ZOS for Android: Beta 0.3, now with bombs!

Hi everyone,

I’ve just pushed out version 0.3 of the ZOS for Android beta to the testers, now including bombs!

ZOS for Android bombs

This means ZOS for Android is now pretty much the same as ZOS for iOS as far as features go. However there are a few other things we’re planning to add for the Android version, as you can see from the empty space on the UI :)

ZOS for Android weapons menu

Next up will be dropping soldiers into the map via parachute! James has already created some cool soldier sprites, so I just need to code them in.

As before, if you’re interested in being a beta tester, just fill out this form and I’ll give you access.

cya,
Saxon

ZOS for Android: Beta 0.2 just released!

Hi everyone,

Just a quick post to say that I’ve just uploaded the second beta (version 0.2) of ZOS for Android to the beta testers.

The major changes in this version are the addition of the offline maps, as well as music and sound effects.

ZOS for Android offline maps

You can see more screen shots in the last post about beta release 0.1.

As before, if you’re interested in being a beta tester, just fill out this form and I’ll give you access.

cya,
Saxon

 

 

 

ZOS for Android: Call for Beta Testers!

Hey everyone!

I’ve been very quiet for the last several months, since announcing that I received funding from Screen Australia to develop Zombie Outbreak Simulator for Android. Along with James and Tim, we’ve been busy working away at bringing ZOS on Android to life.

So, I am very happy to say that we are now at the stage where we can finally begin some very early beta testing! :D There’s still quite a lot to do, but we have the core game working. So perhaps it’s more like alpha testing… :)

Here’s a bunch of screenshots of the current build:

ZOS for Android game screenshot 1

ZOS for Android game screenshot 2

ZOS for Android map select screenshot

ZOS for Android settings screenshot

I think James’ new UI artwork looks awesome, and Tim is doing a great job on bringing the UI to life!

The key focus of this first round of beta testing is to try the app out on a wider range of devices. Way back when I first developed ZOS for iOS I only had to test it on about 4 devices to cover the full range of available iOS hardware. However there are literally thousands of Android devices out there – Google Play says there are exactly 4262 devices that ZOS is compatible with!! There is no way we can test it on all the combinations of devices out there, so we need your help!

If you’re interested in helping to beta test ZOS on Android, please fill out this form, and I’ll get back to you when we’re ready to start (should be within the next week).

Thanks!
Saxon

 

Looking to Hire a Programmer

UPDATE 9 Jan 2014: This position has now been filled. Thanks to everyone who applied!

Hi all,

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, Screen Australia is giving me funding to develop Zombie Outbreak Simulator for Android.

When I submitted my application to Screen Australia I was planning on doing all of the programming myself, partnering with James Filippone to do the artwork and Surprise Attack to help with marketing advice. At the time I was doing contract work and so could have fit ZOS in amongst that. But I’m now much busier as I’ve recently started a full-time job.

So, I’m looking to hire a programmer to help me out!

I plan to do the core chunk of work of porting the basic zombies-on-maps gameplay from iOS over to Android – which is probably the most boring part :) I’m looking for someone to help build the new user interface using the new design which James will be making, as well as developing the new gameplay features like parachuting soldiers, helicopter rescues, etc.

I will be working on the app myself in my spare time – which is how I’ve built ZOS and C3O so far, over the last 4 years. So this would most likely suit someone who would like to work similarly. I’m imagining this might be appropriate for a current student or recent graduate, or something like that – but I’m open to anyone who is interested.

In the short term the plan is to build ZOS for Android. But this is part of a longer term strategy of expanding ZOS on iOS, expanding C3O on the web, and ultimately bringing C3O to mobile as well (see my last post for more details). If you’re just interested in a short-term gig developing ZOS on Android, then that’s cool. But I’d love to partner with someone who would be interested in continuing to develop ZOS/C3O in the future. I’d love to take all of the money Binary Space earns from selling ZOS on Android and funnel it into your bank account, to keep making awesome things :)

The key attributes you need are:

  • Smart
  • Interested in learning new technologies
  • Ideally interested in zombies

If you have these then I’m sure you’ll be able to pick up whatever skills you need to make cool stuff happen. I starting developing ZOS/C3O for the web without having done any Flash before, I started developing ZOS for iOS without having done any iOS before, I’m starting development of ZOS for Android without having done any Android before – learning new things is what I like to do :)

These are the kinds of things you’ll be writing / learning as you go:

  • Android
  • C++
  • OpenGL ES 2
  • Java

To see how I’ve done things in the past, and if you’re interested in the long-term, then you might be working with some of these:

  • iOS
  • Objective-C
  • Python
  • Flash
  • ActionScript
  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • CSS

Think Flash is a bit uncool / old school? That’s okay, me too – I’ll need to rewrite the Flash in HTML5 before September 2014 anyway.

Besides the money, your work will be seen by thousands of people. ZOS on iOS has been downloaded by 200,000 people and gets played by about 13,000 people a month. The web versions of C3O/ZOS have been played over 4 million times, with 20,000 visitors a month.

