Today I am quite happy because my game, Alien Love, got to be on the spotlight in the Windows Phone Store for the US market.

 Some of my games on Windows 8 were featured at some point, but this is the first time one of my WP games gets some recognition.

 Tomorrow it should be featured in Turkey, UAE and Saudi Arabia :)

Here you can see some screenshots:

Directly from the phone.

And also you can go on your browser to http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store

Tips to get your app to be featured

So, how did I get my game to be featured? And before you raise any objections, no, I was not featured because I am an employee. During the last year I have been publishing my games like any other indie developer, without pulling any strings or calling any favors (except forcing my family to give me some feedback on my games). I really wanted to learn what it is to be in this exciting ecosystem and go trough the hoops to get a cool app out there.

Basically it can be summed in three things: Quality, Attention to details and better Community ties

 

Quality

If you check my other Windows Phone games you can see that I have not published there since mid 2013. My focus was on my Windows 8 games and learning more about Construct 2 and Unity. And I have to say it, those first WP games were not great.

They were ok, fun and I am proud of them, but I knew that I could improve the graphics, implement better game mechanics and make the game more attractive and fun for all players. No one is going to download your games if they think the design is too sloppy or amateurish. Quite likely you will have to experiment, publish a handful of games and get a lot of feedback to figure out which elements need to be improved.

For Alien Love I followed Thehen's guide to use his Construct 2 Windows Phone plugin. This not only gave me the chance to access more features of the Windows Phone, it forced me t think of a better way to adapt the mechanics to a touch only device.

For the graphics I did not try to use my feeble artistic attempts. I found on http://opengameart.org/ the incredible, and free, art created by the artist Kenney that has shared his amazing work with the community. I still had to fumble a little with Gimp to get the graphics I needed but Kenney's art gave a professional polish to my game.

Finally I tried to come up with a seasonal mechanic that matched the closest holiday, in this case Saint Valentine's day. This not only gave an entire twist to the game but made it appealing to many and looking at the daily downloads around 02/14 I had some of the biggest spikes in downloads.

Attention to details

Like I said before my first games, on both platforms, were simple and fast. But they never got the traction I wanted and it was simply because the players always got the impression that they were demos not finished games. If you are a player you are expecting and incredible amount of details that you are not conscious of until you miss them. Just to name a few:

  • Nice icons in the store.
  • Good main menu that fits the theme of the game.
  • Clear instructions and goals in the game.
  • Clean user interface that allows you to know at all times what is going on with the game without hindering the gameplay.
  • Good graphics, or at least retro cute ones, which is a style that many programmers prefer because they are easy to implement.
I could name many more, but I made mistakes with every single one of them. Now I prefer to spend a few more days re checking my own games to attain more polish and better results. I am still a one man team and many details can be rushed or escape my skills and attention, but I do try to create games that other people like and enjoy. It was only through personal experience and feedback that I polished and improved those details, and that I will keep improving in future games.
Soon I will make a couple of posts in English and Spanish with some tips on how to create your own 2D assets, or where to find ones that belong to the public domain.

Better Community ties

If you want to reach hundreds or thousands of downloads (and grab the attention of the Windows Phone Store team that curates the spotlight ) you better do some marketing.

If you think about it, there are talented indie developers all around the world, and you should find a way to grab the attention to the audience and deliver some nice experience for the gamers.

For me the broad strategy that has worked is to be more active in the different social networks (including SO.CL) and creating better ties with the local gaming community. I have had the chance to meet great people at the Georgia Game Developer Association, that is quite active and supportive and the region. And their feedback and support have only helped to improve my games and reach more downloads.

I am almost certain that regardless of where you are located you can find like minded people that can provide feedback and advice. You can form teams to complement each other's abilities and, at the very least, support each other downloading your apps and games.

Perhaps you are like me, and from time to time just want to create a cool game that is designed specifically for you, and that is totally ok. But you can learn a lot if you are open to connect with others and receive their feedback.

 

I guess I will be posting more about this experience and the small tips I have learned.

Play with the cute aliens at: http://bit.ly/alienlove 

 

Don't forget to check my other games like Doodle Bombs and my new game Flappy in the Storm for Windows 8 and for Windows Phone.