Archive for May 19, 2017

Looking to hire a Concept Artist

I’ve spent the last eight years working on Class 3 Outbreak and Zombie Outbreak Simulator. These games have over 1.8 million downloads on Android/iOS, and on the web have been played over 9 million times by over 3 million people.

I announced yesterday that I’m now starting a brand new zombie game.

So, as the first step I’m now looking to hire a Concept Artist. At this stage I have some very rough ideas of what the game will be. I’m looking for you to put together some rough sketches of how the game could look and play.

This is the very start of this game, and so you’ll have complete freedom to come up with whatever you want, including experimenting with a handful of variations. Although a successor to Binary Space’s previous games, the new game won’t have the same style or game play, and so you won’t be constrained by those. I’ll give you more details of what I have in mind during the interview process, so you can get a better feel of whether this is the right project for you.

For now this is just a short-term contract. It can be full-time, part-time, and/or in your spare-time around something else – whatever works for you. In the future if we work well together this may expand into more work – eg as Art Director or Lead Artist for the project, more ad-hoc concept art, or whatever role you might be interested in. Or if you’re just looking for a short-term gig right now, that’s cool too.

I am based in Perth, Western Australia, however the position is open to anyone in the world – you can work remotely. In the past Binary Space has worked with people in Adelaide, Melbourne and the UK – all thousands of kilometres away.

If you’re interested, please send me an email at jobs@binaryspacegames.com with the following:

  • A link to your online portfolio with examples of your best work
  • Your resume (in PDF format – or a link if you have it online)
  • In your email, describe why you’re interested in this position

I encourage people from any background or experience level to apply. You just need to be awesome! :)

Thanks!
Saxon

 

What Next for Binary Space?

A few months ago I wrote about the eight years of zombie games that Binary Space has developed. Here’s a timeline showing the milestones of the major releases of Class 3 Outbreak (C3O) and Zombie Outbreak Simulator (ZOS), as well as a high-level view of what we were working on month-to-month.

For most of those eight years I’ve worked on Binary Space in my spare time around my full-time day job and family. There was a brief period in mid 2011 when I took a break from work for 6 weeks to focus on Binary Space full-time – but this turned out to be a disaster when our funding fell through. For about 7 months in 2014 I dropped to working 4 days a week so I could spend the extra day a week on creating ZOS for Android, in addition to my spare time. And in July and October 2016 there was a bit of a lull with my day job and so I was able to spend a bit more time working on the ZOS for iOS update.

There have also been a few gaps over the years in working on Binary Space – mostly just taking a break between releases, or when I started working at a new startup at the beginning of 2015 which took up all my spare time.

For most of Binary Space’s history it’s made almost no money at all. For the first 4 years up until January 2013, I made a grand total of $120 of profit. In 2014, although ZOS for Android was built using funding from Screen Australia (thanks Screen Australia!), I gave most of the funding to people I hired, only paying myself $700 (for 700 hours of work!).

By the beginning of 2015, not only was I working more-than-full-time at a new startup, but ZOS for Android appeared to be dying a quick death with its first few months of lukewarm sales:

Due to the extra funding that Screen Australia provided (I originally asked for $20k but they gave me $30k instead), ZOS for Android contained a bunch of extra features over ZOS for iOS. This included soldiers, rescue helicopters, player maps, and a whole new UI. My plan had always been to port these new features back to iOS as well, but with being busy in 2015 and the not-so-great response to ZOS for Android, this got put on hold.

But then, later in 2015 ZOS for Android suddenly picked up all by itself, without me doing anything!

So, early in 2016 I was inspired to finally get back to ZOS for iOS, with the update released in October 2016. After no updates for so long, ZOS for iOS was way behind ZOS for Android in terms of the number of people playing it. So after the update was released, I spent a bit of time on marketing it – as well as taking a bit of a break.

And so now, for the last few months I’ve been thinking about what to do next.

Way back in 2009 Jay and I started developing the original C3O – a game where you controlled a small group of people (police, scientists, pilots) against the backdrop of a zombie outbreak. In 2010 we renamed the original Class 3 Outbreak to ‘Classic Class 3 Outbreak’, and started developing a new C3O based on an editor. Again in this game you controlled a small group of people (this time surviving civs) while the outbreak raged around you. We launched an open beta for C3O and continued adding more to it, but it has always been a long way from completion.

We never really planned to develop ZOS at the beginning. We initially created ZOS for the web as a ‘teaser’ for the full game of Classic C3O. It wasn’t really a game at all – just a toy where you could tweak settings. Then in 2011 when we decided to try iOS development, we thought we’d do ZOS first as it was the simplest possible thing to try. And then again in 2013, I decided to port ZOS to Android first. Although I added a few extra features to C3O back in late 2012 / early 2013, development of C3O has basically been on hold since around mid 2011, and the major focus for ages has been on ZOS and mobiles.

I have always wanted to get back to C3O for the web/PC “one of these days”. My plan had been to continue to build C3O for the web into a full game, incorporating some of the elements from ZOS (like soldiers, bombs, helicopters, etc). And then, eventually combine everything into creating a version of C3O for iOS / Android as well. I know many of you have been waiting for me to get back to C3O for ages, and I haven’t had a good answer for when that would happen. Sorry everyone :(

However, there are two main problems with C3O in its current form. The first is that it was built way back in 2009 using Flash. At the time that was the only option, but now the whole game needs to be rewritten in JavaScript. The second problem is that building a game on Google Maps is The Worst Thing, because Google keep updating the maps. While it’s a neat hook, it also makes everything harder.