Ideally I’d like to get a chunk of the main port out of the way before bringing someone on, so it will likely be late January / early February before I’ll be ready for you to start. But we can work around whatever works for you.

Since you’ll be paid using funding from Screen Australia, you’ll need to be living in Australia.

If you’re interested, send me an email at jobs@binaryspacegames.com with some details of why you’d be suitable (eg links to things you’ve worked on before, your linked in / stack overflow / github / whatever profiles, etc).

Saxon

 

ZOS for Android: Funding Successful!

Woohoo!

Screen Australia approved my funding application to make Zombie Outbreak Simulator on Android! Here’s their press release.

Screen Australia Logo

So for everyone who’s been asking for an Android version for ages (pretty much ever since we started development of the iOS version, back in late 2011), the answer is now that it’s “coming soon”!

TL; DR: The current plan is to release ZOS on Android around April/May next year. If you’re just interested in getting a copy, keep an eye on the blog / Facebook / Twitter, and come back in a few months :)

If you’re curious about all of the background behind getting to this point and what’s happening next, read on! I figured some people might find this interesting, including other Australian indie developers who might be thinking of applying for funding from Screen Australia.

As I described back in June, my future plan for Class 3 Outbreak and Zombie Outbreak Simulator looks something like this:

Class 3 Outbreak and Zombie Outbreak Simulator strategy

So there are 4 streams to this:

  1. Improve the web version of Class 3 Outbreak.
  2. Bring all of the maps of the web version of C3O to ZOS on iOS.
  3. Release ZOS on Android.
  4. Combine all of the above to release C3O on iOS and Android.

It seems tempting to apply for funding from Screen Australia for all of the above. However I don’t think that would be a responsible use of the government’s money!

The Lean Startup is an approach to building businesses and ideas which has grown enormously in popularity in recent years.

Google Search trend for Lean Startup

The core principle of ‘lean’ is not of running cheaply, but of minimizing waste. Traditional project development methods take a linear approach:

Waterfall Process

The problem with this is that it often results in waste. If the initial requirements turn out to be wrong, then the later effort is wasted.

The Lean Startup approach is to work iteratively in a Build / Measure / Learn feedback loop. The idea is to build some incremental functionality, put it in front of people and measure the results, and then learn from those results to decide what should be built in the next phase.

Build Measure Learn feedback loop

Each iteration through the loop is a guess as to what might work. If the guess turns out to be wrong, then only that iteration is wasted. The goal of a Lean Startup should be to minimize the total time through each loop, to therefore reduce waste and risk.

So, instead of applying for funding from Screen Australia with a grand plan and a big price tag, my preference was to apply to develop the smallest increment possible. Developing Zombie Outbreak Simulator for Android seemed like an ideal candidate – it’s relatively small, but can also be considered a separate fundable project on its own.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Lean Startup, this Harvard Business Review article is a great intro. Also, the above two pictures are from Pollenizer’s Building Lean Startups course notes – definitely worth going if you can!

As I’ve described before, ZOS on iOS has earned about $30k (since my last sales update, the total is now just over $33k). According to App Annie’s data for Q3 2013, total iOS revenue was about 2.1 times Android. But this is just an average across the 1 million plus apps on both stores. Some apps make more on iOS and some make more on Android, eg according to this article “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” earned about 79% on iOS, whereas “Blood Brothers” by Mobage earned 61% on Android.

My “random guess” is that ZOS might earn $10k to $20k on Android, but the only way to know is to build it and find out. So my initial plan was to apply for $10k of funding from Screen Australia. I figured if I asked for less than I thought the game could earn, then the project would make sense financially. The $10k would be split between me doing the coding and James Filippone who will be producing new UI artwork. The current UI for ZOS on iOS is designed for iOS screen sizes, and so won’t fit properly on the variety of Android devices.

iZOS UI

Mike Cowap from Screen Australia came over to Perth in July (about a week before the funding application deadline). As well as some group presentations he had six 20-minute time slots available for 1-on-1 meetings, and I managed to book one in. A few days before that, I’d emailed Chris Wright from Surprise Attack (a games marketing agency), to get his thoughts on what kind of marketing might be useful for ZOS on Android (given that we did pretty much nothing to market ZOS on iOS, other than promote it to existing players of C3O on the web).

Armed with some advice from Chris, I discussed my plans for ZOS with Mike. Mike’s suggestion was to apply for $20k – so the $10k I wanted for development, and another $10k for marketing. I was a little apprehensive, as I felt $20k is over what I thought ZOS on Android might earn, and so possibly a waste of the government’s money. However even if ZOS on Android doesn’t earn that much, there are non-financial benefits such as feeding into the longer-term strategy for Binary Space. After further discussing this approach with Chris, the plan was to spend a small amount of the marketing $10k budget on strategic advice from Surprise Attack, and the rest on user acquisition (using that advice).

