Missile Cards may be my first commercially released card game, but I’ve created dozens of card game prototypes and am working on numerous card-based projects I plan to release in the future. From working on these projects, I’ve noted some common elements that tend to make or break a digital card game’s design. In this post, I'll talk about porting and publishing my game, Missile Cards.
Why porting to Android is an important consideration for mobile gamedevs
When you spend the time and energy to make a game, it makes a lot of sense not to limit yourself to just one engine. While it’s easier to focus on one engine launch at a time, releasing on other engines can provide extra income (and visibility for your project) if things go well. Porting a mobile game to Android doesn’t have to be difficult, either. Design your games with multiple devices in mind. That way you have less work to do to get them up and running on other devices. GameMaker can help — GameMaker: Studio and GameMaker 2 both have mobile export modules that, once configured, let you easily export builds to a wide range of mobile devices.
Adapting Missile Cards' premium design to F2P
I originally designed Missile Cards to be a premium game: for a one-time purchase, you get a high level of replayability and fun. It takes skilled players between seven and 10 hours to get through the game’s five bases and bonus missions, which feels like a fair amount of content for a few bucks. The problem, however, is that the dominant pricing model across many Android marketplaces is free-to-play (F2P). This spurred me to make some tough decisions about how to handle pricing.
Missile Cards isn’t optimized for micro-transactions and in-app purchases, common in F2P games. To use them effectively, they really must be incorporated during the design phase. Still, since most Android games featured on major storefronts are free to download, I didn’t want to risk alienating players with an upfront price tag. My compromise was to offer Missile Cards as a free download with a single in-app purchase to unlock the full game.
Basically, players can sink their teeth into the first base (roughly an hour of replayable content) and access a limited selection of unlockable cards and abilities. Once they beat that base, they’re asked to pay a one-time fee to access the rest of the game. This isn’t the ideal approach for many F2P-modeled games, but it’s the choice that most aligned with the way I originally designed Missile Cards.
My experience porting to Amazon Fire devices
The process of porting your game can be a huge headache, but I was truly surprised at how easy it was to get Missile Cards up and running on Amazon Fire devices, which use the Android operating system.
The Kindle Fire is virtually plug-and-play, and it took me less than 30 minutes to get it all set up and start exporting my builds directly from my PC to the hardware for testing. The difference that made in my testing and porting process was night and day from past experiences. Downloading the Android Studio development environment and configuring the right settings was the most time-intensive task, but then I was able to plug in the Kindle Fire and press a single button to get a fresh build running in seconds.
Beyond that, I spent some time working on the in-app purchase (IAP) code to make Missile Cards F2P. I also added code to adjust the screen to properly fit Kindle devices and the most popular Android resolutions. It was a far more intuitive process than I expected.
Lessons learned while porting to the Amazon Appstore
Porting Missile Cards to the Amazon Appstore was a fairly smooth process, but going through these steps again reinforced some core lessons that I’ve picked up with previous games. Here’s a look at a few of the ones that stood out from this experience.
- Choose your financial model early on: Designing your game systems so they’re optimized for IAPs or ads means you have to structure gameplay in ways to support them. It’s a lot easier doing this right from the beginning rather than shoehorning these systems in after the fact, like I had to do with Missile Cards. Even if you plan to have a premium release on one device and an IAP-supported version on another, thinking how you can work those systems into your gameplay early on in the process will save you a lot of hassle.
- Your game's presentation on app storefronts is important: From your game’s title and description to choice of storefront imagery and icons, how you present your game to players is often just as important as designing the gameplay itself. It’s useful to conduct lots of market research early in the design process by seeing how similar games position themselves and how well received they are by players and press. This can help give you ideas to make your presentation pop while avoiding potential pitfalls, too.
- Have a solid launch plan prepped: Executing strong launch sales momentum requires having a plan and following through on it. Between press release and getting review code in the hands of influencers, to boosting your game through social media and creating interesting content to support your launch, this is a vital step that many indies overlook.
- Partner with platforms whenever possible: It’s always worth letting game engines know about your game well before launch and seeing if there are any opportunities to get on their radar for a feature slot or other promotional activities. Reach out as soon as you have a test build available and something polished to show, and don’t forget to follow up!
Get my free eBook to learn more
To learn more, download the free eBook titled, "Behind the Scenes: Lessons Learned from the Making of Missile Cards." I'll share more tips on the complexities of card-game design, how to design for multple devices, and tips to bring your game to life.
Nathan Meunier is an indie developer, freelance writer, author, and creator of Missile Cards. His work has appeared in more than 40 publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer, GameSpot, EGM, and many others. He is also the co-founder of indie studio Touchfight Games.