May 12, 2012

Fruits of labour

It's about a year we released our Family Farm (April 2011). We spent a good portion of the last year bug fixing, porting, supporting, localizing, shipping to portals and publishers, etc. It was an unexpected amount of work. We had also started working on Android and iOS port, which turned to be rather a brand new title and no longer a simple 'port'. Maybe we will regret this decision soon as we see the sheer amount of work ahead of us. I will share details about the new title soon...

Party at Anifilm festival was a blast! :)

This week we received Czech Game of the Year 2011 award from our national game developer association in 'The Best Game in Czech Language' category. I had a traditional postmortem presentation on the same event (GameDay at Anifilm 03 festival) and I think it's the right time to sum up results of our work and share some numbers with you...

Project summary:
Budget submitted to MEDIA Programme (47% funding): 51 532 EUR
Units sold to date (all channels): 20 000+
Total installs (incl. demo and illegal): 220 000+ 
Boxed release: Iceberg Interactive, Rondomedia, IQ Publishing, Legacy Interactive (TBA)
Portals: Gamers Gate, Impulse, Desura, D2D, Mac App Store, Ubuntu SW Centre and others
Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux


So far we have been able to recoup our investment against the final budget. In terms of profitability we are not a huge success, but some channels are still providing us with revenue. Mac App Store is good, our dedicated website is getting stable traffic in a few hundreds per day, some portals are doing OK too. Demo conversion ratio on our website is 4,4% which is nice for only one worldwide payment method (PayPal). Mac App Store and our website drive most of the revenue in online distribution (about 80% for 2011). We were featured and spent a short time in top 20. I think the problem with download portals like Gamers Gate, Impulse, D2D, etc. is in a more hard-core oriented audience and fact that we were featured only in a few cases. We are not a typical casual game either so this was not the best marketing strategy. Working with publishers on box releases was mostly smooth as we just delivered finished product and they packaged it. PC market is nowdays viable only in some territories. Advances had provided us with some liquidity at the end of development. We were aware of the fact that we are rather a long tail title than long-awaited indie hit, so hopefully it would work for us (or at least with the next title ;). 


We are supporting all major PC OSs with our own code base. OGRE3D and other libraries help in platform independence, but if you are using C++, it's your responsibility, if the app works right on even various versions of OS. OS X has some incompatibilities, we needed to use different sound lib for 64 bit Linux, Linux distros, etc. Speaking about headaches... I will not pick any platform, but everyone knows how messy X Window system is. Writing such glue code and building packages takes lots of time if you are not experienced on the platform. If we were excluding Mac App Store, Linux port would be second in terms of revenue. Only a few customers were purchasing for the Mac and it would nearly not justify the effort. ROI of Linux port is positive because this community has found us. Ubuntu SW Centre is new and had some glitches. It looks promising, but sales are lower than expected. Regular Linux users probably don't spend on content much, which contradicts with generosity seen with pay-what-you-want bundles.

OS market share by website downloads

Here is OS share according to our website downloads. If you buy from us, you get all platforms bundle so I couldn't make a chart based on sales. Mac could be little skewed by App Store link, but this sample is better than overall view. Portals and publishers usually deliver only Windows or Windows/Mac games which would portray Linux as marginal. 


We are not using any DRM, but monitor play sessions when you play connected and collect this data. Because of various releases and languages it's possible to discover which sessions came from pirated copies. There are regions with almost no piracy like German speaking countries, where difference between our data and publisher's sales report is lower than statistical error (need to account more installs per copy, not everyone is connected, etc.). Overall piracy rate is cca 90%. Russia and Asia countries were a sort of 'one copy' regions because of public file sharing services on the web. People are even lazy to search for torrents. Ironically, these services are solving the discovery problem. Game industry is heading to Free2Play anyway and no wonder why.