So, if you’re thinking of applying for funding from Screen Australia, I’d definitely recommend you get in contact with Surprise Attack (or some other marketing experts), and discuss what kind of marketing might make sense for your project. The application to Screen Australia requires a marketing plan, and for most projects this will involve spending some money. In my case a plan of “promote to the existing users” may have been good enough, but being able to spend some money on it too can only help! I would also recommend getting in contact with Mike or someone else at Screen Australia, to discuss your plans for your project.

When I put in my application I laid out a few options for the budget. The first was for the full $20k including marketing. However in case the assessors at Screen Australia liked the idea but not the cost, I also included the option of just spending $10k on development and cutting the marketing. I even suggested I could do the coding for free if they just wanted to fund James to do the artwork.

However it went in the other direction! When Screen Australia called me up to say I’d been successful (yay!), they also said they’d decided to give me $30k instead!! They want me to spend the extra budget on expanding the gameplay a bit further than what is currently included in ZOS on iOS. Will ZOS on Android make a return which beats the $30k funding I’m receiving? Only one way to find out! At this stage I’m “cautiously optimistic”… ;)

As I said above, one of the long-term goals is to bring C3O to mobile, which means the full gameplay of guiding survivors through a zombie apocalypse. However this is not the type of gameplay which I’m planning to bring to ZOS. Rather than being a proper game, I think of ZOS as being more of a toy or sandbox, something to tinker with to see what happens. However I have some ideas for extra ‘gameplay’ which could be added to make it more interesting, like:

  • Dropping soldiers into the map via parachute.
  • Sending in helicopters to rescue civs.
  • Dropping in crates of weapons for unarmed civs to defend themselves with.
  • Sending in additional waves of zombies.

Helicopter in Classic C3O

At this stage I’m not promising any specific features – I plan to produce the core conversion of ZOS to Android first, and then see what we can do with the budget which is left over. I also plan to back-port any of these new features into an update for ZOS on iOS as well. Let me know if you have any cool ideas for what you’d like to see!

If you’re considering applying for funding from Screen Australia, one thing to keep in mind is how long the whole process takes. The deadline for applications was mid-July, and from there Screen Australia said they’d take about 10 weeks to assess them. I think they had over 60 applications, so I’m not surprised that it takes a long time to get through them all!

Mike from Screen Australia called me up almost exactly 10 weeks later around the end of September, to let me know that I’d been successful. At the time he suggested it would take about 8 to 12 weeks to work out the funding contract and so get the money in the bank, mainly because they’d be busy doing it for the 21 successful applicants all at the same time! Factoring in delays over Christmas, I re-adjusted my schedule to assume a start date of the 1st of January. Mike’s estimate turned out to be pretty accurate – the money arrived in my bank account just a few days ago, about 9 weeks after I’d heard the good news.

So that means from early July when I first spoke to Mike just before the funding deadline, up to receiving the money this week, took a total of about 5 months!

For this year’s funding Screen Australia had a single application deadline of mid-July. Next year they’re planning to take applications at any time throughout the year, and assess each application as it comes in. The guidelines for next year are much the same as this year, and the notes there still say to expect a 10 week turnaround time, although they haven’t released the application form yet. However maybe this approach which doesn’t concentrate their workload all at once will make the process a bit faster?

From the start date of the beginning of January, I’ve scheduled approx 3 months of development, with both James and I working part-time. Way back when I first applied in July, I was doing contract work and figured if I was successful I could slot ZOS in amongst whatever contract work I was doing at the time. However in early September I started a new full-time job, so I’m going to have to fit ZOS on Android around that… somehow. I’m hoping to hire someone to help me out – so if you’re interested, look out for a job ad here soon-ish :) Since July, James has also become involved in another big project, so he’ll be dividing his time between that and ZOS. After those three months of development I’m aiming for beta testing during April, so release by the beginning of May. Given that the money has arrived a month ahead of that revised schedule I may be able to get started a little earlier, but we’ll see how it goes!

Planned schedule for ZOS on Android

Another thing to keep in mind if you’re thinking of applying for funding, is that receiving “$30k of funding” doesn’t actually mean getting $30k. It’s not like they meet you in the park and hand over a paper bag of cash after you say the code word :) There are a whole bunch of overheads which reduce the actual benefit.

The first overhead is time. I spent about 20 hours preparing the application – about 55 pages of documents and 5 minutes of video – and this doesn’t count the time I spent finding an artist to work with beforehand. And in the last couple of months I’ve spent another 15 hours or so reviewing legal documents and so on. All of this is time that I could have spent working on the game.

ZOS for Android Screen Australia application documents

The next overhead is that Screen Australia keeps 2% of the funding to cover their admin fees.

Another overhead is legal fees. Before sending the money, Screen Australia need proof that you own the full rights to develop the game. To get this proof you need to hire a lawyer to write up a Chain of Title letter. This involves paying the lawyer to review all of the legal documents you have for ownership of the game’s intellectual property, so they can write a letter which says that they believe you own the rights.

