tiistai 29. syyskuuta 2015

news from another star

Hello again and welcome to the latest installment of Hoodownr development blog. A lot of things have happened after the previous post.

Firstly, we did a manic push to get Hoodownr on the Google App Store. This included a lot of coding and tearing hair out and learning about google's family friendly rules. Did you know that If you don't moderate ALL chats on your game, you're really not suitable for children?

We also had a local release party on 4.9.2015 in co-operation with Tornio and Haparanda youth councils. The new graffiti wall at Putaan Koulu was unveiled and our graffiti guy Writingmotor attacked the wall with about 100 kids. 100 cans of spray got burned quite quickly by the eager little graffiti artists.

We had a promotional tent with coffee and of course there was a DJ with a nice sound system. Everybody got well excited about the painting thing and we managed to hand out a few copies of Hoodownr early access.

For our own fun after 2 years with Hoodownr, we managed to throw a party at Tornio water tower. A very neat location on the top of the city, breaking our backs carrying tons and tons of lighting and sound equipment. Merja and Anna set up a great light show for the evening and people drank, danced and there was a really bad jam session as well. Anyway we felt lucky to get the venue and people told us later that they thought they had seen an UFO with the lights shining all the way to a harbor 15 km away.

Getting the app out there on google play has been really good. We've managed to have some visibility for our game on the local media and on Facebook as well. Two weeks ago we started getting more and more playtesters all over Finland to test the game and report bugs and feature requests. This has been a very good thing and many a bug and glitch was caught, debugged and fixed.

The early access version is still missing clan chat, achievements and some other stuff but is in a fully playable shape. All the rest will happen in the weeks to come. The app is available in Finland only until we are happy with the build and have all the key features in. We might do a release in Australia soon but we'd rather wait until we can move with a modestly complete build of Hoodownr.

So the days are more about responding to feedback and coding than writing blog posts. Currently our Facebook page tells us that we are very responsive to answer people's questions and that's the way we like it.

So the freely testable build of Hoodownr is behind this link and after downloading you can test it. If you're not in Finland, google will complain about your device not being compatible but that is not the case.

So please give Hoodownr a whirl, get a few friends to walk and explore with you. Give us feedback! Get an early access account and support development, you know it makes sense!



tiistai 25. elokuuta 2015

early access time!

Hello and welcome to the obviously bi-annual blog post from the world of Hoodownr!

The good news is that we finally have an early access program to test the game on Android devices. And the program is live and you can get your early access account by paying a few euros here.

In case this is the first time you heard about Hoodownr, here's a brief recap:

Hoodownr is a very simple game to get you out of the door, alone or with friends. After installing the app (google play store link here 4.9.2015) you log in with your early access account, see a screen with map of the locality and press the play button. After that you walk somewhere, taking your time, chilling out, and then head back where you started using a different route.

The area you walked around becomes your hood in the game. You need to walk over one kilometer, thats the minimum size of the hood. This will take about 10 minutes if you walk non stop.
Upon returning to start, a magical window with a claim button appears. Tapping this button will send your run to the server. Walking alone results in a run that has the takeover power of 1. Walking with friends will result in stronger takeover power. This means that to take over a piece of land that belongs to another clan and that has been taken over by 3 people would take you three runs so ask a friend or two to join.

Hoodownr players always belong to a clan. When you get your first run, you are shown a list of clans available on the area. Join one. You can join another clan later on by making a run together with a member of that clan. On the final version of the game you can create your own clan and invite people into it.

There are all kinds of statistics on the user profile screen, kilometres walked, your adventurer status and so on. By going to places you haven't been to before, you have more fun and a better adventurer status.

That is the basic gameplay of Hoodownr. We've been working on the game for quite a long time now and have plenty of ideas of things to do in the world of Hoodownr. As an early access adopter you will be able to see new stuff coming in gradually and can take part in testing various ideas and giving feedback. We really like to play our game and we'd love to make Hoodownr into something you would enjoy.

Hoodownr does not need mobile data while you are on your run. We advise turning your phone to airplane mode while playing. We had a serious bug a while back that forced us to do just that on our test runs and it was very revealing to see various levels of panic when we had to be completely unaware about what Jeff Minter had tweeted about his sheep or some other crucial information people feed to twitter all the time. The message is to tune out at least for a while and lose your stress by doing so.

The game was designed to be unobtrusive, un-compulsive and free of spammy ads and malware. Protecting our players privacy is very important to us as we're dealing with your location data. If you so wish, you are completely anonymous to the other players around the area and your location won't be revealed to anybody unless you explicitly want that to happen. There is no opt-out scammy intelligence stuff built in the game and your personal data wont be sold to anybody ever.