Unofficial box on file sharing service in Russia


That's it. To celebrate the award we run a 85% sale for a week on our website and Mac App Store. You can pick up the game for 1.99 Euro coins and even less on App Store.
Offer ends May 18th 

August 23, 2011

Tablet play

We have succesfully ported most of Family Farm code to Android and iOS platforms recently! User interface is not fully adapted to multi-touch, but you can play it with your finger already. Framerates on iPad and Asus Transformer were initially very low (like 1 - 3 fps). Such performance quite ruined that great feeling of the first run. We were little bit disapointed, because nvidia's Tegra 2 seems powerful enough. Hype? To put long story short, we needed to try numerous optimalizations and it sometimes helped to gain extra few frames per second. Offloading pixel shaders in favour to vertex shaders, resizing textures and limiting use of alpha channel, etc. It's not always about lower quality, but just doing things differently on a specific hardware. It looks really nice on a smaller screen anyway.

The game is now playable on Tegra 2 tablets, which is a major platform for 10" and maybe some 7" Android tablets. Because of very different controls, we have to tune content and even some mechanics, so you can enjoy it comfortably as regular tablet game.

Tegra 2 is comparable in terms of performance more to A5 (in Pad 2) than A4 (iPad). For this reason, framerate was really not picking up on iPad in the same pace as on Tegra. Maybe we are missing knowledge how to overcome certain bottlenecks, but we aren't seeing many complex 3D games there. I think iPad is going to stay as low-end tablet, if Apple plans to revive iPhone 3GS to catch up with Android phones. Hope they offer developers choice to support high-end devices only.

That's all for now. More info next time!

June 2, 2011

It's your story now

Update to 1.3.0 is here! We have finally added feature that many requested - custom story. You can set up a  location and various settings of scenario you are going to play with no goals. There are other minor tweaks you may notice like that characters go eat when they have meal nearby, some bug fixes as usual, etc.

I know sandbox play is quite popular nowdays thanks to Minecraft. It's a pity we haven't gone this way too and had more goal-driven players in mind. The problem is we had pretty exact idea about our audience which is really fuzzy now. Most of what we thought doesn't describe people who enjoy this game.

What's next? It seems there is first Android tablet worth of purchase - Asus Transformer Pad. This tablet/netbook is powered with fast nVidia Tegra 2 chip and contains 1 GB of RAM which means we could let Android users manage a farmstead with their fingers. We need to adapt user inteface of course but first we need to compile all the stuff and run it smoothly...

Note it takes some time to propagate new version into all channels which support updating like Desura or Ubuntu. Have fun!

April 22, 2011

Happy Easter!

We have been quite busy with development of Family Farm, but now it's out and I should take time to wish you happy Easter. I'm not saying it with empty hands. Let your game update itself and cook some Easter specialities...

A tiny content addition but it's first one. We would like to demonstate that we are not only going to fix bugs (which is progressing well so far), but extend the game content too! As you could noticed there is an autoupdating functionality within launcher app on Windows. Sadly, we can't support all Linux and Mac users this way (only those who buy at "app stores"). We are happy to see activity around IndieDB's Desura which could bring gaming to Linux in a big way. Not everyone is enjoying tar xvfz.

We have some work on Linux (64bit support, mouse glitches on some systems, etc.) yet before we launch at Ubuntu Software Centre in a proper quality. We had to leave it because of Mac version, which is going to be released boxed by Iceberg Interactive in May.

After finishing work on these platforms we are going back to focus on a game stuff and our priority list of features is following:

  • free play (sandbox) mode
  • freelook / farm overview mode
  • some autonomous behaviour of characters like going to eat
  • online "achievements" or hiscores

Most of these features were requested by community. Leave a comment if you support this list or have different view. We love to hear from you!

November 1, 2010

I clicked a cow and I liked it!

It seems that disagreement between traditional game developers and their social gaming colleagues is gradually increasing. The very different approach to game design and elementary concepts of the play feels like a schizm in religion.

I mentioned in my previous post the term cow clickers. It comes from Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker - “a Facebook game about Facebook games” as he describes it. It's a minimalistic social game where you have one cow and you have to click on it in fixed time intervals to gather points. Points buy you an awsome looking
cow to impress your friends clicking on neighbouring pastures. You can also spend some mooney to progress faster or just stop wasting your time. This Facebook app is nice example of theory in pratice. In typical social game player just activates timers.