The cost to produce the chain of title letter depends on how complicated your project is, and so how many documents there are to review. And also if any of the documents are found to be inadequate, they might need to be reworked and then re-reviewed. This also means that it’s important that you have written agreements with everyone who has ever worked on your game, transferring their IP to your company – which is a good idea even if you’re not planning on applying for funding! The proper way to prepare those agreements is probably to hire a lawyer to do them. But if (like me) you’d rather spend your money on making games and eating than spend it on lawyers, then I’d recommend using a template from somewhere. For a few of my agreements I used the IP Deed of Assignment from Startmate, which seems quite comprehensive.

Fortunately, I had been pretty strict in making sure I had written agreements with everyone who worked on the game in the past, so I didn’t have to chase down people who worked with us way back in 2011 for example. However for Jay and I who’d done the bulk of the work, instead of transferring ownership of the IP to Binary Space, we had originally just licensed our IP to Binary Space. This turned out to not be good enough, so I had to ask Jay nicely to sign a new doc which extended the agreement we came to when he left last year, and I had to sign over my IP as well. All of these legal shenanigans have to be the most fun part of “developing” games… not.

The cost of my chain of title letter (involving reviewing agreements with 5 people) ended up being $1000, so that’s another 3% or so of the budget gone before I’ve even started developing anything.

The contract with Screen Australia works out to about 40 pages of pretty dry legalese. The right thing to do here is probably to spend even more money on lawyers to review that too. However I chose to save the money and review the contract myself. What’s the worst that could happen…? :)

You might also want to consider insurance. Things like worker’s compensation are generally compulsory (depending on various factors), but I chose not to spend money on other insurances like public liability. I’m taking a calculated risk between the value of spending money on development instead of insurance, vs the possible chance of something bad happening.

The overhead of spending time on non-development stuff hasn’t stopped now that the money is in my bank account. To close out the project I will need to provide Screen Australia with ongoing reports about costs and outcomes and so on. And for example when I say “in my bank account” I mean “in Binary Space’s bank account”, and by “Binary Space’s bank account” I don’t mean Binary Space’s usual bank account, I mean a separate bank account which I had to open specifically to hold the funding, and which I need to get two people to sign off whenever I need to pay for something… which means I’ll be spending more time on accounting.

So out of all of that, the effective amount of money/time that I get to spend on making ZOS works out to a good chunk less than the “$30k”. Still a good chunk more than zero though :)

One final thing to keep in mind if you’re thinking of applying for funding is cash flow. Binary Space is a tiny indie company, and its only source of income is about $150/week in sales of ZOS on iOS. This is enough to cover its costs, but only just – so there isn’t much cash lying around in Binary Space’s bank account. If your company is like mine, then you’ll likely need to find some extra cash from somewhere to cover some expenses.

At the start of the project Screen Australia won’t send payment until they’ve approved the chain of title letter – so even if the cost of that is part of the project’s budget, you might need to pay your lawyer up front. I was pretty lucky with this – I managed to time my lawyer so that he finished the letter within a few days of me needing to send it to Screen Australia, and so I received the money from Screen Australia soon after – one day before my lawyer sent his invoice!

Screen Australia make payments against milestones – for my project they’ve paid me 80% up front (ie $24k), and the other $6k will be paid once the project is complete and all of my final reports have been approved. That means I need to spend that $6k before I will receive it. So near the end of the project I’m going to have to loan that $6k to Binary Space from my personal savings for a few months, and then have Binary Space pay me back later once it receives the final payment from Screen Australia.

Planned Income and Expenses for ZOS for Android

Anyway, despite all of the above challenges, this funding from Screen Australia is a huge opportunity to help bring Binary Space, Class 3 Outbreak, and Zombie Outbreak Simulator to the next level. Huge thankyous to everyone at Screen Australia for supporting the project, and to the (previous) Australian government for providing the funding. I’m looking forward to it! :D

cya,
Saxon

 

ZOS for Android: Screen Australia application

Hi everyone,

Way back in June I wrote a post to see if anyone would be interested in helping me build an Android version of Zombie Outbreak Simulator, by joining me in applying for funding from Screen Australia’s new Games Production Fund. For those of you interested in seeing ZOS come to Android, I thought I’d post an update!

ZOS on iOS has earned about $30k. Some apps make more on iOS and some make more on Android, eg according to this article “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” earned about 79% on iOS, whereas “Blood Brothers” by Mobage earned 61% on Android. My “random guess” is that ZOS might earn $10k to $20k on Android, but the only way to know is to build it and find out. So I figured if I could put a proposal to Screen Australia for $10k or less, they might accept it.

My preference was to spend that $10k on hiring other people to build the Android version of the game. Any income from sales of the game on Android would then be put back into building future updates to ZOS and C3O on the web, iOS and Android. So I put out the call for three people:

  • A programmer
  • An artist
  • A marketer

I didn’t get much response from possible programmers – only one person contacted me, and his estimate alone was over the total budget of $10k! His estimate was probably quite sensible though – as I’ve described before, although ZOS has made some money, my total profit for over 2700 hours of work is approximately zero. So my plan B was for me to do the programming, most likely at a loss (basically for whatever was left of the $10k budget after however much the artist and marketer wanted).