The easiest gig to make Hoodownr viable and getting some kind of funding is to do exactly the opposite. We still feel very strongly about your privacy and want to see how the early access program works. We honestly appreciate you pitching in a few euros to play the game.

The state of our early access version is pretty good with basic gameplay. There will be bugs and unexpected things so as for every early access game, please understand that we are still working on this thing to ensure the best possible experience for everyone. With your early access code you will get access to the support forum to tell if you encountered a bug or have a feature request.

We're still in the process of thinking what features will be on the full version of Hoodownr when that happens. The project will evolve and we will discuss about it more frequently as there will be people actually playing and testing the game. We promise to look after you early access people even after the release.

The early access for single player is 12e, a six player combo pack to buy for you and your friends is 45e. The proceedings of the sales will go towards server bills, cat food and developing the best adventure game we can.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.


maanantai 23. helmikuuta 2015

back on black!

Wow, it's really tricky to write something on the blog after what apparently was a four months break. Better late than never I guess. I wrote a 'the year that was'-text on the new years but decided not to publish it because of way too much vitriolic words in it. ahem.

Basically last year was pretty much wasted on learning the ins and outs of game business and funding, the Finnish side of the story. We got accepted into a government program that prepares small businesses for funding, attended a bunch of pitching events and spent countless of hours preparing the pitches, writing applications and other kinds of things. It was very educational for sure, but didn't bring the game any closer to you, dear reader. Towards the end of the year I felt really burned out with the biz side of things and took december off from the project to reflect and re-evaluate. That was a good decision, being focused on only one thing for too long results in anxiety and Sauron appearing in your dreams. Taking breaks is good for you.

Fundingwise we did do well but didn't get funded. Out of 15 teams that were in the program, our coach told we were in the 5 that had potential to reach our goal. Got quite close a few times but things fell flat despite investors agreeing upon our numbers and things. Only one company out of those 15 got a few K euros in the end, a piss poor show in my opinion. Non-Finnish investors, come to Finland to get a deal, nobody's getting any love from the Finnish side of the investment industry, people crying over a few K, ho hum.

After the break we decided to not to waste time on funding talks and stuff like that but focus into actually making the game any which way. Progress has been slow with our main coder having a day job and life and babies happening. I've been tinkering with the server side of things and made progress towards the playable beta. Also we've got a new guy Tom on board, we met at Oulu Game Jam and he wanted to join the project and mess around with the android codebase. After a bit of thought the answer was Yes! So there's a chance of some client updates soon, fixes to all those nasty, nasty bugs that have been delaying the playable beta for too long now.

It's funny how a project can really really get to you. I watched some Butch Vig interview where he told about the time he and Billy Corgan became complete studio rats and locked themselves into a basement for the best part of the year, endlessly tweaking and overdubbing, working on something that eventually became the Siamese Dream. I could smell the panic and terror. I saw myself in the interview and it was scary.

It's good to step out for a bit I tell you. They say the world won't wait but it will. Another mantra that keeps me going is the one Jeff Minter said when he was still going for broke and doing iOS apps :'you are making a game because you believe there's a reason for it to exist'. Even after all this time with Hoodownr, I believe there's a reason for it to happen.

This last weekend we did a couple of test sessions, uncovering new bugs and adding up to the endless pool of crash logs. In two days we walked 10km in total, spilled our guts out about this and that irritating thing in life and took a good nap after the walks. I'm quite happy to see my user screen mileage go up steadily. It's just a number but still there's something gratifying to see a testimony of your time away from the computer, your time with your friends, real life =)

Siamese dream took it's time to reach completion and it became to be one of the best rock albums ever made. Hoodownr has taken a long time and we hope to bring it to you guys during this spring. Again there are a few things on the boil and now I've got my blogging motivation back (sort of), there'll be something more to see in the very near future, promise. Meanwhile you might want to check out the Amazing's new album here. Or listen to some Chassol, he's brilliant times three.

Keep on walking!
Sami / Hoodownr

torstai 2. lokakuuta 2014

ello, ello, is there anybody in there? - first week on ello

One week ago I got an invitation to ello.co , a new social networking site with an impressive manifesto that I will quote in full here:

'Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.

You are not a product.'

What an appealing manifesto. I registered my account immediately.
The minimalism of the site took me by surprise. There are only a few buttons to click, some icons to drag and two feeds to choose from. The other feed is your friends on ello, the other is called Noise, curated posts from the world of ello. As ello is new and in a clever way restricting the number of accounts, there is not much content in there yet. It's like people are holding their breath for the conversation to happen.

