Saturday, 23 April 2016

App Advice

 

 Foreword

 If you're here because you want to make great games because you are passionate about them and want to make games purely for the love of it then read on. If you're here because you want to make money from making games then you won't like what I have to say so you'd better leave now.

I tell things the way they are, no rosy pictures, no glossing over the truth. You can find plenty of articles on this subject but most of them have one thing in common, they don't tell you how incredibly difficult it is to make it in this business. I'm not here to put you off following your dream, I honestly wish you all the best, I'm here to open your eyes to the fact that you've got a similar chance of making millions from an app as you've got winning the lottery. What I'm here to do is tell it the way it is and in doing so save you a lot of time and heartache.

App Advice and Tips for App Development

Before we even start to think about how to make successful apps there are still a lot of questions that need answering. Because I've already made a game and published it I know how much work it entails which I didn't know at the beginning, and I wish I did, what I'm about to tell you may come as a bit of an eye opener.

How much does it cost to make an app?

As much as you're willing to spend!

 You don't actually need much money at all and there are plenty of software applications that you can use for free and you don't even have to pay them any royalties. In fact the only expense if you're flat broke is the $25 you have to pay to sign up for the Google Developers Console. You can get your graphics and sound effects free too but they won't be the best, I will give you some links to those resources in the next article if you don't have the expertise to create your own.

Successful apps like Candy Crush don't happen over night, in fact it took a huge team and a heck of a lot of money and heartache along the way. You might be interested to read the story behind the makers of Candy Crush Saga to see what's involved in making a fortune with a game.

Software Applications

First things first. You need to know what you're getting yourself into and just because teenagers have made games in their bedrooms doesn't mean it's easy and doesn't mean those games are any good or have made any money.


The difficulty of creating an app depends on what kind of app you want to create.


If it's a simple game like "Flappy Bird" or an app that calculates the cooking time of a chicken based on it's weight then you don't need to learn any programming language at all. There are online app maker tools that you can use that work by using drag and drop techniques or using templates. You are going to be limited greatly by what you can make with these tools but you can at least try them out for free to start with. Manage your time wisely though, you don't want to spend weeks creating something to then find out the limitations of the software mean you can't create exactly what you wanted. Another bit of app advice and a word of warning. Most, if not all of them, say they're free but when it comes to publishing your creation you have to pay and it can get quite expensive if your app needs a full set of features. Some will say it costs as little as $7 a month when in actual fact that cost is more like $12 because of taxes and you normally have to pay that monthly fee a year in advance, expect to end up paying hundreds of dollars to use these services.

If your app is going to be unique then you are going to have to learn a new language, unlike learning a foreign language a computer language has a lot less words in it, so it will only take months to learn a basic computer language and not years like a foreign language. This subject is beyond the scope of this article but I will be writing an article on this subject later, if you want to learn about this then you'll have to follow us by adding us to your circles so you get notified when we've made it.

App Development Tips

Above all else you are going to need a lot of time and patience, a lot! If you want to make money from your app then it must be either unique or much better than the 10 best apps you are going to improve upon. I'm not a fan of people that clone successful apps and that is something I would never do.

However, if your idea is for a golf game and all the other golf games similar to your idea are boring or badly made then go for it. But if there are already a good number of really good golf games then think of something else because they have already earned a great deal of reviews and downloads and the only way your game would get ranked in the top ten would be to throw a lot of money into advertising.

My game, Game Show Adventure is in the trivia section of the Play Store, one of my favorite hobbies is taking part in quizzes and I found most of the trivia apps in the store to be very poorly made and just plain boring, that's why I made this quiz app with a TV game show theme. Let me put two screen shots side by side so you can see the comparison. My game is the first picture.
         
 You can't make a game like mine using an online app maker tool but the second app definitely looks like it was made this way and so do nearly all of the trivia apps in the store. Most of them have an app feel and not a game feel because they are lacking in high quality graphics or any graphics apart from the ones they've scraped from a search on Google images which could come back to bite them for copyright theft. I have to give credit to the app above though because it has acquired more than 10 million downloads with no graphics and no sound.
This brings us onto the next bit of app advice, getting your new app noticed.

App Advice

Unless you have thousands of dollars to spend on advertising or you have made an incredibly amazing app that gets featured by one of the staff at Google Play or the App Store then you are going to have to spend a great deal of time on social websites trying to get yourself noticed and that is no mean feat, you are in for a rough ride unless you already have thousands of dedicated followers that have enabled all the right options.

