Team Name: Flora.Games
We can work on our own or in a team for Indie Game Startup and there are advantages to both options. The module might be ideally completed in a team, you will have a cross-section of skills, be able to bounce ideas off each other and you can create something more elaborate for a vertical slice with more heads. However, I have decided to work as a solo developer for the module. While I was open to the option of working in a team, I am keen to develop my programming skills (one of my weaker areas) and generally work on my game development knowledge. I also felt passionate about a particular idea I had formed while preparing and reading for Indie Game Startup. A poison garden game for off-shoot planters.
Developing a playable vertical slice and game trailer video
Plan: Each Sprint is 2 weeks.
Sprint 1 (2 weeks)
Vertical Slice: Game Design
Business Plan: The Games Industry & Creating a Viable Game Product
Sprint 2 (2 weeks)
Vertical Slice: Greybox Prototype (PlayMaker) Narrative Design
Business Plan: Creating Games with Appeal & Building Awareness of your Game
Sprint 3 (2 weeks)
Vertical Slice: Art Direction & Concept Art
Business Plan: Funding, Development Schedule & Budget
Sprint 4 (2 weeks)
Vertical Slice: Art Assets, UI Assets and Design
Business Plan: FInalise & Submit
Marketing Materials: Pitch Deck & Pitching for Investment
Sprint 5 (2 weeks)
Vertical Slice: UI Polish, Level Design & Animation
Marketing Materials: Creating a Trailer & Store Presence
Sprint 6 (2 weeks)
Vertical Slice: Sound and Music, Optimise, Fix bugs, Polish
Marketing Materials: Supporting your game after Launch
Sprint 7 (1 week)
Vertical Slice: Storyboard & Polish, Polish, Polish. Record Vertical Slice and Submit!
Polish Presskit, Trailer & Marketing Materials and submit!
- Sprint Planning using Trello
- Research using Miro
- Portfolio and reflection through Development Log
“A vertical slice is a fully-playable portion of a game that shows its developer’s intended player experience. This means its key features and systems are all working together properly, complete with assets that represent – and this is important – final quality” (Xsolla 2021).
Inspiration & Research
Establishing in Module 2 Game Development that to create ‘game feel’ and ‘deep games’ it’s essential to draw from personal experience and extensive research I booked a trip to The Poison Garden at Alnwick Gardens!
To draw, create and sell a game you need to know the smell, taste, (the taste was described by a knowledgable guide to avoid death) aura of the plants. Some plants were so incredibly toxic you could not smell them and many of the plants were kept away in cages.
Many of the visitors include doctors or those in the medical field interested in the medicinal properties of these plants; some poisonous plants are used in cures and medication.
The tales of misdemeanours or terrible accidents from deadly doctors, victorian gossips and vain high society offered inspiration for a dark and delightful poisonous garden game. A dramatic duchess, poison flowers and a mystery – what better combination can there be!
Visiting The Poison Garden was fun, I highly recommend everyone visit.
Fig 1. The poison tunnel at Alnwick Gardens
Choose a game genre and platform to work with
Analyse market opportunities for games
Gap in the market? Finding a new niche.
“Identifying areas for innovation. Now we can analyse existing markets and look for gaps. For example: There have been no new games in a particular genre for over 20 years. Would players who grew-up playing this genre buy a new game? A particular franchise is huge on one console but is locked into that hardware. Can a new franchise with a similar aesthetic and gameplay compete on other platforms?●A particular genre is popular on PC but has never been brought to mobile – perhaps due difficulties adapting the complex control scheme. Can you innovate a mobile-friendly control scheme that makes the genre fun to play on mobile?” (Falmouth University 2021).
The market is abundant with garden games, like Terrarium, Viridi, Gardenscapes and many more but what about off-shoot gardens like The Poison Garden at Alnwick. Our research shows a gap in the market for weird and wonderful planters, who like their gardens a little different.
Keep spiders as pets, grow deadly nightshade and mix up plants for antidotes in this deadly garden.
