Stargazing Leaving the App Store

Long time no post! I’m currently doing a bunch of contract work so my own games are taking a bit of a back seat (temporarily!) Anyway: recently Apple have done a sweep of older apps to make sure everything is alive and updated; as the title of this post may suggest, Stargazing falls a bit short of requirement. I’m not ruling out putting up a new version at some point of this now three-year-old (!) game, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.

To say farewell (or see you later?) to Stargazing iOS, I have made it free because why not – it will be there for just a few more days before the app is removed. This does not affect Stargazing on Android, which remains available as before.

Free Stargazing while it lasts: appstore

Stargazing Sale

Welcome to the zodiac month of Pisces, and the Stargazing Pisces sale!!1!

StargazingIt’s been almost three months since Stargazing released and I would kindly thank anyone who bought it so far. I feel like this might now be a good time for a little experiment with the pricing so: as of today Stargazing is available at a greatly reduced price on the two major app stores (£0.69 or local equivalent) for the astrological month of Pisces (February 20-March 20). The constellation Pisces plays a small role in the game as seen above, so this satisfies my desire to give a narrative to everything. If you haven’t checked out the game yet: now might be a good time! It’s possible the price change hasn’t propagated to your particular part of an app store as of this post, but if not it should be there very shortly.

appstoreGet it on Google Play

Meanwhile, work continues apace on the space colony ship project I briefly wrote about last month. I intend to start putting out posts about that game very soon!

Stargazing is Submitted!

Finally I can write this post! Yes, my ambitious schedule aimed at publishing this game as fast as possible proved a little too ambitious, but Stargazing is now with Apple waiting for review. The game is also sitting in Google Play with an aim to launch both versions at the same time. I am planning to sell the game as a paid app for £1.49 or your local equivalent. No ads, no IAPs; I definitely wanted a clean break from that stuff.

StargazingIn an ideal world I would launch by the end of next week but really it just depends on Apple at this point – perhaps the week after is more realistic. In the meantime I will be setting up a proper landing page for the game shortly, and the Flash prototype continues to exist as a taster if you fancy a look at the game’s origin.

The End of October

Happy Halloween! However today is not just Halloween to me, but also the last day in October and thus the end of the Ludum Dare October Challenge! My original ambitions would have had me at least submitting a game to my chosen marketplaces by now, but I have to acknowledge that this was just not quite possible. Instead, my personal October Challenge will extend into November where I hope to get this thing finished in the next week or so. I will submit once I have a little game I can feel is what I wanted it to be, and as yet that is just not quite the case.


Stargazing’s “factual” mode

That being said, the game’s features and content are complete and all that remains is a bit of spit and polish, to make it feel worth that dollar or two I would ask for it. Most recently I have added a sort of “fact” mode that unlocks upon completing the story: here all previous stages become freely accessible and instead of triggering narrative dialogue when a constellation is picked out, instead you will be presented with a couple of little facts about that constellation. This way the game can continue to have value after the story is experienced as a fairly educational little amateur astronomy toy.

The to do list remains reasonably well populated but I am working through it gradually. A lot of what remains is art and UI work. But after nearly two months on this (in total) it’s good to realise the end is very much in sight.

The Final Push

I didn’t write a blog post last week in favour of busying away on Stargazing: now having returned from a long weekend break back to Kendal (my home town) I can take stock of where I’m at. If I’m not very much mistaken, Thursday of next week will be the last day of October, and thus the last day of my October challenge to sell Stargazing. Well… it’s not like this was going to be easy.

Fishing for constellations. Not the final star art.

Fishing for constellations (not final star art)

Coming primarily from the programming side of games, it perhaps isn’t too surprising that what seems to be taking most of my time is everything but that. It’s easy to underestimate the time required to think through the layout of a game, and in this case the narrative. I still very much want to have a submission ready next week, but at the same time I won’t be attempting to throw a broken, unfinished mess onto the App Store.

Lately I’ve worked on the visuals a bit and I do have something of a UI coming through. The “hub” screen where you will select the level to enter needs more art yet. I’m honestly only about halfway through the level data so that remains a big task for this week. And I need to make sure all my textures are square to unbreak the iPhone build’s appearance… I’ve also had a pass at the audio and there is a piece of music in there now.

This week I really need to finish the content so that I might be able to carve out a little testing/fixing time. With thoughts of the next project racing around my head, I just want to get this one out there and see what people think!

The Use of Narrative in Stargazing

There are two sides to what Stargazing is for me: on one hand it is something of an educational toy presenting a genuine layout of stars and constellations to play at identifying; but it has always also carried with it a story. This is something I want to preserve and build on in this extended version.


The first “stage” in Stargazing, introducing the concept and story

The Flash game presented a scene portraying a couple discussing the constellations playfully and I’ve decided to run with this idea but expand it out along a span of time. Now, the player will receive insights into the lives of the two main characters as they live out their lives under the stars. Some stages of the game will present optional outcomes depending on which constellations you may choose at a given moment.

This would be somewhat unfair without giving the player a way of knowing what constellations might be available in this particular part of the sky so I am hoping, if I can fit it in, to include some sort of celestial atlas screen for reference, roughly depicting constellations as they were classically envisaged.

There are only three weeks of work left to complete this challenge and there is undoubtedly a lot still to do here. This week’s focus will be on more content – I have the “stages” planned out there just needs to be a bit of tedious work translating these into the game. I’m absolutely itching to give the game a visual makeover too and hopefully I can get into that quite soon.

A final note of thanks to all the people who’ve played Night Fishing in the last week! My second game to get picked up by, and consequently the German site Superlevel wrote a little piece on it too. So that was nice!

October Challenge

Good day! Last week I briefly stated what I was up to in terms of working towards the release of a game to market, and now I can be a bit more clear with my plans. After all, tomorrow marks the beginning of October, and so Ludum Dare’s October Challenge!

The October Challenge started a few years ago as a motivation for the Ludum Dare community to take a little game that step further (such as the thousands produced every 4 months in the compo/jam) and sell one copy. That’s it. But getting to that point for the first time gets you through a lot of faffing around that would eventually be required anyway. So it has always been my plan to use this month, and the challenge, to spur me towards a first release. Anyway I should really say something about the game itself, so I hereby welcome back my entry to the 37th mini-Ludum Dare jam of about a year ago: Stargazing!

Stargazing - new and old

Stargazing 2012 in Flash (above) and Stargazing 2013 in Unity

This was one of my little Flash game ideas that actually felt like I’d hit something interesting and different. It’s a very simple concept at heart but that’s ideal for my first project. And I see it as a great fit to touch-screen devices, which will be my market of choice. I intend to attempt submitting to both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store by the end of the month (*gulp*), with the actual release following thereafter.

I’ve moved the old Flash game into Unity, which wasn’t actually that painful a process at all. Everything from the Flash version is in place here (except audio for now). I think a big challenge now is making the game a worthwhile enough experience for someone to throw a bit of loose change at. For certain there needs to be more content (the Flash version can be finished in no time at all). I will be adding more areas of sky, and in fact there is already a second “stage” implemented with a bunch more constellations. I’m happy to say I have moved to data-driven definitions of stars and constellations as opposed to the many hard-coded lines in the original Flash game…

I’ll update my progress here as well as at the Ludum Dare site. Here’s hoping this time next month I have a mobile game in submission!