Meow Wars Open Beta!

Cats out of the bag!  The Meow Wars Open Beta is now available.  If you would like to help test Meow Wars and get an early sneak peek, go choose your mobile platform at beta.meowwars.com!

After Stop Santa, it’s been busy here at Taco Truck Games headquarters getting the beta ready and eventually the launching of Meow Wars.  Between revamping the entire UI, adding multiplayer, finalizing sound fx and music, Meow Wars is finally starting to look and feel like a pretty cool game.

Additional Meow Wars Contributors

I’d like to announce that Alex Schearer of Spotted Zebra has joined to help finish the last remaining push.  He’s been playing with all our cats and has even made them fight over the internet!   It’s been a real meow fest getting all these final features out to you all.

Pretty soon, you’ll also be pleased to hear that Elise Kates audio production is bringing her awesome sound design skills to finally add some much needed cat sounds into the game.  We’re very excited for you to hear all the cat reactions we’ve meowed up for you.

Multiplayer Mini Map

Having to design a multiplayer options screen meant that I had to design some kind of avatar and stage select.  For the avatar portion, it was relatively simple to bring in the full spine animated avatars, and they turned out great.

Beta Screenshot

For the mini map, this required additional work.  I wanted to include the awesome mini-map used in Story Mode, so broke it up into the different stages and created little islands.

This allowed each section to be animated individually and also add a mask to add a shine over the selected region.  Check it out when you try out the beta.

UI Updates & Tooltips

Another big update was the revamp of the UI.  After finally deciding and landing on a look, it was time to put together all the various UIs that go into making a game.  Here is a sample of a few of the new UI:

One of the common things I saw player do during play tests was tap on everything on the screen to see what it did.  I learned it was a way for players to explore what was possible in the game.  This is when I decided a tool tip would be a good idea.  The tool tip gives you information about different parts of the screen and cards.  So for all those that don’t real the dialogue, or skip the tutorial, you’ll still have some help along the way as you play.

Go Get The Beta

In addition to the updates above, lots of work has gone into getting the beta out.  Now that it’s out, we’re working hard here at Taco Truck Games to bring you the next beta update, with more meows and less bugs.  Sign up for the beta right meow! => beta.meowwars.com

Stop Santa Post-mortem

After doing SIX, GeekGirlCon and MGF back to back, I was pretty exhausted and needed a short break.  At the same time, some folks at the Indies Workshop (co-working space I work out of) were proposing doing a game a week for the month of November, ship it to Steam for $1 and talk about our experience.  For my 1 week project, I decided to make a holiday tower defense game.  This is how Stop Santa was born!

So making a game in a week turned out to be a lot harder than I thought and it took me about 2 weeks in the end.  Part of this was because I wanted to ship it across as many platforms as possible to both learn all the store backends and get a better sense of the marketplaces.  In the end I ended up shipping across Steam, iOS App Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, Microsoft, Gamejolt & itch.io.  The process definetly gave me a better grasp of what each store backend looks like and the process of going through cert, pushing out updates and responding to community feedback.

Downloads & Streamers

A few fun things happened after shipping, some streamers picked it up for the holidays and a few had a large amount of traffic.  The first one was from iTownGamePlay which has a total of 321k views:

The second biggest streamer was ZeratoR who’s twitch stream and later YouTube video reached 38k views:

It was good to see coverage of my first publicly available game and even more informative to see how that translated into store page visits and sales.  Shortly after seeing that TownGamePlay had the biggest viewership, I noticed a spike in visits from Spanish speaking countries, so I decided to do a Spanish and bug fix update to see how it would affect sales.  So how did all the launches and streamers contribute to total downloads?  See for yourself:

As expected, launching on steam provides the biggest visibility and sales by far.  Steam definitely gives you the best launch exposure out of all the platforms I shipped to and continue that visibility for the next few weeks.  As you can see from the chart, it’s really hard to estimate how much impact a streamer will have on your game.  Even though iTownGamePlay had over 8 times the number of youtube views as ZeratoR, the latter seems to have brought over 6 times the downloads.

Conclusion

All and all, making a short game and launching across multiple stores was a really great way to learn and understand the flow which has already helped me in planning the finishing touches for Meow Wars.  Going through the post launch process also exposed me to some great tools that I’ll be using going forward.  AppFigures is a great tool that aggregates all the information across your stores for an easy way to see the total sales over time.  KeyMailer  also became helpful in reaching out to streamers/media and avoiding scam emails by going through a verified system for key distribution.

Additionally, now that I have a game in the market, I’ve started to do experiments with modifying the store page graphics and content to try and increase sales as well as playing around with discount sales.  A lot of game projects get started, but never finished, so doing a small game and shipping it has been a great learning experience overall.  So if you haven’t Stopped Santa, what are you waiting for?

Meow Wars SIX/GeekGirlCon/MGF Recap

It’s been really busy here at the Taco Truck Games offices.  With convention season out of the way (for now), it’s time to give an update!

