in Games, Mind Canvas

I started playing games at a very young age. I have always loved playing games. Right when I was around 3 years old I remember my Dad had bought a brand new computer which had Windows 95 on it and one game: Doom. That was the first PC game I ever played and I remember playing it with my Dad till 2 AM late nights at times. That was the moment that fascinated me to the world of games. Years later, in 2013 I would be launching my first game that me and a few of my friends had developed. The game was made for android and was made entirely in python based framework pygame.

The game is titled “Kyte: Kite Flying Game” and is still available to play on Google Play Store. It was a remarkable journey for me primarily because I was young and dumb and had absolutely no idea about how games are made or promoted. At the time I had a bunch of friends who were equally enthusiastic about just one thing: making games. We thought that only that desire was enough, and we were right. Initially we struggled for almost 1 year. This game was in development since early 2012 and we had to see a lot of ups and downs since we were learning while developing the game and the technology we used to develop our game required us to write even the basic functionalities from scratch. We didn’t rely on a game engine as we were from an engineering background and wanted to create the game using code entirely.

But what a truly fascinating process it was, I remember staying up late till 4 am with my friends basically converting my grandparents’ house as our office and we had an absolute blast during the development of the game. The core programming of the game was done by me and an incredibly talented friend of mine named Prasad Thakur. The art side of the game was handled by my friend Prasad Kajarekar who along with a bunch of folks that we found from our animation learning institute came up with amazing kite designs for the game. It was a truly joyful experience to develop this game and the biggest learning from this was that things take time.

Of course, years later I’d realise that this wasn’t the best game I ever made. Not even close to being called a good game, but it’ll always be special to me since it was my first game and it gave me exposure to a lot of things which wouldn’t have been possible if the game wasn’t developed and launched in the first place itself.

I remember we launched this game in the month of March 2013 and on the night of the launch we went for a late night drive in Prasad’s car. I was so stupid at that time that I didn’t even inform at my home and it was super late. We were extremely young at that time, I was 18 at that time and was going to turn 19 that month end. My Dad came searching for me that night and when he found us hanging out in the car he shouted a lot. At that moment it was quite embarrassing to get shouted on in front of my friends but looking back I think if given a chance, I’d not change my behaviour. It felt great. It was one of the best nights of my life. We had launched a game that we worked on for almost more than a year. I felt like the King of the world!

What followed after the launch of the game was pure surprise. Of course I wanted the game to do well but the game didn’t just do well, it did AWESOME. In it’s first week of launch the game got more than 10,000+ downloads. YES, 10,000+ downloads. And by the time my birthday the downloads kept increasing. Looking back I realised that we had this early mover advantage. Our game was among the only 3 kite flying games on Play Store at that time and we had a huge friends circle who were super supportive. All of them downloaded our game which sort of helped us get ranked higher on the charts. Till date this game has crossed almost 400,000 downloads!

I felt as if I was on Cloud 9. The downloads kept increasing and guess what? We didn’t care about money through our games at all at the time. We had put out this game for FREE on the Play Store without any ads. It was absolutely fun to see the number of downloads increase day by day. However, we had missed an incredibly important detail which I could not understand for years. We had not integrated any analytics in the game. So this caused a barrier for us to understand how the game was being played and how many people kept coming back to the game. We were totally clueless about this.

If I had an advice for my 18 year old self, I’d definitely tell him to add analytics so he could learn what needed to be improved. We didn’t change the game play at all after that. We kept adding new skins based on different Indian festivities but didn’t change the core game mechanic. But the game kept getting downloads, however, to our disadvantage these were one time users. They downloaded the game, most couldn’t understand how to play, some found it extremely difficult to play, some found it downright boring. It’s alright, happens.

The other thing this game’s launch taught me was how to handle negative feedback. Or may be it was just the beginning. I used to read through the reviews section of the game. There were many positive reviews, it felt great to read those but at the same time there were also a lot of hate comments. Some of them were extremely abusive as well. It definitely felt bad to read them as some comments would go as far as abusing our families and say extremely rude stuff. Over the years I developed a sense of ignorance for pure non sense comment. However, if someone had a genuine feedback on how to improve the game then I’d actively respond to them to understand. At times, I’ll agree, even my responses to some rude reviews were equally rude. But I guess over a period of time I’ve grown up to realise that it’s simply not worth it to keep spreading hate and at the same time also learned that if you respond to these hate comments respectfully then some people also change their opinion about you and start viewing you in a good light.

So, coming back to the game, many mistakes were made, game play wasn’t right, analytics wasn’t integrated, there were no ads in the game so it wasn’t monetised at all at that time, the game was very hard to understand but through all of it, there was this sense of accomplishment. It was a magical feeling. The moment I pressed the Publish button on Google Play Console was a very emotional moment for me. The game is my baby and it was about to take birth for the world. I’ll never forget that moment in my life.

I will be eternally grateful for the things I learned from my first game and if you are a developer I’d encourage you to put your game out and experience this joy of creation for yourself. I’ve always told this to the people that I’ve interacted with that creating a game is like playing the role of a God. In this case YOU are the God here who can create anything that you can imagine. It is a really empowering feeling and once the game is out this experience is solely yours to keep forever. No matter how the game performs after that, you’d be happy in yourself knowing that you did your best. Not all games can reach the top 100 charts of popularity but that shouldn’t discourage you from trying. Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd title. But they persisted through the previous 51 games. Were those games failures for Rovio? I’d say no. They weren’t failures. They were learnings. Learnings that would set Rovio on to the track for the creation of Angry Birds.

So with this thought I’ll end it here. Hope you liked my two cents. If you are a game developer let me know through comments about your views on developing and launching a game. Would love to know everyone’s reactions to this piece so let me know your thoughts through the comments section.

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This is Nikhil signing off, naschledanou!

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