To find a gap in the market I conducted a competitor analysis which is included in my business plan and so, unfortunately, cannot be shared at the moment but here are a few examples of huge successful mobile games:
Fig 2. Studio Sprouts. 2021. Pocket Plants [image]
Fig 4. Ice Water Games. 2021. Viridi [image]
Fig 3. Green Panda Games. 2021. Terrarium [image]
Fig 5. Tactile Games. 2021. Lilys Garden [image]
Research Creating a Viable Game Product
To get warmed-up for this week’s market analysis, please research two indie game case studies or postmortems. If possible, find one business that performed well financially, and one with disappointing sales numbers. Where the information is available, please summarise what the developers felt they did right and wrong, what their game’s budget was, and how much revenue they made. You can search Google, Gamasutra, YouTube, Reddit, Twitter and beyond for datapoints. Try search terms like “indie game postmortem”, “how much money my game made” and “indie game revenues” (Falmouth University 2021).
Fig 6. Dividebyzer0 2021. Neon Climber [image]
“Hi everyone, my name is Nikita Pavlov and just recently our team hit a major milestone – the first indie game release. A trivial, to be honest, mobile runner game took us 2.5 years of “in the spare time” production. The result – a complete commercial failure, with CPI over $1 and R1 lower than 30%. If these terms are not familiar to you, just know that with such metrics your hyper-casual game will sink right to the bottom of the Mariana trench. So to cool down a little and, I hope, to lower your chances of repeating the same mistakes, I’m going to tell you our story”
- Got game in front of publishers
- Vertical slice was intriguing
- Learnt from their experiences
- A lack of a clear defined goal
- Struggled to interpret and define feedback with own goals
- No artists on team and yet attempted to create an artistically styled game “Because none of us are artists, we had to deal with art workflow in the blind trial and error way” rather than consult actual artists
- Lack of testing
- Project Management issues
Eidolon (Ice Water Games)
Fig 7. Ice Water Games 2021. Eidolon [image]
“We launched in August of 2014 and sales to this point have netted us collectively ~$125,000. I don’t really care what you take from these numbers. Especially don’t feel entitled to tell me what I should take from this, as some have in the past. For us it is a tremendous success. The amount that I personally have made from this, as Eidolon’s most prominent contributor and beneficiary, would be enough for me to make another game of similar scope with no further income. It’s what afforded the development of Viridi.
Breakdown of budget
” This went to UDK ($100 upfront), Greenlight ($100), Flash ($250), Promoter ($50), Dropbox ($10/mo for ~5 mo), and various costs (travel, food) related to the two places we exhibited the game (~$100, Viking Con in Bellingham and Invisible Arcade in Seattle)”
What went well
- Marketing, and gathering interest with a limited budget
- Sharing open progress
- Adapting to change and feedback, pivoting from mechanics that weren’t working
- Consulting experts in relevant fields such as UI, History and so on
- Strong visual style
- Using a commercial games engine
- Eventually opening up profits and creative decisions
What Went Wrong
- Lack of QA
- Lack of Mentorship
- Not enough polish
- Optimisation issues
- Treating the project too personally
- Not trusting in team enough
Research Creating a Viable Game Product Venn Diagram
I brainstormed ideas and looked at small selection of competitors, testing out ideas for game mechanics.
Night Flora or Fatal Flora
To choose a name I brainstormed early, carrying out different ideas. Some names and ideas I came up with will look silly, like ‘Lush and Shadowy’ but I keep writing names until inspiration strikes no matter how silly they sound.
I then floated a few my best ideas in front of a selected focus group, my favourite being Night Flora. A new suggestion was made: Flora Fatalis
Flora Fatalis is a hybrid-casual mix of genres, simulation, narrative, a strategy targeting long term retention of gamers. Inspired by The Poison Garden at Alnwick, you can explore deadly gardening with this combination of the accessibility of hypercasual games and the immersion of sophisticated game mechanics that let you explore the world in depth.