There is a discovery tool (how to use it is not obvious unless you have been following the development of html5-standard for the past few years) to find people on ello. You can try to browse for friends or  people you might know on ello but won't find very much there I'm afraid because of the invitation-only policy.

The noise-section is totally useless as well, apparently the moderators of ello are still too busy to make the system run somehow and have no time to curate the list. Actually the noise-list smells of abandon after you've hopefully reloaded it over the past few days and then you give up on it completely.

Some key things you have got accustomed to with social networking sites are missing. And I think they are missing for a purpose. There is no Like. This in my opinion is a pretty interesting choice. In my opinion, the Like button is a handy indicator of the amount of least possible interaction, acknowledging the author that you have read the post and feel like you want to convey your reaction.

Not having a like button might stem from an idea to make people use the comment function more. However, this does not happen. People are not commenting very much. I think partly this has something to do with most users still trying to get the feel of the 'ello world' and are refraining from commenting to avoid saying something stupid. This is wrong. I think we all have a constitutional right to make fools of ourselves on social media.

Another, way more interesting aspect about the no-like-button-disfeature is the way it sort of fights the compulsive need for acknowledgement that I think is one of the fundamental things that keeps people coming back to facebook or whatever. Of course one could argue that social media needs a way to convey acknowledgement. In contrast to having a real, face to face conversation with it's accepting nods and disapproving frowns etcetera, social media communication like a severely handicapped, deaf blind and dumb person who can only lift one finger to express approval or disapproval. The analogy might sound harsh but let's face it, computers are dumb.

On ello you can however see how many people saw your post but not who saw it. Was it a friend or a foe or a random person? How did they find me? When you keep posting things on ello (feels like you are sending letters in a bottle btw), sometimes you get a very low key e-mail that such and such is following you on ello. You can click on the followers profile to see what that person is all about. In 64 or so characters =)

Currently ello is a strange mix of twitter and facebook with more weight on twitteritude. I think ello has a lot of work ahead to streamline itself. The shroud of secrecy conveniently obscured by the minimalism of the site will put people off ello after the first login. It's ok to profile yourself as a 'not for dummies' service but come on guys, a few tooltips here and here will make things so much easier.

Likes and views are handy for facebook who needs to keep track of what kind of ads to display to you. I think there are plenty of things to experiment in this respect and ello can still keep experimenting for at least a year whereas facebook cannot do that anymore. They are stuck with views and likes and that's sooo yesteryear.

The real problem I hope ello would solve both have something something to do with the obsessive-compulsive nature of social media. How convey the reactions of your audience in a way that is more abstract and more gratifying that likes and views. It's different type of media of course but these are the things we're thinking of building Hoodownr. How to keep people coming back without resorting to predatory tactics. There has to be a better way and we have to find it.

Is ello redeeming it's obscured-by-minimalism hipster promises? Not yet. But It can. New beginnings are great for that exact reason: they are New beginnings. See you on ello!

@hoodownr at ello.co

maanantai 22. syyskuuta 2014

Crowdfunding autopsy report for Hoodownr

Our crowdfunding campaing is finally Over! Now that was a tough 5 weeks. I thought I'll write a wrap-up immediately after the campaign and share it with everybody, maybe you can benefit from our experience. Here it goes!

The Premise

We chose Indiegogo as our crowdfunding platform mainly because it's the biggest one available for a Finnish startup. On the outset, Indiegogo figures for game funding look pretty bleak, only ten percent of all projects actually get funded. And only 1 percent of the funded ones are games. So Indiegogo is not the most obvious choice for funding if you look at the numbers only.

However, Indiegogo has brand recognizability and many european people tend to follow and sometimes even pledge. Our goal with the campaign was to reach as many people as possible and see what kind of reaction we could get. From that angle Indiegogo was a good choice.

Human network asset

Basic thing with crowdfunding is the idea of utilizing your existing contacts to help with the promotion of the campaign. Our total facebook contact amount was almost 800 people. Also we got to know a whole bunch of people thru all the gaming and investment events we've attended so far. There are many old contacts from the past, including a few prominent people on television and a bunch of internationally known rock stars we thought could at least put one tweet in for their fans. Looking from the social asset-point of view, we felt quite confident that we'd get some organic views thru our contacts.

Publicity stunts

It's vital to try and get visibility also outside the campaign. For that, we managed to get a co-operation deal with the Night of Arts here in Oulu, having our booth at the event and distributing a custom demo build of Hoodownr to interested people. This was really hard work, really burning the midnight oil for over a week with the team to get the build ready. We got print media attention and lots of backlinks to our site. The effort resulted in 2000 pairs of eyes on the project. The night of the arts was a success, after the event I keep bumping into people who have at least heard of Hoodownr. A few hundred people checked out our website out of those 2000 people.