I got responses from a small number of artists – thanks everyone who got in contact with me! Many thanks to James Filippone who was willing to partner with me in putting in an application to Screen Australia! Screen Australia’s guidelines require teams to have at least 2 people who have worked on at least 2 games each. You can see some of James’ work here and here.

For the marketing side, I got in contact with Chris Wright from Surprise Attack (an Australian games marketing agency). I met Chris when he came over to Perth last year to be part of an indie games marketing course put on by Let’s Make Games. Chris gave me some tips, and was also happy to help me out with some further strategic advice if I was successful with getting funding. Thanks Chris!

Also thanks to Mike Cowap from Screen Australia, who came over to Perth back in July (about a week before the funding deadline), to talk about the funding program. I was able to get a one-on-one meeting with Mike to discuss my ideas for ZOS on Android.

By the time I’d talked about all of the above with James, Chris and Mike, there was a week left until the first round funding deadline (the 12th of July). I figured I might as well give it a try! :)

Here’s all of the documents which I prepared for the application, laid out on my table:

ZOS for Android Screen Australia application documents

That’s 14 documents, each ranging in length from 1 to 14 pages, and each printed out 3 times. That makes over 170 sheets of paper! Also 3 USB drives, containing electronic copies of the documents, plus two videos that I had to prepare (each about 2.5 minutes in length).

And here’s that enormous wad of paper, at the post office getting ready to be posted off to Screen Australia, only 2 days before the deadline!

Posting Screen Australia application docs for ZOS for Android

The funding deadline was the 12th of July. Screen Australia’s guidelines say that they will take around 10 weeks to assess the applications and announce their decision. It’s now been about 7 weeks, so hopefully I will find out by the end of September? I’m crossing my fingers! :D

cya,
Saxon

 

Zombie Outbreak Simulator at Supanova Perth

Last weekend (29th and 30th of June) the Supanova Pop Culture Expo came to Perth.

Supanova Profile Picture

Anthony Sweet from Handwritten Games had booked himself a table on the Artists’ Alley, but his table had more space than he had stuff to show off. So he put out a call to see if any other local game developers would like to join him for one of the two days. I figured it’d be fun to show Zombie Outbreak Simulator for iOS, so I said I’d come along on the Saturday.

I hastily printed out an A2 (16 x 23 in) poster, and a hundred A6 (4 x 6 in) flyers.

iZOS poster for Supanova iZOS flyer for Supanova

I took my mac to play an endless loop of an iZOS promo video, two iPads to demo iZOS on, and set myself up on the end of Anthony’s table:

iZOS and Handwritten Games at Supanova

And then it was on! I must have said “It’s a zombie simulator set on Google Maps, you can change the outbreak settings like number of zombies, number of civs, zombie speed, then watch the outbreak unfold, or drop some bombs on them” several hundred times :)

The expo was open from 10am to 6pm – I’d given away my hundred flyers by 2pm, only half-way through! After that I had to ask people to take a photo of my last remaining flyer, or I suggested they Google “zombies on maps” ;)

It was a fun day, and it was interesting to see people playing the game (I noticed a few things in the UI which I should possibly change to make them more obvious). A few people even commented “oh I remember this from a while ago”, which was cool to hear!

But besides being a fun day out, I thought it might be interesting to post some figures on whether it succeeded in promoting the game. Sales take a day or two to filter through the system from Apple’s reports, but rankings are updated every hour. When I got home that night from Supanova, the Australian rankings had definitely jumped up:

iZOS Australian rankings June 29 2013

So clearly some sales had been made, although from the rankings it was impossible to tell how many.

Anyway, a week later here’s how total sales look in Australia for the last month:

iZOS sales due to Supanova

So there was definitely a very noticeable jump. From a previous average of about $1.50 a day it jumped to $10 on the day of Supanova, and stayed higher for a couple of days. It looks like it is now heading back to its average, but might have a few extra sales still going on.

So, total extra sales is probably about $20. This works out to about 30 sales, which is a 30% conversion rate on my 100 flyers, which seems pretty good! Thanks everyone who bought a copy! :) Given that it cost me about $55 to print the poster and flyers, it works out to a net loss overall. But it was still a fun day so it certainly wasn’t a waste of time! And as a bonus I got Raymond E Feist to autograph my copy of Magician while I was there ;)

Thanks Anthony for inviting me along! To those of you reading this, you should totally check out his Handwritten Games website :) If you’re into Mafia-themed comics, you should have a look at his Grand City comic, the first edition of which was released on the day of Supanova. Also during the lull from around 5pm onwards Anthony and I played a game of his Halfling Heist board game, which was good fun. During Supanova Anthony collected a bunch of signups for his mailing list – if you’re into halfling-themed board games (?!) you should email him and ask to be added to his mailing list, so he can let you know when it gets published later this year!

cya!
Saxon

 

Wanted: Android Developer, Artist and Marketer for Partnership

In November last year the Australian government announced that they were providing $20 million in funding to support the local game development industry over the next 3 years. Screen Australia (which traditionally supports the Australian film industry) was appointed to administer the fund, and they spent the next few months consulting with the games industry on how the fund should be distributed. In March this year Screen Australia released the final guidelines, announcing a Games Production Fund which will provide approx $4 to $5 million across two rounds per year. Applications for the first round close in July.