Of course Ian Bogost is more pundit than regular game developer, but he is not alone who publicly attacked "social" trend in online gaming. Jonathan Blow (Braid, Indie Fund) in his talk on the Rice University labelled game designers of such games as drug dealers which create artifical obligations and waste users' time in the real world. There is an evidence which supports such strong statement in recent news - A mother killed her baby for crying while she played FarmVille. Focus of Jonathan's talk is wider and he points out that not only these games, but most of present games and other entertainment media as well are free of any meaningful idea. Paraphrasing Alan Moore "Artists should give the audience what they need and not what they want."

Overuse of metrics and achievements is an another big dispute. Psychological research showed that external rewards actually decrease intristic motivation. This fact explains why even dull tasks are so enjoyable for players of social games, but without rewards (ie. XP) there is no motivation to do them, or in other words, play the game. I recommend reading Chris Hecker's post on achievements.

A popular boardgame in my country is Ludo. You just move a four pieces across the board by rolling a dice. Only decision is about which piece to move and winning or losing is just by luck. Well, the golden era of this game was in times where choices were quite limited (Communism), but I noticed people actualy like it because there is fun from the play without burden of mental activity. It's quite similiar with the massively successful FarmVille which had once 85M users. Users who don't really want to be challenged or participate in some meaningful interaction. They just want to click, level up and be told, that they are better than their friends.

October 7, 2010

Why family farm?

Why did we choose the theme of family farm for our upcoming game? Most of people would think that given success of FarmVille, we had a clear source of inspiration. Well, we had started to work on a concept at the time when Zynga just finished recognition on Farm Town. It was October 2008 when we finalised concept and submission package for MEDIA Programme.

A family living on an old farm is a nice picture, isn't it? The farming started our civilisation and you can know farm as basic food production unit of many strategy games. Family farm is a living system - closed economy where business joins the family side of life in every single minute. Could be risky to make the farming fun. But if something would go wrong, we can always turn characters into zombies and let them fight with plants. Everything with zombies is popular!

Of course we know Harvest Moon and these series could be considered as our inspiration. Harvest Moon game design is influenced by (japan) RPGs. You have character, inventory with items, tools, NPCs, quests, etc. When they started work on the series in '95 for SNES there was almost no other choice of underlying game mechanics. More than ten years after that we were in a better position when searching for game mechanics. We experienced rise and fall of tycoons, admire and hate The Sims, enjoy modern board games and have many other minor influences.

Then in 2009 I started to recieve "cute spam" from my infected farming friends... I finish my case saying that we are working on a farming game, not addictive farming application. No fun for cow clickers here!  

August 30, 2010

Hello world!

Hello, I'm Martin Prochazka speaking on behalf of our team. I would like to start this blog by introduction of talented people behind Family Farm and other Hammerware games. Someone said that a picture is better than 1k words. So here I reveal identity of our current core team...

Jaromir Puncochar | Martin Prochazka | Jakub Kroupal

Martin Prochazka
I'm a CEO of this little company where coding, game designing and keeping an eye on production stuff is my daily work.
Tags: hobby economist, caffee, drum'n'bass, DS owner

Jaromir Puncochar 
Jaromir is our lead artist. A very productive one.
Tags: photographer, tea, PSP owner

Jakub Kroupal
Jakub is a skilled C/C++ coder focused on 3D graphics.
Tags: studying informatics, learning japanese, NES owner

 Greetings from Brno! ('70s picture postcard)

We live in Czech Republic (EU). You probably know Prague, but we are located in a less famous city - Brno. You have never heard of it, don't you. Nevertheless, we drink a lot of beer here too!

We have a regular open-space office, which is just one big room with tables, chairs, computers and a bit of mess. No pictures - we would like to keep some privacy for now ;)

That's all about our background. See you next time!