apple’s iPad. I’ve had an iPad since its launch and have very much fallen for its elegance, execution and simplicity. Contrary to popular opinion I also rather like its sandboxed nature. I’ve no intention to “jailbreak” it. There’s no need. Not for me. It does what I want it to do and then some. Most important of all though it plays HTML5 games like a dream.
So appearing favourably for a search phrase containing the words arcade, games and ipad is a key goal for my plans of 2014. Free is obviously also an important word since HTML5 games tend to be largely synonymous with free gaming just now. I guess that will change. It’s interesting that I’ve not identified HTML5 as a key search word just now. I’ve made some provision for it but until it becomes a key word in the mind of the public searching for games on their mobile I’m less concerned about it. That said part of my mission is to create that relationship amongst the gaming public with the words HTML5 and games.
So what do I get when I punch “free arcade games for ipad” in to Google?
Well, disregarding adverts, I get several results before my own site playstar.mobi is returned.
I set out to take a closer look at the links that preceed my own. Here’s some detail.
Results as at 21st February 2014
A very respectable list of free iPad games available from the app store. Very difficult to compete with as some of those games are AAA in iPad terms.
Different games but the same premise. A list of very good quality games that you can install and enjoy for free before you hit the brick wall of In App Purchasing.
So far it’s hard to see where my humble little HTML5 games arcade could possibly fit in to the big world of iPad arcade gaming. But I’ll persevere.
This time a direct link to some of the games that influenced me both as a boy and as a “grown up” game developer. Geez. This is getting tough. How on earth can I compete with this?
Holy hell another list. This seems to be the way to get your pages ranked well. TechCrunch, TouchArcade, Apple and PCMag are all well ranked within Google so this is no surprise. It’s looking quite ominous a task.
ANOTHER take on the best free iPad games available to us in 2013. It’s becoming very much a trend is this. I doubt the authors care a jot about what games are good and what are bad. They just want their site ranking well for these search phrases. “The best free ipad games, period“. Well if that’s not arrogant I don’t know what is. Arrogant link baiting. Wow. The internet sinks a level.
This list is different but really no different to the others, other than it ranks lower in Google’s index.
I offer some very simple arcade games that are based on a simple premise: shoot, dodge and blast your way to the top of the high score table. It’s old school and I’m starting to feel like I cannot compete.
I couldn’t see a date alongside this entry. I think it may be a couple of years old given some of the titles on offer – “Rage” for example.
I quite like this list. It’s simple and honest. But still it points directly to the app store. HTML5 gaming hasn’t a sniff. Yet.
I didn’t delve too deep here but it looks like all the results of number 6 categorised. The author is the same. Yup, very much an SEO exercise.
“Daniel, get us listed up there with Techcrunch for free iPad games. We’re about.com for God’s sake. We need to be registering.”
Hang on. This looks different. I’ve never heard of iappguide.com. These guys could well be HTML5 focused.
Alas, no. It’s another bunch of links to the app store. To its credit it looks pretty well maintained. Right now Flappy Bird is all the craze and there’s a bunch of “flappy” games on offer. No HTML5 but it’s a bit different. Credit to them for weighing in at number 8 but I’m not sure I’d install any of their listed games. It’s just a list and feels pretty pointless. i.e. content I could get just by going to the app store or reading one of the previous 7 lists.
Lists, lists, lists. There’s no experience to be had here. Just lists. If you play Google you can position yourself well but have limited relevance to your audience. I’m not convinced lists are what people searching with the word “arcade” are after. I’m possibly (and probably) wrong.
Proceed with caution! I’m not convinced that this site is a friendly site.
It’s the first site on the list that offers games outside of the app store. Yup, you’ll need a jailbroken iPad for this lot.
If you’ve jailbroken your iPad you’ve really missed the point. You probably should have some form of Android detritus like a Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Mega. Both fine bits of kit but for my money inferior to Apple’s offerings. Anyway, that’s technical opinion and I try to avoid that.
I don’t like this site. It’s just a bit “hey look at my adverts”. There’s no promise of an experience to be had here. Just a vehicle for ranking highly and splurging adverts at you.
Aaaand another list. A bunch of iPad games that somebody has hastily assembled without any real thought or care. Actually perhaps there was some care taken not to replicate what Techcrunch or About.com were offering.
This is a terrible list wrapped with some adverts. Again.