The question for me is should I apply for funding, to help further Class 3 Outbreak and Zombie Outbreak Simulator? It’s “free” money, so if it could help, I might as well? :)

Binary Space was started by Jay Weston and I a bit over 4 years ago in February 2009. Here’s a timeline of everything that’s happened since then:

Class 3 Outbreak and Zombie Outbreak Simulator development timeline

So to summarize, C3O began on the web, and then partway during development we released ZOS on the web as a kind of ‘teaser’ for C3O. After the initial “classic” C3O was released, we expanded into a new C3O based on user-generated maps all over the world built using an editor. Building on the original ZOS we then created a version for iOS. In December last year Jay left Binary Space, and I’ve been continuing development on both the web version of C3O and the iOS version of ZOS.

Over those four years, the web versions of C3O and ZOS have been played over 4 million times, and the iOS version of ZOS has been downloaded by over 160,000 people.

Here’s the strategy that I’m planning for the future:

Class 3 Outbreak and Zombie Outbreak Simulator strategy

So in the short-to-medium term there are three main things I have planned:

  1. Add more features to the web version of C3O.
  2. Expand ZOS for iOS to allow it to play all 2000+ user-generated maps from the web version of C3O.
  3. Release ZOS on Android.

In the longer term the combination of all three of the above will result in releasing C3O on both iOS and Android. Then after that I will continue developing on all 4 of those streams until Class 3 Outbreak and Zombie Outbreak Simulator ultimately take over the world! ;)

There are of course a lot of risks and unknowns with this strategy. But could some funding from Screen Australia’s games fund help?

My plan is to apply for funding to develop ZOS for Android. This seems like a good candidate for funding because it’s a small and well-defined piece of the future strategy.

Android logo

According to App Annie’s research, in the first quarter of 2013 total revenue on the iOS App Store was about 2.6 times total revenue on Google Play. ZOS has earned about $29k on iOS, so that means it will earn exactly $29k / 2.6 = $11k on Android, right? :)

Of course it’s more complicated than that. While both the iOS App Store and Google Play have about 800,000 apps each, and while many apps are available on both platforms, in general each store has different apps with different monetization strategies. The only real way to know what ZOS on Android might earn is to release it and find out.

Still, it seems like an Android version of ZOS has a pretty good chance of making at least some fraction of the sales from ZOS on iOS. So if I can put in an application to Screen Australia for some amount of funding less than that, it should be a fairly strong business case.

Besides the potential financial return from an Android version of ZOS, I know there is plenty of demand for it. Almost every time I make an announcement about the web version of C3O or the iOS version of ZOS, I get comments asking when it will be available for Android! :)

Android Facebook comments

The only problem with making an Android version of ZOS is that I don’t have the skills required to make it happen! So I’m putting out a call to see if anyone out there would like to partner with me to help me build it?

This will be paid work, but riskier than a ‘normal’ job application. For a regular job, if I like you I’ll hire you straight away and pay you as the work is done. This time it’s a bit different. You don’t have to do any work up front – just be willing to let me include your name on the funding application that I submit to Screen Australia. But if the application is successful then as soon as I get the funds from them, you’ll get hired and get paid :)

I’m looking for three people to help me build ZOS for Android:

  1. An Android developer
    I did a little bit of Android development a year or two ago, but that was for a business application, not a game. Although I could learn Android game development myself, I’d prefer to hire someone who already has experience. Most of ZOS for iOS is built using standard C++ and OpenGL ES 2.0, with Objective-C used for just the user interface. So I’m assuming that most of the code will be usable as-is, and so it will mostly be UI and integration code which you will need to write.
  2. An artist
    Most of the in-game artwork (like zombie and civ sprites) already exists. However the user interface will most likely need to be adjusted to make it work with Android (eg to support different screen sizes). Some of the user interface elements could be re-used (eg buttons), but I’m willing to consider redesigning the whole interface if you’d rather start with a clean slate.
  3. A marketer
    I’m looking for someone to help with the ‘obvious’ marketing aspects like helping to promote the game on Android after launch. However this also includes the equally-important role of providing advice before and during development on how the game should be developed and monetized to make it marketable.

The amount of user interface code and art required shouldn’t be huge. There are pretty much only three screens that need to be developed: map selection, the game itself, and the options screen.

iZOS UI

iZOS UI

iZOS UI

What will I be doing? I’ll do general coordination / project management type stuff, as well as helping the developer work with my existing code. I won’t be including anything for me in the funding application though – I’ll only make a return once it starts selling.