The spammers

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, once you start a crowdfunding campaign, you will be approached by professional spammers (they call themselves publicity specialists). They promise great success in exchange for a cut in the project proceedings. We conveniently ignored those guys because we wanted to try the spamming aspect ourselves. Spamming as in 'community outreach' or 'public relations'. The fact of the matter is that you won't get anywhere without spamming everybody. Out of 5 weeks we spend 2.5 weeks only spamming hard to get people to like our fb page and to take a look at the campaign.

Game Genre related

As our game is a totally new idea, there was no specific genre to target really. We found that power pushing to a generic category like sports games or android games is time wasted. This should have been obvious of course. The best response we've got from the urban exploration community, followed by the live-action roleplaying crowd. This took a bit of experimenting though, starting with a more generic target group was not such a bad idea as it forced us to rethink our approach all the time. I think the bigger and generic groups produce more views but no shares or pledges.

Who did pledge?

Going from the social asset point of here again, the most likely people to actually pledge are your friends and contacts. I read a study that says 60-70% of the pledges come from inside your own social network. That is, people who have already heard about your product and react when you give them a cue in the form of the campaign. This was indeed the case with us too. Just getting a reaction from one of your friends is challenging, you have to really push to get a like or something. If you are planning to run a campaign, do the FB like+twitter follow begging round well before actually launching the campaign. After you've done that, your target group only has two options for their reaction, the sharing or the pledging.

Amping it up

The fact of the matter is that no matter how good your campaign is, when you are not getting people to see it, it's not going to work. Getting visibility is vital. And that is going to cost you money. During the last days of the campaign we had a chance to talk to an ex-black hat spammer who gave us a quick tour on finding your audience. Boosting up your views and getting the campaign video featured in youtube is numero uno. In a country the size of Finland the gig costs maybe 200 euros (how it is actually done is via porn site clickbaits and other dubious methods). If you pay YT for the feature, most people will just ignore it as it is clearly just another advertisement. There are also a few other very effective black hat strategies you could use for a relatively low cost. Google is your friend.

Summa summarum

As this is getting quite long and there are a number of good guides to run your campaign on the net, I'll just wrap this up real quick. Rules of thumb for your campaign.

  1. Crowdfunding for indie games is not about funding, it's about promotion
  2. Spend 10k to make 10k. For your 10k you need to reach at least 100.000 people. simple.
  3. If you know a thousand people, 2-3% of them will consider pledging / sharing your link
  4. First round of spamming is the most effective. After that one start spending money.
  5. People in the position of helping you out by tweeting etc, won't do it.
  6. Use flexible funding. People who care about your project won't mind. honest.
  7. Find a way to get coverage outside the world of internet
  8. Not doing it is worse than giving it a try. Just do it!

These rules apply to all us real indie devs. If you have big bank, a proven track record or celebrity endorsement, you can totally defy the laws of gravity. If not, do it anyway!

What we got out of it (the good parts)

The campaign really made us focus on how to reach people. It's so much fun just making the game and testing it and it's easy to get lazy about the promotion aspect. Indiegogo made us make great leaps promotionwise. New concept art got created, we got thousands of views instead of tens of views and thru our organic approach (no black hat shit, no paid advertising) we reached numbers that are above our own projections of our market share. The days when Facebook likes kept coming on and on were really encouraging. We were really happy to get a message from Pepe Deluxe and made a few new friends along the way. All in all good times were had.

I'd recommend other indie game devs to try crowdfunding. Even if you won't meet your goal with the funding, you will most certainly move closer to other forms of funding and towards the release date. That's the real goal of it all really, to reach your players with your work. Just do it!

To be continued!


Haeyundae beach in Korea, let's do a bit of Hoodowning there =)

lauantai 30. elokuuta 2014

Doing the things you love

Hello All! A short update here would be in place. It's been a few weeks since we released our indiegogo-campaign and there's been a lot of e-mail typing etcetera, my typing brain has been exhausted many times over but here we go again.

Maybe a lot of people have written reports about their crowdfunding campaigns but here is ours I guess. One thing that happens immediately after releasing the campaign out to the wild are the spammers that contact you and offer their services to boost your campaing, starting from 5 bucks and going up from there. In an attention economy, these services make sense I think. But it's all very shady and vague, the spammers don't show much data or metrics about the effectiveness of their efforts. Promising to spam people and making 5E sounds like an easy way to make money. I think many people fall for that kind of scam when their campaign hits a standstill.

