Precarious Potions Post-Mortem

“Yesterday I released my first app to the App Store and Google Play.” What a phrase. As of today there are over a million apps in the App Store alone. I am still learning how to “make it” in this market and am beginning a new journey as I write. What an exciting week! For the sake a post-mortem, though, how about we rewind a bit?

Beginning

I started work on Precarious Potions the summer of 2012. I was working an awful job and discovered HTML5 as an alternative. I had been making games for the past 10 years, but never thought I could earn a living doing it. I started making Precarious Potions as a way to learn the platform. I put it to the side while working on other games, and established a sustainable business over the next year and a half. Whatever I was working on, I kept coming back to Precarious Potions. It reminded me of Cut the Rope and Jenga in all the best ways. It was just so compelling I had to finish it.

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Learning Experiences

So what have I learned during this time? I have grown immensely as a game designer. I refactored the game at least twice. The scope of the game has both exploded and shrunk and has settled somewhere much grander and yet simpler than I originally intended. I learned how to build atmosphere and adventure without an enormous amount of assets. I disposed of stereotypical tropes like the “level wall” nearly every puzzle game uses blindly. I questioned my reasons for making games and for following cookie-cutter models given me by the games I was emulating.

I learned how to design levels—and I’m not talking about using a level editor to place elements on a page. I’m talking about creating lists of lessons players should learn to play the game without instruction. I’m talking about deconstructing what male and female players from ages 5 to 99 do automatically when presented with a stack of books and a bottle on a touch screen. I’m talking about using zero tutorial text. What I learned the hard way is that creating good puzzles is about first knowing your player really well and then simplifying until the player has the knowledge and ability to make complicated decisions on their own. Of all the areas I grew while creating Precarious Potions, this was at once the most painful and the most rewarding. I still get a headache thinking about it, but am prouder of fewer things.

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What Now?

I also learned that HTML5 is powerful, useful, and mature. We are no longer in the era of cute web demos. “Write once; run everywhere” is no longer a buzz-phrase. You can do it today—I did it yesterday. If anything, Precarious Potions shows that there are options outside of proprietary languages and plugins (all of which are great in their own right) that are legitimate and robust. It’s not perfect. It’s got weird bits and awkward places, but I would recommend it and I intend to keep using it.

I love my game, and I hope you do to. I’ve released it for free with zero ads and in-app purchases. I am honored to have a partnership with the great guys at gamemix.com who have made that possible. If you’d like to give the game a spin, you can play it on iOS, Android, and/or the web via www.precariouspotions.com. If you like it, consider rating or sharing with a friend, your mother, or your favorite house pet. Tweets, posts, and +1’s are sweet, sweet gifts.

Have a wonderful day, and I hope you enjoy playing.

Ryan Davis, Creative Ink Games

 

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Precarious Potions Launch

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Today is finally here! After many months of tough love, Precarious Potions is ready for the world. What can I say? There really are no more words.

It’s free, it’s fun, and it won’t ask you to harass your Facebook friends. Play in an app or a browser through the power of HTML5.

http://www.precariouspotions.com

Have a wonderful, fantastic day.

Ryan

Developer Diary #15 — Red Tape

This is Apple.

Alright, it’s about time I wrote. I’ve put off writing until I could announce Precarious Potions, but in light of recent events I will abandon that plan and write anyway. The past couple months I have been beating my head against the red tape gates of App Store submission. Precarious Potions is ready to go on Android, but iOS is proving to be a ferocious bureaucratic monster. I’ve tried to get around not owning a Mac but in the end I gave in. I will be buying a shiny new app submission box. Woe is me and all that.

On a more positive note, the New Year has brought a great deal of business with it. It has been encouraging to find email waiting for me almost every day. It looks like my work is getting out there and generating its own interest. That said, I do not know where most of my website views come from (you are a mystery to me). I can only think that the largely false “If you build it, they will come,” has become true in “build enough, long enough, and somebody will show up.”

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I have also spent some time reskinning JuJu Berry (the matching game I made for a local frozen yogurt shop) into an improved version with my own IP. I am thrilled with it and will be charging full steam toward Apple’s red tape nightmare again as soon as Precarious Potions is out the door. The current version is available for license now.

I am finding myself growing a passion for this style of match three game. I know that’s weird. It also rings a bit anti-indie. However, I think I have stumbled on something really incredible. I know match three has been done to death, but it is always done to death the same way. In the end, it’s about bottle-necking the player with number of pieces. But what if it was fundamentally different? What I am asking now is, “what if the bottleneck is removed?” What if the limiting factor becomes player memory and organizational prowess? I cannot describe how excited I am to play with these ideas. It’s just waiting to be done.

Things are really looking up! I can’t wait to report on Precarious Potions. Fingers crossed for late February!

-Ryan