The deadline for funding applications is mid-July. From there Screen Australia have said they’ll take about 10 weeks to process the applications. Assuming an extra month or so to finalize a contract with Screen Australia, it will probably be around November or so before work could start. I’m happy for you to work full time, part time or in your spare time – whatever works around whatever else you’re doing is fine. And if November comes and you’re suddenly busy with your dream project, it’s fine if we need to delay or if I need to find someone else.

If you’re interested, send me an email at jobs@binaryspacegames.com with some info on why you’d be suitable (eg some details of projects you’ve worked on before, etc).

Since the funding is provided by the Australian government to support the Australian game development industry, you will need to be living in Australia. However if you live overseas, are awesome at what you do, and would love to work on this project, then please still get in touch with me and we’ll see what we can work out.

Finally, if you’d like to see ZOS released on Android, you can help the cause by letting me know! Post a comment below, like or comment on the Facebook page, send me a message on Twitter, send me an email, or share this post with your friends. The greater the response, the stronger the reason to develop an Android version of ZOS in the first place, and so the more likely it will happen!

Thanks,
Saxon

 

ZOS for iOS: Sales Update

Back in January I wrote up a post on how sales for Zombie Outbreak Simulator on iOS had gone since it was first released in April last year. Since I’ve just released a new update to ZOS, I thought now would be a good time to post an update of sales since January.

To summarize the last post: In the approx 9.5 months from release until January, ZOS for iOS had earned a total of approx $24,600, made up of approx $21,300 in sales from the original paid version of iZOS, and approx $3,300 in sales from the free version of iZOS. Approx $5,100 of the total was from selling bombs as an in-app purchase in both versions.

Here’s how weekly sales have tracked up until now (going back to August last year to provide some context):

iZOS total sales, August 2012 to May 2013

The no-Google-maps update of September last year brought sales up to around $350 per week, and other than a peak over Christmas it stayed at approx that level up until mid-January. From there the general direction has been down – around $300 per week up to the end of February, and since early March it’s mostly been in the $200 to $250 a week range.

Has anything in particular caused the downtrend?

Back at the beginning of January I released an update which added support for the iPhone 5. As part of that update I decided to add some extra free bombs. ZOS for iOS has two types of bombs – the standard Mk81 and the more powerful Mk82. When we first added bombs we provided 100 Mk81 bombs for free (initially every day, but a later update increased that to every hour), but Mk82 bombs could only be purchased.

In the January update I added ten Mk82 bombs for free every hour. I thought it would be interesting to see what effect that might have. Maybe it would give people a taste for the Mk82 bombs, and they’d want to buy more. Or maybe having a few Mk82 bombs would be enough for most people, and so sales would go down.

Here’s the weekly sales of the Mk82 bombs:

iZOS Mk82 bomb sales

So it looks like there was definitely a drop when the January update came out, from around $100 a week to $50 a week, with further declines since then. For comparison here’s weekly sales of the Mk81 bombs:

iZOS Mk81 bomb sales

The Mk81 bombs have been more consistent – although there still seems to be a gradual decline this year. Also to compare here’s purchases of the paid version of iZOS:

iZOS paid version sales

And full version upgrades of the free version of iZOS:

iZOS free version upgrade sales

So both of these seem to have been declining this year. It’s a similar trend for the number of active users of iZOS and iZOS Free:

iZOS active users

 

iZOS Free active users

So although providing some free Mk82 bombs had an obvious negative effect, this is just one factor against a general negative trend for the game. This is not too surprising given that there have been no real new features added since the bombs were released in June last year.

Not content with losing $50 a week from adding some free Mk82 bombs in the January update, in the update released this week I’ve decided to remove the bomb in-app purchases completely! So now you can rain fire from above with unlimited free bombs :)

This is the total bomb revenue that I’m giving up with this change:

iZOS total bomb sales

So in recent weeks this has hovered around the $50 a week range – around a quarter of the $200 a week total revenue.

Why give up one quarter of the revenue? Last year Jay and I added the bombs as an experiment. Although it earned some revenue, ultimately what I’ve learned from the experiment is that this type of in-app purchase just doesn’t suit the type of game that iZOS is. Although I think some types of in-app purchases can work well in some types of games, bombs in iZOS is not it – they just made the game worse. So this is the reason why I’ve decided to make bombs free. A while ago I read this article which argues that optimizing short-term returns at the expense of player churn is counter-productive in the long term. This helped reinforce the idea I’d been having for a while that it was time to make the bombs free.