I must be close to being listed. Surely.
205 words in this article. 205 words. The rest of the page is adverts and links to other site content. Those silly enough to fall for it have commented in the comments section. Jesus.
So for anyone genuinely looking for free arcade games to play on their iPad it’s looking pretty grim. Unless they’re happy with wading through a list of somebody’s opinion as to what’s good they’re not really going to get the “arcade” experience.
Perhaps that’s not important.
I perhaps need to think about this.
Most people surfing the web for games were probably born after the glory days of arcade gaming. Is it really right that I should harp on about the beauty of playing games and striving for the high score for the cost of a single coin?
Maybe not. I am quite possibly barking up the wrong tree. But that said I’m convinced that what was fun for me as a boy 30 years ago ought to be fun for today’s casual gamer. The challenge of a good arcade game with that single goal of dominating the high score table – the one thing that identified you as the “best” – has to be a worthwhile pursuit.
HUZZAH! I made it. Amongst the endless lists of lists I made it.
So what does a searcher see for their “free arcade games for ipad”?
To better understand this I’m going to try and step inside the mind of the searcher. What kind of a person might want to find free arcade games for their ipad?
Free games for iPad is quite different to free arcade games for iPad. At least I think it is.
If you include the word arcade you’re looking for something quite specific. That’s not to say you’re looking for something from 30 years ago. Not at all. But you’re looking for a style of game that almost by definition is brief, challenging, entertaining and most likely pretty intense.
So far a few of those lists have thrown up their own results and a bunch of the games listed are very good. Very good indeed. But they’re not “classic” in their execution. Not necessarily.
So from this I deduce that what I want from my searcher is an unwritten desire to play “classic” arcade games.
To have my games returned without having to supply an extra (and arguably implied) keyword is good.
The person I want to be searching for “free arcade games for ipad” is an iPad owner (obviously) and somebody interested in (ideally) classic style arcade games from what I would call the golden era.
This is both useful and limiting.
Useful in that it provides a niche target audience to aim for an limiting in that it restricts me to that very same audience.
Nonetheless I am happy to target this audience.
So what words greet my searcher?
Well right now it’s
Free Mobile Arcade Games - HTML5 gaming – No Downloads, no installs | Play …Where can I play games on my iPad, Android, iPhone or iPod Touch for free …
Woah. Look at that – HTML5 gaming.
If I can get this person to click they’ve suddenley (hopefully) made an association with free and/or arcade gaming and HTML5.
I’d be happy with either of those associations.
One day HTML5 will be a key search phrase for anyone looking for a particular style of game. Ideally “mobile” and possibly “free”. Whether that shifts to the stinking world of In App Purchasing remains to be seen but certainly the mobile angle is key.
Same game > any device. That has to be a winner. It is afterall our unique selling proposition to our audience.
Posted on | February 1, 2014 | No Comments
I have a number of targets for this year with Space Monster Games but crucially I have one goal that stands out above all others; grow traffic to Playstar.
I noted a few points down relating to my targets that I thought might be worth sharing here.
Get a better spread of traffic sources
Just now I take regular traffic from a few sites. Referral figures run at anywhere between 40% and 60% daily. I have always assumed that the remainder have the arcade bookmarked but I suppose that Google’s Analytics script simply doesn’t have enough information to determine a source. This could be for a number of reasons.
I’ve often wondered, for example, what the effect of launching the site from within an embedded browser inside an app might return. I’m guessing that it would be returned as direct or not set since there’s no referring URL.
Either way it won’t do any harm to promote the arcade organically and be visible on a broader range and number of related sites.
Which leads me nicely on to…
Improved Page Rank
Playstar is a new site. It’s been actively maintained for less than 6 months. In that time I’ve used all the expected methods of communicating its existence via social media including Facebook and Twitter. But predictably its ranking within Google is low. Around 1/10.
By the end of 2014 I’d like to see that up at around 4/10.
How will I do that? This is of course the million dollar question. How on earth do you increase your Google Page Ranking for a mobile web gaming site?
Well I’ve pondered this question over and over and ultimately I arrive right back at the beginning. There is no magic solution specific to promoting a mobile web gaming site. It is after all just a web site. So to succeed I simply promote it as I would any other web site.
Where and how I promote it warrants a little more thought.
I sometimes try and visualise my audience. Right down to the person.
- What do they look like?