So… I’ve decided that I won’t be returning to development of the current version of C3O. Instead, I’m going to build an entirely new zombie game from scratch. This will be a kind of sequel or successor to C3O, although it will have a different style and gameplay – not just a new version of the same game. One thing is for sure – it won’t be based on Google Maps. I plan to make it a downloadable game for PC (Windows or Mac), presumably sold on Steam and/or other stores. I might (or might not) think of a better name than “Class 3 Outbreak 2” :)

I’m currently in the extremely early stages of planning this game. Right now it’s little more than an idea, and so I’m still figuring out all of the details myself. I’ll post more info about what I’m thinking the game will be like as things progress.

One great thing is that both ZOS for Android and ZOS for iOS since the update are continuing to do well. I now have a sizeable chunk of cash that I’ve been saving up while I considered what to do next. And so I’ll be able to afford to hire people to help me out on the new game. If you’re interested, keep an eye out for the job ads I’ll be posting soon (or if you’re super-keen, feel free to contact me now).

I still have the day job and so will still be working on Binary Space in my spare time as I have through its whole history. But now that I’ve started something new, and now that I can afford to hire people to help, I’m aiming for development to progress at a steady pace.

I’m looking forward to this next chapter for Binary Space! :D

cya!
Saxon

Why Google Maps is The Best Thing and also The Worst Thing

Jay and I released the original Zombie Outbreak Simulator (ZOS) for the web way back in November 2009. It featured a simulation of thousands of zombies chasing down thousands of civs on a Google Map of a square kilometre of Washington DC.

A few days after release it “went viral”, with over 200,000 hits over the next 2 days. Since then it has gone on to be played over 1.3 million times. This initial release has been followed by 8 years of zombie games on Google Maps, with two releases of Class 3 Outbreak (C3O) for the web and releases of ZOS on iOS and Android, with millions of players and downloads.

There are well over 2 million apps on each of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, with about 25% of them being games. Who knows how many other web or PC games there are. But basically, there’s a bajillion other games out there which people could be playing.

So why are people playing ZOS/C3O? Why did the original ZOS for the web go viral? Why did the popularity of ZOS for Android go up by itself even after I stopped promoting it? I think it’s at least partly because the game is built on Google Maps. This makes it stand out against all of the other games out there – it makes it novel enough that players will give it a second look. Half the battle of marketing a game is to get someone to click the link or tap the install button, to give the game a chance. Once they’ve done that, then the game finally has its opportunity to try to be entertaining. So, this is why I think Google Maps is The Best Thing. Without that ZOS and C3O probably would have been “just another zombie game” and probably not as successful. So I’m glad Jay had the crazy idea of building the game on Google Maps way back in 2009.

However, there are also downsides to building a game on Google Maps…

Google Maps is designed for, well… mapping, not game development :) Integrating a game with Google Maps has been more technically difficult than just building a game from scratch, requiring extra work on every platform (web, iOS and Android), and even a time when we had to take Google Maps out (when Apple removed Google Maps from iOS back in 2012). There are also other technical restrictions (eg I could never port the game to consoles), as well as licence restrictions (eg to make a version of the game for PC I’d have to pay Google a fee, which I think is around $10k/year).

I’ve overcome all of these issues so far by working around them. I’ve figured out weird technical ways to make the game work on all platforms. And I charge for the game on iOS/Android (where Google Maps allows me to), which covers the cost of making the web version free (since Google Maps doesn’t allow me to charge there, unless I pay Google a fee).

The editor for C3O allows players to create their own zombie outbreak anywhere in the world by drawing an overlay over the Google Map – red for walls, green for trees, yellow for cars, etc. The game uses this info to run the simulation.

The player’s map overlay works great when the player first creates their map. However, the most difficult aspect of using Google Maps as the background for a game, is that the world keeps changing! And so of course Google Maps keeps updating their photos every year or two. And so over time, the maps get out of sync.

When I was working on the ZOS for iOS update released in October 2016, I started with the code for ZOS for Android. The 15 featured online maps (which use Google Maps) were the ones I’d originally built into ZOS for Android when it was released in November 2014. One of the final tasks I did before releasing the ZOS for iOS update was to check over the 15 featured maps. Of those 15, only 5 of them were still correct :(

For some of the maps, there were only a few minor changes – like cars in different positions, trees that had grown bigger, a few new buildings. These kind of changes are to be expected and weren’t too bad – I could fix them up with a quick edit of the map.

In some cases the entire map had shifted by a small amount. Did the Statue of Liberty drift about 10 metres north-east in the last couple of years? For a couple of these maps I erased everything and recreated them from scratch, for others I just replaced them with completely different maps.

The most disappointing map change was where Google had replaced the images with ones which were newer, but which looked worse. There used to be this cool map in Brazil, which was even featured in the app store screenshots.

But this map now looks like this. Not only are the buildings all mixed up, but the image quality is really bad.

Both of the 2014 Brazilian maps were like this, and also the one in the Philippines. Unfortunately these images just looked too bad to be playable, and so I had to get rid of them and replace them with completely new maps.

As I was writing up this blog post I did a quick check over the 15 online maps – and 5 of them have already updated since October last year! Looks like I need to do another round of fixes again…

Needing to keep checking and editing and updating the game to keep it working well and looking good is what makes working with Google Maps also The Worst Thing! :|

Google Maps always shows the latest satellite photos, which makes sense for mapping. However for C3O/ZOS, I’d much rather stick with the old version of the photos which matches what the original player edited. Google Earth provides a way to see and scroll through the old imagery, but unfortunately the Android, iOS and JavaScript APIs that I use don’t have anything like that. There’s actually a feature request on the Google Maps issue tracker to add support for historical imagery, however I’m not expecting that to be added any time soon :)

Anyway, rant over! :)

cya,
Saxon