I had a good chat with the creator of Asmo-charger, they ran a crowdfunding campaign on kickstarter a while ago. Asmo got really nice publicity thru their campaign and almost reached their goal. Of course they had a way longer preparation period, a physical product and marketing power behind them so that is natural. We chatted about why their campaign didn't quite get there and the reasons were obvious: A bit too high price for the gadget (postage costs from Finland were 17E a piece).

Another factor is that they're from Finland (strange foreigners selling their wares to the american market). Makes perfect sense, if I turn the table around, a strange Turkish guy trying to sell some stuff with a weird Finnish accent, hmm, I don't think he made too many sales over here. Selling shit is all about making appearances in the modern world. No way around that.

Our campaign has become to a bit of a standstill after weeks of spamming, that was expected. Insofar we have contacted a big number of 'industry professionals' including the Pope, Lady Gaga, Ron Jeremy, Pepe Deluxe and everybody who's on our Facebook and the names on the stacks and stacks of business cards from the previous events we've attended. Not getting a response from the Pope was a bit of a disappointment, the guy's got 4 million followers on twitter, come on, tweet about our campaign!

Besides messing about with the campaign we've also messing with code. We got a deal with the night of the arts in Oulu and spend a week building some new features for Hoodownr. The adventure/notification thing took many steps ahead and the game stabilized with many bugs squashed. We had a good time at the night of the arts despite not being able to leave the booth for a long time to see all the action. Got a bit tired with the gargantuan push towards the arts-build, I think on the pictures taken from the booth we look like zombies..

Another fun happening was the visit by three Graffiti artists, Ruskig (Sweden), Clean (Denmark) and Tasso (Germany). They came to Oulu for almost a week to partake to the street art project and painted 3 really magnificient walls here. Ruskig and Clean camped at our place and we got a glimpse of all the hard work involved making the pieces. No boozing or staying up late, oh no, the guys left early in the morning and came back when it was dark, covered in paint and dirt and fell asleep in like 3 minutes after the evening tea. I went out to film the painting process on few of the days and I got all this guilt-inducing footage on my hard drive waiting to be edited.

Since last year when we begun our wild parade with Hoodownr, quite a lot of film footage was captured. I'm planning to make a short video about the things we love in case anybody gives a shit =)


Move lovely things later,


A design meeting with Clean,Ruskig & Flop

Encouragement from Friends during Night of arts

Building our demo Booth

Tasso painting horses

keskiviikko 13. elokuuta 2014

First five days into the campaign

Hello and welcome to more randomness from Hoodownr!

I thought I'd write down a few thoughts after 5 days into the campaign. We originally got into planning a Kickstarter campaign over a year ago (probably said this already on the previous, Please-Make-A-Pledge-To-Make-Hoodownr-Happen, post). Jumpstarting the campaign last friday, we have learned a lot about crowdfunding.

First thing: It's a lot of work! We spent the first 4 days from morning to evening sending emails and things to people asking them to check the game out. So far we've got almost 1000 visitors on the campaign page which is quite good when considering that we not yet famous =)

Thousand visitors have translated into 3 contributions totaling 80E as of today. That is not a lot but most of the indiegogo game campaigns that started on the same day are still stuck with zero. Yes, we follow the other projects to see how everyone else is progressing, maybe we can learn something.

Most of our friends responded to our call-to-arms to spread the campaign link thru Facebook and twitter, thank you so much,  you know who you are! While mercilessly spamming everyone we're also taking time to read more about other campaigns to find ideas how to improve. It's very think-on-your-feet and we like it.

One interesting thing that we didn't know to expect was the amount of comments that promoted campaign spamming services. Promises of guaranteed funding for X amount of euros. Blah, nothing we couldn't do ourselves. Some real comments would be nice. Please write your comment here now!

Despite the campaign promotion madness, we have managed to take some time for testing the game everyday. On friday, we drove to Hailuoto ferry, left the car by the seaside and ferried ourselves across to the island. It was really warm still. And dark. Dark and warm seldom happens this far north and it was really magical, felt a bit like a David Lynch movie. We walked around, waded in water and found that the little kiosk had closed when we came back to the pier. It was really quiet until the distant sounds of the ferry diesel broke the silence. Relaxation happened. Take a look at the video clip to see how it was like.

[DANG:] blogger cannot find the video, google loves google not. Click this to see the thing.

Ok guys, gotta wrap this up now. More marketing madness follows. Thanks for reading, please make a pledge, comment and spam your friends about the game!