Besides feeling like the right thing to do, $50 a week is not much! I don’t think it’s worth “squeezing” $50 a week out of some players while making the game less fun for everybody, so I’m willing to risk that $50 a week and see what effect it has. The game is definitely better with free bombs (and 15 extra maps). Will it make a difference to sales of the game itself? Only time will tell :)

While looking at the charts above you might have noticed the spike in April – what caused that? On the 13th of April my original sales report that I wrote in January was posted on Hacker News by someone (thanks mikek!). In the three months up to that point the sales report had been seen by about 1000 people, but in just one day the Hacker News post brought an extra 5000 visitors to the site! This caused a brief spike in sales for a few days. Thanks everyone from Hacker News who bought a copy! :)

iZOS sales spike from Hacker News

So, here’s the summary of total sales to date:

Zombie Outbreak Simulator

  • 86,000 downloads (22,000 paid and 64,000 from last year’s free promos)
  • $19,400 in sales of the app
  • $4,500 in sales of bomb in-app purchases

Zombie Outbreak Simulator Free

  • 72,000 downloads
  • 5,700 upgrades to the full version (approx 8%), for sales of $3,200
  • $1,900 in sales of bomb in-app purchases

Total

  • 158,000 downloads
  • $29,000 in sales, including $6,400 on bombs

So since the last sales report iZOS has earned an extra $4,400. At the time of the last report Binary Space had about $1,000 in the bank, and was expecting about $900 of bills in the near future. The whole last 4 years of development of Binary Space was pretty much at break-even for me. So have the extra sales improved the bank balance?

Since January Binary Space has received about $5,400 from Apple into its bank account (different to the raw sales figure due to the timing of payments). I paid Jay about $3,600, since I’m paying him a share of revenue over the next several years to buy out his share of the company. After I offered to give refunds for our 2011 crowdfunding campaign, I paid out about $500 to people who asked for their money back. And I’ve spent about $1,700 on general operating expenses. So Binary Space’s bank account is now around the $600 mark.

I still haven’t drawn any actual profit out of Binary Space. But it’s still ticking along, bringing in around $800 or so a month, which is enough to cover its expenses. As I said in the last report, although Binary Space might turn into more one day, for now I’m happy that it’s a fun hobby which pays for itself! :)

cya,
Saxon

 

ZOS for iOS Update: Google Maps are Back!

Hi everyone,

After 5 months of development, the new update for Zombie Outbreak Simulator for iOS is now available!

The main change in this update is that I’ve finally brought back Google Maps! The very first version of iZOS released in April last year had one Google map, and the first update released a few weeks later expanded that to 10 Google maps. Then in June Apple announced that they were removing Google Maps with iOS 6, so in September we released an update which removed the 10 Google Maps and replaced them with 5 embedded maps using aerial photos.

In December last year Google released a new maps SDK for iOS. My initial experiments didn’t work out, but I kept trying different approaches to get it to work, and eventually figured something out. It’s taken me a few months to go from proof-of-concept to finished app, but it’s finally here!

So now you can choose from the 5 offline maps included in the last version, or 15 online Google maps. The Google maps include 8 of the maps in the update from last year (two of them had to be removed), and 7 new maps.

ZOS for iOS online maps

ZOS for iOS offline maps screen

The 15 Google maps include one map by me and one by Jay (the one from the original release of iZOS). Many thanks to Bruul, Bryan Earhart, Budace, Carlos Miguel Ambrosio, Coinsruledude, Fernando Bevilaqua Vianna, Jas358, PullMull, Rob Bekkers, Rodrigo Casarini and Tyrud for creating the other 13 maps!

Also thanks to Shath Maguire who did the graphic design for the new map selection screens.

The other most obvious change in this version is that I’ve decided to provide infinite bombs for free! We added the bombs as an experiment back in June last year, and as of the last update you would receive 100 Mk81 and 10 Mk82 bombs for free every hour, with more bombs available via in-app purchases. It was an interesting experiment, but from now on you can rain fire on the unsuspecting zombie horde without worrying about your bank account :)

Free bombs in ZOS for iOS

The final major change in this version is that it now also includes a translation into Brazilian Portuguese! Many thanks to Fernando Bevilaqua Vianna for offering to translate it for me :)

iZOS in Brazilian Portuguese (1)

iZOS in Brazilian Portuguese (2)

The new Google Maps SDK for iOS which this version of ZOS uses doesn’t support iOS 4.x. Previous versions of iZOS supported back to iOS 4.0, but due to Google Maps I’ve had to increase the minimum supported version to iOS 5.0. According to my Flurry analytics, in the last month about 4% of players of iZOS and about 3% of players of iZOS Free were using iOS 4.x. If this is you – sorry! You should be able to keep using the old version of iZOS, if you don’t want to upgrade your version of iOS.

A few months ago I mentioned that I wasn’t able to get iZOS to work with the new Google Maps SDK on the iPad 1 – it would keep running out of memory and crashing. However, I’ve managed to keep iZOS alive on the iPad 1 by using Apple’s version of Google maps, instead of Google’s new SDK. This works because the iPad 1 can’t be upgraded to iOS 6, so the in-built maps are still Google Maps. According to Flurry, about 3% to 4% of players of iZOS and iZOS Free are playing on an iPad 1 – I hope you like the update :)

Finally, thanks to the approx 30 people who beta tested this update for me over the last month or so. Thanks in particular to Chris, Max, Ryan and Clayton who helped me track down some bugs!

cya!
Saxon