“Hybrid-casual games allow developers and publishers to create engaging and core mechanics quickly while benefiting from hybrid monetisation strategies, such as combining free-to-play and ad-based business models with in-app purchases to boost revenue.” (Selz 2021).
Hybrid-casual games are a “relatively untapped market in terms of its success” Corentin Selz publishing manager for Voodoo, best known for its work in hyper-casual games believes this “offers a new genre for players to get excited about” (2021). I’ve always been fascinated by the properties of plants and Flora Fatalis offers exuberant gardening for the interesting, unusual and wonderful. You will expand your selection of plants and gardens the better you keep your garden. You will unlock secrets about Flora Fatalis as you explore and rise in level. The visuals are 2.5D, with 2D flowers layered and planted in a 3D environment—a striking, dark and fantastical setting.
Vision, Values & Mission
Vision: A deep and meaningful mobile game, about growing and tending a poison garden.
Values: Protecting the planet, acceptance and spreading knowledge are our core values.
Mission: To create an off-shoot garden game for lovers of the rare and fascinating, that will retain a special community of plant lovers.
Retrospective on Sprint 1
Sprint 1 has been spent mostly researching the mobile game market, competitors and gaining inspiration from The Poison Garden; all of which will underpin the viability and appeal of my game. A poison garden game is an idea I have been brewing and I’m excited to bring my Flora Fatalis concept to life over the next 6 sprints.
List of figures
Figure 1. The poison tunnel at Alnwick Gardens. October 2021 at Alnmouth, Northumberland. Photograph by the author.
Figure 2. Studio Sprouts. 2021. Pocket Plants [image] The App Store [online]. Available at: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pocket-plants-merge-games/id1170134874 [accessed 1 Dec 2021].
Figure 3. Green Panda Games. 2021. Terrarium [image] The App Store [online]. Available at: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/terrarium-garden-idle/id1401837582 [accessed 1 Dec 2021].
Figure 4. Ice Water Games. 2021. Viridi [image] The App Store [online]. Available at: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/viridi/id1107708818 [accessed 1 Dec 2021].
Figure 5. Tactile Games. 2021. Lilys Garden [image] The App Store [online]. Available at: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/lilys-garden-design-relax/id1437783446 [accessed 1 Dec 2021].
Figure 6. Dividebyzer0. 2021. Neon Climber [image] Google Store [online]. Available at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Dividebyzer0.NeonClimber&hl=en_GB&gl=US [accessed 1 Dec 2021].
Figure 7. Ice Water Games. 2021. Eidolon [image] icewatergames [online]. Available at: http://www.icewatergames.com/ [accessed 1 Dec 2021].
Figure 8. Sarah MASTERS. 2021. Venn Viable.
Figure 9. Sarah MASTERS. 2021. Miro Brainstorm.
Figure 10. Sarah MASTERS. 2021. Market Analysis Brainstorm.
Figure 11. Sarah MASTERS. 2021. Deadly Flowers Moodboard.
Figure 12. Sarah MASTERS. 2021. Name Brainstorm.
Eidolon. 2014. Ice Water Games
Falmouth University. 2021. Falmouth Flex [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/924/modules [accessed 1 Dec 2021].
Neon Climber. 2020. Dividebyzer
RUSCH, Doris C. 2017. Making Deep Games: Designing Games with Meaning and Purpose. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business.
SELZ, Corentin. 2021. ‘Corentin Selz Voodoo from Hypercasual to Hybrid-casual’ [online]. Available at: https://www.pocketgamer.biz/interview/77247/corentin-selz-voodoo-from-hypercasual-to-hybrid-casual [accessed 20 October 2021].
SWINK, Steve. 2009. Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation. Amsterdam ; Boston: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers/Elsevier.
The Alnwick Garden. 2021. [online]. Available at: https://www.alnwickgarden.com/the-garden/poison-garden/ [accessed 27 Dec 2021].
XSOLLA. 2021. ‘Funding 101: The Impact Of The Vertical Slice’ [online]. Available at: https://xsolla.com/blog/funding-101-the-impact-of-the-vertical-slice [accessed 27 Dec 2021].