Seattle Indie Exo 2017Showing at PAX SIX 2017 was one of the best experiences to date.  The high influx of gamers coming through to check out Meow Wars was insane.  I was told it would get busy once the PAX showfloor closed and folks were hungry for more gaming, but it was pretty much busy the entire time.  It was the first big public showing and I received lots of great feedback from casual and hardcore card battle players.  Additionally, it was the biggest round of beta sign ups I had when compared to other conventions.

A few good things happened after SIX. The folks at DigitalFutureLab from UW Bothell streamed Meow Wars in their post SIX recap stream.  It was a great experience to see folks play the game, create a strategy and beat the demo all without me being there explaining the rules!  Check out this quick clip of the stream session:

Josh Speer over at Operation Rainfall wrote about Meow Wars in the article The Best of SIX.  Check it out!

And finally, Ashley Rivas from Principally Uncertain did an in-person interview shortly after SIX which you can check out here: “Where to start as an Indie Game Developer: An interview with Meow Wars’ Adrian Sotomayor

Geek Girl Con 2017This convention was much more low key as there were fewer gamers.  Since it centered around all geek/nerd things, I had a lot more non-gamers stop by my booth including many families.  It was a good experience talking to parents and got me thinking more about how I could make my game kid friendly.  Although I will say there were kids that easily picked up the card mechanics and played through the entire demo!

Additionally, it was my first 2 day conference so I got to hang out with several local indies.  The folks from Laughing Manatee who created the post-apocalyptic puzzle adventure were exhibiting next to me and it was good to make some new friends in the indie scene.  Unbound Creations was also my booth neighbor and they were just days away from launching Headliner (out now)!

Mobile Gaming Forum 2017

This conference was much more business oriented and it gave me the opportunity to pitch my game to publishers from all over the world.  It was also a great time to network and gain contacts in ad monetization and game law.  Additionally, I was given the opportunity to pitch Taco Truck Games & Meow Wars on a stage with a panel of industry judges during the Game Dev Showdown!  There is no better way to learn than forcing yourself outside your bubble.  This also forced me to create my very first teaser trailer which I am debuting to you right meow!

And that’s a wrap with 3 very different conferences.  Now on to getting that Beta out.  Cats all for meow!

Meow Wars June/July Update

Has it been 2 months already?  So many updates to Meow Wars, but first, in June, Taco Truck Games’ twitter account reached 1k followers! Thanks to all the followers.

Since showing bug fixes and mobile performance improvement isn’t as fun, this update will be heavy on the art, animation and design.

Spine Animation & Rigging

I’ve been doing a lot of coding and game design, but when I’m not doing that, I spend time cutting up the images sent to me by Ugly Ink, doing my best to draw the missing pieces and prepping them for animation in Spine.  It’s really interesting to see all the different parts involved in rigging a Spine character.  I present to you, 4 cast members that were prepped for rigging:

And here is the resulting idle animation, after rigging, animating and exporting these to After Effects:

Card Redesign

After receiving a lot of feedback from play testers and fellow game devs, I spent some time redesigning the cards.  My amazing artist Ugly Ink did some really cool art to match the ability cards.

And here is the final result of the card redesign with the new art:

That’s all the fun stuff I have to show this update.  Stay tuned for more updates, and follow Taco Truck Games on social media for weekly updates.

Meow Wars May Update

It’s that time again for another Meow Wars update.  First, thanks to everyone who provided feedback over social media on the new logo!

 

After receiving most of the art from @ugly_ink, it was clear that the early art I had put together needed to evolve.  I feel the direction of the game is now more 80’s Saturday morning cartoon.  Here are some of the other logos that were up for consideration:

This also meant an update to the game board itself.  I want to make it more interactive when you encounter each character.  Eventually, I’ll have each character animated with reactions and speaking as they taunt you during play.

 

Along with the new logo, I started to put together an updated UI.

As usual, here are the newest character portraits released since the last blog post.

All Character art by the amazingly talented Sam Moore of @ugly_ink.

Don’t be tricked by Captain Cuddles! He comes from the 🌴 tropical region  of Claw Mountain. Be careful with your cards ♣️ as he’s very fond of hoarding them in his backpack. He’s also the biggest copycat out there, don’t let him take pictures with his secret spy camera 📸.

 

 

When he’s not busy “chattering” at the birds, Special Ops Oscar is always ready for battle. First he will distract you with his laser pointer, then get you with his water gun.

 

Out in the Cat-scades, Sergeant Snowball roams the snow. Always sharpening his nails on his scratching posts, he hisses at approaching enemy cats.

 

Lieutenant Luna heads the Feline Ultra Rescue Rangers (FURR) team. She helps guide you through your missions and identifies the dangerous cats you will encounter.

 

Thanks for checking out what I’ve been working on.  I’m excited to show more of the Spine animations I’ve been working on, but I’ll have to leave that for another update!