Porting Plans for Save the Maidens

13.10.2011

Summer was packed with work: I had a large educational game project coming up for LerNetz dealing with the topic of regenerative energies, which is eventually going to find it’s way into Swiss classrooms – exciting! It’s currently in revision with their client and I’m positive I’ll be able to reveal some details in a couple of weeks.

We finished the game in the first week of September and I decided to take a time out afterwards to tend to renovating two major rooms in our home. It was good to get my mind off computers for a while and learn something completely different to my daily work. As the complete home improvement n00b I am, I was quite excited to acquire skills that involved hammers, dust masks and ear protectors rather than a laptop.
But now after five weeks of shoveling rubble, dealing with handymen (project management in software development is a cake walk in comparison!)  and driving to the hardware store once a day, I’m itching to get my hands dirty again – code wise. And since I have only few duties to obey to in the next three weeks, this will be the moment I’ll pick up «Save the Maidens» again.

Pick up? Yes. Ever since I finished the first version in April, it’s been lying at FlashGameLicense, collecting dust and attracting little attention from bidders. Why, I cannot exactly tell since its initial rating by the FGL staff had been a solid eight out of ten.
Work made me forget a little about my frustration and when I showed the game to a friend a couple of  weeks ago, he called my an idiot for not having a finished game out there in the wild. And what should I say – he was right!

Cloning Paranoia

There is one thing rumbling in my head though: I don’t want to simply release the Maidens to the web and – if it should turn out successful – watch it being cloned and put into the App Store, where I eventually could’ve made at least some money with it. All those stories about cloning indie games have really made me paranoid, and I just don’t want to take the risk. So I’m going to start porting the game myself now – and I’m going to try it with Flash and AIR 3.0.

Yes, I can already hear some of you guys moan… But here is the thing: I’m currently not familiar with native iOS development. That will definitely change in November since I’m registered for a boot camp with BigNerdRanch then, but I doubt that I’ll get up to speed with it in the next half year. Since I have no idea about how successful the game is going to be I cannot pay anyone to port it for me.
Clean ActionScript development on the other hand is something, I have lots of experience with and after my good friend Marvin Blase aka @beautifycode has proved to me that it is possible to successfully develop fast paced Flash games for iOS (check out iFunnel Frenzy in the App Store if you do not believe me) and provided me with quite a bunch of helpful tips and tweaks, I figured I wanted to give it a shot.

Portable Consequences

Of course, porting a rather fast paced Flash game with lots of moving objects to iOS forces you to come up with a whole lot of complex solutions you wouldn’t need for a web version: replacing MovieClips with SpriteSheet based animations and blitting them, pregenerating all your game objects within an object pool and recycling them after use appear to be just the tip of the iceberg that is the work that awaits me. On the other hand, it’ll bring me closer to “core” game development where these techniques are a part of the standard approach. And afterwards I’ll be able to rejudge Flash’s cross device capabilities from first hand experiences. If it has a future, it’s in cross device game development, I believe.

So, until I finally get my hands on my brand new iPhone 4S in two weeks, I’ll get started with my first generation iPad – which has turned into my most favorite gaming platform over the last months. I already managed to successfully port said client project onto it, which had turned out rather easy once I had overcome the certificate generation pain. I didn’t optimize a single line of code, and still was surprised by the performance – although I have to admit that, since it’s more of a simulation kind of game, the only things moving rapidly are the tweened menu screens ;) No doubt, that Save the Maidens will demand more attention and detail fiddling.

I’m really excited where this path is going lead me and I hope you’re going to tag along for a bit. I’m planning to set up a development diary for Save the Maidens, reflecting the various stages the game has been at. It’s been a pretty long journey so far already and there is quite some way left to go. But as my friend put it: “Hardly anyone ever fails. Most people simply give up.” – and I don’t want to be one of them.