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Going Indie with Unity
Published 2 years ago
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Reaching new heights with PickCrafter
When Chris and I started working on PickCrafter we had no idea where it would take us. Our small team of two have now founded our own game development company and released a commercially successful mobile title. In this blog post we will detail our experience developing PickCrafter with Unity and how it has brought us to where we are today.
 
PickCrafter is a mobile game available on iOS, Google Play, Amazon, and the Windows Store. It is a Minecraft inspired incremental / clicker style of game where players tap the screen or swing their device like a pickaxe to collect resources. Players can then use these resources to unlock pickaxes, upgrades, new worlds, and epic abilities.
 

MOONLIGHTING AS GAME DEVELOPERS

Chris and I met at college while we were studying engineering. We remained in contact after graduating and ended up working for the same tech company later in our careers. Using most of our paid time off, we attended numerous gaming conventions to learn more about the gaming industry. Inspired by all the cool indie games at these events, we pledged to spend some of our free time together in order to build something cool.
 
We cycled through a number of ideas over our weekends, not all of those ideas were games. We eventually landed on the concept of a mobile app that featured a pixel pickaxe (similar to Minecraft) that you could swing and make noise using the device’s accelerometer. The idea was prototyped within the hour and was surprisingly fun to play with - a novelty app but hey, it was something! Soon thereafter we began to build upon the idea.
Cookie Clicker was catching on at the time and had us both hooked, clicking away at cookies for several hours. Inspired by the interesting mechanics in this new game, we brainstormed how we could meld our pickaxe swinging app with an idle/clicker game design. We really liked how things were shaping up and continued to grow our vision into the full fledged game that PickCrafter is today.

THE QUEST FOR THE RIGHT TOOLCHAIN

Armed with a fun idea and a simple prototype, our next aim was to build a polished product - we just didn’t know the best way to do it. We wanted to primarily target iOS and Android devices and debated building our game natively with two disparate codebases. After much discussion we decided to pursue a cross-platform engine for our game development. After several hours of researching and testing different options, we decided to give Unity a shot. We started with a simple spinning cube and within the night, the scene was similar to our first native prototype. With Unity we were able to develop for two platforms simultaneously on same codebase, deploying and testing on both iOS and Android at every milestone.
 
 

WE HAVE LIFT OFF

In August of 2014, PickCrafter was released on both iOS and Google Play. Over the first year PickCrafter grew organically to over 2 million downloads. Great reviews and kind appraisals were rolling in, but one major gripe from our fans was their desire to play PickCrafter on their device (one that was not currently supported). After seeing this request several times a week, we decided to set our sights on making it happen.

MORE PLATFORMS!

The first additional platform we added support for was the Amazon appstore. One of the primary reasons was because building for an Amazon device was essentially Android development with some platform specific features.
 
After Amazon, we launched PickCrafter on Windows Phone and the Windows Store. The spark for this effort was ignited during the 2015 Unite conference in Boston. Microsoft had set up a porting lab to assist Unity developers in deploying existing games onto Windows mobile devices. We spent some time in the lab migrating code and porting much of our system level calls to successfully compile a working build for Windows. After the conference and a few weekends of cleaning up this build, we officially released PickCrafter to the Windows Store.

going full-time

Around the 1 year mark of release, PickCrafter’s downloads began to skyrocket. We knew we were on to something with the amount of engagement we were getting from our community. With work, family, and our social life, it was going to be difficult to effectively update and maintain PickCrafter part-time. We had designed an ambitious game update that was on a trend to never see the light of day. PickCrafter’s success however, was becoming hard to ignore. Our community was growing and the requests for new content were continuous. Excited and a little nervous, we left our jobs to pursue our game development passions full-time at our company, Fiveamp, in early 2016.

FOCUS TIME

We began hacking away on a big update to PickCrafter right away in the first weekend of being full-time indie. The update went through many rounds of iteration, but the primary goal remained unchanged - to vastly expand the amount of content PickCrafter has to experience. Many features were lined up, from new abilities that players could activate to boost their strength to a fresh UI that highlighted all the collectable items in the game.

A NEW RELEASE

In addition to updating the game itself, we also prepared significant content for our social media pages and marketing efforts. After the release of the v2.0 update our audience exploded with praise and excitement. They exclaimed that it was the best update to PickCrafter, vastly exceeding their expectations. We have seen our audience grow to new heights and can project a promising future with the content we have prepared for the game.

WHAT's NEXT?

It has been an amazing experience thus far, and we know it’s just getting started. With the success of PickCrafter, we now have a solid foundation to develop new titles and further grow our company. We are grateful to all those who have showed us support through this adventure. It is funny to look back now and think about where our idea would be if we had chosen another engine. Two things are for certain we are extremely proud to be a part of this amazing development community and for PickCrafter to be Made with Unity.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chris Lewis
Co-Founder
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