- Where do they live?
- What is their employment / education status?
- How old are they?
- What budget do they have?
- What are their interests?
In an attempt to flesh this out a bit I’ve attempted to become my target audience!
What does a mobile gamer (never mind the web bit for now) do to find games to play?
Well this really does depend upon an array of things (including but not at all limited to):
- Handset used
- Internet connection / reliability
The analytics collected from Playstar thus far inform me that the majority (60%) of visitors are male and aged somewhere between 16 and 36.
They are also casual / hardcore gamers, savvy parents, photography enthusiasts and petrol heads!
OK, so good luck targetting that audience with a single strategy. Google’s assumptions based algorithms for determining this data are simply not reliable enough.
To get inside the head of a typical mobile gamer it’s probably more reliable to collect a few handsets and go looking for games. Free games. The word FREE is key here.
Annoyingly In App Purchasing (the freemium model) has taken off in a big way. This essentially renders games free at the point of download and in many cases the gamer gets a satisfactory experience without spending any cash. This of course means that a gamer looking for a free game can simply head to an app store and sniff out a freemium game. Their first port of call being the app store means that they are potentially less inclined to use a search engine to find a free game.
Competing with the countless millions of app store games is not for me. Besides I want to crush the app stores and drive everyone toward browser gaming!
But am I missing a trick here? Why not use the app stores? Why not submit my games to the app store as a means of promoting the arcade. The “footfall” through the app stores is huge. Even 0.01% of daily app store traffic at least seeing a screenshot of my games might warrant further investigation.
I could offer the games for free such they they stand a better chance of download and then splash my branding all over them in the hope that the gamer will take the next step and go visit the arcade.
Why visit the arcade when they can just launch the app I hear you ask?
It’s a good point but the arcade is more than just a bunch of games. Its feature set is growing and is largely based around high scores and achievements. This functionality wouldn’t extend to the app store. It would be important to stress that point.
As positive as this sounds it still seems like fishing with a crude wooden stick and a piece of string in a lake the size of Australia.
I’m brought back to search engines; where the same analogy could of course be applied. I just feel there is a little more control with the search engines.
Search Engine Optimisation
Encouragingly there is obviously a hunger for free games.
Surely these gamers are willing to play anything. And that must include mobile web games.
Naturally therefore there must be a significant volume of gamers using Google to search for “free mobile games” or “free online games”. Not necessarily “free mobile web games” but that will change with time.
The challenge here is in making my “free mobile web game” site stand up alongside the “free mobile game” options returned in Google.
SEO best practices essentially point to a couple of strategies:
- Keep talking about your site (via all means)
- Share your site with as many people as you can
It’s certainly not going to do any harm and to this end I have a blog and social media accounts. I’m less inclined to litter forums and blog comments with drivel purely to get links as I think it devalues the brand. But is this the right approach?
If I were a gamer looking for free games what would drive me toward a mobile web gaming site? Who might I be?
- A disillusioned iOS gamer used to Flash gaming in my PC’s browser?
- The frustrated owner of a cheap handset with an assumption that nothing will run because it’s so terrible?
- A novice who simply taps “free games” in to the Google box that sits on the home screen of Android devices?
This kind of thing intrigues me. To properly reach out to a potential mobile web gaming audience I need to think and behave like a mobile gamer.
There is of course another approach.
Rather than waiting for the world to catch up with the notion of mobile web gaming, tell them about it.
Stand out from the crowd as somebody who is an authority on mobile web gaming. Not just a gaming portal but an innovator. A designer, developer and arcade owner.
There’s some merit in this but what would concern me is that it places a direct relationship between the developer and the arcade; the technology and the fun.
I would really want the arcade to stand out as a pure means of escape without linking it directly to the nuts and bolts that go in to its production. As a boy playing Space Invaders et al I couldn’t have cared less about who designed the games and how they made it in to the arcade.
But in this age of maximising web exposure it’s important to play to your strengths. This blog is as much of a weapon in that sense as the arcade and its games.
Drawing conclusions from all of this is tough but one thing has emerged that I will take on board.
I need to be the gamer. I need to actually become the audience.
To this end I need to ditch using an iPhone 5s as my daily phone and walk around with a Samsung Galaxy model for a week or so. Samsung devices are by far the most popular handsets visiting the arcade.
I’d probably pick a low to mid-range Galaxy phone running a minimum of Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0). An SII perhaps.