Getting your app noticed

If you are serious about making an app then the first thing you must do before even putting your app idea on paper is set up a Twitter and Facebook account because getting a good following is going to take a great deal of time and effort. To make matters worse Facebook deliberately hold back businesses and do everything in their power to limit your exposure to the public. Why? Because they want you to pay them for the privilege of using their platform. Even if you get tens of thousands of followers the day you launch your app and post the good news on your apps Facebook page only 4% of your followers will know about it, you will have to pay hundreds of dollars to Facebook to reach fans that you worked hard to acquire.

A similar problem faces you with Twitter. It's not hard to get followers but what is hard is getting people to see your tweets and engage with them. Unless you happen to post a tweet at the exact moment your followers log in to their account your tweet is going to be buried underneath hundreds of other tweets. There are ways around this like using a tool to automatically post tweets at certain times of the day but you are going to have to become a social networking guru if you are going to make any impact with the two giants I've mentioned above. Google won't admit this but how popular you are on social websites has an influence in both your Play Store position and your apps website position which brings us onto your next job.

 People will tell you that your app is going to need a website and not just any old website, take a look at mine which is about puzzle games for Android, it took me 3 weeks to create and I'm still not happy with it. Now I've made the website for my game I'm not going to delete it but I wish I had never bothered to tell the truth.

 Your website is not going to be found, just like your app, unless you get a good following from the two giants and you must fill your website with relevant and quality content, so good luck to you if you've made an app that tells you the cooking time of a chicken based on it's weight, what the heck are you going to write about? Your beautifully created website will languish in obscurity if no one links to it, Google in all it's wisdom has made it all but impossible to get links now. Basically if you go around asking everyone to put a link on their blog or website to yours it is considered spam unless they put a "no follow" tag in the link which means you do not get a page rank boost to help you climb the ladder. So what do you do? Guest posting on other blogs and forums is the only solution I've found, how much longer that's going to be allowed is anybody's guess. So, be prepared to sign up to a great deal of them and start writing meaningful comments on these blogs with a link back to yours, after a year or two and thousands of comments you might start to see some pay back.

Is it worth building a website or blog for my game? 


NO, forget it, don't waste your time. Your time will be better spent on making your game the best it can be.

 If you are definitely going to be in this business for a long time then think of a catchy company name, preferably containing keywords, and build a website for it and start adding your games to that. This is the only way it makes sense to me, over the years your website is going to rise in the rankings naturally as long as you keep adding quality and interesting content on a regular basis. Over the years you will build a fan base which can reap huge rewards. If you think you can be dedicated to maintaining a website for the next few years then go for it, otherwise forget it.

If you've only just started developing your app then you do have a good opportunity to make great content for your business website by writing about the weekly progress of your game. When you've made a new character for your game post pictures of it and explain how you came up with the idea, what the character does, what it's abilities are and so on, people love this kind of material. Don't forget to give your readers the chance to sign up and become members of your website and encourage them to post comments and offer suggestions. You can use this list of subscribers to test your game before release and to give your app an instant boost when you release it to the stores. Link everything together, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Instagram, Pinterest and so on.

A word of warning about that last piece of advice, I didn't follow that advice myself because I've been ripped off before. The world is full of people with no imagination who wouldn't think twice about copying your idea. If your game is unique and hasn't been done before then watch out, you never know who's watching your creation grow. Imagine how you'd feel if someone else released your app before you did?

There is a lot more you need to know about making a good website which is beyond the scope of this article, you will have to do some research on this subject yourself, if you have the money employ someone or hire professionals to do it for you.

As you can see from what I've written there is a lot of work involved and if you're an indie developer like me then you've got to think to yourself if it's worth all the work, well it is if you do it right. Anyway you might just want to create an app for the love of it and have fun doing it at the same time, if that's you then you can ignore everything I've mentioned in this article and jump right in, you'll have a heck of great time. If you want to make a living out of app development then you might want to get a partner, a good P.R. and an investor first, I don't have any of those luxuries and I wish I had because the work involved can be overwhelming.

This video I watched not so long ago adds nicely to everything I've touched upon so far, if you haven't heard of Indie Game Girl then check out her fantastic Indie Game website.


My next article will be about how to create an app and which software I use with some very helpful tutorials to get you started and some common pitfalls to avoid.

About the Author

 Martin is the chief programmer at Magical Games and although we have only released one game so far it has taken 10,000 hours to create. We want to share with the world the knowledge and expertise we have acquired along the way. If you enjoy a mental challenge you can download our free Android Game here TV Shows
Our motto, "It's better to give than to receive."