I’ll treat it as my main phone and source of all mobile gaming. I’ll set my budget to zero and at every point I want to play a game of some kind I’ll shun the iOS devices in favour of the Samsung.
It will be hugely frustrating initially I’m sure but hopefully will yield some interesting results.
All comments, suggestions and opinions welcomed.
Posted on | January 31, 2014 | No Comments
Road Rage is finally complete.
I put a lot of work in to this one in terms of balancing the action versus rewarding the player with plenty of on-screen action.
I’m not really in to doing post-mortems on my games but for this one I’d say it’s come out pretty close to how I envisaged it. I made a decision early on to keep the pace up and allow the player a fair amount of freedom to move and blast things. To that end I litter the screen with explosions, bombs, bullets and debris.
I’m hoping that it’s well received enough to justify the extra effort :)
Ultimately the question of “is it fun?” has to be answered and I’d have to say that the feedback from testing that I’ve had is extremely positive. Most of the comments returned highlight the soundtrack, audio fx and big colourful sprites. I’m thrilled to read such encouraging comments since it pretty much underpins my ethos for making games. It’s certainly something that will carry over in to my book.
You can play the game over at the arcade. Sign up, sign in and shoot for the top spot. Let’s see how good you are!
Posted on | January 31, 2014 | No Comments
As the month draws to a close I’m enjoying poring over the visitor statistics collected through my Playstar arcade courtesy of Google’s Analytics.
The figures are interesting in terms of growth but a little depressing when I see that under closer inspection there’s a significant percentage of traffic who don’t get the full experience.
Take a look at these charts.
This chart stands out for the high percentage of visits from devices loaded with the Android Gingerbread OS version 2.3.6. Gingerbread, the 2.3 range OS from Google, is notoriously clunky for HTML5 game execution. It’s not without its functional issues and is typically the OS that comes bundled with popular lower spec models such as the Samsung Galaxy Y or Galaxy Ace.
28.6% of 171k visits is a lot. Too much. It pains me that so many people would come to the arcade and not get the experience that I want to deliver.
99% of my traffic is mobile.
The 21.1% listed as other is a mix of Android, iOS and Firefox. iPad emerges as a popular device.
December is a month that traditionally skews the figures since it contains the Christmas holiday season. I have over the last few years experienced a marked spike in traffic to my games in the two weeks that typically constitute the Christmas break. This Christmas was no different.
Although the figure of 23.6% is a reduction on the previous month for Gingerbread users, it’s still high.
As mentioned in a previous post iPad increases in strength but still falls under the category of other.
So on to this month. Obviously I’m posting this with a full day’s worth of data to collect. I imagine the total # of visits will be closer to 262,000 based on the pattern over the last 30 days.
Gingerbread’s presence is still a little ominous although less so than it might have been. 22.2% of total visits is still a reduction but a small one. Moore’s law has to kick in at some point and the public will surely all be holding a minimum of Galaxy S3 in their hands soon!
It’s thrilling to be at a quarter of a million visits per month. It’s also thrilling to see so many high end devices visiting the arcade. The purist in me really does care for the owners of those low end handsets but at some point I know I have to let go.
I’m not such a purist that I’ll invest countless hours of time and money ensuring that my games work perfectly across the board. I am after all always keen to continue producing fast paced, action packed arcade games.
Posted on | January 17, 2014 | 1 Comment
Over the last six months I’ve paid a lot of attention to the visitors statistics generated by my HTML5 game portal. Particularly interesting are the figures for iPad.
The rise in popularity of the iPad as a mobile web gaming device is wonderful news. iPad is an HTML5 game developer’s dream in many respects. Super fast performance and a beautiful display. I have in the past had issues with the way that my spritesheets were rendered on iPad. Specifically pixels from neighbouring frames glitching intermittently in the animation loop. The same code on other iOS devices didn’t present the same anomaly. On later models this is fixed.
iPad is not the leading device to visit the arcade. That honour (of the identifiable devices in Google Analytics) goes to Samsung’s Galaxy Y handset. By contrast a fairly terrible device to develop for.
Here are the figures for iPad traffic.
|Month (2013)||% of portal traffic||# iPad visits|
Christmas certainly helps. I imagine that iPads have been a popular gift globally. As you can see the holiday season also presents a significant increase in traffic.keep looking »